Man U v. Arsenal: if 2016 taught me anything it’s to prepare for the worst

In the weeks leading up to the election of Zaphod “Biff Tanner” Beeblebrox as president of the United States, I grew secretly more worried that Clinton wouldn’t get her campaign over the line. I kept hearing reports from friends who traveled the USA that they saw a ton of Trump signs in the midwest but never a single Hillary sign. So, in the last month of the campaign, as the polls tightened even after revelations that Trump bragged about sexual assault, I resigned myself to the inevitable: Trump was going to win.

My logic was simplistic: the polls were wrong. I thought there were a number of people in places like Pennsylvania who, when polled, didn’t want to admit to another human that they were voting for the racist candidate. So, they simply said “undecided”. It doesn’t take a lot of people like that to win a close election.

I steeled myself against the inevitable. I admitted to myself that Trump was going to win. And when election night came, I didn’t need to grieve, I had already done that.

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was the fact that the Republicans might win it all and what that means for the future. Over the last week what I’ve seen is Trump and the Republicans gleefully lay out their plan to gut the social safety net, slash environmental protections, give away trillions in tax cuts for the wealthy, raise taxes on single mothers (and fathers like me) and the poor, and do all of the unrealistic things Trump proposed like building a wall and deporting 3 million humans.

So, now, every time I open my news feed I literally just say “ugh” and close the app. Similarly, I will switch on NPR, get two stories in, and then there will be some story about Rudy Giuliani being the next Secretary of State and I have to switch it off. Why were people paying Rudy millions of dollars for speeches? How could he possibly consult Qatar on security? Who wants to hear Giuliani speak about anything? I hear stuff like that and I get an overwhelming urge to just flee the news.

I have the exact same reaction, by the way, every time Arsene Wenger loses to Jose Mourinho. There have been so many losses, and the losses have come in such a predictable fashion; Mourinho’s men sit deep and kick Arsenal all over the pitch, then hit Arsenal with a counter attack, and win the game without really breaking a sweat. It’s formulaic now.

I’m pretty sure Wenger’s 1000th game was the breaking point for me not wanting to write about Arsenal every day. I can’t just write about something without doing research, and research meant that I had to read all the papers, and listen to people talk about Arsenal. That meant wallowing in the mire of that loss. And it was such a heartbreaking loss that I couldn’t bring myself to face it. I fled and to a certain degree I’m still running.

This time I’m prepared. Arsenal are going to lose this game. Mourinho’s authoritarianism is going to trump Wenger’s anarchic artistry once again.

And yes, I know that this is the worst Man United team in my lifetime. They are missing Zlatan, who would have been a huge bully against Arsenal’s aerially weak back line. I’m also aware that Mourinho is already imploding, he seems to be accelerating his “third year” syndrome. Teams get sick of Mourinho blaming them for every fault while bloviating endlessly about how great he is and how well he prepares the players. That process used to take three years. But with Chelsea it only took two and now with United, he hasn’t even made it a full season and already the cracks are starting to show. United also seem to have huge problems integrating world-record-fee Paul Pogba into the game and their inspirational leader Wayne Rooney was recently captured at a friend’s wedding drunk.

But Arsenal have bad news of their own. Santi Cazorla is Arsenal’s only needle player and he will be out for an undetermined amount of time. Arsenal’s inspirational right back, the player whose runs up and down the right boh inspire attack and recover for defense, is finally injured (it was inevitable) and will be out for four weeks. In his place is almost certainly going to be Carl Jenkinson, a player whose memories of playing against Man U include Arsenal’s 8-2 loss — a game in which he was sent off in the 77th minute, much to his relief I’m sure. And Arsenal’s most valuable player, Alexis Sanchez, apparently texted Arsene Wenger to say that he’s OK but just played 84 minutes of a grueling international match, with a bandaged leg, after having to sit out of the match prior due to injury.

So, yeah, I’m just going to go ahead and call this one: it will be close but Mourinho will win.

Unlike with the Trump victory, however, I think I’m prepared for fallout of the Arsenal loss. We’ve already started in with the handshake thing, Wenger has agreed to shake hands. That’s a dog whistle that the press like to sound about Wenger. Let’s see, I suspect that when we lose there will be renewed calls for Wenger to resign. That’s a no-brainer. Oh! Yes! One of Alexis or Özil will get injured and thus ruin the rest of the month’s matches. What else could go wrong… Red card for Xhaka. There will be the inevitable articles with titles like “what does Ramsey actually do” and “what is the point of Theo Walcott?” Oh yeah, the “Arsenal TV” post-match interviews with fans should be a lot of fun, and provide us all with a real-life glimpse at the metaphor “gnashing of teeth.” And there will be organized protests, by which I mean someone will suggest something real meaningful, like a march to the stadium to go watch the game they are already going to watch, while holding some A3 paper with something witty written on it like “Thanks for the memories Arsene! Time to go!”.

Or Arsenal could win.

But I’m not counting on it.



  1. You forgot to mention how we’ll shank glorious chances before the inevitable loss.

    (Jack Wilshere vs De Gea one on one and he hits it at the keeper).
    (Yes, I’m still bitter).

