The scariest shirt ever

“Another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest” plays in the background…

Happy Halloween. My costume idea this year was going to be “Arnold Rimmer after all of his anger had been removed by the polymorph.” I have the “Give Quiche a Chance” shirt and I can make a “Chameleonic Life Forms? No Thanks!” sign. The only thing left to do is decide what I want to name the committee: the League Against Salivating Monsters or my personal favorite, the Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society. One drawback on that, the acronym.

But then I found this 2011 Arsenal kit. On the front are the words, “Carling Cup Final, Wembley 2011”. I bought the shirt prior to kickoff (obviously) when I flew over to London to watch just this one match, live, at Wembley. I paid over $2000 for the privilege of watching that match.

It’s no exaggeration to say that was the match that killed Fabregas era Arsenal. That was a wild season for Arsenal, especially after the turn of the year. There was that crazy 4-4 against Newcastle. But we managed to overcome that and win the next two matches and even beat Barcelona 2-1!

And we went into that League Cup final, against Birmingham City, riding high on the crest of that wave. I couldn’t imagine a defeat that day. We had beaten Birmingham twice in the League that season. We knew that they had a tall guy (Zigic) and that they were going to lump it up to him. We knew their entire tactic.

As the match wore on they started cramping up. Going down, getting stretchered off, stretching, getting water breaks. I felt like we were going to win this. That if it stayed at 1-1 we had them in extra time. Then Szczesny and Koscielny made an error. Obafemi Martins scored.

I have often said that that goal was like a bomb going off in their end of the stadium. A Tunguska blast. Their fans erupted, and as the blast of their cheer reached us, we all sat down.

But it was a bomb in the squad as well. 27 Feb, we lose to Birmingham. 5 March we draw 0-0 to Sunderland at home. 8 March we lose 3-1 to Barcelona, van Persie is red carded for the crime of shooting after the whistle had gone, Fabregas’ backheel gifted Barcelona an equalizer. 12 March we lose 2-0 to Man U in the FA Cup. And while Arsenal were still 2nd in the League on points, the draws started. 19 March, 2-2 draw to West Brom. And from there the season went into full on tailspin mode: 2 wins, 4 draws, 3 losses to finish the season 4th.

That Summer, Cesc demands a trade. Nasri demands a trade. Wenger scrambles to rebuild the squad. Perhaps it was already straining at the edges, I know that Barcelona constantly courted Cesc, forcing him to wear Barcelona shirts and publicly lapping up his DNA at every chance. But still, I can’t help feel that losing to Birmingham and the fall out from that match was what blew up the Fabregas era Arsenal.

There’s some talk about Fabregas coming back. I’m a “hard pass”. Not because I harbor a grudge against him, because I don’t, I stopped having feelings about Cesc when he signed for Chelsea. The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of hate is not forgiveness, it’s indifference. The reason I’m a hard pass is that he will be 32 this year and he’s about 8 years past his prime. Even in his title winning Chelsea side (2014-15) when he was under 30 he was playing on one leg. That season he was a massive defensive liability and his defensive lapses have become comically notorious since. As for what he adds going forward, frankly we already have a longballer who can’t play defense. He is the player that Arsenal need the least.

And now I’m torn between one of my most beloved Red Dwarf characters and the most frightening shirt I have ever owned.

Arsenal play Blackpool today and perhaps apropos of the Halloween holiday the squad is ravaged by injury. No problem though, the League Cup is a good time to bring through some youngsters. Also, the oldsters (like Lichtsteiner) can’t play twice a week. I haven’t been connected enough to the youth team to know if the fullbacks are ready or even which players are fullbacks! But we can’t just play old men and out of position midfielders in those crucial fullback spots. Can we?

I’m honestly not too bothered by this match. I’ve long advocated for this tournament to be mothballed or played with non-first teamers. I might watch some of it or I might not. It’s not a cup that has held much glory for me. I mean, I think it was Spurs’ last trophy in 07-08 so it can’t be that important.

