There was a suggestion in the comments on PA a few days ago that I might be tempted to return from my football free summer holiday and rejoin the general discussion. It seems that at last we have something of real substance to debate. Football is, or so I was led to believe, back on the menu. I hastily opened Arsenal.com hoping to find mention of this momentous news. However, unless the person responsible for updating the fixtures page has been slacking, it would appear that in fact the Charity Shield has not been brought forward to this weekend but is still scheduled to take place on Sunday August the second.
So what have I missed then?
Please don’t tell me that the release of the tentative, first draft, certain to be altered Premier League fixture list is the reason we should all be getting excited. This is surely clutching at the most slender of straws.
The fixture list tells us precisely nothing. Even ignoring the fact that we all know this list will change it doesn’t tell us what kind of form the teams will be in when we play them. It doesn’t tell us the kind of form we will be in when we play them. The fixture list could not predict us winning away at Man City nor us losing at home to Swansea. The fixture list could not and did not predict our sluggish start to last season nor our blistering run after Christmas. The fixture list is like a new diary, filled with dates, days and blank spaces. Only once you have filled the pages does it have any use, and then only to look back, to reflect. Let’s face it fixture speculation is of as much use as that other loathsome bandwagon, the one dedicated to speculating about signing whichever player for which twitter has convinced itself we are in.
The Higuaín of the day this year seems, from my occasionally depressed and cursory glances, to be Petr Čech and while it’s possible someone from Arsenal has made a public statement that Arsène and Ivan are trying to sign him, I’ve not read it and as such, to me, it’s all just hot air. This inconvenient truth hasn’t, of course, stopped the gibbering mindless hordes putting the boot into both or either of our excellent goal keepers, and that is only one of the lamentable sides to the transfer tattle with which so many of you try to ruin every summer.
The Higuaín game always ends up as a stick with which the perpetually dissatisfied can beat our club. It is a stick made up of half truths, lies, invention and fantasy wrapped around with its own spurious conclusions and necessarily false insights. First up someone, probably a discredited hack, invents a transfer story. People start discussing it because, oh, I don’t know, because they have no lives or insufficient imagination to come up with and discuss their own inventions. Then after weeks of speculation the player signs for Napoli, or whoever, as he was, presumably, always going to.
In order not to acknowledge that they have been discussing a non story with all the certainty peculiar to these ill informed, ‘in the know’ experts, the fools then have to invent a narrative which doesn’t show them up for the idiots they surely are. So the yarn they spin is that Arsenal have ‘missed out’. Now they need a reason to go with this. Arsène didn’t offer enough money. Or he dithered. That’ll do nicely. Of course this is a good one because both Arsène lovers and Wenger haters can now join in. On one side he’s a tight fisted old goat helping a greedy board steal supporters hard earned and not investing it in the team. On the other he’s a wily old negotiator refusing to be over charged and thereby protecting his legacy and the club we all love. Of course the fact that he may never have even considered signing the player in the first place is entirely irrelevant. The lies become truths. History has been falsified and accepted, the script is written and six feet below the grassy topsoil in a churchyard in Sutton Courtenay, Orwell slowly rotates.
I despise the way this rubbish is recycled every close season. The dramatis personæ may change but the Higuaín game remains the same. It is the way social media works and I know I need to get over it, after all I don’t have to read it do I? The shame is though that Twitter is a very good way to stay in touch with a diverse bunch of people and a great way to remain abreast of world wide events often long before they get twisted or ignored to suit the editorial bias of the so called news media. I don’t want to have to unfollow and mute everyone, I want to remain part of the hive mind but it is so difficult once you have seen the Emperor in his birthday suit.
Take Coquelin. Unarguably one of our players of the season and yet there is a desperate need to undermine him merely because people want us to sign someone else in his position. I don’t know why this makes sense to them but being an addict I do understand the instinct behind it. How to go about this undermining? Well, you can start by creating a narrative that suggests a weakness in his game. Make him out to be a player he is not and that way you can point at players who do the job this new Coquelin you’ve invented is supposed to do, but better. You achieve this by subtly introducing unfounded nonsense when discussing the player as if it is fact. Don’t be brash. Don’t stand up and say “Hey this guy might be a beast of a tackler but his distribution really sucks – don’t you all agree?” that wouldn’t do at all. Just slip in something more subtle like “we all know his problems with distribution but he is a pretty good player nonetheless.” Sounds so reasonable and sounds like the debate has already been had and everyone already agrees. The herd will then be steered that way and will continue the discussion within that particular framework.
The simple fact is of course that Francis’ passing is one of his key strengths, both close and short he is brilliant on the ball. Like Arteta his strength is in his interceptions and not his ‘beastly’ tackling. However that’s no good as a narrative because it closes the door on transfer speculation vis a vis a beastly tackler who is perceived by the herd to have better passing skills.
The truth is we shouldn’t be casting envious glances at other squads and their over priced stars, we ought to be delighted that Francis is already one of ours. He grew up with us. He knows our ways, his team mates know him, he didn’t break the bank. These are good things, facts to be applauded and in which we should rejoice, but sadly so many fans only rate players if they play for other clubs. Or in the case of certain ageing goal keepers if they used to play for other clubs but have long since been superseded. Being an Arsenal fan I am instinctively better disposed towards our own players. I think bringing Coquelin back from loan wasn’t just a master-stroke for the first team and for Francis himself but will send a message to all of our loanees. Far from being the death knell of your Arsenal career a spell or two with other teams may well be the important stepping stone to a regular first team place. What a great incentive to keep your head up and keep playing well.
In case you’re wondering, I have broken from my summer travelogue this week for two reasons. One because I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about the rubbish which goes on in the close season and wanted to exorcise it so I can get back to enjoying the wonder that is my life and two because bugger all of any note has happened to me this week. Apart, I suppose, from celebrating the end of my fifty second year on this planet, dated, for those of you who like to be pedantic about these things, from when I was born rather than conceived. This was an event celebrated in muted, dignified fashion. I share my birthday with the battle of Waterloo and Paul McCartney and was born on the day Henry Cooper fought Cassius Clay at Wembley . So I’ll leave you to debate just how old I really am. After all, it’ll be more interesting than reading the tripe being bandied about on Twitter right now.