Flair or ware?
I’m a Gooner, always have been always will be however that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching teams playing entertaining football and I’ll get some right stick for some comments I’m going to make in this article but probably none more so when I say that Barcelona bore me.
Yes, that’s right, the world’s best team featuring the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch bore me. For many reasons Barca bore me but it is mainly the predictability of their play that bores me. Barcelona are very predictable which should in theory make them easier to beat and thus more exciting to watch because there is a chance they will lose a spectacular game but in practice it doesn’t as Mourinho and Madrid will attest to and almost all of the Barca defeats I have seen over the past few years have been scrappy games that make the musings of fans, journos and pundits alike of “yeah, they’re good but let’s see how they’d cope with Stoke on a cold and wet Tuesday night” seem all the more reasonable. The only time they have been beaten in an exciting game for footballing reasons rather than ice hockey-esque brawls was at the hands of my beloved Arsenal.
30 sideways passes between two or three very good players bumping up their passing and success stats before the ball reaches the final third is like being forced to watch Serie A in slo-mo. It bores the heck out of me. Bar a few moments of predictable unpredictability from the jaw dropping Lionel Messi I wouldn’t watch any Barca games except for El Clasico but that would be more for Madrid.
There are lots of teams that I enjoy watching play but I’ll name the ones in the English Leagues I like the most apart from AFC of course. They are; Reading, Bolton, Blackpool, Swansea and Newcastle. (I’ll even admit to admiring some of Sp*rs play over the past two years but because they are the scum I just can’t enjoy it. If they lost every game 4-3 I’d probably love watching them play well and lose but I don’t).
The last team on that list is a team I have admired for many years. Newcastle, Ashley aside, are a fantastic club but I think what I love most about them is their fans. I would be comfortable saying that they are the most passionate fans in the country if not the world. Arsenal fans are labelled quiet for a reason and it’s up to us to change that perception but that’s for another day.
What I love most about the Newcastle fans is their passion for attractive football but unlike Arsenal fans their realistic expectations. Now we can argue all day long about Arsenal having bigger expectations because we’ve been more successful but nothing you can say will change my mind about this.
If you ask Newcastle fans what they want most of them will use words like “attractive, flair, exciting, pretty, beautiful, attacking, entertaining”, Arsenal fans will say the same. Mention trophies and the difference becomes clear. Newcastle fans want to be entertained and many of them will say that if they win a trophy as well then that is just the icing on the cake.
Football fans when talking about winning trophies over a CL spot finish usually say things like “You can say ‘I remember the day we beat *** to win the ***’ or ‘I remember exactly where I was then Michael Thomas scored at Anfield to make to 2-0 & win us the division’ but who can say ‘I remember the day we beat *** to finish 4th’“.
Following a football team is expensive and winning trophies makes it worth while but what if you win trophies but win every game 1-0 from a corner or a long ball and it’s 89 minutes of defence vs defence? Sure you’ve won a trophy but you could have watched those games on MoTD or Sky for less than a quarter of what you probably paid for your season ticket right?
I want Arsenal to win trophies as much as the next man but like my fellow football lovers in Newcastle I want to be entertained first. If we have to play ugly to grind out a few results then so be it but, no disrespect to Stoke or Blackburn (they play for survival after all most seasons), I’d be bored out of my nut if I had to watch their rough and tumble long ball set piece drivel week in week out to get my kicks.
Arsenal will make signings this summer and we will continue to play entertaining football next season but I think we as fans need to lower our expectations.
Sure we will probably buy Podolski but will that change anything? Will it guarantee silverware? I don’t think so. He is most effective when he is played slightly to the left of the middle. He’ll get goals for sure from the left of our front three but unless we change our system, which we won’t, he won’t be as effective as he’ll be too wide. We might get Vertonghen or another defender but will that really make a difference? I don’t think so. We have decent defenders who have proven that when fit and playing together are capable of keeping us in the game whilst our attackers do the business of winning it for us and occasionally winning the game for us when our attack isn’t performing.
We might get a new midfielder but will that change much? A new player will create as many problems as they cause. M’Vila for example. Who do we drop out of Song and Arteta? Will he adapt quickly enough? Can his (lack of) goals and assists for an average team in an average league make a difference for a team trying to challenge at the top of the worlds most punishing league? If we lose Song who will make his lofted through ball assists? If we drop Arteta who will bang in the long-range goals or be our senior and calming influence in the middle of the park?
Arsenal’s problem isn’t tactical or having a lack of decent players it is an inability to keep a first choice XI in shape for a season and a squad together for 3-4 seasons. We as fans probably don’t help that by piling expectations on the shoulders of the young and impressionable who find it easy to jump ship for more money and less pressure from teams with less history and therefore lower expectations despite their greater ability to see out games. Money isn’t everything as Arteta proved when he moved to Arsenal.
We might be a sleeping giant, we may be contenders but for just one season I think we should be grateful for wherever we finish as long as we are entertained.
And for those that can’t remember anything other than silverware:
On May 7th 2006 at about 4.35pm I stood outside my stall on Green Street (selling Cass Pennant, Bill Gardner & Rolling with the 6.57 crew signed books to pricks that were too young or too soft to remember or have actually been in the ICF) having heard the cries of 2-1 to Wigan, then 2-2 to the Arsenal and then the agonising sound of Defoe equalising for Spurs and then Sheringham’s penalty being saved and knowing all Spurs needed to do was score one more to clinch 4th to hear Upton Park erupt as Yossi Benayoun, currently an Arsenal player, score to secure 4th spot for Arsenal.
It wasn’t about the Champions League, it was about beating Tottenham and if we can do that this year with Spurs having been so good and us having been so poor at times I’ll consider myself thoroughly entertained.
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