Stone Cold Friday: No More Mr Nice Guy
And now, on with the soap opera. Let joy be unconfined. Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor. Here’s Darius…
This week, I wrote to Arsenal with a demand. I felt it was justified to ask the powers that be to force Arsène Wenger, the coaching staff, and all the players on that team sheet that travelled to Stoke City to forfeit their wages for the day. It can only be right that after such a criminal performance, the docked pay be given to Centrepoint, Arsenal’s charity of the season.
The Britannia Stadium seems to be that sort of place that took over from Sam Allardyce’s Reebok stadium as a place Arsenal players don’t fancy. You could almost picture the classic footage of Robert Pires’ funny but contemptuous demeanour as he got off the bus at Bradford City a few years ago.
His body language was more of “what the frigging hell am I doing in a place like this on a freezing day”, as opposed to “hey, there’s 3 points up for grabs here”.
Even though it was clear to tell that Bobby Pires would rather have been somewhere else, he was always a dependable lieutenant for us on the left side of the pitch. I think somehow, he would have found solutions to work something out at the Britannia.
You have to ask yourself though, what is it about a team that can comfortably put United, Chelsea and Barcelona to the sword at home; yet play like a League 1 side devoid of nous and guile when it matters most. This only a week after a tenacious and spirited performance against United.
Do we have a schizophrenic team that adopts different personalities?
As the season concludes, it becomes ever more painful to reflect back, especially at the 15 points we lost from leading positions this season. This isn’t even taking into account the home and return ties against West Brom, and the away games at Bolton and Stoke.
The least we expected, especially after the United game was a spirited end to the season with great performances against stoke, Villa and Fulham. Truth be told, I have no clue what to expect for the remaining games.
The only joy over the last couple of months seems to be that Tottenham are back in their rightful place firmly heading for mid-table mediocrity.
Patrick Vieira’s thoughts about knowing when to win ugly and balancing finesse with a selective mix of brawn, laced with a no-nonsense attitude should be framed and placed at strategic points in London Colney alongside the medical and fitness charts you find everywhere from dressing rooms to the toilets.
Wenger has some tough decisions to make to find the balance that is needed to move this team to the next level. It’s not enough that when we fix some things, we still have the knack of losing focus on other aspects of our game.
It doesn’t help of course that the silly season is in full effect. I even heard that we’re in the market for an experienced customer like David Weir who at 41 will give us the necessary experience without threatening the place of our up-coming charges.
It’s nonsense to suggest that the team needs massive surgery, but Wenger will have to pull his finger out and work with a mix of new faces and this talented squad of players who need to make that mental leap to the next level.
I’m actually excited about the possibilities and potential new faces coming in, but pray that they’re not signings for the sake of signings to appease the baying mob calling for Wenger to be issued with his P45, and some players be permanently shipped to Australia.
I would love to see a player like Chiek Tiote join our ranks and provide cover and rotation options for our midfield when Song is being rested or is not available. This to me makes much more sense than some of the options being touted out there.
If Pat Rice does retire, his replacement will probably be a more significant signing than we would anticipate. This also is another opportunity to reinvigorate the squad and to build on the stellar work that the Irishman has done in the decades he’s spent at Arsenal.
More importantly, the team that takes the pitch next season has to prove to the Arsenal faithful that they can walk the walk, whether they swagger or whether they walk ugly. I suspect most fans would take a “No more Mr. Nice guy” approach as a manifestation of the mental maturity needed to move us to the next level.
The team can do well by seeking a modicum of redemption with acceptable performances against Villa and Fulham. Silverware is out of our reach this season, but there’s still a hell of a lot of pride to fight for.