All my troubles seemed so far away…

In the land of the blind, the one one eyed man is king

All season long it seems like all of us have been looking back while Arsene Wenger, the iconoclast, refused to look into the past and instead steadily gazed into the future. In our obsession with the past, Wenger recons we got this season wrong and once again I find myself realizing that the teacher may have been right all along.

Arsenal started the season off by looking back to the famous win at Anfield in 1989. A win that so permeates Arsenal’s collective psyche that books have been written about the journey toward that one, glorious night. The club were gearing up for this year’s trip to 1989 as far back as last year by giving away copies of Nick Hornby’s book along with a bottle opener that played audio from the famous final moments of that game. Then, this season Arsenal ponied up and created a special away shirt in commemoration of that win, a special supporters pack with video of the game, a tie in product line, and then proceeded to nearly give them all away for free in a half-off effort that would assure people would be wearing the famous yellow and blue for years to come. It makes sense to look back at that game, I still get chills when I watch the final moments of that improbable 2-0 win that secured the title. Thomas, charging through the midfield indeed.

And during the summer as players jumped ship, we fans still refused to look into the future. Wringing our hands about the departure of Flamini and Gilberto and steadfastly holding out that players from the past, like Stephen Appiah, were the only way to right the listing ship. To paraphrase Wenger from yesterday’s press conference, if after the disastrous first 5 Premiership games of the season he’d have said that Alex Song would become a world class holding midfielder and that Arsenal would be on the cusp of another Champions League final berth “You would have called an ambulance.” Our belief was low because we were looking at the past, at players like Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira and teams like the invincibles, or even just at the season prior, while Arsene Wenger belief was seemingly irrationally high because he was looking forward, at the potential of players like Alex Song and Carlos Vela.

And even now, all the sports writers in the world are looking into Arsenal’s past in order to try to decipher what will happen today. Why not? After all, it’s comforting to look at Arsene Wenger’s record in Europe or his record against Man U and try to see a pattern there that will tell the story of today. Too bad no one told Arsene Wenger, he holds out that he’s never even watched a tape of their Champions League final loss at Barcelona.

In the midst of this orgy of nostalgia a funny thing happened to this Arsenal team; they started believing the stuff that Wenger is selling. They stopped looking at the past and they started believing in themselves, in the supporters, and in Wenger’s future. If you’ll permit me a bit of nostalgia about the season, once the belief took hold they have since gone on an improbable 21 match unbeaten streak, they won on penalties against Roma… at Roma… by hitting every penalty after an injured Eduardo missed the first, they overcame an horrific injury to Eduardo and an injury plagued season, and just 6 days ago they held on for an incredible 1-0 defeat against Man U despite missing half of their first team stars and relying on 19 year olds and written-off goalkeepers  for heroics.

Did Wenger see all that happening? Not specifically, but I think he believed in the team enough that he thought something like that might happen. Even that is pretty incredible if you think about it and makes me look at the way I criticized the team and the way I look at the future of this team in a whole new light.

You’ve heard me say how no matter what happens today I’m proud to be an Arsenal supporter. Arsenal have nothing to lose today: Man U are the defending champions, they have the 1-0 lead, they outplayed Arsenal on Wednesday last week, they spend irrationally big (supposedly offering £63m for Frank Ribery) and their prawn sandwich brigade have irrationally high expectations of their club. Win or lose, I just want to see a full blooded performance from Arsenal and I have no doubt that they will play their hearts out.

After all, they are not looking back, they’re all looking forward.

I’m home sick today, and my daughter is sick too so I’ll be watching Arsenal from the comfort of my couch and in High Definition on ESPN2. I could probably live blog but I doubt I’ll do it, just because I don’t want to spend my time chatting here and would rather just enjoy the game.

I encourage all of you to do the same: get a beer, get on the strip, and enjoy the day. What do you have to lose?

52 Comments on All my troubles seemed so far away…

  1. I AM NERVOUS AS HELL.

    But bring it on. Last Wed I was stood at the bar of my local, hammering the wooden bar top with frustration at our inability to play 4-5-1 remotely well. I don’t expect that to be the case tonight. We need that well-oiled Arsenal machine to do its very best. Every player must give his all, must expect to leave that pitch totally drained of energy and emotion. If they all perform as they can, we can do it. Come on you Gunners!

    Is it beer o’clock yet?

  2. Amen! Great insightful blog. Win or lose today as long as we do it with class I will be satisfied. Hard to think that the season is almost over.

