Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Counterpoint: Why You Should Definitely Boo Cesc Fabregas

Yesterday, Juan wrote a post on why you should boo Cesc Fabregas.  Today, I'd like to take issue with that post and explain why you should absolutely, definitely boo Cesc Fabregas.

1. He's an extremely good player.  Probably one of the five best central midfielders in the world.  People who aren't Arsenal fans never really understood this completely.  The subject of Fabregas would come up with fans of other teams, and I would repeatedly insist: "no, he is a truly special world-class player," and then they'd say "hmm sure alright" and then add something nonsensical about Lampard or, even worse, Michael Carrick, and I'd shake my head and say: "no, you don't understand," and then we'd get frustrated with each other.  (And I mean no disrespect to Lampard, who was brilliant and still is sometimes brilliant, especially when he scores against Chelsea because that ish is hilarious.)

2. He wears a blue shirt when he plays home games.

3. He does not wear a red and white shirt when he plays home games.

4. He intentionally passes the ball to this old man who was recently spotted on a bus, and the old man then uses his devil magic skills to magic the ball into the other team's goal.  (Sometimes the other team is wearing red and white.)

5. He was so good and he was the captain and then he said he wanted to go home and he said that it was all he ever wanted and he had Barca DNA and Pepe Reina put that shirt on him and then he went home and OK that's fine it's just like Henry but then three years later he is not at home but instead playing for a terrible man who is completely without honor and class and who would definitely, definitely lose to Arsene Wenger in a fistfight and he is being paid with money that is dripping with the sweat and blood of the Russian people who were swindled and I hate him and I love him and I hate him

(deep breath)


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why You Should Boo Cesc Fabregas

It's been over 3 years since Cesc Fabregas played his last game for Arsenal; it was a 2-1 loss to Bolton.  He left for his hometown of Barcelona, where, before anyone cared where he played soccer, he was just a kid.  In Northeast Spain, nothing is given.  Everything is earned.  Or something like that.

He wanted to win we were told.
But he won't play! We responded (correctly).
He'll fit in perfectly they said.
But where exactly? We exclaimed (correctly).
The weather, the tabloids, the women, the food, the culture - they're are all better in Spain!
But... but...yeah ok fine.

In between watching perhaps the best team I will see in my lifetime I watched him on the bench, desperate for a frown, a twitch, something that I could point to.  Something that would let me know that maybe he regretted his decision.  That's all I really wanted.

I know, I thought, he won't play in El Clasico, and that's when I can move on.  He came on in the 80th minute, Barcelona lost 2-1.

But then he started playing, and then he scored a few goals, and then they won the league, and then they won everything.  He looked happy.  Ouch.

Time will fix this, and it did.  I was happy for him.  He was right, Arsenal was a sinking ship.  He'll always be a gooner.

Until he wasn't.

What in the holy christ fuck is he doing back in England and with goddamn Chelsea with goddamn Mourinho and Drogba, and, jesus!  And don't come at me with this, "Arsenal didn't want him" bullshit.  First of all Arsenal have a right to pass on him, I'm glad they did (no I'm not), and that's not what happened anyway.  If he's capable of forcing himself onto Barcelona, and he'll take a pay cut to do it, and he'll swim the Mediterranean just to get there, then if he really wanted to come back he would have.  It wasn't about competitiveness when he left because athletes in their prime want to contribute - he was the captain of a Champions League team in Englad at 24!  His first games were with an Arsenal team that went undefeated in the league!  It turns out we were right, he was wrong.
And that's why you should boo him.  Because with this it's not often you're right, but this time you were.
So let him cross it to an offside John Terry, which of course won't be flagged, of course, it's Chelsea.  And let him hug all up on Willian, and Terry, and let Mourinho keep trolling Arsenal fans since he's still mad that Pellegrini trolled him with Lampard earlier in the year - thanks for that by the way - and hopefully Fabs has some advice for Costa and his Van-Persie-hamstrings.  To hell with it all.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Manchester United Are Must-See TV

One season of football can really change the way you feel about a club.  As long as I've been watching, Manchester United have been Public Enemy No. 1.  A team to be hated and feared.  Respected and admired, certainly.  But mostly hated and feared.  And ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left, United have never been at the top of my non-Arsenal soccer viewing.  Even when they were putting out title-winning sides, I took no particular enjoyment in watching them play.

