I’m away in NYC, I needed a guest poster to help out, so I drafted in Dan from the LG comments to pen me a guest post (he’s from NYC, which made this topical).
Enjoy, I certainly did.
Oh, Chelsea. You know just how to make us feel better. If Arsenal’s condescending Chairman, political-stump-speech CEO and window-fearing manager make it the on-going black comedy of the Premier League, well, Chelsea is the slapstick masterpiece. And the best part is, we’re on season nine and the jokes are as good as ever!
If we’re honest though, they’re more akin to a proper Greek tragedy, where a god-like figure continually f*cks over the mortals, and never for any good reason. You have to feel for poor Roberto Di Matteo: he picks up the pieces in the wake of AVB, wins the FA Cup, even wins the Champions League (!), but the second he stumbles he finds his head on the guillotine while Ron Gourlay strokes his hair and whispers,
“Shhh, everything will be okay…”
Adding to the hilarity of another knee-jerk Abramovich sacking was the fact that it came on the heels of Chelsea’s Champions League loss to Juventus. You’ll all recall that the only reason they’re even playing in the Champions League this year is because Di Matteo won it last year! I wonder if Abramovich even sensed the irony.
So now Rafael Benitez has stepped up to lead the circus. Wenger himself said, when the subject came up in an interview after the Montpellier match…
“I am surprised he accepted the job.”
Well I’m not. Rafa’s been out of work for two years. Even a position as fleeting as Chelsea’s boss starts to look pretty attractive after two barren years. If the reports are to be believed (and really, why shouldn’t they be?) Sr. Benitez took the job before he’d even met Abramovich. In a way I can’t blame him. What could meeting with a deluded oligarch do besides dampen your mood? You can’t have the depressing reality of the future standing in the way of a massive bag of money! I would say congratulations, Rafa, but it’s not the right word for it. So, good luck with your new position as Interim Manager. Or as it’s known at Chelsea, Manager.
Just one more point on Chelsea and then we’ll get on with it. We all accept CFC is run on a whim, but do you know what the very most capricious thing about Roman’s revolving door is? I suspect he’s accommodating Fernando Torres here. I mean, it’s safe to say Torres hasn’t really worked out at all. At least not for a £50m striker. But he’s the last man standing here. He complained about feeling warm and accepted and loved, and look what happened: Drogba gone. Anelka gone. Lukaku gone. Kalou gone. Strikers brought in? None, just young attacking midfielder-types. And now that Roberto Di Matteo has got the sack, who should Roman bring in, but the last manager Torres flourished under? It seems once again the owner is bent on making his prized delantero work, despite any evidence that he ever will. For an ultra-wealthy mogul, isn’t it a tad ridiculous that Roman Abramovich can’t recognise the sunk cost fallacy when it’s staring him in the face, wearing a girly skinny headband?
And speaking of the sunk cost fallacy, what a great segue into Arsenal Football Club!
Something’s happened to us recently. I’m getting a strange, tingly feeling in my football-thalamus. Could it be…optimism? Amidst our rivals’ European woes, we actually find ourselves on a minor upswing of sorts, at least confidence-wise. I’ll skip the part where I demand you all apologise for slating Giroud, but suffice it to say he’s looking a very capable striker. Lukas Podolski’s firing again, Santi’s back in form after a brief lull, Wilshere’s back, period, and—dare I say it—Theo is having a run of great games. Are things actually going well again?
Perhaps they are. But we’d be fools to put on our rose-tinted sports goggles (supplied by Adidas®) now.
The fact is, our squad is still abjectly thin. Our offense is beginning to click again, but what of the unit in the back? We still have a captain filling in at left back for the damningly trifold reason that, a) our regular LB is more accustomed to the treatment table than helping out with the league table, b) our backup LB is more accustomed to begging for keepsakes than playing defense, and c) we’re not convinced of Vermaelen at centre back. Then there’s the keeper: I really do rate Szczesny, but it’s obvious he’s got work to do. Unfortunately there is no other option. What serious contender would have Vito Mannone playing a quarter of the season for them?
Even midfield is a big concern. How can I say that, you ask? As awesome as Arteta-Cazorla-Wilshere is, do you think they can play every game? They’re a great midfield three (albeit a tiny one), but what possible rotation do we have for that unit? And what tweaks can we make if our opposition bullies them? I don’t know about you, but I’d feel much better about this year if Ramsey stopped exercising his god-given right to appear in every match. Coquelin’s a solid player, but he’s still more a cup-game level talent at this point in his career. Diaby I can’t even force myself to count as a real person anymore. The very concept of him is too absurd at this point. Rosicky is fast approaching that level too, but I still have faith we’ll see him kick a ball again. He’s another that can fill in when we need a body, but he’s not one I’m picking when I need points.
Even our offensive corps is questionably shallow. Theo is playing very well, but we all know how many times he’s gone from having a blinder to seeming to be blind in the very next game. I really hope he keeps it up, but you couldn’t convince me to lay any amount of money on it.
It’s true the Ox can deputize for Theo. Well, at least until Theo leaves, that is. And in the middle? Let’s see, after Giroud there’s… um… there’s… help me out here, you guys… there’s… uh…. G… Ger… ugh, I can’t even write his name. No offense to the man, but my stress levels are about three hundred per cent lower when he isn’t out there running around aimlessly. Only Ramsey is better at hesitating and losing possession.
I should note that I absolutely want those players to succeed. I’m not on a mission to tear them down here. But let’s face facts and look at the performances. Our forward play has been good recently, but after our preferred choices we have hardly anything to offer. And when you see things like Podolski’s recent remarks about how playing two games a week is new to him, you can’t help but worry. It’s the same lack of depth that sinks us year in, year out.
Anyway, maybe the worst indictment of our attack force is the Henry talk bubbling up again. Sigh. How pathetic and predictable. It goes without saying that every Gooner loves Thierry. But I can’t help but see this as much more than a diversion. Is it just capitalising on the goodwill of fans to willfully ignore squad issues? Because that is despicable. I will gladly welcome Henry back for another stint, but I will be very much less than pleased if he’s the only inbound player.
While we’re on the subject, what does the Henry situation say about Walcott’s status? Arsène said he doesn’t rule out bringing back Henry because Gervinho (ugh) and Chamakh (snigger) will be off to the ACN, making us short on strikers. Does that mean he doesn’t consider Walcott as an acceptable backup striker? Is it a dig spawned by the contract impasse? Or does he just not expect him to be with the team by that point? I don’t mean to arouse conspiracy theories. I’m simply pointing it out.
At any rate, the bottom line is this: good form, bad form, we’ll go through them both like any other team. But what we need to hold ourselves accountable for is how much of that form is self-imposed. How much of that form is a direct result of the squad we choose to maintain? Some wise person I can’t be bothered to Google once said, “You make your own luck.” Going into a season with Szczesny as your only viable keeper is making your own luck. Playing Gervinho as a false nine is making your own luck. Selling Robin van Persie is making your own luck. So come January let’s not forget that with this squad, we’ve got lots of a luck to make.
For more finely crafted nonsense like that, follow the superb Dan @topical_storm