As you know I enjoy subverting the concept of the match review, ignoring the accepted wisdom of the ages and not padding out my piece with projections of the line up, the score and the performance. I prefer to take some aspect of my day to day journey through this vale of tears and explore how it relates to the beautiful game in general and to Arsenal in particular. This is partly to avoid simply echoing all the other match day writers who already do a far better job than I could ever hope to keeping us abreast of the manager’s press conference, the injury list and just what it is that is so wrong with our club. I also have the words of Martin Mull running through my mind – “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”.
Now before you scroll spluttering for the comment box to point out that this is a football blog and not the New Musical Express, allow me a moment to elucidate. I find the quotation is appropriate here because the match preview is in essence writing about the future. Discussing events which have yet to occur is an equally futile exercise as I’m sure Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Thelonius Monk, Clara Schumann, Miles Davis, George Carlin and all the others who have been credited with Mull’s words would happily attest.
Some of you seem not to mind my rambling, off key approach to the match day which is hugely gratifying, and quite frankly those who don’t give a fig for my extended metaphors and tenuous allegorical fluff can still join the discussion below which is surely the true function of any supporters blog. I don’t believe it matters much what is said up here in main article the true value to this and any other Arsenal forum is the sharing of ideas and opinions. That is certainly where I learn most about the game and about my fellow travellers on this annual journey.
Which is a bloody good job because, as the more perspicacious among you may have twigged, I don’t have a lot to say this morning. My dearly beleaguered wife has fallen victim to some dreadful species of lurgy and I have been playing Florence Nightingale all week. Consequently I have barely thought of football nor anything else beyond emptying the bucket and dampening the handkerchief in order to cool her fevered brow. Yesterday evening, as I was patting the back and holding the hair out of the way, issuing the soothing words and generally doing all the things one does while silently offering up a prayer not to catch it myself, I turned over a few thoughts on today’s blog and came up empty, as indeed did my wife.
Which is a shame really because we are now in the narrows of the channel, signifying journey’s end. This, as the poet famously wrote, is it. Things are in the process of being decided. Stuff is coming to a head. Cup competitions are at the quarter and semi final stage, the race for the league is on the last bend before the home straight. Every Arsenal fixture is like a cup final but even if we win them all we have no guarantee of ultimate success. What a time to run out of things to say!
It’s a real shame because today’s match could be a humdinger. Everton are on a high right now after shoving the most hated team in the country through the door marked ‘Exit’ in their recent FA Cup tie. In Romelu Lukaku they have a genuine talent and, for me, an honest player and we have all admired their manager’s approach to the beautiful game and his refusal to bow to the lowest denominator kick ’em and rush ’em style beloved of the knuckle dragging set. John Stones looks an elegant and promising young defender and with that thug now sold to Norwich they are a much more likeable bunch.
We on the other hand will be buoyed by a spirited performance in Catalonia although no doubt disappointed not to have got more than one goal for all our efforts. The main worry for Arsenal is the heavy work load under which our players have laboured so valiantly of late. That must be weighed against the focus that our elimination from two of the three remaining competitions will surely bring to our game. It is, in the crude vernacular of my peers, shit or bust time. There is only one prize, no distractions, nothing else to aim at and so they will surely put any weariness behind them and go for broke this lunchtime.
One thing I am determined not to say today, one expression I have already deleted three times is ‘bounce back’. Not because it isn’t apposite given our unhappy results of late. It’s just that I’m sick of saying it this season. We have never put a decent run together, not for long enough anyway. We seemed to get pegged back each time we approach anything like a little consistency, either through untimely injuries, profligacy in front of goal, lapses at the back or just obdurate opposition from either visiting teams or referees. We haven’t ever really gotten out of third gear have we? And yet somehow we are just about in touch with the Marvel superheroes of Filbert Way and our noisy neighbours. Just about.
Well, there isn’t any time left now. We need to find a way to get the cogs to mesh and we need to start today. We also need Mr Pochettino and his pretenders to catch a dose of whatever is ailing she who must be obeyed and Ranieri’s transformed supermen to forget to take their glowing green pills for a few games. Even then even the most positive among us know we face a short but steep and difficult climb. I haven’t given up yet and I’m certain the manager and players haven’t either. Of course I never give up until it is mathematically impossible to win and then I simply enjoy the final few matches of the season and start to look forward to the next.
Anyway, the bell marked ‘Master Bedroom’ is tinkling again so I probably need to get back upstairs and change the sheets again and see if I can’t force a few dry crumbs through her parched, cracked lips. Before I go let me just apologise once more for having nothing to say today, hopefully the muse will return in time for Watford’s visit in a fortnight’s time. In the meantime let’s gird our loins once again and see if that elusive consistency can arrive just in the nick of time. Ultimate success may appear a distant and unlikely prospect right now but we can all take comfort from the words of the late lamented Terry Pratchett who taught us that “million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten”. It ain’t over till it’s over boys and girls, and, as I keep telling my patient, where there’s life there’s hope.