If you weren’t able to watch the Rocky & Wrighty: From Brockley To The Big Time, then click here for the full version on YouTube. If it gets taken down, search it out; should BT decide to release it commercially, buy it. I didn’t get paid for that, it is just essential viewing.
Modern fans must be sick to death of hearing about the ‘good old days’ but it will explain so much about the attitude us old farts expect from the players, and what we mean about pride in playing for Arsenal. It underlines the attitude we want from players but will never get.
The way David Rocastle was sold to Leeds underlines how football has changed. No matter the compassion or love George Graham felt for Rocastle the man, it was a brutal manner of delivery: in Graham’s car outside training and then just leaving Rocky to mill around outside.
Times change and we have far better facilities to deliver that news. Of course, agreeing a fee is no guarantee of selling a player these days. Too many of them just loiter in the squad, content to never get a sniff of the first team again, all the while collecting their wages.
That short-termism is typical of football; long-term damage to their careers is forsaken for another season in the wilderness. It’s the same with the decision over the manager’s future but that’s for another day; today is about on the pitch, not off it.
We’re Praying It’s Not Too Late
Football loves a cliché and ‘must-win’ games fit the bill. Arsenal have nine Premier League cup finals to rescue their domestic season. The FA Cup is, of course, its own cup final in every game, with just the one actually delivering a trophy. Seven points off the top four, with a game in hand; even a win today still leaves us with a mountain to climb, relying others to drop points.
And there’s no point looking ahead either. Defeat today renders next season’s Champions League Round of Sixteen exit as nothing more than a pipe dream. Games are running out to rectify the poor performances of 2017.
I wish I could be confident of a win this afternoon but I can’t. There’s no telling which Arsenal will show up although team news lends itself more readily to the shambolic wreck of the Hawthorns than the majestic sweeping aside of Chelsea at the Emirates. Last summer seems such a long time ago.
Cech is out, while none of the long-term injured are in contention either. The peculiar case of Lucas Perez continues to baffle, with a mysterious thigh injury causing his absence. The ready-made excuse of Santi Cazorla’s absence is waiting to be used with Arsène declaring the Spaniard’s season over.
There is the makings of a decent XI but with Arsenal it’s the mental side of the match which is more important. Do they have the concentration so evidently missing against West Brom, back? Do they have the mental strength to fight back?
We’re Falling From Grace
As long as they run around a lot, Arsène won’t mind. His acolytes continue to berate and criticise Alexis for not running far enough in matches. Don’t worry about the defending, let’s have a pop at the only player who shows he cares about winning.
According to the club’s pet troll, John Cross, Alexis shouldn’t even be at Arsenal; we ought to sign Peter Crouch because he runs around the most in Premier League. Forget Alexis’ 18 goals and 9 assists, he could do more for the team; he’s lazy, according to the perverse logic employed.
That’s not to say Alexis isn’t without faults and weaknesses; he is. However, in a team where heart and commitment is constantly questioned, the Chilean will always be popular for wearing his heart on his sleeve. If you worry about his demeanour, body language or frustration, look at the cause of it rather than criticising that aspect of the player. Ask yourself why he is feeling that way; he’s only mirroring the frustrations felt by supporters.
The state of it. Still, it’s not the British way, is it, old chap? Stiff upper lip, what.
We’ve Got Stars Directing Our Fate
If it feels doom and gloom this morning, our record in big matches this season leaves a lot to be desired, even by our standards. The win over Chelsea stands out as the anomaly. We can win today, don’t get me wrong. City’s vulnerability at the back is well-documented but our biggest enemy will be ourselves.
The return of Mesut Özil leaves Arsène with a decision to make: which Alex to include? Iwobi earned his brownie points by praising the Frenchman while on international duty but Oxlade-Chamberlain is far more effective in the team at the moment. Both won’t fit in with the German and the odds are the England international will lose out, such is Wenger’s loyalty to certain players.
My XI for today:
Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Özil, Welbeck; Sanchez
Bring on 4pm; it’s been a fortnight in the making and Arsenal’s backs are pushed so hard against the wall, we’ve gone right through. The only thing left to play for is pride; time for the players to show theirs.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.