Until now, that is.  United's utter ineptitude last season laid the groundwork by removing most of the fear and loathing and replacing it with grateful, long-awaited feelings of schadenfreude.  And this season, they are probably the most entertaining side for a neutral viewer.  Their attacking options are like something that was dreamed up by Roman Abramovich after a few lines of fine Colombian (not talking about Falcao) a few years ago, who then shook his head and laughed at his own silliness.  Meanwhile, their defense is playing like someone told them that the FA has changed the offside rule to five yards behind the last man.  And that the ball is made of hot lava.  Basically, it means that the viewer is guaranteed a minimum of four goals per game, and it's not entirely clear which side is going to score them.

Anyway, if this doesn't convince you, watch and admire at Rafael screaming in desperation at Saido Berahino as he peels away, trying to put him off scoring the way your annoying friend yells right before your shot in a game of H-O-R-S-E.  (Note: it didn't work.  At all.)  Good stuff.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I started writing this post when Arsenal were 2-1 down to Hull. The game finished 2-2 so Huzzah, I guess.

I don’t know what makes a great soccer team great.  I mean, I have a rudimentary understanding of what is required, and I can certainly recognize greatness when I see it.  But what I cannot do is say: "if you buy X player and Y player and hire Z manager, you will have a great team" and know that I will be right.  (Well, maybe if variables X, Y, and Z are Messi, Ronaldo, and Jurgen Klopp, respectively.  I would feel pretty confident about that.  But even then, who knows?)  Of course, this has never stopped me from making these sorts of predictions and tricking myself into believing them.

Which brings me to Arsenal.  Last year, Arsenal broke its nine-season trophy drought by winning the FA Cup against Hull City.  It was glorious and well-deserved.  If Juan and I were not deadbeat absentee parents of this blog, there certainly would have been celebratory posts and pictures and champagne for all.

What made the FA Cup win so wonderful was not just that Arsenal had a trophy to throw in the faces of its critics (albeit only the third-most prestigious trophy one can win in English football these days), but that it seemed to be the first marker on a road to continued success.  For nine years, Arsenal and its fans had wandered in the desert, watching teams built on youth and the glittering jewel in the crown, Cesc Fabregas, show great promise (2007-08, 2010-11) and then ultimately crash and burn down the stretch.  During these years of debt and thrift and injury (always injury), Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.  Arsenal fans would spend the summer wondering which one of their stars would get picked off by a bigger club.  Instead of being used to buy suitable replacements, the proceeds would immediately be sent to the bank to pay for the Emirates Stadium.

Anyway, all of this has been beaten to death, so I'll get to the point, which is this: those years of fruitless frustration are supposed to be over.  The stadium is paid off.  There is a new kit deal.  The naming rights to the Stadium have been renewed.  The club is flush with cash.  Arsenal spent an extended period of time at the top of the table last year.  There is a shiny new trophy in the cabinet.  And the last two summers have seen the arrival of two of the most exciting attacking players in world football: Mesut Ozil and Cesc Fabregas Alexis Sanchez.

Even without the arrival of a defensive midfielder and greater defensive cover following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen (two subjects that deserve, and have received, gallons of ink already), I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Arsenal fans felt their team would be truly competitive this season.  Ozil and Sanchez would be the missing variables to get our once-exciting offense back on track.  Welbeck could be the finisher that we've missed since RVP.  Things would CLICK.  Maybe we would ultimately fall short in the League to the depth of Chelsea or Citeh, but we would be in the fight to the end!  We would be outside challengers for the Champions League!  We would put up a staunch defense of the FA Cup!  Some of us even exchanged texts about the treble being in play.  (Full disclosure: some of us are silly.)

As of this moment, Arsenal sit sixth in the table, and they will probably be lower than that by the time the weekend is over.  Chelsea are in the lead with twice (twice!) as many points.  Ozil is injured.  Koscielny is injured. Giroud is injured.  Debuchy is injured.  Wilshere is (almost certainly) injured.  Rosicky and Ramsey have struggled with injuries at various points already.  Walcott has not yet returned.  This is all very bad luck (or something worse and systemic), but Arsenal have still put out sides that, on paper, ought to be have won against opponents like Hull, Tottenham, Leicester, and Everton.  These games have all been draws, some, like today, by the skin of their teeth.  We have looked very, very mediocre.

This team is not great.  It is not even very good.  I don't think it's just the injuries, either.  Something is not right.  There is a faint whiff of rottenness at the core.  The hope provided by that FA Cup victory is long gone.  The lack of good defensive depth and cover has been incredibly obvious.  And the resignation is setting in that this will be yet another season where we exit the Champions League at the round of sixteen.  A season where the FA Cup holds the slim possibility of another trophy and, more likely, the threat of embarrassing ourselves against lower league opposition.  A season where the league is far beyond us by Christmas (or, um, today) and we will struggle for the Top 4 Trophy and the lifeblood of Champions League football.

(Still gonna watch, though.)