This time last week, I was gazing firmly at my navel. Peering mournfully through black eyeliner at the poetry of Sylvia Plath whilst listening to The Jesus and Mary Chain on repeat. Without wishing to crucify the point, a pair of meek cup performances had left me one exasperated motherfucker. Yet today you find me practically skipping through the meadows, giggling like a schoolgirl. Hell, I might as well have been wearing gingham and pigtails for the last 4 days.
Is that schizophrenic? Fickle? Part of the rollercoaster that makes following football so addictive? I’ve got no idea. Frankly, I’m not in the most analytical of moods right now, so I couldn’t give a chimp’s gland. But whilst the shellacking of Spurs gives us the fans every right to grin, strut, gloat and yell, “How’s this for a power shift, fuck face!?” at the top of our voices, as we jab our scissors into the eyes of that mouthy Spurs fan in the office for the 17th time, I rather hope the players’ approach is different.
It feels like we say this so often that I’m not sure it’s even worth repeating. Whilst I hope the players enjoyed the victory for 24 hours or so, it’s crucial the template for the comeback becomes a platform and not just a constellation (or even a consolation) in the Arsenal sky. I’m not sure how much hope I hold for this comeback being a blueprint for the rest of the season. But I do know that, at times like this, your big players step up. It’s no coincidence that two of our biggest dragged us back into the game at 0-2 with well timed goals. Sagna’s effort especially just screamed, “Right, enough of this old bollocks.”
That attitude now needs to transmit to the rest of the squad and become the expected standard. Starting with Liverpool this Saturday. 3rd place is still very much in the crosshairs now. The advantages of finishing there extend beyond the parochial confines of North London pride. As this post from A Beautiful Groan points out, finishing 4th could play merry hell with our preparation for next season.
Though club mouthpieces would never confirm, it would appear that our spending is linked inextricably with definite qualification, which could delay our summer cosmetics until the end of August. We know precisely how well that worked for us this season. This could be particularly damaging in the event that we need to replace a certain star striker. Unpleasant thought though that maybe, you’d rather hope it is one the club are contingency planning for. A couple of inevitable exits last summer didn’t appear to have been planned for at all and, well, we know precisely how well that worked for us
Much has happened in the last week that has been delightfully nudged into the margins, but bears discussion nonetheless. Such as the surprise departure of Andrey Arshavin last Friday. It does strike me as incredibly strange to let a player go when there is no prospect of replacing him. It could be that the manager has assessed the acceleration of Chamberlain’s progress and regarded the Russian as surplus. (I’m certain that that was probably the plan at the beginning of the season, for Chamberlain to nudge Arshavin out of the door come the summer).
Maybe Arsene would have sanctioned the move in January were it not for Gervinho’s absence. But I have to say this looks as though it has more to it than meets the eye. I understand Arshavin’s point of view. In many ways, he never seemed to recover from Russia’s surprise failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The Euros are approaching, which likely represent his last chance to shine on the international stage and he wants to play regularly. But for a player of his considerable talent you would expect him to be able to push for that to happen with us.
One can only idly speculate, but there just has to be more to this than meets the peepers. Perhaps Wenger wanted to use Arshavin – a player with a big reputation whose impact on the first team is negligible at this point – as an example to other underperformers that life isn’t so forgiving in the Arsenal cocoon. Or maybe the diminutive Russian rather forced the move. I suspect we’ll probably never find out for certain. All the same, it’s a shame that it all ended in such indifferent circumstances for a player with such ability.
Off the pitch, a pair of more tertiary announcements from the club have set tongues a flutter. Arsenal must be the only business on earth that feels the need to “bury” an announcement of big profits amidst a day of good news! But honestly, I really can’t be fucked to go into the ins and outs of the balance sheet. So I’m just going to stand behind Swiss Ramblerstroking my chin, nodding furtively and occasionally intervening with, “Hmmm, good point. Exactly what I was going to say.”
Just as the column went to press last week, the club also announced a freeze in General Admission season ticket prices for next season. As someone paying close to £2k for my own, that was something of a relief. But there are still questions which will be answered in due course. For a start, the club did not confirm any pricing policy for individual matchday tickets. One assumes the powers that be are therefore waiting to see how the season ends before making a firm decision. Rather worryingly, that suggests to me that season ticket prices are only being frozen in deference to a below par season.
Last year the decision to raise prices was made in the boardroom in late January / early February, with the team still going strong in four competitions. It stands to reason therefore that a successful campaign in 2012-13 will probably lead to another price hike. At the AST meeting of ten days ago, there were some interesting discussions around cup credit allocation in the event that Arsenal are in the Europa League next year. The announcement suggests those cup credits are in tact regardless and that Europa League games will be treated the same as their sexier Champions League counterparts.
Quite a lot of people would suggest if the quality of the product is inferior, then the price really should be dropping to reflect that. In the event that we do finish outside the top four, it will be interesting to see how the club address communications around this. Personally, I would favour a flexible, creative approach to pricing on cup credits, with Europa League games priced on an individual basis and rebates being made available to season ticket holders for opponents such as Shamrock Rovers.
Scanning the announcement, it looks as though this won’t happen and prices will remain the same as for Champions League matches. (I suppose we’re just as likely to draw Macclesfield Town as Manchester United in the F.A. Cup, which is also accounted for in the cup vouchers). Bear in mind also that the Europa League carries an extra knockout round, which could have residual effects on the 20013-14 renewal if we were to progress and use more than seven of our allocated credits. Given the likely pricing policy; if indeed we are in the Europa League, I do wonder if Arsene will come under any pressure from upstairs to play a full team given the prices that will be charged.
It could become a tricky negotiation for the club. I’m sure they’re crossing their fingers and hoping against hope that a top 4 finish rather banishes some awkward questions. Anyway, I suppose they are enquiries for another day. I will allow you to resume basking in the humiliation of the cheating chimp and his scrawny chicken cohorts and bid you adieu for another week. LD.
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