‘They’ say that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery” and then ‘they’ like to follow that up with “yes, but Arsenal haven’t won anything for 4 years” because, well, because they are cocksandwiches. It seems lately that Arsenal, though, have transcended mere imitation and have become something loftier: Arsenal have become a metaphor.
Last night, Shocker Donuts (mmmm, donuts) won the UEFA Cup and more than one analyst used the term “Arsenal-like” to describe the way they played. He didn’t have to describe the football as beautiful, intricate passing, overlapping movements, pointed attacking, keeping the ball on the ground, and passing to feet. The point is that everyone presumably now knows what “Arsenal-like” means and I think that’s kind of amazing.
At a time when so many Arsenal supporters are reportedly distraught over the lack of silverware, Arsenal have achieved something loftier than mere silverware, we have become a metaphor. No one ever says, oh that club played “Man United-like” because, what would that even mean? Would that mean that the team bought up all the talent in Brazil, spent billions of dollars, and assembled a squad which is so uninspiring in its play that the fans I saw the day they won the league were just like “ho hum, another back-to-back League title.” All 4 fans who came to the pub to watch the match, I mean, because the rest of them were sitting at home checking the score when they bothered to get up, secure in the knowledge that they would win the title even if Arsenal had won.
No. No one describes another team as United-like and that begs the question, how much will Arsenal be remembered for their beautiful football versus a squad like Chelsea, or Liverpool? Yes, Chelsea won back-to-back league titles, but let’s not forget that Roman Abramovich brought Scolari and Deco and Quaresma into the club in order to play more like Arsenal. The problem is that you can’t just plug in a few talented passers on a squad of talentless hacks and suddenly expect to play beautiful football. It takes time to build a squad like Arsenal has done, like Barcelona has done, and like Shaktar Donuts evidently has done.
That said, what I am most worried about is that perhaps we will be remembered for our beautiful football but never go on to win anything, like the Netherlands in 1974 and 1978. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. I think the parallels are very strong between the Dutch and their Total Football and Arsenal and their Beautiful Football. First, both systems transcended the game and became metaphors for things outside of the game. I was looking through old news reports from the late 1970s and believe it or not “Total Football” even penetrated American culture. That’s powerful stuff. And now, it looks like Arsenal-like is becoming a metaphor as well, how far it will penetrate we don’t know yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the term used to describe other things; President Obama was “Arsenal-like” in how he deftly handled negotiations with Israel.
There’s only one problem…
The Dutch lost.
If the home team hadn’t won both in 1974 and 1978 I think people wouldn’t even remember who they were. Hell, I still doubt most of you know who they are. No cheating, don’t go to Wikipedia. Who won the World Cup in ’74 and ’78? Exactly. That’s a powerful thing and a testament to the football that the Netherlands played during those years.
Unfortunately, Arsenal are following in their footsteps: leapfrogging silverware and becoming metaphors. The one thing that I think would save “Arsenal-like” from being a mere metaphor is if Barcelona beat Man U on Wednesday and do so with aplomb. I see Barcelona as the fulfillment of Arsene’s footballing philosophy; teach people how to actually play the game, keep them together for a few years, add some steel in the middle, and turn them loose to ravage the other team’s women.
Ok, that last part I made up.
The point is that I really want Barcelona to win. Not just to get one of my all-time favorite Arsenal players the Champions League medal he deserves, but because I want to see Arsenal football, at its pinnacle, win something. I want to see Barcelona play “Arsenal-like” and take home the trophy. It won’t just be enough to win and it won’t just be enough to play beautifully; they need to leap up, grab the metaphor by the neck and stuff it into ole big ears.
Anything less and they will just be remembered as another “Arsenal-like” team and the term “Arsenal-like” will be in danger of going the way of “Total Football.” Something that old heads wistfully glace back and and say “on their day, they were the best team I ever saw play, too bad they never won anything.”
Well, the blue kits have arrived. We already all knew that this is what they were going to look like so what’s the point in complaining? If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. That will send the best message I can imagine to Nike/Arsenal that we are tired of the annual dicking around with the kits. I’m not buying one this year because my feeling is, like White, only c*nts wear Blue.*
*Except France, ALLEZ!