Tag Archives: Victoria Concordia Crescit

Three things Arsenal MUST do to salvage its season!!!

With only 26 fixtures left, the final run-in is already here and there is simply no time to waste, no margin for error, not when a mere 78 points are still available. Having played to this point like a Championship side just happy to have been promoted, a yawning, unbridgeable chasm separates us from Champions League play—two points. Two. If that figure doesn’t set your faces to stun, well, have a seat and put your hair in curlers for this one: We’re eight points off the pace set by Man City, who sit second with 25 points. Never before in the history of anything ever has any side closed such a gap. Heck, that eight-point gap might as well lay down and take a nap, becoming the symbol for infinity along the way. Before that can happen, though, here’s a SHOCKING recipe for how Arsenal can save its season for complete and utter annihilation.

  1. Consider not getting injured quite as often.
    Look. I know that it creates a magical storyline, one that brings that solitary tear to the eye, when a player, presumed dead, magically and phoenixianly, resurrects himself and inspires the squad to glory. It’s a role that Abou Diaby has played to the hilt lo these many years, one that others have reprised time and time again, so often that Gooners no longer fret over injuries. When a Gunner goes down, we sagely stroke our chins, cluck our tongues, and shake our heads, knowing full-well that the histrionics are just that and nothing more. The player is never injured; he’s merely setting himself for a curtain-call wherein he reappears, like a new signing, to entice and remind us of what might have happened had he not chosen to miss out on 3-4 weeks 6-8 weeks half the season. Instead, it might make more sense to set aside the melodrama and just stay on the pitch. We all savor the anticipation of an injured player’s return, honestly, but it might be worth the formation of a committee to study the possibility of whether it might be worth reevaluating the current philosophy around getting injured.
  2. Be open to the idea of more-frequently scoring more goals than we concede.
    To this point, we’ve been polite to a fault. It’s all too clear that we’ve eschewed emphatic victories out of a gentleman’s concern for showing up one’s opponent and of either being a congenial guest or a welcoming host. After all, who would invite in or pay a call to someone rude enough to reveal himself to be better than his guest or host? Manners do dictate, after all, that we downplay our virtues so as to avoid any awkward social entanglements whereby it becomes necessary to apologise for our successes or compensate for others’ failings. Would you invite into your home a guest who refuses to wipe his feet, who belches at the dinner table, who engages in intimate relations with your spouse or life-partner?  Along similar lines, would you feel comfortable hosting again a guest whom you caught peeking in the medicine cabinet, rifling through your correspondence, buggering your hamster? Unlikely, at best. Enough, though, with the metaphors. At a risk of exposing ourselves as lacking in good manners or proper upbringing, we might do well to consider the idea of assessing whether or not it might be advantageous to occasionally upend social norms, and—dare I say it? I do—upstage our gracious hosts as well as our invited guests.  As always, though, one must mind one’s manners and only exploit such opportunities as are made available.
  3. Remember that those who disagree with you should be abused with reckless, ruthless abandon.
    In polite, refined society, differences of opinion are usually best-expressed when stated in unequivocal terms, with little regard for nuance, contradictory evidence, or the basic humanity of those who disagree. Instead, it is far better to treat those whose opinions differ—even in the subtlest of shades—as the most vile, contemptible subhumans that they most assuredly are. Whether you pin all of this club’s woes on the manager, or whether you ascribe this club’s struggles to the larger machinations of other forces, above all, treat anyone whose opinions fail to match yours as vermin undeserving of compassion, mercy, or decency. The sooner we purge the unpure, after all, the sooner we shall claim our destiny. Or something. I lose track of who the enemy really is. That’s okay, though, because the point of this point is to encourage you to set aside evidence or civility. After all, all that’s missing from our campaign thus far is a Shakespearean orgy of back-stabbing recriminations through which we scarify ourselves and emerge, purified, on the other side. If you can humiliate a fellow Gooner to the point of tears, so much the better. Far better to be at each other’s throats than to offer full-throated support, after all.
More seriously, can we remind ourselves of just how afflicted we’ve been by injury and to what degree we’ve suffered as a result? We’re playing a left-back as a centre-back. We’re playing a 19-year old with 41 top-flight appearances out of position. Ramsey has reverted to his 2012-self. Walcott is out, as are Giroud and Koscielny and Özil. If anything, our torrid start to the 2013-14 campaign, which culminated in winning the FA Cup, has only raised expectations rather than slaked them. Our frustrations and fears and expectations might not afflict the players on the pitch, but, most certainly, they don’t help. They feel the pressure. It must crash down on them like waves on a beach, constantly, unceasingly, remorselessly pounding down, over and over and over again. Each missed chance, each conceded goal, multiplies exponentially until every single decision magnifies to a scale that defies comprehension. 
Then again, it might be worth reminding ourselves that, but for a few glitches here and there, we’re only inches or seconds away from something much more memorable. Split-second decisions are much easier to analyze after the fact, after all. We’re teetering on the brink of something, that’s for sure. However, the way I see it, we’re tilting towards something special, not away from it. But for a few moments of madness, a few short spells of silliness, we’d be riding high. We may still be before long. 
Until then, can we sheathe our swords or at least stop stabbing each other in the back? Whatever we may believe about Arsène or the board, tactics or strategy, we have to believe in the club itself. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in the same boat for the foreseeable future. As Nick Carraway once put it, “tomorrow, we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” That past seduces us, suggesting that we can again become what we once were, and maybe we can, but not if we’re at each other’s throats, scratching and clawing at each other as if we’re our own worst enemies.

