Come on everybody, channel your inner Piers Morgan. Throw your hands up in the air, aim for the hills and run with abandon. Just don’t forget to unlock your wrists, so that the sprint for the horizon seems that much more fueled by pure terror. And remember to shrill.
Wayne Rooney, his sidekick hair transplant and his nefarious Mancunian buddies traveled to the Emirates on Sunday. As everyone knows Manchester United won 8-2 in the last (cataclysmic) matchup. They won 2-1 this time. Rooney had scored six goals in his last six appearances against Arsenal in all competitions. Over the years, he scored his first Premier League goal against Arsenal, as well as his first Premier League goal for Man United, his 100th Premier League goal and his 150th goal for Man United in all competitions.
Everyone feared the big bad Roondog. But this time he let Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck rack up the numbers tally and run riot over centerbacks playing out of position as fullbacks.
But to listen to Piers Morgan, sports expert par excellence, the match had nothing to do with anything but a substitution at the 74 minute mark. The first hour and a quarter meant nothing, because a 74th-minute substitution made it all a foregone conclusion. At 1-1, three minutes after Robin van Persie equalized off a quality Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain assist, Arsene Wenger substituted Arshavin for the Ox. It was surprising, since Ox had been playing fantastically, but it was his first Premier League start. Tell that to the fans, though.
The crowd boo’d, van Persie shouted, “Nooooo…..!” and the crowd boo’d on. It was “Spend some fucking money” all over again, but more intense.
Shortly after, Valencia slid past Arshavin, Song and Vermaelen and crossed to Welbeck for the winner. Predictably, on Fox in the post-match, Morgan had heaps of blame to apportion.
According to Morgan, the substitution of Arshavin for Ox singlehandedly led to United winning. Furthermore, the United win means Arsenal will now definitely not nab a Champions League spot. Not qualifying for the Champions League means a loss of £30 million in TV revenue, all because of that substitution. Wenger must now be sacked.
The only true statement in that paragraph is that failing to qualify for the Champions League would mean a massive loss in revenue (though that could happen in the 4th place qualifying spot, as well).
Take a step back. United is the defending champion and is hot on the trail of City for the title. Arsenal lost 2-1 to United. Welbeck, Rooney, Nani and Valencia manoeuver past specialized fullbacks on a weekly basis. And Arshavin could have done better defensively, but does that mean that Ox would have? And anyway, the Arshavin/Ox question is really one of attack–Ox was playing a great attacking game, whereas Arshavin has not put in a great game since many moons ago, which is precisely why Ox started. When the substitution happened, no one was thinking, “Oh great, now the defense is going to fall apart.” Arshavin does not hustle enough to be a great help to the defense, but the raw teenager is hardly the lynchpin of the Arsenal defense, either.
If Arsenal fails to qualify for the Champions League, the recent draws and defeats to bottom-table teams have much more to do with it than a 2-1 loss to the defending champions and second team in the league.
As for Wenger’s job, I think Arsenal would be shooting itself in the foot, but that’s a question for another day. If Arsenal ends the season outside of the top six, let alone top four, van Persie and Wenger would be the two main selling points for any players the club might want to sign. Van Persie may be off this summer regardless, but without Wenger, that departure is a lock. So, without van Persie or Wenger, would Eden Hazard ever consider signing? Mario Goetze? No Champions League, no van Persie, no Wenger = “No chance in hell.”
Lest one forget, there were positives in the match: Ox playing out of his skin and laying off to RvP for the equalizer, Rosicky putting in the best performance I’ve seen from him in a long time, RvP getting a knee knock and walking it off instead of being out for the rest of the season…
But if we’re not going to look at the positives, let us not, at least, be swayed by the judge of “America’s Got Talent.”
Ideally, Ox would not have been substituted, especially given the assist shortly beforehand and the narrow miss, but Wenger made a choice. After the match, Wenger had to justify that Ox had started to fatigue and his calf was feeling off, after coming off an illness during the week.
“Oxlade-Chamberlain had started to fatigue, started to stretch his calf, and was not used to the intensity. He was sick during the week. Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team. I have to justify a guy of 18 who’s playing his second or third game? Let’s be serious.”
The Wenger of years past would never have had to justify the substitution. Like it or not, his stock has fallen with the Arsenal fanbase, which could lead to he and the club parting ways and Arsenal locked out of the top 4 for years to come. If that happens, will the self-aggrandizing Morgan see any connection? Of course not. He wants everyone to look at him, listen to him, follow his pointing finger to his chosen object of blame.
Any damage resulting from Wenger’s dismissal will be someone else’s fault. Or still Wenger’s fault.
In case it hasn’t come across clearly enough, I’ll just spell it out. Piers Morgan sucks. All sports commentary outlets should file a restraining order on him immediately.