“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.