    Up the arse!

  3. Fair enough Randy, but he’d getting there, and I just love watching Wenger produce such talent year after year.

  4. i am really nervous and i dont know who will win. come on arsenal score 2 and dont concede!!!
    COME ON ARSENAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Very nice post Tim, well i hope we win but no matter what Arsenal will allways be in my heart.

  6. Reading some Utd blogs you can tell they all are as nervous as we are. This match will be epic! Whatever the outcome, the future is bright. Up the ARSE!

  7. I know the game is on ESPN, but I encourage all Arsenal supporters to get out to the pub today and support the Arsenal.

    (Tim, you get a rain check for being diseased and listening to your president.)

  8. Nervous as hell Gotta get down to doyle’s Ill sit on Tim’s lucky stool for him.

    Come on you Gunners

  9. great article! glad some people take the time to write about the positives with this arsenal side. cheers to champions league glory. viva arsenal!!

  10. OK, I have assured that Aveline is wearing her kit and Arsenal have never lost when she wears her kit.

    I also have my Eduardo shirt on, which, given his injury news, is as close as I have to a future looking shirt.

    Come on you Gunners!

  11. Why is song in central mid? I’m horrified. ps. I forgot what day it was and I wore my ronaldo to school ! 🙁

  12. Season over, see you guys in August. 4 years with nothing – Wenger’s youth system exposes itself to criticism again. Good showing but once again there’s no leader in a red shirt – the one with the armband has his head dipped in defeat and shaking it at every call and in disbelief. There will be no mass exodus in the summer but there will be the onslaight of punditry that we’re just not good enough and unfortunately they aren’t entirely wrong at this point in time.

  13. SACK WENGER. USELESS CUNT. BEEN WASTING OUR FUCKING TIME FOR 5 YEARS.

    AND TAKE EVERY FUCKING PLAYER BAR NASRI, ARSHAVIN AND RVP. OUT TEAM IS FUCKING SHITE. CUNTS THE LOT OF THEM.

  14. ……and here comes the Chicken Littles. So Mr. Honesty who do we replace Wenger with? You find me a manager who is available i.e. not tied to a contract that can do a job even remotely competent to Arsene. Go ahead I have time to wait it out until you come up with a shortlist. When you find a manager who can put together an entire team at a cost of less than 30M quid to consistently qualify for the CL and reach at least the quarterfinals, let me know – I will kiss his feet and rub aloe vera all over them.

  15. WC: People forget that there can only be one winner. If you can’t wait five years for a trophy – and face it, we can only compete for 4 each season along with everybody else – then you are not a true fan. Patience, it’s part of the supporters lot. We have also not spent millions that we don’t have on players we can’t afford, to play in stadiums we have no intention of paying for. And that little lot above us are going to be found out double quick when the banks come calling. Semi finals of the FA Cup and Champions League, 4th place and CL football next season. That’s not bad for a youthful team with the injuries we have had. Keep the faith.

    HONEST: You are not an Arsenal fan, I suggest you go away, fast.

  16. WC: I do you a disservice, just saw your second comment which was more measured. Still don’t see that 4 years is a massively long time to wait though.

  17. It’s fitting that, mere days away from becoming an English citizen, Manuel Almunia would turn into Paul Robinson. Fabio Capello must be hanging himself

  18. Well fourstar I’m not bringing doom and gloom but rather a critical eye. Wneger cannot continue to say he has a team in transition. Four years is not a transition. We’ve geon from comfortably being in the top2, to seeing 4th place as our ultimate goal – that in itself should signal that there is something very wrong with the team. Yes we don’t have the same financial freedoms as the others but at the same time we’re not really maximizing our resources either. Wenger is stubborn and defiant which makes him one of the greatest, but even he has to see the deficiencies but yet does little about it. For almost 5 years Drogba has bullied our defenses and for that time Wenger has done nothing about it – why can he allow a single player to undo 4 defenders and be casual about it. This is just one of other shortcomings that Wenger doesn’t want to see. His philosophy of football is rare and indeed something every club should aspire to but for what it’s worth, it hasn’t gotten any merit because unfortunately football is a results-oriented business. If he could claim major trophies based on his free flowing football with teenagers then surely he will prove to be correct in his way, but the fact is he’s far from even beginning to be vindictaed as we’re currently being trumped 3-0 on our own ground by a team with pace, skill, power and experience that manages to subscribe to visually appealing football as well. We’re missing the experience that the likes of Fletcher, O’ Shea, Scholes and Giggs possess and our intelligent youth are being overcome by battle hardened veterans. We get our aged and put them in football’s retirement home and almost banish them from memory via transfers to other clubs when realistically we need them to bring depth and experience to games such as the one we are being mangled in tonight.

