By Jonathan Blaustein
Apologies, as I stayed away an extra week this time. There was an Interlull to outlast, and I wanted to wait until a few games had gone by to get the proper pulse of the moment.
In the last 24 hours, United Airlines has seen its stock plummet, after social media murdered them for physically assaulting an Asian-American doctor, and ejecting him from a plane, for which they had issued him a ticket, that he had purchased, with money.
As bad as that story might be, today, President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer somehow made an ever bigger PR gaffe, when he claimed that Adolph Hitler had not used chemical weapons. Spicer conveniently forgot, or glossed over, the poison gassing of millions of people, including the continent’s Jewish population.
Then, while somehow not wholesale apologizing for denying poison gas was a chemical weapon, he made things worse by calling concentration camps “Holocaust centers.”
That really happened.
It’s almost as if people still haven’t acclimated to a world in which information reaches all of us, instantaneously, everywhere. Outside of the deep mountains and the bush, anything that happens anywhere can be accessible to everyone, everywhere, as it happens.
Think about that for a second.
As recently as 1865, it took six months to get from New York to California.
Now, we are all up in each others business, in ways that would have seemed unseemly and impossible only 25 years ago.
This, beyond anything else, is the problem with Arsenal these days. I promised in the comment section of my last column that I wouldn’t just write about Arsene this time, so I won’t.
Arsenal Twitter, and Arsenal social media in general, spread information, and foment opinion, in ways that are drastically new. Sitting here in New Mexico, in the last week, I’ve seen posts about “Wenger Out” signs popping up in New Zealand, Vancouver, Orlando, and elsewhere in the non-UK world.
We are such a global group, at this point, that just yesterday, while shopping in the local organic market, I was approached by my son’s former soccer coach, who asked me what the hell was going on with Arsenal?
There is so much content out there that we don’t have to dissect every part of every match, because someone else has done it for us, and all we have to do is click a link to get that information, for free.
As such, the rage has grown exponentially. It’s not a linear platform, the internet. It’s more of an amplifier, to the point that it eventually gets back to the players.
Because they’re on social media too.
The stuff we say, or at least the aggregate, finds it way into players’ feeds. Into their minds. Don’t think it doesn’t happen.
They know we consider them a bunch of soft, lazy wankers, and given the quality of play on the field this year, secretly they must agree.
It’s almost like the toxicity goes viral. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Chelsea, then Leicester, and now Arsenal have capitulated on managers in two consecutive seasons? Once the players start jumping ship mentally, the fans get angry, and bounce it back like a beer with a shot inside, chased by a fat joint and then a Cuban cigar.
You’re going to feel woozy.
I assure you.
It’s no excuse for Wenger, but I’ve made my thoughts clear on that. I even beat David Hirshey to the “Dear Arsene” column by several weeks. (Which made me obnoxiously proud.)
It’s true I think Arsene’s done. But I’m not sure he’s gone yet. No one knows that. Maybe not even Arsene.
If he literally would not have signed a new contract if the Gunners had lost the 2014 FA Cup, it’s rational to think he has a target set in his mind, and if he doesn’t reach it, he’ll walk away.
But regardless of what happens, the last three matches summed up the season in general. Nothing better than average. A win, a draw, and a loss.
I remember watching the first few minutes of the Manchester City game, and saying out loud, “If you stay this open, and easy to cut through, they’re going to score any minute.”
Then they scored, when Leroy Sane beat Bellerin, and my wife walked by and said, “I heard you. You said it.”
Despite the “possible” show of mental toughness by coming back for the draw, giving up the 2nd goal to City right after equalizing was typical of a hapless team.
Danny Welbeck has been starting up front lately, and he didn’t score in any of those matches. Not good for a striker. Arsene is clearly giving him a chance to get his sea-legs back, but after those FA Cup wonder-strikes, he’s definitely come back to Earth.
The West Ham score was good, as it was a win, and Ozil certainly played better. As did Xhaka. But West Ham’s form was awful coming in, the game was at home, and still, Arsenal made tough work of it. They didn’t look miles better than West Ham, that’s for sure.
Gabriel impressed when he came on for Koscielny in the City game, and I was pretty surprised. He helped keep a clean sheet against West Ham, and I thought, well, he’s either gotten significantly better, or he’s about to revert to the mean.
Occam’s Razor would predict the latter.
So yesterday’s rancid custard pie of a football match was almost predictable, though I’d allowed myself to hope. Arsenal went into the match in easy striking distance of Liverpool, with two games in hand, so it was the right time for a strong performance.
Instead, I don’t know what to say, really. If you’re not willing to track runners, you can’t win football matches. Period. This team consistently lets guys go wherever they want, to receive the ball in dangerous positions.
Teams have scored against Arsenal off goal kicks and throw ins and long balls, lately. Too many of the outfield players consistently abdicate their defensive duties.
Aaron Ramsey is the worst offender, and if he never played for Arsenal again, I’d be OK with it. Even if they sold him, and he became a star elsewhere, I still wouldn’t care.
Get him out of here.
As soon as Arsene put him on against Crystal Palace, they scored. He was at fault in that awful West Brom defeat as well. I remember noticing, as he looked into the camera yesterday, ready to enter as a substitute, that he thrust his chest out, stood up straight, and cocked his head just so.
He is clearly a young man pleased with himself. We’ve all teased him for being a pretty boy, who is ever-so-aw-fucking-shucks nice, but he teased us all that glorious year, and that guy is never coming back.
The worst part of the Palace loss, for me, was realizing their squad was not-so-inferior to ours. They had players who’d recently come from Liverpool, like Sakho and Benteke. Cabaye is from PSG. Schlupp was a champion at Leicester. Townsend played at Tottenham.
Their castoffs were much better than our castoffs on the day, and no one would dispute that.
So where does that leave us?
Do we get even angrier? Tweet more, scream louder, and make sure the noise gets so bad that the team loses most of the rest of the way?
Does that help anyone?
Stan Kroenke, for sure, doesn’t give a shit what we think. Nor are we really likely to stop giving him our money.
Talk is cheap, they say.
Instead, I’d recommend we all turn our frowns into wry smiles, or half grins of Gallic bemusement. No matter what happens, the storyline is dramatic. Literally nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Who needs reality television?
Maybe Yaya Sonogo will come back and save us all.
Or Hector Bellerin’s man bun might become sentient, and spark an AI revolution.
Maybe Theo Walcott’s wife takes his coffee maker back, and promises to only return it if Arsenal make the top 4.
At this point, anything is possible.