Three slightly frozen memories, ready to be thawed and forgotten:
(1) The coin toss. Compatriots Seedorf (class act and true legend) and Van Persie (legacy yet to be determined) faced each other, hugged, and exchanged symbols of their respective clubs. Seedorf was jovial, calm, confident, and looking RVP in the eye. Robin seemed unwilling, nay, unable, to look Clarence in the eye for more than a second or two. Van Persie seemed… twitchy. He looked around, he appeared distracted.
Maybe he was foreshadowing (and influencing) his team’s performance that night, admitting to himself that the game might be over before it begins. Maybe his mind was already tanning on the Mediterranean beaches of Barcelona or the navigating lively and bustling streets and plazas of Madrid.
(2) I’ve been focusing on Sagna a bit, wondering if he’s been thinking, “Hell, Clichy went to City, I’m just as good, maybe better, I actually start for my country, so why I am I still here?” Even before his injury, Bacary has seemed lazier this season. (Watching as he jumped for that ball against Assou-Ekotto, his awkward attempt that caused his injury a few months ago, I wondered, “Why would you jump so needlessly, so awkwardly?”) Yesterday, Sagna’s passes were poor, he wasn’t charging forward (but who was?). And then the moment that infuriated me: The ball was put to the space in front of Zlatan, Sagna appeared to assume that Ibra was offside, so Sagna fucking JOGGED as the mustached, cheesy-nightclub-predator-looking Swede sprinted, collected the ball, and fed it to Robinho. 2-0. Pitiful. Sagna, the team veteran and two-time selection to the Premier League Team of the Year as voted by his peers, seems to be gone as well. Only he knows where, but I doubt he knows where, for his contract isn’t up until 2014.
(3) Starting Rosicky (experience) instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain (potential world-class talent): I understand the reasoning, but in hindsight it was such a bad decision.
Watching the Milan game, I found even more respect for Cesc. It’s been obvious all season, but last night it was glaring: This year’s squad simply thinks about going forward. They wait an extra second or two, make an extra pass or two, and often send it back to a defender or goalkeeper in order to regroup for absolutely no reason at all. Not so with Cesc. With Fab 4 we were going forward, one-touching, passing with instinct, and then thinking, if thinking was even necessary. With Cesc, there was no thinking, just doing.
Arsene, and ONLY Arsene Wenger, could admit his team still has a chance to move on and at the same time put a value on how slim the chances are: “Two to five per cent chance.” Got to love him!
The Telegraph ran interviews over the past few days with Arsenal legends Denis Bergkamp and Emmanuel Petit, before and after Wednesday’s game, respectively. Of the two, Bergkamp was more politically correct in his interview (conducted by an Arsenal striker from a previous era, Alan Smith). The Dutchman reminisced about The Invincibles, remembering Henry and Vieira, the all-English back four they had back then. But he also had criticisms of the present squad: he mentioned that Arsenal have too many players who are similar in the way they play, that there is not nearly enough diversity, no impact player to come off the bench and bring a new dimension. He wondered if Arsenal need more English players, but he professed his continuing trust in the Professor, that Wenger has endured peaks and valleys before now.
Petit was more direct and honest in his comments. After the game, he mentioned that Ramsey appeared to be a “twin” of himself on Wednesday, that Theo hasn’t grown at all in the past few years, and that Arshavin and Rosicky need to go. (I’ll add Djourou to that shortlist.) He said that that 6 new players around the age of 27 need to be brought in–that “we shouldn’t hesitate to talk about the end of the cycle.”
It’s important and worth noting that these former and future Arsenal legends are speaking out. It means that times are truly, officially, tough. It means they care, it means they are bothered.
Last year saw Birmingham (February, Carling Cup), Barcelona (March, Champions League) and Manchester United (March, FA Cup) assist Arsenal in their self-destruction. By mid-March, the season was over, save for the 4th place finish. This year, Milan has played the role of Barca twofold, ending the Gunners’ Champions League aspirations in only one game. Sunderland (FA Cup) and Tottenham (crucial league match and chance for to avenge last year’s home loss) are next.
Last year’s fall from contention in three competitions was official and final in March. These next two pivotal games fall in February. I hope Arsenal doesn’t fall in February. Wenger is no Caesar, not yet anyway, but I’d rather not revisit his Ides of 2011. I’d rather not see him stab himself in the back for a second consecutive year, one
How many of us can endure another early fall, just before Spring?