  19. Unfortunately this result just really proves that while we are better than the remaining 16 teams in the premier league, we are miles off the top 3. At least were in a group of our own eh.

    I just dont see this team gelling into a team that can beat liverpool, chelski and manchester over the next 5 seasons. There are fantastic players in the team, but overall were lacking that winning mentality that Viera, Henry and Adams used to epitomise. I just dont see that in ANY of the players on display – except maybe for Gallas.

    Defensively we seem to be a mess even though we havent conceded many goals of late. Go figure. I am a bit disillusioned because if were backing this team for the next few seasons and stubborn wenger refuses to buy anyone, I am afraid I dont see us winning anything for quiet a few seasons.

    Anyways, enough of me being a cynic.

    Barca for the final, cause united are actually quiet shit.

  20. WC: I do agree with you to an extent – if the other teams would all sign up to play our brand of football, we’d be top or thereabouts. But they don’t and AW has to realise that, pronto. United are of course the best team in the world at the moment, so we have come up against them on top form. But we were out-fought and out-thought from top to bottom and that has to change. We can still salvage some pride by beating Chelsea and Man Utd before the end of the season, let’s hope so for all our sakes.

    However, do you not agree that the ~£15m purchase of Arshavin means he is already looking ahead and spending on real quality? That kind of strengthening in the centre of defence and perhaps at DM and we are looking like we have a backbone (I’m not knocking Cesc but he cannot do everything). The money is there now the stadium is built and while he won’t be bullied into throwing it away, perhaps that is the start.

  21. fourstar,

    As I understand it, Wenger has already indicated that he is not strengthening the team in the off season. Of course that doesnt mean that he will stay true to that, but going on current gut feel, I would think that would be the case. In fact, Wenger will probably be even more resolute in NOT buying anyone so as to give the current team a chance to vindicate themselves.

  22. Shaun: I think that’s way too early to call. No way does he want to get caught out by a Flamini situation, losing a player and not having the time to replace him. In related news, I see Alonso and Barry are doing the gentlemen’s excuse me once again; fancy either of those? And how about a beer on Adebayor not staying either?

  23. I definitely fancy Alonso. ANd I pray that Adebayor leaves, that man is a waste of space. Even after last season’s heroics I still did not rate him as he need 4 shots on goal to score 1. He reminds me of Andy Cole.

    Anyway, I digress. I do agree with you fourstar, but I often get the impression with Wenger that he believes everyone will stay. Flamoney was a case in point, Wenger was adamant he was not going to leave and ended up getting caught with his pants down.

    Though I must admit, did David Dein leaving not have a part in that. Dein would have handled that in the past.

  24. Two early goals buried us, but I am still proud to be an Arsenal supporter today.

    Despite being decimated with injuries, we finished fourth in the league and advanced to the semi-finals in two cup competitions. And we did it the right way.

  25. Agree 100% with you Matt. If you measure success only by trophies than you set yourself up for disappointment. I choose to enjoy watching great football by a fun team and that’s what we got. Two semi’s and champions league again next year with a bunch of up and coming players? I love it.

  26. Yes we lost, but I’m still proud of the lads, and proud of the fact that they kept playing and trying for the full 90, every last one of them.

    I feel for Gibbs, he must have been distraught, but the goal was hardly his fault, I hope gets through this.

  27. Well fourstar yes Arshavin was a masterclass move but Wenger doesn’t look set to do the same for our defenses or forward positions. Instead of a pedigree defender he’s looking at Sakho, who in his defense is very mobile, big and strong but still not even in his mid-20s so he lacks the experience and Ligue 1 is far from the physical battlefield of the Prem. I’m not demanding a trophy next season but improvement – noticeable improvement. We dropped to 4th compared to last season and 12 points behind Man Utd, which could turn into 15 points because they have a game in hand. That says it all because this year the Mancs have been playing worse than they did last season and we still cannot get close to them.

