“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”
― C.G. Jung
“Walcott with his pace is a threat, Giroud is getting better and better. The midfield, you can’t figure out who is the defensive midfielder and who is the offensive midfielder because they rotate all the time. I think they’ve got one of the best midfield-threes in the country. They’ve got very talented players, as you saw against Fenerbahce because that was probably one of the best results this year until now.”
Obviously the deluded ramblings of a crazy Arsène Wenger fan who needs to wake up and realise he supports Arsenal and not Arsène. That’s right mate whoever you are, you should support the abstract notion of your team and not the manager. Certainly not many of the players and never anyone on the board , medical staff or anyone in any administrative role whether or not you know who they are or what they do. It’s simple isn’t it?
Actually those quotes are from the Fulham manager as he anticipates our visit this lunchtime. His words will be written off as playing down his teams chances , putting pressure on the opposition, mind games or whatever. There is of course a more simple interpretation. The man was talking the plain, unvarnished and manifestly unarguable truth.
Martin Jol entirely failed to get under my skin as the fifty eighth Spurs manager since Arsène began his reign of North London. Or was it fifty ninth? In any event while I know some of you couldn’t stand him I found him a mildly avuncular and unintentionally unchallenging figure. I certainly hope he can try to recapture his form as Spurs manager where he failed to gain a single victory against us in nine meetings. His approach since becoming Fulham boss has been rather more irritating ; one win two draws and one defeat. Still signing Scotty Pigeon Parker is definitely a step in the right direction and for that he is to be pitied rather than censured. Many similarly uninspired managers have made the self same error in judgement.
What of our brave boys? Returning in triumph from Istanbul must have given them a well needed shot in the arm after the ‘special circumstances’ surrounding their defeat at the hands of Anthony Taylor. For once immense good fortune attended us. The player chosen by the Gods to be carried on a stretcher bleeding from the pitch this time around happened to be the one who, thanks to the bizarre and possibly drunken refereeing performance last weekend, is suspended and would miss today’s match anyway. Sometimes we really earn the ‘Lucky Arsenal’ tag don’t we?
Talking of ridiculous superstitions I was whiling away a lonely Friday evening in the bollocking shed after some domestic transgression or other and happened upon a season review of our momentous 1988/89 campaign. While we all recall the climactic conclusion at Anfield (and none more so than Mel who you may or may not know wrote a brief account of the evening. He has just sold the film rights to Disney and is in discussions with Amazon for a Kindle book deal believed to be worth 8p a copy for each and every download. Minus his agents fees) how many of you can with any clarity remember the opening to that particular season? If you remember it with same blinding clarity as that with which you remember just where you were when Kennedy killed Diana or when you first read Mel’s piece on Arsenal.com then skip the following lines and restart your morning reading at word 1, line 1, para 8. If not then pay attention as I dazzle you with a little Arsenal history.
We opened our home account that fateful season by hosting Aston Villa who wore some unlikely colour instead of their classic claret and blue. And we got tonked. Guess by how many? Yep. 1 – 3. Ring any bells? If that little rigging of the laws of chance and coincidence by whichever deity is responsible for such things wasn’t enough then how about this. The first North London Derby was played at some horrible, dingy little place down some lane somewhere and came very early in the fixture list that year. In fact it was the third game of the season. Sound familiar? Spurs were touted as pretty hot stuff at that particular time in their history mainly because they’d splashed the cash and bought some fancy new players including one Paul Gascoine. Their superstar arrivistes even scored against us. After losing his boot, but that needn’t concern you and I. The salient point is that they went on to lose. Steller name signings or not, we beat them like we usually do.
One more landmark on my sojourn down memories leafy byway. You all know we went on to win the title don’t you? If not ask Mel, he has a fund of fascinating anecdotes and isn’t shy about sharing them. Actually what am I saying? If not, then what the hell? Have you literally just been born? No matter. We won the league despite the start I’ve just mentioned and despite the following startling statistic. We didn’t win a home league game until Saturday October the twenty second when we scraped past QPR 2 – 1. Can you begin to imagine – do you even want to – the kind of collective brain hernia that on-line (and sadly some in stadium) Arsenal fans would suffer if the coincidence Goddess referred to earlier decided to repeat that little gem?
And yet we went on to win the league.
You need to have some grasp of history if you want to hold an informed view on the possible outcomes of any situation in this life. We none of us have a crystal ball. We might think we’ll beat Fulham with ease today we might think that if we lose against them then the season is already over. We might think aliens made the pretty patterns in the farmer’s wheat field rather than the students that usually do it, but these are just ideas, possibilities based on wishes and fears. History, the real deal, the facts about what has gone before shows us that seasons are not won nor lost in the first few games. Great teams are often built over a long period and after or during times of adversity. Oh and Arsène Wenger is an exceptional manager with a winning mentality who has achieved feats to boggle the mind and which are so stratospheric they may never be equalled.
Facts. Proven by history.
But hey, we’re all football fans aren’t we? Since when did all that matter to us? I know that my reason, logic and usual commendable good sense goes out the window the moment the first whistle is blown. No one can tell me that dropping and breaking my lucky Arsenal mug on the morning of the day that the Tiny Totts finally beat an Arsène Wenger team wasn’t 100% responsible for the result. No one. I won’t tweet about how well the defence is playing because I know we’ll concede before I finish typing or at the very least just as I hit send. My wife tells me I try to kick the ball at least fifty times a game despite sitting in my living room in Somerset. No matter how often she points out the inevitable failure of this policy it is one to which I am firmly wedded.
What I’m trying to say is we all are prey to superstitions, hopes, fears, poor logic and wild flights of fancy. It is because we are placing our future happiness in the hands of events we cannot control and upon which only the lucky few in the stadium can bring any influence to bear. But we are also intelligent, sentient carbon based life forms. Once the 90 minutes is over and our shredded emotions begin to approach normalcy we must be capable of allowing our rational minds to regain control of the tiller or we are in danger of running aground on the same jagged rocks that have torn the bellies of the ships of those deluded souls who think one or two poor results means the great project, the second coming of Arsenal Football Club should be scrapped after so much hard work, so much joy and heartache has gone into it.
So I shall be all calm reason and rationality up until lunchtime today. Then and only then will I put my lucky socks on and start chewing the coffee table. I trust you all will be similarly engaged.