So that’s it, internationals are over for another calendar year. And it feels … well … it feels like that moment when you’re hanging over the toilet, realise you’ve done all the sick you’re going to do and you need to wash your mouth out to get rid of the aftertaste and the tiny clumps of carrot.
From an Arsenal point of view there some involvement last night. Jack Wilshere came on for England in the second half against Sweden as did Carl Jenkinson for his debut so congratulations to him. Koscielny and Giroud played for France, Mertesacker and Podolski for Germany and probably some others too but I can’t even begin to tell you how much I don’t care, as long as they come home in good shape and without any problems.
Santi Cazorla went all the way to Panama with Spain and sat on the bench. Which is a good thing, in one way. He’s looked a bit tired of late but then there’s still the whole transatlantic flight thing. That said, these days, with first class travel, and players being massaged like Kobe beef (I know) for the duration of the journey he should be in good shape for this weekend’s game against you know who.
Clearly it hasn’t been an ideal week in terms of preparation for this one. With players arriving back in dribs and drabs it’ll be tomorrow before the manager can work with them and start working on a game plan for the North London derby. Given that time on the training ground has been minimal, with key players away all week, I suspect it’ll be relatively simple: kill the twats.
There’s a fair amount of trepidation going into this one because of our form, because of our inconsistency and that’s understandable. Conceding three to Fulham isn’t going to fill anyone with a great deal of confidence, especially when we made a player like Berbatov – someone who would make Stroller look like Billy Whizz – appear as good as that. Yet there were positives too, from an attacking point of view we scored three and as I keep saying so much of what’s wrong with us seems relatively easy to fix if we get that right then we can be more than hopeful.
The goals we concede are stupid. If we could stop being stupid for a little while (like until the end of May, or thereabouts) we’d be a lot better off for it. So there’s another piece of wisdom for Arsene to impart when his troops get back: kill the twats and stop being stupid.
It was interesting to listen to the manager last week when he told his team they needed to lift the crowd with their performances. Clearly fans are happiest when their team is doing well, when they don’t do so well fans are disgruntled. And I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like to be gruntled. That’s not to say that there aren’t those out there who seem to thrive on disgruntalism and even when thoroughly gruntleised by a win or a good performance still have their little chubby of dismay they can’t help but show off and RT accordingly.
But once again on Saturday I watched the game on a commentator-less channel, with only the noise of the crowd as background, and it was obvious how much the fans were behind the team in the second half against Fulham. Yes, the quick response to going behind helped but as much as possible the supporters did their bit, even if the team couldn’t quite manage it in the end.
And it was somewhat reminiscent of last season’s North London derby when, even at 2-0 down, after a difficult few weeks, the fans did their bit and the team theirs. Bacary Sagna’s ‘fuck you, I’m not having this’ header set the tone and we know what happened afterwards. Arsenal went on to win, Sp*rs ended up shell-shocked and the gap that we were supposed to be minding got smaller and smaller and smaller until … heh.
We then won 8 or next 9 games, thrashing Milan at home (too little too late, I know but still enjoyable) and were aided and abetted by a Sp*rs side whose manager was thinking more about what he was going to do with all that lovely FA cash and who he might bring to the European Championships. It wasn’t exactly a kick-start to the season, it was February after all, but it’s hard not to think that Arsenal need something similar this weekend.
And by that I mean in terms of result, not the whole going 2-0 down thing to a dastardly dive by the bastard offspring of Roddy McDowell and Cheetah. Which isn’t to say it wouldn’t be funny if we turned a game around again but, you know, a bit of nil on the right side of the scoreline wouldn’t go amiss.
Back to the start and Jack Wilshere says that Carl Jenkinson would run through brick walls for Arsenal. A bit cliched, for sure, but ultimately that’s what it’s about. If you swap running through walls for ‘closing down his man more quickly’ or ‘not slicing a clearance into the path of a traitorous jazz handed cockhammer who has a deadly chocolate leg with which to score past a keeper with a Nutella arm’. If you see what I mean.
The point is, if I even have one, is that it’s symbiotic. Fans and players, players and fans. As much as the team have a responsibility to lift the crowd, the crowd aren’t a wind-up toy that can’t react without their keys being twiddled. Sometimes, when the team isn’t doing it, the fans can do the twiddling and it can make a difference. In a game like Saturday’s, with opponents like that, in circumstances like these, we all need to be working from the same script.