Morning all, the circus is in town and the media are hung on every word the ringmasters are saying. It’s like a Scooby Doo mystery with elder ringmaster, the chief cheerleader talking reasonably and his understudy doing likewise except you know that his are the eyes behind the picture on the wall, watching carefully the moves everyone is making whilst he waits to bring his malevolence to the masses when Chelsea are crowned champions.
And this morning’s playlist on Dad’s Jukebox in the right sidebar, My Lucky Charm, is the perfect soundtrack for the Mystery Machine; it’s full of carefully crafted pop songs all slung together in the usual lazy, slapdash way.
It will be a sign of your age whether the first images of Scooby Doo were from the films or of the gang in cartoon form. It’s a generational thing and the same goes for the FA Cup final kits. Two generations have never seen it happen but this year they will. Not quite as rare as Haley’s Comet but Arsenal will face Aston Villa in the FA Cup final wearing yellow; it’s 1979 all over again, the last time a team wearing yellow lifted the trophy at the end of the season.
Of course, Arsenal wore yellow twelve months later to complete a hat-trick of finals and as in 1978, lost. Yes, that’s a bit of a dampener isn’t it; the popular images of Alan Sunderland wheeling away in victory are replaced by Willie Young becoming the nation’s pantomime villain as he scythed Paul Allen’s stride in the May sunshine.
Talking of which, there’s the usual guff this morning from Mourinho ahead of Sunday’s clash. Trite taunts in his press conference continue to fill the headline writers of the land with glee, perpetuating his ridiculous notion that Cesc chose Chelsea because he wanted to win titles. Of course he did; the choices of London clubs who might deliver that promise is limited to two and one of them wasn’t interested. I believe it’s called Hobson’s Choice.
It’s all marvellous stuff and about as relevant to Sunday as Wenger’s denial of being unable to afford Eden Hazard when Lille eventually decided that the stupid money on offer was impossible to resist. It’s not, I hasten to add, that I don’t think the Belgian isn’t worth it but like Fabregas, when you pay that money, you have to deliver a title. And whilst the ship maybe rocking as the sea laps against the port wall, Wenger is making his way up the gangway with the signings of Özil and Sanchez. This summer will see the Captain of the ship embrace him fully as he welcomes him on board.
When you pay that kind of money, illustrious history at a club or not, you have to deliver; that’s the nature of Premier League football. Arsène may buck that trend for a while longer but not indefinitely. The brand won’t allow it.
For many people, the outcome of Sunday’s match is a litmus test for signs of improvement but in isolation, I’m not sure it is any indication of anything in particular, certainly beyond the points gained from the result. One league fixture doesn’t define a season in the same way a knockout tie does; your league position can’t be put down to one result.
Indeed, we might reasonably argue that already this season, we’ve seen an improvement in the ‘mini league’ of big matches with victory at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. Perhaps taking four points from the Premier League meetings with Chelsea and United is something more tangible upon which to hang your hat rather than treating the games in isolation.
But pragmatism must surely rule any assessment of Sunday with victory and defeat treated equally. Who am I kidding? I’ll be grinning like a loon as much as the next man with a similar sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach although to be fair that may be as much the fault of the beer as losing. However, at this stage of the season, talk of improvement is just that. What matters is the impact the result has on Arsenal’s position in the Premier League table. Whilst I expect City to win, I’m not sure about United. They might do, they ought to beat Everton despite not winning their since October 2011 which makes the Merseysiders record sound slightly more impressive than it really is in this fixture.
If the pair win, Arsenal will be fourth at kick-off. Nothing to be concerned about, especially with ninety minutes ahead which may change that even before we start taking on board the implications of the game in hand. Obviously beating Chelsea makes it simpler, indeed I would argue it all but seals the runners-up spot and going into a football-free summer, winning the FA Cup and finishing second is going to leave everyone a lot happier than fourth and no pots to, well, you know.
And its important not to lose sight of what is the key aspect. It’s about finishing as high as possible in the table; the title disappeared as soon as last summer’s transfer window closed and the cards for the following fourth months were dealt. A decent hand but missing the fundamentals to make it a great one.
Finally, a reminder that there is a predictions league on the Dohyo app and there’s still time to halt Damon’s title procession. The imaginatively league is called “ACLF” when you sign up.