Arsenal: False Idols, Falsehoods and Victorian Abattoirs. One Of Speaks…
He floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, here’s the ACLF equivalent of Muhammed Ali. Except there isn’t a bee in Big Al’s bonnet, it’s the whole bloody species…
Chances are you won’t know much of what I’m going to talk about here, but that’s OK, neither do I. I’m going to see if I can write a whole post on what I don’t know about the club. Because speculating about Arsenal’s inner workings is like trying to complete a join the dots puzzle with most of the dots missing. That doesn’t stop people having a go, and in their creativity they end up with outlandish ideas like…I don’t know, komodo dragons in Stetsons.
We get detailed assessments of personnel and strategy grounded in nothing firmer than whimsy and hearsay. Soon it becomes truth, and before long the club has to come out and refute suggestions as far-fetched and damaging as the one that Arsène Wenger is taking a cut of club profits.
Where to start?
The medical centre is as good a place as any. To hear it from some it’s an abattoir, medieval torture chamber and Victorian surgical theatre all in one. Club doctors and rehab specialists, ankle deep in human parts, spend their days playing a deranged, real life version of the board game, Operation – if Abou Diaby’s nose flashes then they miss a turn jabbing at his legs and have to go and see if Kieran Gibbs’ feet could do with a new coating of leeches.
Then there’s the coaching staff. At least these people mean well, but since they’re a bunch of new age flower children they see football only in the most ethereal concepts. Defensive coaches order the back four to navigate the pitch by star constellations and send each other energies rather than voiced instructions. Youngsters are given no guidance, for, you see, nobody’s got the smarts to set these little hoods straight. They tried reiki and now they’re fresh out of ideas.
This summer two new and very young faces appeared on the Arsenal site in the Coaching Staff section. Their roles are so specialised they were immediately eyed with contempt – James Collins is a performance nutritionist, but his job has got nothing on Ben Knapper for narrowness. He’s a Football Analyst, whose job is to watch games on TV and make videos for the manager. “You what? So they’re paying students to watch the telly, no wonder we couldn’t afford to give Almunia a pay rise.”
Now back to Diaby. There’s this suspicion that he’s happy with his predicament. When you hear stuff like that you wonder about the lengths you’ll have to go to make Arsenal fans sympathise with their own players. How about we break a part of your anatomy to stop you doing the thing you were born to do?
In most cases I think it would be the wrist.
And every time it looks like you might be able to do it again – whoops, there’s another setback. “So what’s that now, thirty injuries in six years? Time’s not on your side sonny – you were once the next big thing, but you’ve lost most of your career already because of some wannabe hard-man who doesn’t even play the game any more. Oh, did I forget? Leave the club you sponge.”
On to Pat Rice. YW dealt succinctly with the fabricated rumours about him yesterday. What do you know about his relationship with the manager, or where his responsibilities lie? Whatever his strengths, they’re clearly enough to make him a valued figure at the club for almost half a century.
He gave insightful and frank accounts of our performances against Udinese in his surprisingly broad Ulster accent back at the start of the season. All to the amazement of those who thought he only had one word in his vocabulary. I wish the word had been “now”.
But the one thing, more than any other, that gets fans’ knickers in a twist is the club’s silence on transfer matters. It was always this way of course, but at a time when so many people think Arsenal owes them something, the prudent decision to keep schtum is treated as a personal insult, like getting blanked by an old friend.
And this gives rise to yet more toxic accusations. For starters, I have no idea what happened in the summer – noticing a pattern yet? – but I’m convinced it bears no resemblance to the narrative that we’re supposed to accept by people who are no wiser.
When it came to recruitment we’re supposed to believe this chauvinistic idea of a bunch of greenhorns getting the run around from shrewd and swarthy old-worlders. Problem there is that nobody has seen Gazidis in action. And nobody knows who was in last summer’s twenty-strong team, other than Richard Law, what they were doing and how much experience they had in their roles.
This is where David Dein comes in. In the past he was always the man in the photo with the new signing, and I don’t think you can ignore the impact of those photos on people who are desperate to see new faces at the club. Never mind that it’s a different game now, under new constraints. In the years since he’s been gone his status has been raised to something a little above demigod. There’s a reason the club hasn’t built a statue for him – it’s about idolatry, whole thoroughfares to the stadium would be clogged with a sea of prostrate worshippers. Kick off would have to be delayed every fortnight.
Finally, my least favourite football topic, and one of the most contentious – all I can say is , “Shut up, you do not know how much individual players earn. You might think you do, and you might make educated guesstimates, but ultimately you’re bullsh*tting. So shut up.”
Really, most of this stems from an absence of trust in the club. If the team had just won a trophy nobody would be prodding around in the dark, trying to find weaknesses. Where they are is unclear, but I’m sure some fans’ energies could be better spent elsewhere – provided their wrists have healed.
Don’t forget to check out this morning’s Arsenal On This Day, another delve into the past. Some very murky days coming in the next few weeks. ’til Tomorrow.