This is Jonathan Blaustein’s monthly contribution to the community, follow him @Jblauphoto for his twitterings.
It’s March 27th, as I write this.
Yesterday, here in the Taos valley, it was 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
I can’t tell you what this is in Celsius, because for some reason, I’ve never been able to figure out how to make the translation.
Basically, it means it was warm and sunny.
Balmy, if you will.
But for the first time, I was able to ride the Kachina Peak lift at Taos Ski Valley, and found myself at 12,400 feet, on the very top of a massive mountain.
The lift only runs part of the year, and this season it was much delayed, due to the two tragic avalanche deaths off the same peak.
When I left my house in the morning, it was spring. The first shoots of green grass were standing perkily in the sun. The birds were chirping like they were onstage at Lollapalloza in 1997, giving it all they had.
But then, all of a sudden, I was in icy, snowy winter, like something out of Lord of the Rings, and I could see for a hundred miles in several directions.
(How’s that for the American perspective. Fahrenheit, feet and miles all in one column opening. Fucking arrogant Yanks!)
It’s a good feeling, to be able to see forever. And teetering between those seasons, spring and winter, is strange. But combine the two, (the distance and time of year,) and it makes for a particular perspective.
So let’s get into it.
At this point, I’ll mention another date: March 14th. That’s the last time Arsenal played a competitive football match. (I don’t care what happens in Dubai.)
Who did we even play back then?
Oh right, Rennes.
We spanked them 3-0.
And who did we beat before that? Manchester United.
Say what now? Two clean sheets in consecutive massive games?
If any other coach had done that, while anchoring Arsenal in both the #Top4 and the Europa League, Londoners would be singing his name from the lamp-posts.
But something about the guy makes him seem less cool, less smart, less attractive, or less innovative than his fellow Top 6 coaches.
Be honest with yourself: it’s true.
During the huge winning streak, we were impressed but dubious, waiting to see what happened once the injuries mounted, and points were dropped in the depths of dark winter in December.
All along, it’s been wait and see, in particular in this very column. Now I’m suggesting that maybe it’s a subconscious thing, comparing Emery to Pocchetino, Klopp, Guardiola, Sarri and OGS.
Perusing the list, in late March, you’d say Emery has outperformed Sarri for sure, and OGS rode in on a white pony, so it’s too soon to say. (But he has the star-power thing down pat.)
We beat Tottenham once, easily, and really should have beaten them again. The draw felt like a loss, as we all know, because Auba missed that penalty.
But what happened in the next game?
Lacazette wins another penalty, and he gives the ball to his buddy.
I sat here on my couch, with my 11 year old, watching it two hours late on the DVR, and we both screamed “NOOOOOOOOOO.”
Take it yourself, Laca!
We need the win!
Are you insane!
Obviously, in hindsight, we were wrong. (Is it a coincidence that Laca is both of our favorite Arsenal player at the moment?)
That kind of scene, one teammate believing in another, is what sports is all about. It gives you chills.
And it’s real. You can’t pay for it.
Arsenal have that, and they also now have a manager willing to play all his best players at once in the same game. (Imagine that?)
The squad is in the perfect place for this time of year, and one way or another, we’ll soon know if they finish strong, finish brilliantly, limp to the line, or choke like the Atlanta Falcons in the 2018 Super Bowl.
Within a short span of time, we won’t be able to say “wait and see” any longer.
And let’s play what if, for a moment.
If Emery gets the team into the Champions League, he’ll definitely get more money to spend. Maybe a lot more.
He’ll have proven he can do the job, and that proof will have delivered more cash. Given our model of spend what you’ve made, that means more on transfers.
Some new names are intriguing, like Thomas, from Atletico. More money, better signings.
It’s clear that the manager is staring at a very binary outcome: he makes it in, or he doesn’t.
If Arsenal win the Europa League and get in the Top 4, or somehow miraculously overtake Spurs and hang on 3rd, then I think this guy will have money, clout, and a new aura.
The story will be that his tactical acumen is his special power. It won’t be that he doesn’t stick to a style, but rather that he’s so amazing at the details that he breaks the game down into phases, which explains all the halftime subs, and each game plan is unique because HE CAN.
HIS BRAIN IS THAT BIG. HE BREATHES AND EATS FOOTBALL.
Now, if Arsenal choke on both fronts, and end up in 5th or 6th, knocked out by Napoli in the Europa League, it will be very, very different.
He didn’t improve on Wenger’s performance, only the point total.
Yes, some advance was made in the Big 6 Mini-league, but the results weren’t enough. We’ll give him a modest budget, and a decent leash into next year, but there better be some major improvement, or we might be coach shopping this time next year.
Like I said, it’s binary.
And we’ll know soon enough.
From this odd vantage, winter and spring all at once, on the mountain top in morning and in the valley in the afternoon, I’ll say one thing:
I’m really glad the team is perched where it is, and that we’ve managed to put a whooping on some hated rivals: Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester United.
How great would it be if in the multi-verse, we end up with one of the happy timelines?
I wonder what I’ll be writing this time in April?
Remember, follow @Jblauphotoxxx
P.S. Take a bow son.
Granit Xhaka scoring a banger for Switzerland with his weak foot. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/gTdnj1tAaw
— Arsenal FC News (@ArsenalFC_fl) March 26, 2019