Ten of Swords (reversed): Arsenal Reborn
Victory and consequent fortune for a soldier in war. Advantage, profit, success, favour, but none of these are permanent; also power and authority.
“Victory and consequent fortune for a soldier in war.”
On Friday night I posted a blog calling our team “The Convincibles” – and gave a very generalized summary of the personal hurdles each senior squad member had to overcome, in order for the 2012-13 Arsenal team to convince us that they, as a collective, were the Real Deal.
A 6-1 victory, even over a recently promoted side, is a signal of intent. A shot across the bow of our detractors, if you will. It was a very convincing win, and deeply satisfying to witness on a number of levels, not the least of which was seeing the youngest team in the Premier League playing with such intention and flair. It truly was a classic Arsenal performance, made all the more remarkable by the fact that the players have barely played together.
The use of Gervinho as centre forward was a stroke of genius. Why didn't Wenger think of it before? If a winger constantly takes on and beats defenders, only to run out of pitch: then it makes perfect sense to play him down the middle. At least he'll run the ball into the back of the net, right? Obviously, I'm over-simplfying, but Gervinho was a revelation. It's good to see him score after such a long drought. I've been quite harsh on him in recent months: “Gervinho: nice lampshade, no bulb.” was how I summed him up, with his frustratingly dire final touch. Well, after Saturday's performance, I'm going to have to change that to “Gervinho: Nice lampshade.“
Another player I've criticized in the past – who hasn't? – is Ramsey. On Friday I urged him to kill some more celebrities, and against Southampton he came awfully close, in an amazing solo effort. In any case, when he was brought on he looked snappy and hungry and, well, Rosicky-esque…
I was also aware of a change in my own attitude. There's something about this team, especially considering the rotten transfer window(s) past, that makes me buzz. I couldn't watch the game real-time, which I absolutely despise, so I was surprised at how amped I was when I finally got to watch it taped. It's like Arsenal, as a snake-entity, has shed its old skin: Pat Rice gone, money-grabbers gone, an attitude of zero-tolerance towards disloyalists, and a group of players remaining that look coolly desperate to convince. It's a privilege to witness, this rebirth.
So often, our attention is focused on a couple of players – the ones who piss off to the Dark Side at the end of the season. Those players hog the limelight, on and off the pitch, and players that may not be as flashy lurk in the shadows… It feels like a huge shadow has been lifted from the club. We have moved from a 'one-man team' to a team of eleven players, all fighting for each other: striving to perform their given duties with 100% commitment, for the benefit of the greater good.
We don't really have any 'superstars' left. Hopefully we're making a bunch out of this newish batch, and they'll stick around long enough to reap the rewards. It's early days, I know, but at this stage the sum looks greater than the whole of the parts. Which is the ultimate compliment to pay a manager.
“Advantage, profit, success, favour…”
Being the underdog works for some. Yes, I'm aware how strange it is calling a Top 4 club an underdog. It's all relative though, and I guess the tag is indicative of a sense that Arsenal has been performing below its potential in seasons past. Much like a scratch golfer consistently carding high scores, missing crucial match-winning tap-ins – we've been fighting below our weight. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Blame what you will – there's plenty to go round: manager, owner, players, luck, injury, refs. Blame never fixed what broke.
The media delights equally in creating heroes and tearing them down. There's little room for nuance. If we could see the world through their eyes, I'm sure it looks like pre-80's computer graphics, printed on a dodgy dot-matrix printer with low ink. Then faxed a few times.
I'm not sure what effect the media hype and hyperbole has on players and Manager within the protective Arsenal bubble, if any. But I know it affects me, and I have detected a slight, but noticeable change in the way that pundits and commentators are framing their opinions of Arsenal; they seem slightly more positive, and supportive. There's been an outpouring of admiration for how Wenger transformed not only Arsenal, but football itself. And, though the discussion about how big money skews the playing field is too controversial for mainstream, there does seem to be a vague recognition that Arsenal is an electric car competing in NASCAR. (More on that here.)
I think the goodwill that the media feeds underdogs can be used to our advantage. It turns the Gooner mass consciousness towards belief and positivity. And, as we've seen in the past, positivity and belief can make a huge difference. It separates the gold and the silver from the bronze.
You can buy a synthesized version, but the real thing is way more potent.
“…but none of these are permanent.”
As Heraclitus puts so succinctly: “Nothing is permanent but change“.
I believe every supporter knows this. But accepting it is the root of our addiction.
“Power and authority”
It is the 16th anniversary of Arsene Wenger's appointment as manager. Much as football is a game of two halves, so is his reign. He has had a Yin Yang tenure. Massive success followed by huge disappointment. But the whistle hasn't blown on his Arsenal career just yet: he has two more seasons to prove himself AND his philosophy.
He's also gone from Invincible to Convincible. And from someone who seemed so stubborn and unyielding, I believe he has heeded the 'adapt or die' adage, that is a hallmark of success.
In a vacuum, his principled, measured approach to football may have proved unbeatable. But football doesn't exist in a vacuum. It is influenced by politics, economics and social change. Much as you shouldn't prepare the path for the child, but rather the child for the path… I think it would be foolish to rely on external factors, such as Financial Fair Play, to level what has become an extremely Stoke-like playing field.
To paraphrase George Orwell: “All clubs are equal. Some clubs are more equal than others.” It is obvious from UEFA's recently released list of FFP offenders, that, while FIFA may have the authority, they don't have the power. And authority without power is a toothless, neutered dog. The list is relevant more for its omissions, than the list of clubs it includes.
We should take that as a warning that we have to find our winning ways from within. And it is my sincere belief that Wenger is the right person for the job.
It's gonna be a rough ride, I'm sure. But I'm up for it, as ever. And so, I believe, is this year's team. Come on, you Gunners!