Andrew alerted me to a piece in the Independent last week. For those of you from outside of the UK the Indie is that rarest of beasts; a quality tabloid newspaper. It has featured some of my favourite ever journalists including Fergal Keane and the utterly peerless Robert Fisk who not only understand their subject but carry out proper research and present intelligent balanced findings in a coherent and well written manner. On this occasion Andrew didn’t link to an analysis of Rwandan genocide or one hundred years of armed imperial folly in Afghanistan, the piece he drew to my attention concerned Arsenal and their new defensive acquisition Gabriel Paulista. The headline read “Talented Brazilian could grow into world-class defender at Arsenal” and frankly, if looking a bit like Martin Raymond Keown counts in any way towards that then the accompanying picture suggested the lad is well on the way.
I wish I’d stopped reading then and there and returned to Twitter where I could have gone back to browsing photographs of Mike Wood’s latest beer du jour or read more of George’s attempts to reconcile the Israeli’s and the Palestinians and bring peace to the world. That man really is the Henry Kissinger of Twitter, the Ghandi between the goalposts isn’t he? Where there is discord let George bring harmony as St Francis famously said. I wish he could bring me closer to a loving understanding with sports journalists in the same way he brought Spurs and Arsenal fans together on Positively Arsenal the other day.
The Independent article was the usual tame journalistic froth in which sports writers excel. We didn’t learn anything much about the player or the transfer but right in the middle was this little nugget of nonsense, like a lexiconic landmine in a mundane path through an unremarkable paragraph it went off in my face causing me to spill soup into my moustache
“Villarreal’s scouting record in South America is as good as Arsène Wenger’s record for signing defenders is bad.”
Now there are two things happening here. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, the journalist is deflecting attention away from Arsène’s role in spotting young talent by suggesting the real work was done by Villareal. As my children would doubtlessly say, meh. It’s the kind of lazy rubbish we all filter out when reading about Arsenal, but the other thing, the huge blatant lie that Arsène is crap at buying defenders stuck so deep in my craw that I barely finished reading and had to push my bowl of cauliflower and yellow split pea to one side – croutons and all. I know, I know these idiots have an agenda to feed Arsène haters as much red meat as possible until the lie becomes a cliché and the cliché ends up presented as a fact and the great man’s name gets dragged through ever more deeper mud; it’s their job, it’s sad, I hate it but I need to grow up and learn to live with it.
Before we play ‘Arsene’s great defensive signings down through the ages’ and ask which one is your favourite (and we shall, oh yes we shall play just that game) let us consider the crowning turd in the swimming pool which came at the end of the item and which we all know will be parroted by the anti Arsene brigade in various forms if for no other reason than it serves to deride our current defensive players.
“Arsenal may have found the defender for whom they have been looking for so long. One who loves defending, who rarely gets injured, whose leap gets him to most headers, whose stride carries him confidently out of defence”
In a nutshell the twerp writing this piece perfectly described both Lauren Koscielny and Tommy Vermaelen among many others. Obviously I am overlooking the nonsense about rarely getting injured, not only because it suits me so to do but because numbers of injuries cannot be predicted nor controlled and are usually caused by cowardly or corrupt officials allowing thuggish opponents free reign while they go about attacking our players.
All of which leads me back to the lesson which I should have learned a long time ago. Do not get involved in any transfer talk even after the signing has been made as we know nothing about any player and will not know anything of worth until they’ve had a run in the side, and for God’s sake do not ever under any circumstances read any published sports journalist. In fact, thinking about it, we don’t even necessarily know anything after their first or second runs in the side do we? Look at Francis Coquelin; his development so perfectly managed that when recalled he was in a position to astonish even those of us who already liked the lad. Cut out the off the ground, two footed challenges and I would even say I love him just a little bit. We didn’t know how good he could be, but now we’ve had a hint. The new signings we know nothing about.
What about today’s game. What, specifically, about our opponents, Aston Villa? Do we know anything of substance about them? Not much I’m afraid. I mentioned Brian Clough last week and like Clough’s Forest, Villa once did the impossible and won the European cup by defeating Bayern Munich in the final. Not many people know it but they also beat Barcelona in the Super Cup in the following season. Even less people know that Villa’s first ever match was played against a local rugby union team and they had to play the first half under rugby rules and the second half under football rules. Which is a bit like when we play Stoke or Chelsea except we have to play both halves under one set of rules while the opposition are allowed to pretty much choose which sport they’re playing depending upon whether they want to garotte our players or just break their legs.
Villa have had a few good seasons here and there recently, but then many teams do. There is often one pretender to the top four but they seldom mount a sustained challenge over more than one season. It takes an extraordinary manager to keep a team dining at that particular table year in year out, especially when you look at the prices on the menu and the money available to the stinking rich diners with their fat arses permanently ensconced in most of the chairs. This go around, though, Mr Lambert’s chaps are finding things a little tough. Three points outside the bottom three they are in an interestingly symmetrical relationship with our club. Their negative goal difference of minus fourteen mirroring perfectly our plus fourteen. They sit two places outside the relegation zone we sit two places outside the Champions League zone. Their name ends with an A ours starts with an A. The list is endless. Well OK so I was reaching a little at the end there but if the league placings mean anything then we should be winning this. Of course we all know anyone can beat anyone and it’s current form that matters not current league position. A glance at their recent form shows DWLLW which is as inconclusive as you can get but compare and contrast with our rather nicer looking LWWWW and I know which side I’d rather support. In fact the only thing bar an exceptional Villa performance which might mar our Sunday roasties and curdle the custard is a dramatic exhibition from the most influential man on the pitch when last they won at the Emirates.
I speak of none other than the diabolical and by now infamous Arsenal nemesis, the man aiming to dethrone Asmodeus Dean as the pretender to Beelzebub Riley none other than Berith Anthony Taylor, Prince of The Cherubim. In a breathtaking move that defies my feeble verbal attempts to encapsulate its myopic brainlessness, the man who proved himself beyond incapable on the opening game of last season gets the chance to destroy another good footballing contest this afternoon. It is an indictment of the standard of officiating in the premier league that we often worry more about the referee than the opposition players in the build up to a match but I’ll let you decide if it’s corruption or incompetence which steers so many officials to have such a disproportionately negative impact on so many of our games.
All I can say is take heart Positivistas! Look at who wielded the whistle and cards at the Etihad. If we can come through such an encounter with one of the worst referees in the history of the game they we can overcome both Villa and their twelfth man Taylor.
Now about that game I mentioned earlier. The man, who we are told is incapable of buying or spotting a decent defender, bought or raised, among others, the following. Can you pick a favourite?