For me, time for blogging lately has become like the g-spot: very hard to find, though probably still worth the effort if you do. In the absence of enough hours to write my definitive piece on why Messi is the greatest player ever, but also isn’t, here’s my most recent column for The Gooner issue 224 on the subjects of transfer rumours, Champions League qualification, that run of coming from behind to win matches and keeping a sense of perspective.
There is an information overload out there these days. You couldn’t keep up with every word written about Arsenal if you literally spent every waking minute on it. The problem is that most of it is the biggest load of BS you could find. Every mad theory is vomited out by morons with too much time and too little sense. Even the truth gets twisted pretty quickly as it passes from one person to the next. ‘Sources’ within Arsenal can exaggerate to begin with, to make their titbits of information sound more exciting, and memories aren’t perfect. Most people have only a vague recollection of actual words used in conversations, but their memory fills in the blanks for them. Every time you think of the same piece of information you fill in the blanks in a slightly different way. Gradually the memory changes, but you aren’t even aware of it. This is fact. What this means is that even people who aren’t genuinely idiots and liars can often sound as though they are. And on the internet there are plenty of idiots and liars.
This brings me on to transfers. The transfer window closed and for a few weeks we were spared the daily crapfest of “in the know” sources telling anyone who’d listen that Arsenal were preparing to sign any number of up and coming stars. Sometimes it seems that every idiot with a smartphone or a computer cannot resist putting forward some jackass theory about who Arsenal will buy. The problem now is that even though the next transfer window isn’t due for three months, season ticket renewals are due sooner, and the club want to convince everyone that the downward spiral has been well and truly reversed and the “selling club” tag is totally unjustified. They are actively encouraging the crapfest to get more renewals! I don’t know whether to be more annoyed with the club or with the idiots who believe we’ve really already signed Goetze or Hazard or whoever and insist on putting this information everywhere I look.
Of course our captain and one current indisputably world class player also needs to be persuaded to stay. Whatever he’s going to be paid can only be afforded by qualifying for the Champions League, so it’s a good thing from that point of view as well as the season tickets that we are having our best run of the season. Just to be clear here, if we miss out on CL qualification that’s a loss of up to £40million for each season we’re out of it. Arsenal can take the hit for one season, but if it becomes two or three then it’s going to be very difficult – VERY difficult. Although the accounts look as though there are hefty cash balances held, it’s not all available to spend, and the wage bill and other expenses match the current income, not ‘current income minus £40m’. Given recent results we have a good chance of third place, so we may not have to worry. Fingers well and truly crossed.
Of course third won’t please everyone, because then the pressure is off Arsène again, and yet we are no nearer winning a trophy! It’s almost like he deliberately screwed up August and September just to make us grateful it’s been turned around since!
Similarly we have apparently broken the record for coming from behind to win consecutive Premier League matches (because history only started in 1992, obviously), and at the end of a 90 minutes where you’ve been in a losing position you are of course pathetically grateful for the win, far more than if you coast to a 3-0 without the keeper making a save. But FFS, keep a clean sheet now and again rather than give the opposition a head start every week! And this is with the first choice defence pretty much back, so I guess that defensive coaching the players are now apparently getting could still do with the odd tweak.
As usual, perspective is needed: we were crap at the start of the season; now we’re less crap but still haven’t won anything. Maybe your glass is half full, maybe it’s half empty. Are the cracks being papered over or superglued closed? Ivan has said the fans will decide when Arsène’s time is up. Is it?