I never thought I’d say this but Bob Geldof had it right. Mondays are awful, a terrible day for football matches.
Reminisce with me about a particular match, we’ll chat for hours and I daresay that we may even recall the month it took place in at some point. Ask me the day and pretty much I am a blank canvas; you could tell me that it was a Thursday and I’d raise an eyebrow but in the absence of anything to contradict, I would go along with it. Very few days when matches took place stick in my mind. If I remember it as a midweek game, I’ll assume for the most part that it was a Tuesday, Highbury’s designated night. Weekends, despite the number of contradictory examples, remains Saturday in my mind’s eye unless it was a title win or there’s a good reason to put it down to a Sunday.
But Monday Night Football? I only recall one match, one that sticks in the memory banks firmly as a Monday night: Manchester City, September 1992. The 28th as a bit of research shows. I don’t remember much of the match itself, Ian Wright settled matters. For years I had it in my mind that this was the first win in front of the mural but it wasn’t, it was just the first in five games. It was the first and last time I had the misfortune to witness a live performance by The Shamen.
Dreadful on record, they were no better miming – lip synching the pros call it – at Highbury that night. A crowd which had already been less than welcoming to the Sky Strikers, warmed to its task with the first chimes of the risible “Ebenezer Goode“. Where was Mike Read’s puritanism when a record needed banning on the grounds of being crap? Derisory comments in the stands soon became collective barracking, the scathing wit of a football crowd forcing the early abandonment of a bad idea which should have been drowned at birth.
I’ve always hated Monday Night Football since, that blatant attempt at razzmatazz feeding a lifelong contempt of the Murdoch broadcasting empire. You get your kicks deriding Thursdays, I’ll do the same for Mondays.
Arsène probably reserves his scorn for transfer dealings. The club, he believes, has “have to keep [its] nerve and not buy just because the others buy – but buy because you have found a player that can really give you a plus.” That player is Edinson Cavani this morning, Karim Benzema has been told to score 25 goals for Real Madrid this season by Rafa Benitez so unless he has made a miraculous recovery and puts in equally astonishing performances against Gijon and Betis, he isn’t leaving the Spanish capital this month. But the transfer window closes on 1st September I hear you say…
What you won’t hear me say is that the new Arsenal manager or head coach as it may be styled then, is Per Mertesacker. The German believes it is too intense and who is to argue with him. The only real surprise is that we don’t see any more Keegan-esque meltdowns on the television screen. Instead, you have coaches lauding goalless draws as “fantastic” team performances. It might have been better for Van Gaal to have adopted Arsène’s approach and answer, “There was match? I did not see it.”
Were it not for his own experience, the BFG – who’s going to be one to tell them the ‘F’ isn’t for friendly – would probably describe managers as mad as a box of frogs but having worked in a mental institution, he has a greater appreciation of the issues faced by sufferers than reducing it to flip comments. He doesn’t hold much truck with ex-players either, barely disguised disdain for those who perch on the sofa so that they can remain “part of the football system“; it’s something he wants to avoid although why anyone would want to miss out on the jolly japes of poking fun at water breaks. Killer analysis, Gary; just killer.
Years ago, it used to be a love of the game and wanting to avoid opening a pub or sports shop which inspired managers. Now, with the financial rewards from playing as well as those on offer from the multitude of global broadcasters, the necessity to stay in the game diminishes for the players who operate in the highest sphere of the game. Is this any different from the past? Probably not although the popular image of successful managers being driven by a failure as a player is wide of the mark. There aren’t many managers who won the title pre-Premier League who I can readily think of as being unsuccessful as players. It’s a touch of folklore with Wenger and Mourinho two managers fitting the bill with the former never-failing to amuse me as any talk of his successor is met with “But what has he ever won?”
With the opening day defeat to West Ham already under their belts, Mertesacker knows Arsenal are already on the back foot in terms of a title challenge; he’s well aware that as a maximum, Arsenal can afford to lose no more than three more games in the Premier League. Whilst the title race may be more inclusive, the champions will the team which loses no more than four games. This season may be the one where the mini-league of the top six makes all the difference; how many points you take off your opponents, depriving them of any advantage by winning home matches and drawing away.
Can Arsenal make that leap? They have to.
Anyway, the telex machine isn’t that clean so with the world waiting, I’m off to give a quick polish.