    I have no problems with cultivating the youth but on their own they cannot win. They have the will and the vitality but not the wisdom you accumulate after years of been there, done that. We cannot spend 30M on a striker like the Mancs but Wenger needs to look down in order to move up. Jagielka cost Everton peanuts from Sheffield Utd and he’s one of the best central defenders in the league. Wenger refuses to just get an old fashioned stopper and it’s strange really because his most fruitful years were due to an old fashioned stopper in the mold of Adams and Campbell. Why can we not compromise on style and efficiency? Wenger talks about not looking into the past but it is in history where we learn our greatest lessons so as not to repeat mistakes gone by.

  28. Shit happens. You can’t win every game. There’s something to play for still: Beat MU in EPL.

  29. to those who say we have been decimated by injuries, i’m not buying that. every team has injuries throughout a season and the best sides can overcome that through a deep squad. so that is clearly something where we are lacking a bit. further on the point made above about it being a good season because of making two semi finals and the 21 game unbeaten run in the league, all of these results are flattering as well. the fa cup semi-we beat nobody of any quality to get there and as soon as we ran into a powerful side we were beaten comprehensively. though the score was only 2-1 does anybody who saw the match really think we were anywhere near beating chelsea? and the truth is our draw to the semis of the CL was an easy one beating two teams who likely won’t even be in the CL next year. does anybody really think the villareal team that we beat in the second leg is really a quality side on a european stage? comeon, lets be honest. then we play united and lay an egg in both legs, being comprehensively thrashed at home in the second leg. the bottom line is this team is better than every PL side below the bottom four but miles away from the top three at this point. the chelsea fa cup match and manu cl tie are where truly great sides show their greatness and we were poor in all three matches. that is a bitter disappointment, and casts a shadow over any of the so called “achievements” of this season. that is not pessimism, that is realism. in order to compete with the top 3 for trophies next year there are some real changes that need to be made, depth that needs to be added. sticking with a youth policy will lead to the same disappointment next season. if the arshavin signing was a preview of things to come in the summer then we should be optimistic, but if this summer plays out like last, then next season will be more of the same disappointment. if anybody saw wenger’s post match comments, he did recognize the fact that we were not up to snuff in the recent chelsea and manu matches, and hopefully he will do something about it in the summer, since he has the power to do so if he chooses.

  30. @geraldinho

    I don’t want to get into a whole thing here, as we have all summer to rehash the season, but just real quick:

    1. As a sports fan, I have always been annoyed with the injuries excuse. You are right: every team in every sport has to deal with them. It is a part of athletics, it’s how the cookie crumbles. Chelsea went through a horrid stretch of knocks early in the season, for example, and Rooney was out for five weeks with a hammy…etc. Champions overcome injuries. Blah, blah, blah. But Arsenal lost three of its top five players for months and months and months, not just weeks. Walcott, Cesc (our captain), and Eduardo all spent huge chunks of the season on the bench. Meanwhile, our entire defense, with the exception of Kolo, missed significant action at the sharp-end of the campaign. It’s no excuse, you are right, but Christ, Arsenal got hit hard this season.
    2. The season is a success, and the future is bright. I had more here for this one, but like I said, there will be plenty of time to debate this issue.

  31. WE LOVE YOU ARSENAL, WE DO! WE LOVE YOU ARSENAL, WE DO! WE LOVE YOU ARSENAL, WE DO! OH ARSENAL WE LOVE YOU!

    Heartbreaking, but still singing. Till the last breath.

  32. And, I forget to give this to a special one. God, you f***** bastard! You took away 2 of our best defenders when we really need them, and you gave M.U 2 of their best defenders when they really need them. Why don’t you change the sky to red? You really like it, don’t you?

  33. I’m amused by everyone who seems to know which players (if any) AW is looking to purchase in the summer. Believe the press at your peril; it’s a well-known fact that Arsenal feeds them less than any other club so they, and the agents, simply make stuff up. We will not know who is in our squad for next season until midnight on 31 August. End of.

    Now let’s stop this squabbling and get behind the team for the last few games – after all, we have titles to decide…

  34. Wish it could be as simple as a beer and game on the telly. What to do next? The gulf in class between us and them was humbling, but understandable. The gulf in attitude was just embarrassing. We were 2-0 down after twelve minutes, but we just gave up. What happened to playing hard and leaving it all on the pitch? I’m not angry. Just very sad and very disappointed about the match.

    Good piece, though.

  35. It’s very difficult to play against a good team with 4 goals as target. When you are down, you are not yourself anymore. They tried. I saw their effort in hopelessness. You ask them to give their best shot no matter what? It isn’t easy as it sounds.

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