Stone Cold Friday: A Time For Rambo
Any of you boys want to shoot, now’s the time. There isn’t one of us that doesn’t want to be someplace else. But this is what we do, who we are…Well, that was Rambo on screen. And I bet that the scriptwriter had never visited Stoke yet it is so, well, appropriate. Here’s Darius to explain why…
As much as it’s exciting that the title challenge is literally going to the wire, a very bad taste worthy of industrial strength mouthwash is slowly taking shape. I’m still not decided which I hate more – United getting another title with the requisite sycophancy to follow us around all summer; or Chelsea waking up from the dead and shafting us on the way to grabbing the customary bragging rights and shoving them down our throats.
The fact that we’ve handed over the baton to that lot down the Kings road by our indifferent performance in the last 6 or so weeks isn’t forgotten in the sea of media hyperbole about what is being billed as the clash of the century. And no, they’re not talking about Aaron Ramsey’s return to Stoke City.
They should be talking about Rambo though, for the young man provided us with a glimpse of what the thug masquerading as the Stoke City captain attempted to deny us. Ramsey’s performance last week was imperious, and its great testament to the hard work he has put in to reclaim what was so nearly a shattered career.
As we close out the season, the joy of the unpressured environment for the team to express itself, particularly with the return of Ramsey and Vermaelen is laced with trepidation about the return to the crime scene of last year’s assault. In a lot of ways, overcoming this hurdle and getting a positive result with a good performance will do wonders in terms of confidence building for Ramsey, but truth be told, I wouldn’t put anything past Stoke.
There has been a collective failure of the footballing culture, match officiating, and leadership from the FA in creating an environment that has allowed a particular brand of risky football to be taken as the norm. A man’s game they call it. A culture where endangering the career of another professional is seen as acceptable if you actually get away with it.
I suppose at some stage, Ramsey would have had to go back to the crime scene, but you have to question whether it’s too soon. Some have started talking about Ramsey being the replacement for Cesc, a proposition which sounds premature at the moment. Cesc is an exceptional player – one of the best in the world – who still has a lot to offer Arsenal, and any team in the world will miss him. Lest we forget, he is still the Arsenal captain.
How long Cesc stays is another question altogether and despite the conventional wisdom out there about the return of Catalonia’s prodigal son – the fact of the matter is that Arsenal have the upper hand through Cesc’s contract. If Broke Back Barca want him that bad, they need to show us the money or shut their collective gob until they can afford him.
My take though is that Ramsey is not ready to assume the pressure of being seen as Cesc’s replacement. What he is definitely ready for is to be part of the team and to fight for a place and perform as effectively as he did with jack Wilshere and Alex Song. For us to challenge in the coming campaigns, he is essential. What Cesc offers is exceptional and we need to keep a hold of that until we’re good and ready for him to move on.
A friend was asking me yesterday whether Barca will beat United for sure in the Champions League final. You see, there’s a good price for United not winning anything this season and it was worth a visit to the bookmakers.
My take was that what distinguishes Barcelona from other teams is Lionel Messi. Without the Argentine, any top flight team has a very good chance against Barca. But let’s face it, it’s impossible to legislate against Messi and when his team are not playing well, he is capable in any split second to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and leave you pissing in the wind.
In our own way, Cesc has a little bit of that for us. The team can do well and hold its own without him as we showed against United, but with Cesc, the proposition is always different. We still need that in our team.
With Cesc still injured, it’s hard to see Ramsey not starting Sunday’s game, especially after his performance against United. You can only hope that the match officials will do their job and oversee the game with some competence. It will be naïve to expect any of the Stoke players to have any sympathy and for them, beating or drawing with Arsenal at home will be the perfect tonic to prepare for their adventure at Wembley next weekend.
What worries me most is the impact playing at Stoke might have on Ramsey if you consider that Eduardo was literally battered out of the Premier League. He has done well so far, but his rehabilitation is still very much in progress and we should remain cautiously optimistic.
The first time we went to Stoke, Van Persie got red carded and we lost the game, albeit, there was a rare gem with Clichy scoring his first arsenal goal. The second time – we literally lost Rambo, but fought back with courage and determination in the face of considerable adversity to bring the 3 points back home.
Let’s hope that playing without the pressure and the motivation to finish above United (you never know) will make the 3rd league trip to the Britannia a happy one.