Monday, August 29, 2011

Arsenal's Reality Check

I remember when my academic background in core applied sciences reigned supreme in my heart; one of my biggest dreams was to be a physiotherapist and get to work with The Arsenal Football Club of London. Pretty precise you would say, yes that was how much I regarded the club as a teenager but my history is not my focus here now. Last night I saw the biggest defeat in my over 15 years as an Arsenal fan. I have not checked the history books to see if there was any ever worse than this, I doubt it. The joy however is that it came at the right time.

Prior to the game when I saw the line-up, I predicted a 5-1 beating from Manchester United without meaning to be insulting and my brother said it should not be more than 2-0; isn’t it amazing how fans now try to wish for bearable heartbreaks before a match? We are no more the once proud gunners that would believe in victory before every game and even when we are trailing in a game! We now worry when having to play Hull City, Newcastle, Westbrom, Fulham, Birmingham and their likes. Home turf is no more our fortress; average teams now take points from us in front of the home fans! We now have to deal with Chelsea being the best team in London! Well aren’t they? At least for the past six years.

That is what we have all been reduced to as Arsenal fans. We have had so many heartbreaks in many years such that loosing now is no more a reason to be ashamed! Or what do we have to say to the fact that the team that beat us to the Carling Cup (our only hope of a silver ware) last season are now in the Championship?

To the 8-2 mauling, I do not expect any Arsenal fan to have expected too much if you’re a true objective fan. My thrill is that Manchester United did not have to play too well to beat up Arsenal! They didn’t even have to start many of their experienced players! The average age of the Man-U team that beat us was not too far from the team we paraded! No more excuses of “they are young”, “inexperienced” “still learning” “officiating” “being denied a penalty that could have changed the game” and many more we have accepted for years. Yesterday was at least a clean drubbing. How did we get here Mr. Wenger? How could we lose to Man-U of all teams in this manner?

In my heart I ask myself how long it really takes for a young player to develop into a finished product, I ask myself how best they can, is it not by playing and relating with more experienced players in an ambitious club? Would any infant have failed to mature having played alongside greats like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Edwin Van der saar, JS Park, Vidic, Patrice Evra, Owen and even Rooney considering how early he started plus many others they have refused to discard? Well, that is except he’s not meant for the game.

Just thinking, if only just a few of these Arsenal players during the so-called “developmental years” had more time with the likes of Gilberto, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, Fredrik Ljungberg, Thierry Henry and a few others we had to bid farewell to. We cannot forget about Fabregas and Nasri leaving, I do not blame them, they wanted more from their careers and we cannot offer it at the moment.

The difference between the two young teams yesterday was that the Man-U boys were in it to win it, but our boys were there just to survive it. They honestly gave their best; you simply cannot give what you don’t have. Agreed, we had some regulars missing due to injuries and suspensions but isn’t it a problem Mr. Wenger should be worried about when your “key” players pick up unnecessary cards to the detriment of the team? Are they really under control? Or better still, are you really in control?

Common Gunners didn’t you see it coming? On the bright side, we lost but we are not finished, the match is over but the season is not over, we have 35 more games to play! We lost one of the perennial tough games and not another potential 3 pointer, above all for me, Mr. Wenger has been brought back to earth, the Udinese win that could make him think he has a squad has been rubbished, and the transfer window is not closed yet. We need quality replacements!

One thing is for sure though, as I said to some of those self acclaimed fans that have switched camp, Ian Wright had to go, Tony Adams, Patrick Viera too, Henry left, Fabregas has gone, Arsene Wenger that we all wish to hate now will someday leave that position but Arsenal will remain not just a great club but the one in our hearts. This is a phase and every great club has its own, go ask real Barcelona fans (not the ignorant success followers) how long they have had to play second fiddle to the great Real Madrid teams. For Arsenal, this too shall pass.

If you are still whining over it, perhaps you should read My Many Soccer Heartbreaks published in 2009.

I am Nigerian and I also support my hometown club called Shooting Stars of Ibadan, another great club with great history on the continent of Africa. Just like Arsenal, we haven’t won a single trophy for a while and here it’s been for over a decade while our slogan “Up Shooting” has been ridiculed many times. So you see why I am not broken by the embarrassing defeat by Manchester United and I still do not and will never 8-2 be an Arsenal fan. I remain a Gunner and I will always stay Up Shooting!

My favorite quote from a friend this morning, I dedicate it to the brave Arsenal players we have left:

“Look back to get experience, look forward and see hope, look around and see reality, look within and find confidence…where you look determines what you see”

Enjoy your week mates.