For as disturbed and depressed as I am by our performance on the pitch, after all, I’m despondent at our behavior off it. I don’t really care where you stand on the AKB/WOB spectrum. Managers, like players, will come and go as circumstances dictate. Rather than hoping for success or failure for how it impacts the tenure of manager or player, support the club itself. For better or for worse, that does mean supporting those who play on the pitch as well as those who patrol the sideline. For now.

AKBs, WOBs: by all means, let us both go for the jugular.

Well, we’re at each other worse than a pair of starving, rabid pit-bulls after a measly scrap of meat, as if winning an abstract argument amongst ourselves off the pitch will amount to anything on it. If the “Wenger Out” crowd manage to shout down the “Arsène knows best” crowd or vice-versa, will Arsène himself notice? Will the board? Instead of insulting each other, the players, the manager, or the board, all of which will amount to less than zero in the long run, perhaps we could sheathe our swords an cleave closely to our cleavers. Abraham Lincoln once declared, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Now, our divisions may be legion, and they are unlikely to spill over onto the pitch itself, but if we are to be the 12th man on the pitch, we have to get this house in order and soon, or, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, this ship will sink and fast. With that in mind, please read on…

First, though, a bit of comic relief courtesy of that timeless classic, Animal House:

For the AKBs…
For the WOBs
Bluto: HEY!! What’s this lying around stuff?!

Stork: Well, what the hell we s’posed to do, you moron?!

D-Day: War’s over, man. Mourinho dropped the big one.

Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: Germans?

Boon: Forget it. He’s rolling.

Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough . . . the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go! C’mon! [runs out of the room screaming. No one follows. He slowly returns.] What the feck happened to the Arsenal I used to know, huh? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh?! This could be the greatest seasons of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst: ‘Oh, we’re afraid to go with you, AKB, we might get fall on our faces.’ Well, just kiss my ARSE from now on!!! Not me! I’m not gonna take this! Mourinho, he’s a dead man! Toure, DEAD! Di Maria—

Otter: DEAD! Bluto’s right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. [Otter stands up.] We gotta take these bastards. Now, we could fight ’em with conventional tactics. That could take years and cost millions of pounds. Oh, no! No, in this case, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile, stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.

Bluto: And we’re just the guys to do it.

[Boon and D-Day stand.]

Boon: Let’s do it.

Bluto: Let’s do it! [They all charge out.]

Bluto: HEY!! What’s this lying around stuff?!

Stork: Well, what the hell we s’posed to do, you moron?!

D-Day: War’s over, man. Wenger dropped the big one.

Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: Germans?

Boon: Forget it. He’s rolling.

Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough . . . the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go! C’mon! [He runs out of the room screaming. No one follows. He slowly returns.] What the feck happened to the Arsenal I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh?! This could be the greatest season of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst! ‘Oh, we’re afraid to go with you, WOB, who’ll replace the almighty Arsène?’ Welll, just kiss my ARSE from now on!!! Not me! I’m not gonna take this! Kroenke, he’s a dead man! Gazidis, DEAD! Wenger—

Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. [Otter stands up.] We gotta take these bastards. Now, we could fight ’em with conventional weapons. That could take years and cost millions of pounds. Oh no! No, in this case, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile, stupid gesture be done on someone’s part.

