Owing to the huge blisters on both feet, I started yesterday by taking the tube from the Hotel to the nearest Starbucks. I had walked down to this Starbucks previously and made a mental note that it was just outside Notting Hill Gate station, so, the logic went, I’ll take the tube there, hop off and get a cup of coffee. Like all good plans there was a major flaw; Notting Hill Gate tube stop sucks ass. I swear it would have been faster to just walk from my hotel to the Starbucks. It all worked out in the end because there was a pharmacy where I could get some moleskin for my blisters and I happened upon this cool little fish shop where they had the above one-clawed lobster. Poor little fellow, with just the one claw he’s practically defenseless and certainly incapable of rampaging smaller fishes.
Fed and caffeinated I made my way to the stadium to pick up a shirt and some gifts. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I had this really great feeling that everything was going to go very well. Everyone at the Arsenal store was in a similar mood, milling about and festooning each other with Arsenal swag. I got my kit and as I was having the name pressed into the shirt I asked the kid behind the counter when was the last time he pressed an Eboue shirt. He laughed and told me it was probably the time Eboue himself came in and bought a bunch of Eboue shirts which the kid thought were to be gifts for friends and family.
From there I took the tube across to Highbury and Islington and the Famous Cock to have a beer and wait for blog commenter fourstar. The Famous Cock was famously crowded but I managed a pint and watched a bit of the Chelsea match, which featured a bit of “skill” from Lampard to setup Anelka to score the only goal. It was exactly the result I was looking for, 3 points to Chelsea and maybe taking the wind out of Villa’s sails a bit.
Fourstar showed up just in time as I had been chatting with a group of Sunderland supporters and I suspect, in retrospect, that they were getting tired of my sense of humor. We had our pint and both headed off to the stadium. I walked across Highbury park chatting with some fellow Gooners along the way. The young kid was funny, he didn’t say much until the conversation turned to Arsenal’s strike team: I believe he called Bendtner and Adebayor “crap.” We parted ways and I made my way in. Funny thing about my seats, it turns out that I was sitting right next to the Sunderland supporter’s section. Sitting close to the opposition support was a first for me and ended up providing some interesting moments.
Again, the Arsenal supporters seemed upbeat and when Arshavin’s name was called as a starter there was a huge roar from the crowd: the man who came to save our season had finally arrived. Kickoff was the happiest part of the match, the crowd was buzzing and Arshavin looked fantastic (if not a bit short… and fat) right off the bat but from there on in it was all down hill.
I did have the fortune of being on the end of the pitch where Arshavin’s first two shots were taken, the above was his left=footed drive that beat the keeper and nearly nestled in to the lower corner. Nearly.
Did I mention that it was a beautiful day? Here’s Clichy putting the ball back into play. Not normally a pic-worthy moment,but it was so nice out that I just had to take it.
That first half was utterly frustrating: Bendtner squandered chances, Arshavin missed a couple, even van Persie missed a shot, I think. The team was firing on all cylinders but somehow just lurching along and fan unrest started creeping into the match. At first it was directed at the ref, then the Sunderland players, Sunderland supporters, and finally, by the end of the match, our own players.
If the first half was bad, the second was immeasurably worse. Remind me never to sit on either of the ends of the pitch. It’s pretty clear that teams are going to come in to the Emirates and defend and hope that they get a break so they can sneak a goal. If teams are going to come in and play Arsenal that way then supporters on either end of the pitch are going to spend entire half’s with no action. The entire second half was played at the other end of the pitch, to the point where the guy in front of me literally passed out at one point. Whether it was the booze or the boredom is irrelevant, the point is that Sunderland had lulled Arsenal to sleep. And by the time that Vela whiffed at the open shot, the Arsenal supporters were out of the match and the Sunderland supporters were cheering every Arsenal pass, and shushing us incessantly (Highbury=Library=Shush, get it?). I wanted so badly for Arsenal to score so that I could turn to the Sunderland fans and shush them right back.
At the very end of the match, after a couple Arsenal fans and at least one Sunderland fan were ejected for giving each other the finger and yelling obscenities at each other, somehow the ball had gotten into our half and Sunderland were busy dribbling into the corner when I realized that this was the first time in nearly 45 minutes that the Sunderland support had seen their players up close. It must be a wonderful feeling to pay £30 for the train from Newcastle, £40 for the tickets, and £40 for beer and sausages, to watch your team get a 0-0 draw. I wouldn’t know but judging by the fact that they were celebrating at the end as if they had just won the FA Cup, I guess that it’s a feeling somewhere between sex and winning the Champions League. They were literally dancing. For a 0-0 draw. Incredible.
After the game I just felt kind of dazed. I’d never been to match where Arsenal failed to win, much less one where they failed to score. I went the wrong way back to the tube station and ended up on Avenell road, where the old art deco East Stand still stands. As I walked past the old building, which is being rebuilt as condos for the wealthy, I stopped for a moment and looked up at the old Arsenal club crest designed by Herbert Chapman; the one with the big C and an A and a little football. At that point I thought, Arsenal’s glory days are so far gone that I almost wonder if we aren’t a team that is irreparably broken.
This club doesn’t just need a defensive midfielder, we need an infusion of fresh ideas. When a steaming pile of crap like Sunderland, Tottenham and West Ham can hold us to three consecutive 0-0 draws there’s something seriously wrong. Everton are set to play Newcastle today and could easily take all 3 points, which would leave them a mere 2 points below Arsenal for 5th place. 6th place was once unimaginable, but is now looming and you have to wonder where the fresh ideas are going to come from when the boss watches a match like yesterday’s and says that what Arsenal need more of, is passing. Passing… yes, and whatAmerica needs more of is tax cuts, deregulation, and adjustable intrest loans given out to people who can’t afford to pay them.
I want to be clear, I’m not calling for the manager to be sacked, but I am saying that someone needs to kick him in the ass and maybe get a fresh idea out of him. Hell, kick the whole squad in the ass, because I’m pretty sure that Arsenal will be playing in a huge, empty stadium if games like yesterday’s are to become de rigeur. After all, no one, except some pathetic Sunderland supporters who think a 0-0 draw is something to cheer for, wants to watch matches like the last three.