Sunday, 26 September 2021

No point looking away now

A couple of weeks ago, I received notification that tickets were on sale for Arsenal v AFC Wimbledon, and inside the  email was a countdown to kick off, though more appropriate - as it turned out - would have been a countdown to the congestion outside the ground that delayed kick off. 

Perceived wisdom is that the problems were caused by 20,000 tickets going on ‘general sale’ , and casual fans being unfamiliar with the stadium layout, not to mention the usual lack of urgency to get in on time while selfies had yet to be completed and a thorough browsing inside the club shop.

Luckily, most were inside to see Eddie Nketiah’s imaginative back-heeled goal, and it is any moments like these that seem to be the point of League Cup matches. Manchester City have won the last four League Cup finals and will no doubt make it a fifth in succession. They win it so routinely that the trophy is usually forgotten when summarising their season; didn’t win the league or Champions League, not even the FA Cup. A season of failure. 

All the eyes on Nketiah’s goal, and all the frustration of those not being able to make kick off, and all the thousands of words on the 3-0 home win should, with all reasonable logic, have been geared towards the story of the match itself, rather than on any journey to lifting the trophy. Same with all the other goals and moments to in all the other games, unless they involved City; the ending to the League Cup has already been written, it’s just the tale that needs to be weaved.

The countdown to Manchester City’s triumph at Wembley. 


Monday, 6 September 2021

The Arsenal Megamix comin' at ya!

Of course you can't extricate yourself entirely, and I've dabbled, skimmed the surface, ok dived in a bit, but not long enough to get used to the cold. Got back out again pretty quickly.

The 'in-game' punditry of Arsenal's defeat to Chelsea contained the same old go-to favourites:

"Soft underbelly"

"Same old problems"

"Where are the leaders?"

I compare this to being on the clubbing circuit in the mid 90's and 2000's when you hear the Grease! Megamix week after week, year after year; there comes a time when you just can't listen to it any more. You stop, blow out your cheeks and walk away from the dance floor. 

I still haven't seen a second of MOTD (or MOTD2 if you're asking) this season, and it's liberating not to have caved in - not that I'm denying myself. I miss Wrighty but I don't need the smug, underhand gloating of Lineker, Jenas and Murphy, nor the pontification of Shearer. What gets said online by SKY and BT just gets repeated on air at a later part of the day, the afternoon suits doing the evening casuals work for them. 

Another benefit of not committing, is the avoidance of gloom that the international break delivers. Who cares there's no football this week, there hasn't been any for me the previous weeks! Maybe when my auction-based fantasy league kicks in, November's will be a source of frustration, but the appeal of that competition is the absence of dabbling and tinkering; you don't get the withdrawals of unnecessarily messing your team up (there's some movement in November and February when you can drop and select three players max, but it is normally in a pub and includes a roast dinner - although the mini-auctions might be on zoom this season).

Arsene Wenger may be in the familiar position of fielding a whole load of flak for FIFA's World Cup every two years proposal, but his idea to condense the painful tedium of qualifiers seems worth listening to at least. Let's take England as an example; their last interesting qualifying group was in 2007-8 when they missed out to Russia and Croatia. Three decent teams in one section, only two able to qualify. McClaren was ridiculed and sacked but Russia reached the semi-final and Croatia the quarter-final.  2007-08 qualifying also gave us The Wally with the Brolly and Paul Robinson letting a Gary Neville back pass roll under his feet. What do we remember today's World Cup and Euro qualifiers for? Racism mostly, and UEFA/FIFA doing nothing about it.

The 2008 tournament had 16 teams, we now have 24, so the chances of competitive qualifying are virtually zero for the established sides. If this misery must continue, can it not go back to how it used to be, qualifiers midweek without interrupting the league schedule at the weekend? I get that's hard with clubs being represented by nationalities all over the world, but hey I don't care anyway, do I?             



‘On me be-head, son’ - time for a final Steve Bruce chapter?

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