Maybe you like the tournament? I’m certainly not telling you how to feel. Let us know in the comments. Also tell us who we should expect to start tonight! I haven’t a clue.



  1. I hear you about indifference and the difference between love and outright hate. Perfectly reasonable.

    But I’ll always love Cesc, no matter which colour jersey he wears. Maybe it was playing with a fractured leg against Barcelonam, one of his finest games in an Arsenal shirt. Maybe it’s being given the captaincy in his early 20s, a popular move with the fans to replace the unpopular Gallas.

    One of the 2 best midfielders to have pulled on the shirt in the past 25 years. The other was Vieira. No one read a game and passed as well out of our midfield. Bergkamp was a forward, so he doesn’t count in this. Our three most purely skilled ballers of the Cesc era were Cesc, Van Persie and Rosicky. That year we collapsed from 2nd to 4th, but honestly the likes of Fabregas caused us to overachieve in the first place.

    It’s not as if he went straight from us to Chelsea. It’s not as if Wenger wasn’t loading so much so early on his young, still immature shoulders (something he was to repeat with Wilshere). It’s not as if he didnt want to come back to us. A guy’s got to earn a living, and it was a very different case from RVP leaving for United, a club I dislike far more than Chelsea.

    I did float the idea of him coming back a month or so ago, but in hindsight, his time has long passed. I wish him well. He was a great player for us in the fallow years. Heck, who wouldnt want to leave Wenger’s Arsenal at that time to play for Pep, and play with Messi?

    That Birmingham Carling Cup final game hurt a lot. But not as much the game in which they broke Eduardo’s leg, and Clichy gifted them a last-minute equlaiser.

    1. And oh, comparing Arsenal Cesc to Xhaka is pure heresy. One, he was far better defensively, even if he wasn’t a defence all-star. Two, he was far, far more productively offensively. Three, he’s forgotten more about passing than Xhaka will ever know. They were leagues apart.

      1. Cesc was really special. I will always have a soft spot for him, except when he pulls on the blue of Chelsea, but I don’t even mind that too much because he’s a shell of his former self. Too many miles on those legs.

        Can we please, please with cherry on top stop using every single talking point about any Arsenal topic past or present to pile on Granit Xhaka though?

  2. There’s talk of us signing Cesc? C’mon… that’s why I never read NewsNow, that’s got to be click bait garbage.

  3. The Birmingham final was totally profligate and a case of defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory.
    Hoping we’ll not succumb in similar fashion tonight and looking forward to seeing some youngsters back in action, especially AMN.
    We don’t need Cesc but nice to know he’d be happy to be back and he can still see a ball better than most. He’s always been in a different league to GX,, even tho’ he makes him look rock solid in defence.
    Arsene been doing some interviews today: good stuff as always and sensibly ruling himself out of the Madrid job.

    1. That’s a scary line-up, defensively. Guendouzi has to cover that back four, AND very likely fill in for Ramsey. I am suddenly feeling nervous about this match.

    2. Not even remotely funny: the Lich scores and Jenkinson’s “shot” was saved into the path of ESR for the winner.

  4. Wenger should have left (been fired) that summer after we threw away the league cup. The next episode which immediately followed was the 8-2.

  5. Vote 1 up for the Cesc of old. I’ll always be a fan and I agree with ClaudeIvan: one of greatest Premier League midfielders and one of the 2-3 best to ever wear the cannon crest.
    Oh, and doc:
    Granit Xhaka sucks:)

  6. And so, on this All Hallow’s Eve, we come to Blackpool, that Stygian lake. Who joins the ferryman Mustafi on the crossing to hell’s maw? Derelicht? Jenkinson? The unfortunate Pleguezuelo?

      1. If we’re going to beat Liverpool, we’ll need to combine swiftness of thought with devastating power in attack, Socrates with Bellerophon.