Bluto: And we’re just the guys to do it.

[Boon and D-Day stand.]

Boon: Let’s do it.

Bluto: Let’s do it! [They all charge out.]

Okay. All kidding aside, all of us down to the last Gooner has to ask him- or herself what we’re really after. There’s no change in sight until January at the earliest, at least on the pitch. Is a change off the pitch in the offing? Unlikely. Those who would have Arsène’s head on a platter should ask themselves who, midseason, would be available as the the after-dinner apéritif. After nearly two decades of Arsenian (mis)management, who would step in? I’m not suggesting a post-Fergosian, Moyesian miasma, but it is worth considering the parallels: Moyes replaced one of the longest-serving, most-legendary managers in the Prem. He bombed. No one would sign for Man U under Moyes except for Fellaini on deadline-day. Fast forward to January or June 2015. Would an Arsenal, unlikely to win the Prem as Man U did in 2013, attract a manager more invigorating than Moyes or a player more inspiring than Fellaini? If the “Wenger out” brigade is serious about its goals, it has to ask itself if it’s willing to consider a season or more outside of the top-four. Maybe it is worth it…

At the other end of the spectrum, those who would have Arsène cast in bronze should ask themselves what, if anything, they expect to achieve between now and January and between January and May. Can we get back on track soon enough to challenge for a top-three finish? Can we even hold for a top-four finish? Arsène’s tactical stubbornness is only highlighted by our lack of options from the bench (Exhibit A: Swansea). Assuming we sign a DM and perhaps a CB, how long will it take for them to adjust? If they’re from within the Prem, they may still need more time than we can allow. If they’re from outside the Prem, they may need even longer. We can point to injuries and financial fecklessness all we want, but the product on the pitch hasn’t produced. Against Swansea and Anderlecht, not to mention Leicester or Hull, after all, we really should have done better. Will the returns of Debuchy, Koscielny, Giroud, and Özil be enough to elevate us? If not, will January’s reinforcements?

Either way you split it, we have to play the hand we’ve been dealt. Little sense in going back to previous hands and vituperating over what could have been or should have been. We’re playing poker at the moment—against ourselves.  Instead of looking to slit the throats of fellow Gooners, none of whom has an ace up his or her sleeve, let’s see each other, AKB and WOB and anyone in between, as a partner in a game of whist or euchre. Wherever we each fall on the spectrum, none of us is the other’s enemy. We’re playing against the Mancs and the Chavs and the Scousers and the Spuds. The sooner we sort that out, the better we’ll all feel.

If nothing else, we need for the Emirates to be a bastion, not a petard. We still have a fair few fixtures to play there, not the least of which is one in a fortnight against Man U. If we can all redirect our piss and vinegar away from each other and towards those Mancunians, well, we’ll all be feeling quite a bit better, whatever our respective long-term visions are. This club is currently centered, after all, around a motto: Victoria Concordia Crescit. I want this club to win, dammit, and I don’t care who that benefits, Not Wenger or Kroenke or Gazidis, not Alexis or Ramsey or Wilshere (though it breaks my heart to admit). The bitterness in each camp bespeaks a passion that might cloud our senses, but that same passion shouldn’t set us against each other. We all want the same though we disagree on how to achieve it.

We have two choices, one of them about as enticing as a moldy plate of overcooked spuds: one, we can turn on ourselves, reducing the Emirates to a festering, fetid imitation of White Hart Lane, where the fans’ frustrations are sabotaging the squad’s success. Two, we can turn towards our enemies, emboldening our lads enough that they intimidate and swash-buckle and win again and again. There will be time enough when the dust settles to determine whether we’ve raised enough of a ruckus for Arsène and others to return. For the next 6-7 months, let’s channel our energies towards the chants and the charms that can change this season.

Yes, it’s been a dispiriting week, and we have two weeks to chew on it. Let’s circle the wagons and come out with all guns blazing—with our actual opponents in the cross-fire.

Take heart, Gooners. It's always darkest before the dawn.

