You’re allowed to read this twice if you want – this Saturday, we stage our latest Premier League fixture against Arsenal FC. Yes, that’s right – the Gooners ; serial winners (though not of late) but a Club that has legitimate claims to not only occupy that fiction of the EPL (the “big” 4 ), but has an history and past that puts it realistically amongst the upper echelons of world football.
Quibble all you will, the Deloittes list and others of equal repute always place them in the top 10 European Clubs, so when they come to town, I always get a buzz on.
Listen – in 15yrs time if we’ve each year finished in the top ten of the PL, having meantime won the odd Capital One Cup and regularly appeared in Finals (various) all the while being entranced by the style of play (as we are), imagine how content the vast majority of we Swans will be.
The Gooners have done a little more than that.
In the last 15yrs, Arsenal have in every season qualified for the Champions League (via a top 4 finish at the least),and reached a Champions League Final, won the PL several times, and the FA Cup several times also, including the double, the League Cup as well, won various other trophies including the Community Shield and achieved countless other awards whilst all the while playing by far the most attractive football in the League.
Oh, and they had an Invincibles, unbeaten season too.
Oops btw I forgot, they’ve done this whilst moving from the Iconic Highbury Home (at 36k a little small) to the fantastic Emirates Stadium (60k plus) and doing it, moreover, without putting the sort of debt onto the Club as the Glaziers have done at ManUre. Without also a potentate of sorts as has happened at Citeh and Chelski.
If you’re going to be a “BIG” club, seems to me that the Arsenal route (as at Barca and Bayern) is more one to be admired than envied and criticised.
Despite this level of achievement, Arsenal, it’s suggested in the more rabid Tabloid Press and TalkShite style phone-ins, are having yet another “poor” season with Arsene Wenger, their increasingly belegured but permanently cultured Manager having “lost the Plot” and worthy of the Big E, a feeling reinforced from the mounting grumblings of their own supporters, and those of we Swans who were blessed to be at the Emirates as Miguel Michu stroked in the second goal in the last minute to cement our 2-0 victory can’t fail to have noticed the resounding boos for the home team, however ill deserved we percieve them to be.
So, what’s gone wrong? Not a great deal, I’d suggest. Some perspective, please.
You’ll probably have heard this one – but please, bear with me if you haven’t.
George Best was one of the top 10 footballers in the World – ever – but he was a bit of a rascal, a sort of Gazza with 10 times more talent – but an equal propensity to self destruct.
All but the very young still reading will have heard the possibly apocryphal but defining tale of George Best – the British Messi of his day (he was THAT good, trust me), being delivered a room service tolley by a waiter at the Ritz, serving Champagne to him and the then current Miss World in bed on a Friday evening prior to a game against Chelsea at the Bridge the following day.
Whilst the purported waiter gazed at these two semi naked beautiful young people locked in a passionate embrace on a bed scattered with roses, petals and £5 notes he, the waiter, is reported to have involuntarily (almost) said……………… ” Oh George, George, where did it all go wrong??????”.
Now I may have gone over the top in attempting to draw a parallel between Best, Gazza and other talented but wayward talents and the travails of the modern Arsenal (when compared to other Clubs) but you’ll forgive me if I remind those Gooner critics who are demanding Wenger’s replacement for his plethora of late non-achievement…………………be careful what you wish for!
We who’ve spent the majority of our hundred year existence down amongst the dead men of the Football League are, not surprisingly, a little more enthused to celebrate our recent successes (Carling One Cup amongst them) and our performances in this unforgiving League against what the red tops still lazily call “the Arsenals of this world” (as if there were loads of them – there aren’t) with a little more equanimity. Regular success, it seems, breeds complacency – and we, along with lots of clubs, are a long long way from that.
So, again, a little perspective, please.
Despite reports to the contrary, Arsenal currently sit in 5th place in the PL on 47pts and we in 9th on 40pts.
We’ve achieved our principal aim this season ( staying in the division) and been treated to a blissful Capital One Cup run that saw us secure Europa League involvement next year in our 5-0 mauling of Bradford City in the Final.
Still, as ML has pointed out, our next target is to see how high we can get. He’s suggested 50pts is achievable before season’s end and that seems to me to be realistic.
In our 2-1 defeat last Saturday at WBA, our first half performance (and late late wrong goalscoring denial by the officials) suggested we at least haven’t switched off – Steve Clarke agreed – and our players are not thinking of the beaches just yet. That, at the very least, is how we MUST mean to go on.
As for them, you wouldn’t bet against them achieving yet another top 4 finish just yet, but with just 9 games left it’s becoming progressively more difficult, and we’ll seek to add to this problem for Monsieur Wenger.
Earlier this week , prior to their CL fixture at Bayern, TalkShite, via it’s resident Bulldog Adrian Durham, and the well known “Bring on the Wall” presenter and fat ex-Cricketer Darren Gough, spent a whole couple of hours radio slinging mud at the “cowardice” of Wenger for putting out a reserve side against the German Champions in the upcoming tie.
At which point, of course, the Arsenal gaffer did no such thing. He picked a near full strength side that proceeded to win 2-0 and almost drag the tie back from the dead.
So , how will that impact on us?
My point, as I’ve said above, is that we should all within football be careful what we wish for. The game has a regular habit of kicking us in the nether regions by regularly surprising us.
The Gooners are without Jack Wilshere it seems, the young English Maestro being protected after feeling tender in the shins after his long layoff and many games of late.
Lucas Fabiansky looks likely to keep the GK spot in front ofWojciech Szczesny, and the back 4 at Bayern paired Per Mertesacker with Laurent Koscielny at Cb, with Carl Jenkinson at RB. The English qualified but Finnish born FB signed from Charlton had a very good game, but at LB, Nacho Monreal, signed from Malaga in January should replace Kieran Gibbs who was injured again.
Thomas Vermaelen, the Club Captain, is set to deputise shouls there be any changes in these areas.
We’ll maybe get our first look at Santi Cazorla, one of the very finest of the many current crop of Superb Spanish Midfielders along with another Spaniard, the hard working Mikel Arteta who has never been able to get into the all powerful Spanish squad.
Up front maybe Olivier Giroud, the increasingly successful Frenchman acquired from Montpellier, and maybe Lucas Podolski, the hard shooting German all but-record Capholder.
And then there’s the option of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wide (or narrow in Walcott’s wish).
From these few names you’ll see that there’s a huge amount of both quality and experience. Thus, the game will not be easy, and any points gained will be gratefully received by me, at least.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t hope and play for better – for the win.
This will be a game where we know that the opposition will at least not to kick us off the field, and the ensuing outcome threatens to be one of the better adverts for the EPL, since we, just like them, like to and can play a bit.
After having dominated the first half against WBA last week, the team seemed to me to me to feel the full impact of the loss of a key cog, namely Leon Britton, but I’m encouraged to think he’ll be fit by ML this week allowing Mark Gower go to Charlton on loan (and good luck to a decent servant).
Moreover, the rest of the team is fairly settled, the only 3 questions being these.
1) If Chico is still not fit who partners Ash. Personally I’d like to see Bartley, particularly after his decent cameo against the Arse in the home FA Cup tie draw.
2) Like Moore up front again or a reversal to the false-9 Michu. I opt for the latter.
3) This option leads on from the last – please can we play the three wingers again – I just think it improves the full flow of our game.
So, there you have it. We have a month of these sorts of quality fixture to look forward to at the Lib – next up come Tottenham and last year’s Champs Man City.
Don’t you just bloody LOVE being a Swan in these fantastic times. My guess is we ALL do.
Onward, Swansea City.