Well that was a Septimama Horribilis. A horrible week. The worst week since the last time we had one of these weeks. How extraordinary that almost two years into the tenure of Mr. Emery we are still having these Septimama Horribili. We should not look back upon the latter years of Mr. Windsor’s tenure as some golden era, a belle époque in which Arsenal won most games comfortably and cigars grew from every tree. The difference now is that those bottom clenchingly painful results against lesser teams were supposed to be reduced in number. We were promised a team that was sturdier, more pragmatic and more adaptable. What we got was a team that is more fragile and much more boring. We had Windsorball. We now have Emerybollocks.
The end of last season, which was not so much a whimper as the rasping sound of a dying man, has not properly been addressed. The capitulation, akin to The Battle of Bannockburn, when a Scottish army of around 7000 men under King Robert I defeated the 20,000-strong English army near Stirling Castle. The losses at home to Crystal Palace, away at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City and then the home draw against Brighton represented Arsenal’s very own Agincourt with Arsenal as the French. We have not seen an improvement from that day to this, hence the pustule of simmering resentment being burst in spectacularly embarrassing fashion on Sunday last by several thousand gooners and our number 34, Graham Shackleton.
Are there situations where it is acceptable to boo one of one’s own players? Of course. If said player had been found guilty of treason, or of passing information to an opposing team, had just literally murdered his teammates on the pitch or indeed if he were found wearing football boots in colours other than black. I always boo those dandiprats. In any other circumstance it is not acceptable. We are not Manchester United who regularly boo their own players. We are all familiar with them attacking Ashley Young, Fellaini and Paul Pogba and we do not want to become like the Newton Heath Boo Boys.
The only other circumstance where booing is acceptable is if a player had just thrown the sacred vestment onto the pitch in disgust. By ‘sacred vestment’ I mean of course the Captain’s armband. Worn over the years by some of Arsenal’s greatest players; Patrick O’Feery, Peregrine Meatlocker and Big Chief Dancing Bear. It has also appeared on the arms of rapscallions such as Robin Percy and William Gastroenteritis, neither of whom deserved to wear anything other than a hair shirt or a scold’s bridle, so let us not get too precious about the honour of that office.
But nevertheless, the armband has been worn and discarded by Graham Shackleton. I feel that once you have thrown that armband onto the hallowed turf, you should not pick it up again. From where I was sitting it seemed that people were not initially cheering the personnel change, they were sarcastically applauding a rare attacking substitution. The situation then escalated and we almost had a shirt-on-the-ground moment to compound the initial armband incident. That would have been a flogging offence .
By all accounts the player is ‘devastated and sad’. I care not a jot about a footballer being sad. I care if a player lacks the self-restraint to simply walk off the pitch and show his character the next time he is on it. We seem to have a captain who is dangerously immature and reactionary. He is very much like Mr. Irvine Welsh’s literary creation Mr. Begbie. He cannot be allowed to captain the side again.
To Liverpool then. One component of Emerybollocks is Arsenal throwing away leads like Luke Shaw throws away éclair wrappers, and so it was at Anfield. The other notable events were Arsenal fans booing Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain like he’s one of our own and a level of referee prejudice against us that involved Liverpool being awarded no fewer than FIVE penalties in the closing stages.
And so we await the arrival of Wolverhampton on the morrow, amidst an atmosphere of extreme toxicity and loathing the like of which I haven’t known for many years. The perfect game then to bring my son to for his first ‘in the flesh’ experience of Arsenal Football Club.
Wish me luck.