On Tuesday, we encountered a perfect storm, some of whose qualities we created. We fought hard against a league-rival on Saturday, unable or unwilling to rotate ahead of Tuesday’s clash. Our reward? A trip to Germany to face a side that rarely, if ever, loses at home and that plays a style that would give us fits on the best of days. By Klopp’s own admission, in his own words, “it was a really great performance from my team. Our pressing was perfection….the counter-pressing situations in the midfield were perfect….it was near perfection….[it was] the best job in the world.” If a 2-0 win earns that many superlatives, well, we should be flattered, all the more so if, by most accounts, we played so poorly as to make comparisons as to make us seem like Tottenham in disguise.

The forces were arrayed against us. A tough trip to a stadium where it is well-nigh impossible to win, playing in front of some of the most-rabid, enthusiastic, and creative fans in all of Europe, against a squad that probably felt even more put-upon and ravaged than we feel. Yes, we went in without Giroud and Debuchy and Walcott, but this is a squad that lost Lewandowski and Götze to the same league-rival in successive seasons. Imagine losing both van Persie and Fàbregas to Man U or Chelsea. Would you wallow in self-pity or rally around revenge? I choose the latter.

Further, Dortmund have suffered a slew of injuries in the last few weeks that seems positively Arsenalian, losing Gundogan, Reus, Kich, Hummels, and Sahin, to name just a few. Even their own prodigal son, Shinji Kagawa, was not fully fit. Instead of indulging in pointless navel-gazing, however, they went out on Tuesday and played with pride and passion, essential qualities that we’ve sorely lacked in recent seasons. We’ve adopted a hangdog, defeatist mindset, all too ready to embrace the latest setback as further evidence of our prolonged, postponed, decline. At times like this, I like to look around and see who I’m surrounded by. I won’t resort to hoary cliches about how much water is in the glass or what color a cloud’s lining is.

We’ve taken it on the chin, but it took a “perfect” performance from Dortmund—no slouches are they—to pull it off. We can retreat to our corner and resort to petty recriminations, but where, really, will that get us? We have the squad that we have, and that won’t change until January at the earliest. Do we really want to go the way of our noisome neighbors to the north, firing managers hither and yon until the cockerels come home? Yes, we’re off to a less-than-inspiring start. We should have done better in the transfer-market. It might have been preferable for certain players to not get injured or to return from injury more quickly. We could whinge and whine all we want, and for what?

Where’s the fight in that? Where’s the spirit, the self-respect, the spit and gristle? It can’t always be caviar and chardonnay, lads. There will be times, like now, when we have to dig deep and see what we’re made of. Now, I know that none of the current squad are reading this, so it’s not as if I’m isssuing a rallying call that they’ll heed. Still, a part of loving this club does include loving this squad. It’s who and what we have. These boys and men, for better or for worse, are who we’re watching for the better part of the next eight months. Some 60,361 of us get to see this in person each week, while uncountable legions around the world have to settle for any manner of pubs, cable tv, dodgy internet streams, and who knows what else to satisfy our cravings.

None of us will take the field on Saturday or on any other weekend hence, but we are all, at some level, an extension of this club and, at some level, its fortunes do rise and fall with our own feelings. For one, I wear religiously my first-ever Arsenal kit on each match-day in hopes that it will magically transmute my own passion and fervor into the XI that take to the pitch. My fervid imagination and abortive dreams transfer to Wilshere, to Ramsey, to Rosický—each of whom I was always a pale and pathetic imitation—in hopes that they’ll make good on the fantasies I entertain, the dreams of glory I hope to enjoy vicariously while believing, foolishly, that some small part of their achievements is fed by my passion.

Logically, it makes less than no sense. How can I, a random Gooner who has never come closer than a stone’s through to the stadium, have any impact at all on the squad’s performance? Don’t talk to me of logic. This is a matter of faith. I believe that I have some kind of impact on this club’s performance, and, as such, I want to propel it to glory. Maybe I even play some infinitesimal role in achieving it.

This is not a defense, nor is it a criticism, of Arsène. He’s just a man, as are any of those who wear the kit and sweat or bleed through it. For as much as we may disagree about how to get to our destination, we’re all in this together.

Right. We have another match to prepare for. We have wounds to lick, it’s true, but we also have scores to settle. What’ll be, Gooners?