        1. Yes, we will need all the help we can get, for the three-headed monster of Salah, Mane and Firmino lies in wait

  7. We are all still recovering from the psychological trauma of that league cup final game. I met some Britons while I was traveling in San Francisco who told me they were from the midlands. I immediately saw specters of them sporting Birmingham Blues swag and telling me they were there for that cup win which has to be their single greatest sporting moment certainly of this millenium thus far. Happily they were from Derby County. My sweaty palms and palpitations were assuaged.

    1. Two teams I am happiest about relaxation from the top tier: Stoke and those Brummies. I’m still not over it

  8. When I think of when it started going all wrong for Arsene, I find myself thinking about that league cup final. Something broke that day. Both the players and the fans began to doubt Wenger’s youth project. The fan base, especially, started showing signs of great divisiveness. There were already voices of Wenger Out prior to this match of course but I really feel that camp began to grow larger and louder after that match.

    Are we really even entertaining the idea of bringing Cescy back? This has to be some click bait garbage. I loved him at Arsenal and agree with Claude about him being one of our best ever players but I wouldn’t want him back now. Emery is showing us that you can have more practical players on the field and still play beautiful football. Cesc, in modern football, is a complete luxury ticket and we already have one in Ozil. I don’t think we need two. Actually, I would add Ramsey to that bucket also and I think that’s one of the main reasons why we reneged on our offer (because Emery realized he would rather get either a proper center mid or an attacking mid – not some hybrid of the two like Ramsey).

  9. Halftime.

    Guendouzi imperious, elegant, in charge. Looks like a young Ruud Gullitt out there. Allies a good passing range with mobility and the ability to ferry, and isnt averse to a tackle or a cynical foul. Doc gets upset at the mildest hint of criticism of X****, so I’ll refrain from referencing him 😀

    Poor Jenko is looking as if he’s learning to play football again. Which in a sense he is. Very little quality out there. What has happened to Mkhi, by the way? He’s been dreadful these past few weeks. And the young Spaniard Pleguezuelo looks really short for a central defender. had to check his height… he’s 5’11” If I were Blackpool, I’d test him and Mustafi with some long balls.

  10. Thanks for sparing my fragile sensibilities there claudeivan, it’s appreciated! 😘

    Kind of an ugly win. Not too much to be read into that as I suspect this was an XI comprised mostly of peripheral players and those with one foot in the departure lounge. I’m going to take a minute to be critical of one player who should absolutely be beasting this level of competition at home, and that’s Henrikh Mikh. Remember when Rosicky in the twilight of his career was handed the #10 role against Brighton? He absolutely demolished those fools while making it look beneath him… outside of the foot no look passes and all, man I loved Rosicky and that game just showed how much we missed him all those years with the injuries.

    Rosicky vs Brighton is how Mikh should have looked in this game, but instead he squandered terrific opportunities time after time. The through balls take a split second too long (so the recipient is offside), the long balls are just a bit wayward, the shots take too long to line up, and his intentions are too easily read. The quality is still there but he looks like a man trying to convince himself he’s still a top player. It worries me. Ok, he had two years of Mourinho to purge himself of but this is not promising against this level of competition.

  11. Curious reffing. Arsenal should have had 2 corners after he failed to spot touches by opposition players. A too-harsh red for the Blackpool player, a harsh second yellow for Guendouzi, who had looked up to that point the best player on the pitch.

    Jenko got better as the game wore on. Nothing to add to h/t really. Pleguezuelo is decent, composed, and likes driving into the space, as Arsene’s teams do.

  12. Re that league cup final – to really stick the boot into the squad the AST (attention seekers trust) released a statement immediately afterwards that was critical of the players.
    Complete Arseholes.
    No wonder Cesc wanted out after that season.

  13. Clearly the scariest shirt ever is Arsenal’s away 91 ‘bruised banana.’

    Ps. I love that shirt. 🙂

Comments are closed.

Related articles