    And how the ref will give all calls in their favour. Screw them and screw Mou.

  2. Many of us who follow Arsenal on our own volition (i.e., not due to family or geographical allegiances) do so because we are romantics; unfortunately in the real world frequent disappointment is the lot of the romantic.

  3. I’m not proud to admit this, but I no longer watch Arsenal games when we play a Mourinho side, precisely because the outcome feels so inevitable. I know people will bring up the Community Shield, to which I respond that it’s telling you’re bringing up the Community Shield, a gross exception, and a meaningless one at that.

    We will probably lose this weekend, but there is something else inevitable to look forward to: Mourinho’s crassness and cynicism leading to a very public and very enjoyable crash and burn. Such things are as inevitable as the coming and passing of the seasons, and the turn of Fortune’s wheel.

    1. It is only meaningless when your team is not playing in the tournament is my response to people who say that.

      I can assure you that if we would have lost then people would have been more than willing to pile misery on us about it.

      1. Except that I’m saying it when my team was involved and won the trophy!

        Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I surely don’t need to be right about whether the Shield is meaningful or not. Rather, I desperately need to be wrong in my prediction!

        1. I know, I meant that is what your reply should be when the win is called meaningless.

          No charity or friendly games with ‘that’ manager.

    2. I’m following this club for over 30 years now. Started with Graham and now 2 decades (!) with Wenger. I know the meaning of this fixture.

      It always looms large in my imagination each time even if it fails miserably in recent instances.

      The current manager of the opposing side of course the weight around all our necks none more so than around the head of our manager.

      If Wenger finally throws off his hoodoo in the twilight of his career and beats the Donald Trump of European football I want to experience it in real time.

      This is what it’s all about.


  4. What if the universe is going to give Wenger that victory at precisely the worst time for Jose? Right the books in epic fashion? And it had to be so painful in the past for this moment to be so pure. So the pureness of it blasts through mourinhos very being and accelerates his decay.

  5. I think there’s still hope. Usually, with an under strength squad, the squad like to compensate with a bit more hard work. That’s precisely what we must do to beat Mou team. Diligent and hard work on our pressing, and with them sitting back, will be playing on our hands. The worry is of course, with little time to prepare, will there be enough time to train a coordinated pressing against them? I don’t know, but hopefully so.

  6. Kudos if you believed Trump would win. I remember you talking about the secret white Trump voter, something I discounted at the time simply for the reason that some of the polls which yielded the same results were done on line and not in person. Why would anyone be hesitant about admitting to voting for Trump in an anonymous on line poll, I thought. Well, you had it right.

    I can’t help to to draw some parallels between Wenger vs Mourinho, and the Democrats vs Republicans.
    Wenger, just like most Dems, is highly idealistic about the game, highly cultured and nuanced .Always trying to do the right thing by the players, the game and the fans. While Mourinho is very much cut from the same cloth as most Republican Party operatives – ruthless and whilling to do anything to win. The hipocracy of Mourinho can only be matched by that of Trump’s and his inner circle.

    Questioning Obama’s Harvard acceptance merits for example, while his own son in law got admitted there only after his father had made a $2.5m donation to Harvard ,and two more donations in the same amount to two other Ivy League schools the same year, hedging his bets I suppose.
    Add to that another $3m donation to NYU where his son completed his law degree and you’ll get a cool $10.5m in donations alone to get Jered Kushner his law degree.
    I guess that’s the going rate for an Ivy League education for a billionaire’s kid, who would’ve never got there on the merits of his grades and tests scores.

    As for Arsenal getting a result at OT. I think they will win , but I also thought Hilary would and we all know how that turned out ,don’t we.

    1. Also, all that “discussion” last week where the Trump voter didn’t want to be labeled a racist and now Trump’s entire cabinet is looking like it’s going to be made up of open racists.

      Yeah, this election was about race. Almost entirely about race. Anyone who voted for Trump thinking it wasn’t about race is waking up to a hell of a rude awakening.

  7. My prediction: hattrick for Sanchez who is then subbed off at half time for Giroud. Hattrick for Giroud. Hattrick for Theo. Moorinyo sent off for punching fourth official. Fellaini carried off with concussion after elbowing himself in the face. Rashford puts in for a transfer. Too bad I’ll miss it, these 4:30am kickoffs are a bitch.

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

  9. Well I hope you are wrong Tim and Bunburyist. I’ll be up at 4:30 to watch in real time as well. But I’m not being optimistic that we might win or anything. I know how that turned out last few time against Mourinho. For me it was the Loss with the Gabriel red card after Costa should already have been sent off for assaulting Koscielny. My head says we don’t win at Old Toilet against Mourinho’s new group of thugs, but my heart still hopes. I guess I’m a romantic.

  10. Well just to put 7am in a better mood, the US elections have Arseblog, 7am AND Le Grove on the same page, rooting for Hilary. Trump was able to do what few could; unite the AKB vs WO divide.

    For Arsenal to beat United, United will have to implode themselves so bad. For example, Mou playing Martial as wing back, which makes him very angry and it all falls apart. And instead of trusting Rushford, plays Fellaini as a false 9.

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