London, New York, Paris, Munich – everyone’s talking about Pep’s music. Except of course, they’re not, or at least the UK papers who might, just might, be expected to get behind an English club playing in Europe, aren’t. Are Bayern a good team, a world-class outfit: well yes, but not if they are playing against the Arsenal, partly because The Arsenal are also a very good team who give them a run for their money, but mainly because to praise Bayern extravagantly now would be also to give tacit praise to The Arsenal and the team so carefully assembled and prepared by Arsene Wenger.
So better by far to lambast The Arsenal for lack of imagination, for carelessness in preparation, for profligacy on the injury front. Better to seek out Mesut Ozil and slate him (and by extension Arsene Wenger) for an anonymous performance than make the obvious connection between serious hamstring injury and limping play. Better for the papers to gloat about the German fans’ booing and catcalling of young Mesut, than on the sinister and echoing reminder of previous Holocaustian witch-hunts of Turkish Muslims, the booming “Bayern, Bayern” rolling out across the packed Allianz stands reaching almost Nuremburg proportions, European domination seemingly once more tantalisingly in sight. Better to criticise Arsene for pointing out before the game that the refereeing might be inconsistent and gullible, than to dwell on the cards not given for simulation.
I have just about had enough of the sneering Clive Tyldesley, of the ingratiating Neil Ashton, of the myopic Jim White. Oh how they love it when The Arsenal stumble, and oh how they rejoice in their little England agenda. Almost, but not quite, because like a toxic sponge they soak up any disappointment I might feel, and allow me to vent anger at them rather than dwell on the shortcomings of my team. Because they are my team, and whilst in the privacy of my own mind (and shamefully occasionally out loud in front of the TV) I might conclude that x is the worst player ever after misplacing a pass or snatching a shot, woe betide anyone else who dares to voice such a view.
And I know that despite the sense of loss that accompanies any reverse, that this is a good team, that these are fine players, that this is a great club. Over two legs we came close – very close – to upsetting a fine Bayern Munich team. We are going to Wembley this year, and might hopefully go twice. We have a Premier League run-in to savour, and this weekend a trip to our neighbours to endure and enjoy.
Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Thank to @foreverheady for today’s article. PA was intended as a forum for us all, and its a great help when someone steps up to the plate.