It’s like a derby match, only much much more important
It’s not a cup tie. It’s not a traditional rival. It too early in the season to be relevant to the league table. And yet, today’s match with Manchester Citeh feels massively important. Citeh are the supposed heir apparent to our “top four” status. They have made a perfect start to their season and their captain is a former Arsenal favorite. More importantly, they’ll be starting a striker who was an Arsenal hero just over one year ago and is now almost as reviled as Cashley Cole himself. As if Adebayor couldn’t make his plight with Arsenal supporters any worse, he took a shot at American Arsenal fans by saying that they would be Liverpool supporters tomorrow and Manchester United supporters after that. I’m not doing the quote justice. Allow Greedy to alienate an entire nation of supporters in his own words:
“Arsenal have a lot of fans who are not fans. Arsenal have fans from America and
Jamaica. Today they are Arsenal fans, tomorrow they will be Liverpool fans and
after tomorrow they will be Manchester United fans.”
Allow me to be the first to say, in response: Mr. Adebayor… GO FUCK YOURSELF. I hope I’ve made myself clear. (I find it beyond hilarious that a man who’s loyalty is completely for hire would find it appropriate to challenge the committment of any group of supporters who love their club unconditionally without the expectation of any reward except the odd victory.) While you may not have had it easy when you were young Greedy, you’re living on easy street now. There are people in America, struggling through a recession, struggling to make a mortgage payment, who won’t give up their internet, or satellite TV so that they can support a club that they might never have the chance to see in person. And you have the audacity, as you receive your 30,000 pounds per week, to get your feelings hurt when supporters decide to boo you for a little bit. You have the temerity to act surprised that supporters aren’t impressed after a summer of flirting with other teams, when you kiss the badge following a meaningless penalty kick in a pre-season match. I’m not sure I was clear the first time so allow me to clarify: GO FUCK YOURSELF. You are the embodiment of everything that is wrong with sports and with the world in general. Why examine yourself or take responsibility for your actions, when it’s easier to find someone else to blame? I think we’ve spent enough time on you already. It won’t be long before the Citeh faithful realize that your idea of commitment involves whatever is expedient in the moment.
So today’s game is massively important. But it’s important beyond Greedybayor and Toure. It’s important because of where we are at the moment. Arsenal have made an electrifying start to the season. We dominated Everton and Pompey in the league and outclassed Celtic in the Champions League. And despite our loss at Old Trafford, many observers saw a strong Arsenal team dominate play at a ground where we were overpowered just a few months ago. We were considered unlucky to lose to United one fortnight ago. At this moment there’s optimism for our season and belief in what we can achieve.
But if we were to lose today, the doubters and skeptics would be emboldened. Our strong start to the season would be cast aside and our “top four” credentials would be questioned once again. Arsene Wenger would be castigated and his youth policy and transfer policy would be put front and center for criticism. And for our young players, there’s the distinct possibility that self-doubt would creep into their minds. Conversely, Manchester Citeh would draw confidence from a victory and possibly use the result as a spring board to bigger accomplishments. It’s a scenario that we simply can’t afford to see come to fruition.
Citeh are a team of mercenaries. They represent everything that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal oppose. They embody the idea that a successful club can simply be assembled from spare parts. Citeh hope to prove that success can be bought almost overnight. They stand for the notion that a club is not bigger than the sum of its parts. We must prove that a club is bigger than it’s transfer budget. We must prove that a top club evolves over time rather than being snapped together in a few months like so many legos. We can overcome three dropped points today, but it will be difficult to overcome their significance. We simply must get a result.
And here’s where it gets tricky. While a club might be more than it’s big name signings, it still requires adequate talent to be successful. Citeh will be without Tevez. We can breathe a big sigh of relief over that because he’s one of the few genuinely passionate players on their team. But we could well be missing our best players yet again. It’s going to be another struggle to overcome key injuries in a massive match.
While I’ve already said enough about Arshavin’s absence, his ability to fashion a moment of brilliance out of nothing simply cannot be replaced. But the bigger question mark hangs over Cesc’s status. We looked strong enough at Old Trafford without our captain, but overcoming his loss and Arshavin’s would be a very tall task. We don’t know for certain that Cesc will be missing, but the early indications are bleak. No matter how improved our supporting players have looked so far, as I’ve said before, you need your biggest players to win the biggest games. We may have looked good at Old Trafford. We may have been unlucky to lose. But we did lose nonetheless. Had Fabregas started that game, I have no doubt the outcome would have been different. And while the news regarding Walcott and Rosicky sounds reassuring, it’s extremely unlikely that either will play a part today. Obviously Nasri and Vela will be unavailable as well.
So the real question for today is pretty simple: do we have enough talent available to overcome Citeh on their ground. Last season we lost this fixture 3-0. It’s as unpleasant a memory as I have from our last campaign. Much has changed for the better since then, but Citeh are stronger as well. I believe we can get the result we need, but I think it’s a very tricky situation given our available personnel.
Let’s assume for a moment that Cesc doesn’t start. That means we’re almost certain to see Diaby, Eduardo, Van Persie, Song, Denilson, Eboue, Clichy, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna, and Almunia. It’s not the worst starting XI, but it’s far from our first choice. Worse, there won’t really be any influential players on our bench. (Walcott or Rosicky could be there, but given their lack of match fitness, it’s hard to know what they would offer.) So it’s a test of the less proven talent today. It’s a chance for Song and Denilson and Diaby to prove that their flashes of quality haven’t been a mirage. It’s a chance for Eduardo and Van Persie to show Greedybayor that he’s not missed. It’s a chance for Gallas and Vermaelen to show Kolo that their partnership works the way that Kolo and Gallas’ failed to work last season. It’s a chance to show Citeh that it takes more than a checkbook to create a world-class club. For the team as a whole, and for the individuals shown so much faith by Arsene Wenger, it’s a chance to prove a point. Let’s hope they can do it.
Our season wouldn’t come crashing down if we lose today. But I don’t think any of us want to endure the misery that would be heaped upon us by “certain players” and the media as a whole. Also, it would put us in a precarious position in the league table regardless of what the calendar says. I don’t care if Greedy scores today, I just want a result. Greedy was always at his best when he worked hard and I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that he’ll be jogging around the pitch today. We’ll see him working harder than he did at any point last season in some vain effort to prove us all wrong. Regardless, he’s so disconnected from reality that it wouldn’t surprise me if a winged unicorn swooped down to the pitch today and carried him off in the distance. (Which would, coincidentally, be fine with me.)
But the reason we have a real chance to grab the points today is that Citeh don’t seem to have fixed what ailed them last season. Having watched every one of their games this season, their defending has been suspect and they have been lucky on several occasions. They have yet to face a stern test and we have already played twice in Europe and at Old Trafford. That gulf in early season experience should serve us well. Citeh’s defense won’t be ready for what we offer, even without our best players. More interestingly, Citeh might try to come at us. While they might even get a goal or two from an attacking strategy, we’ve always thrived against teams that try to play football with us. If Citeh think they can put us under pressure, they’re likely to find out that we still have a devastating counter attack. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see 4 or 5 goals today, and if that’s the case, I think we’re likely to come out on top.
Regardless of starting lineups and tactics, I just want a result. This game has taken on a life of it’s own and most of the emphasis is thanks to our dearly departed striker. I just can’t bear to see him come out on top. So it’s a massive game, on the heels of an international break and with injuries galore draining our available talent. But this isn’t the time for excuses. This is the time to stand up and be counted. This is the time to put Citeh in their place. Let’s hope that’s exactly what we do.
COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!!!!!