Més que un club? A pox on that.

I used to feel an affinity for Barcelona, as if they and Arsenal were kindred clubs bonded by a shared commitment to a different approach to football, an approach defined by a belief in attractive, stylish football built from a foundation of development from within, nurturing young talent, and noble ideals. Our mottos espouse similar beliefs—their més que un club and our Victoria Concordia Crescit each proclaim something loftier than merely winning matches or hoisting trophies, as is each victory heralds some kind of milestone, not just for football, but for humanity itself. The risk of painting oneself in such colors, of course, is that it invites ridicule. And so it is ridicule that I offer.

I’ll admit to feeling no small amount of envy when I consider Barça. After all, they have played a style of football that we at Arsenal strive (and struggle) to emulate, and they succeed at it far more often than do we. We are Barça Juniors, so to speak, a pale imitation of how Barça play, not to mention how often they succeed. Before I got into this business of blogging, I bought into the myth that Barça were fundamentally different, above the fray somehow, knights in shining armor who fought valiantly against the darker forces embodied by Real Madrid. Real, of course, offered a convenient, caricatured counterpoint, a dastardly villain who would resort to the darkest of arts in pursuit of glory. Buying all manner of galácticos. Hiring Mourinho. And so on. Ironically, they rode into battle, los Blancos, as if they were the pure of heart. Meanwhile, for many years, it was Barça that emblazoned its kits not with a betting site but with UNICEF, announcing a clarion call to the heavens of its putative purity.

However, as we’ve plumbed the depths of Fàbregas’s possible return to Arsenal, I can’t help but feel that something has been lost, that this nobility emanating from the Camp Nou, is looking a bit thread-bare, a bit shabby. I don’t bear any ill will against the club for the many players who have left us to join them—Henry, Petit, Overmars, Hleb, Fàbregas, Sylvinho, Song—I can’t help but feel that the number of transfers, not to mention the quality of players involved, peels back the curtain on a more-sordid way of comporting oneself. Now, it’s a bridge too far to suggest that Barça are cut from the same cloth as their rivals Real Madrid, but the fit is a bit too close for comfort. They’re not quite stocking the squad with galácticos, but they sure are aggressive in the transfer-market all the same. For years now, they’ve racked up transfer-deficits in millions and millions of pounds, the most modest being 2012-13 when they went into the red by “only” £12m. Here’s a quick run-down of their transfer-dealings:

  • 2013-14: £37m deficit.
  • 2012-13: £28m deficit.
  • 2011-12: £11m deficit.
  • 2010-11: £23m deficit.
  • 2009-10: £78m deficit.
That may not be quite as eye-popping as the deficits at the Etihad, Bernabeu, Parc des Princes, or Stamford Bridge. Then again, only Barça professes any kind of deeper ideology beyond winning. If anything, the aforementioned four horseman of the apocalypse have the good taste to announce their amorality up-front rather than cloaking their venality behind a veneer of virtue. I realize that I walk a fine line now as we enter the silly season and lust after various players who might elevate Arsenal to the next echelon—on what footing will I stand if we again drop a cool £40m or more on a player?—but I wash my hands of Barça. They are not the club I believed them to be. Even the club’s commitment to development from within has been tainted with the announcement of FIFA sanctions because the club was “found to be in breach of art. 19 of the Regulations in the case of ten minor players and to have committed several other concurrent infringements in the context of other players, including under Annexe 2 of the Regulations. The Disciplinary Committee regarded the infringements as serious and decided to sanction the club with a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of [£310,000]”. In other words, they’re not even trying to pretend that they’re developing players from within.

I don’t regret the time I’ve spent respecting them. It won’t be the first time that I’ve learned someone or something I’ve respected wasn’t all I made them out to be. We’re all human, after all, and institutions are little more than a collection of those humans. Inevitably, we’re destined to fail, and to do so more often than we succeed. So it goes. The question then becomes, how do we portray those failures? Barça continues to whitewash, to cloak itself in this holier-than-thou mentality that offers as much substance as a gossamer négligée, one that leaves precious little to the imagination.

Here’s where the splitting of hairs, the cognitive dissonance, comes in. If our pursuit of Fàbregas is legitimate, are we (a) acting just as Barça act, or are we (b) rescuing the man from a rapacious club?

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