On the bright side, it turned into a fine game by the end.
There’s probably going to be a lot more to say about this game in the next few days as we wait to find out if Wenger’s facing a touchline ban and for any other fallout, but my overwhelming impression just after is that there’s actually a lot to be encouraged about in this one. In terms of quality of play, there was absolutely no difference between the two sides, and when you face the defending champions on their own grounds without your second-best player, that’s a very good sign. A foot lower on Van Persie’s free kick and this probably goes down as a very famous victory; at the Emirates with Fabregas on and Diaby off, this is 3 points. That’s a far more even state of affairs than prevailed at the end of last season, and it’s a mark of the progress which appears to be taking place and how close this Arsenal team remains to greatness. That said, there are two obvious and major negatives to take away, and they should be noted:
– There’s a school of thought- see Myles Palmer- which sees Arsenal right now as a battleground between mature professionals and Arsene’s urchins. Expect to see a great deal of comment along those lines upcoming, because this game fit that narrative as closely as any could. A lead won through a really brilliant individual play from Andrey Arshavin; a lead gifted to the opposition through one of the most ridiculous own-goals you’ll see from Abou Diaby. The contrast is glaring enough so that even if you don’t buy the narrative wholly (which I don’t), there’s a temptation to concede that there’s the germ of truth in it. I like Diaby in general; I thought it was impressive the way he rebounded from the own goal to create a chance shortly thereafter, and he seems like a generally decent sort of guy. But he’s now in his 5th season with Arsenal (has it really been that long?) and he’s still a guy who looks brilliant twice a year and can’t be counted on the rest of the time. I wish him the best, but after this season if things don’t improve it’s probably best for everyone for him to be moved on to somewhere in the upper reaches of the French league.
– Emmanuel Eboue has had one of those weeks which encapsulates his entire Arsenal career. He’s played very well of late and been an important and useful part of the team, but when things were most desperate and someone needed to create something today at 2-1 down, he took one of the worst and shabbiest dives I’ve seen in quite a while, and was justly booked for it. Beyond the impact it did or did not have on the individual game, at a time when Arsenal are trying to defend on principle the insane witchhunting of Eduardo, for one of his teammates to execute such a blatant act of cheating in such a high-profile game was madness. It was selfish, and it demonstrates that at the end of the day Eboue has all the talent needed to play for Arsenal, and none of the class. He’s the only player I’m embarrassed to watch on the team.
Still, this game was nothing like the brutal beatings Arsenal suffered towards the end of last season. There’s much to take away that was positive, and the fact remains that with Arshavin in the side Arsenal can beat anyone, anywhere, at any time; one loss shouldn’t be too discouraging. The season is long, and I still believe that if if there’s some depth brought in before the closing of the window that the title can be won this year. Arsenal looked the better side for most of the game and nearly won away at Old Trafford; meanwhile United’s offense continues to sputter when they’re not being gifted things and Liverpool are losing games they shouldn’t and having to come from behind against Bolton. Chelsea look awesome for the moment but there’s very many games still to be played for them, time enough to become leg-weary and tune out the manager the way they did last year with largely the same group of players. This result is disappointing, but it’s disappointing only because the team and the fans know that Arsenal could just as easily have run away with this.
I choose to use black humor to look at the upsides of Nasri’s injury:
– At least now Arsenal will have new signing for January.
– This is all for the best; after all, playing Nasri was killing Wilshire. Now we just have to hurt Arshavin so Diaby can play. Who’s got a sledgehammer?
– 3 months is nothing if you judge the manager every 6 or 7 years.
– Now Eboue can start!
– Actually this is an advantage, as now Nasri will be healthy in time to be sold in January; it’ll pay for another few feet of the lower concourse.
– Mikael Silvestre is a midfielder, right? So what’s the problem?
– He was a bloody foreigner anyway, wasn’t he?
– Reports are that Diaby delivered the responsible tackle, so he’s progressed from having his leg shattered by an incompetent goon to being an incompetent leg-shattering goon. This bodes well for Eduardo.
– This gives Arsene Wenger a better chance than ever to prove that you can run black in the transfer market and coach an injury-prone team to the title. By which I mean 4th place. Which is like the title. Sorta. I think there’s less parades- we’ll look into that.
– At least we have such dependable workhorses as Tomas Rosicky to fall back on.
– It’s just a little Old Time Football, Like Eddie Shore.
– One less damn Frenchy for Gallas to bitch about in a book that no one but bloggers will ever read.
– We can harvest his organs to repair several of our other busted players, which is actually like 5 new signings once you control for surgery costs. There’s actually a study on this in regards to the current American health care reform proposals.
– Nasri will be the first player to have his cast signed in 82 separate languages and dialects, including French, Spanish, Russian, Klingon and Time Lord.
– I’m sure there’s some way in which this is fans’ fault, so if we chant “NASRI” extra loud surely our player will be healed.
– At least Nasri didn’t eat some bad lasagna- he could have missed the whole of the Champions League!
On a more serious note, this today from Arseblog:
“I just can’t see him not spending the Adebayor cash though and perhaps, to counter the speculation we have to sell a big name every summer just to keep things balanced, there’ll be a certain amount if pressure from the board, and Gazidis, to spend it.”
Arseblog is fine for what he/it is, but I find reading him of late to be like Kremlinology and/or things from the official website: you know it’s written in conjunction with information from those high up at the club, but which parts and how much, from whom and for what purpose are somewhat harder to disentangle. What I found interesting here was that it’s clear that Arseblog has some sort of functional relationship with Gazidis and/or the elements at the club in the same sphere as him- Arseblogger’s getting his inside information from somewhere, and Gazidis did an exclusive interview with Arseblog not so long ago. That being the case, it’s interesting that after spending so much time of late disparaging the primary Arsenal-blog source of the idea that Gazidis and Wenger are opposed (Myles Palmer/ANR), Arseblogger here forthrightly acknowledges the possibility of tension between the two over transfer policy. A message to Wenger? Pure speculation? Reflection of differing priorities within the board? Smokescreen? I have exactly zero idea, but it does bear thinking about.
Such is the nature of things at Arsenal right now, with so many different agendas and proxies being played, so many disingenuous gambits like Usmanov’s rights-offer. One of the most frustrating things to me about this team is just how incoherent and obfuscated everything about the club is: with any other team I follow or support I can tell you who’s in charge at the major levels (coach, GM/sporting director, owner, etc.), what their plan is, what their tactics to achieve that plan are, and what they hope to achieve in the coming season. With Arsenal the major blogs won’t mention each other or acknowledge each others’ existence with few exceptions and never when there’s a significant difference of outlook, the board is divided into at least two factions (Usmanov/Kroenke) which seem to be at perpetual daggers drawn, no one is quite sure of the manager’s relations with at least one of the factions, there’s unpredictable rogue actors like Lady Nina, no one trusts the public pronouncements of any of the major players involved with this drama, no one is sure of the financial situation of the club and any discussion of such involves a detour into the London condo market, and frankly the whole thing is poised about a half-step between Shakespeare and Hitchcock.
It’s a preposterous state of affairs, and I can’t imagine it goes on much longer.
And for what it’s worth, I agree with Arseblogger insofar as that Arsenal’s fate this season will not be determined by this injury. It will be determined by what happens in what remains of the transfer market, how lucky the team is in regards to further injuries, how the other serious teams perform and whether players step forward this year to fill the roles they’re offered. I firmly believe that the current Arsenal lineup with a new defensive mid and a lot of luck can win the league and maybe more this year; time will tell as to whether that belief is at all realistic.