The Arsenal has played the Manchester United. The game hath ended. In a tense game with end-to-end action, United won 1-0 off a header from a corner kick. All sportswriters will boldly proclaim something about a title race and spin the same story: Arsenal has only succeeded because they have played lesser teams. Of course, consistently beating lesser teams is, like, the recipe for winning a league.
Arguments aside, I don’t care to talk about “title chances” in November. Rather, I prefer to look closely at just why Arsenal has started off so well and why United has come around. Let’s take a gander. Continue reading “United vs. Arsenal: Pretenders, Contenders & Offenders” »
You follow the news. You know that somebody took a picture of Jack Wilshere holding a cigarette outside a nightclub. I won’t bore you with the trite “Athletes are role models/I like to watch cocky, irresponsible assholes” debate. We lampooned it before. Rather, another angle to the Wilshere story caught my eye.
In response to Wenger’s criticisms, Jack Wilshere’s representative claimed that he was holding the cigarette as part of a prank and did not in fact smoke. Presumably, his representative said this because Jack couldn’t say such bs with a straight-face during a presser. Aside from being a lie, this excuse tramples over the intellectual property of former US President Bill Clinton, who famously “put a joint to this lips but didn’t inhale.”
Yawn. Here are some much better excuses Wilshere’s rep could have cooked up. Continue reading “Arsenal Player Jack Wilshere Steals Page from Bill Clinton Playbook” »
For the last nine years, I’ve admired Arsenal from afar for both aesthetic and analytic reasons. Aesthetically, they were the Platonic ideal of beauty in football. The defenders and goalkeeper passed, the midfielders played sideways passes, and the forwards couldn’t be bothered to press off the ball. They didn’t win a trophy and that was the point: this was a team beyond results. Silverware would only soil the ideal. You can only stand so much success before you start to feel dirty.
Analytically, each season they raised the same argument to explain a lack of titles: basically, financial prudence today, future success tomorrow. Any close student of politics will know how unsuccessful this argument normally is: you are better off supplying a dose of instant gratification to the masses if you want to stay in power (at least for the short-term). That’s why Arsenal’s argument, their recurrent story of an ant amassing food while grasshoppers squandered the summer away, impressed me. Are people really buying this, I thought?
Even smart Arsenal fans started to get fed up (especially after they unexpectedly sold Song). You can only promise the future so many times. I anticipated two hysterical (if cynical) ends to the Arsene era: the club fails to qualify for the Champions League and their financial house of cards falls to pieces, or Arsene coyly waits for the last year of his contract before demanding a transfer to Barcelona.
In that vain, last season I made the obligatory “top of the (preseason) table” Arsenal joke. This season, though, an odd thing has occurred. We are now entering October and….Arsenal is top of the table. How has this happened? And what does it mean for Platonic ideals? Continue reading “Arsenal & Arsene: Laughing in our Faces, At Least for Now” »
Yes, the EPL started a few weeks ago. However, you don’t really read “season previews” expecting a glimpse of the future. You read them for pure entertainment value. You are excited by the EPL, and just want a bunch of blocks of letters, sometimes forming words and even sentences, that mention EPL clubs and players. Admit it.
Thus, this belated season preview exclusively about Luis Suarez is just for you. Continue reading “My Belated EPL Season Preview that Focuses Solely on Luis Suarez” »
This joke will never ever get old. Links. Linx. Giggle. But seriously, the last week of EPL action and the looming World Cup qualifiers have led to some fearsome soccer linx (and some good soccer writing). Enjoy. Continue reading “Ferocious Soccer Linx” »
It is an ancient Midfielder,
And he stoppeth one of two.
‘By the long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st you?
Continue reading “The Rime of the Ancient Box-to-Box Midfielder” »
Ahh, neoliberal economics. Words like “merit” and “competition” get tossed around like popcorn in a hot kettle. The “free” exchange of goods, labor, currency, and information will, like a rising tide, lift all boats eventually. If we just repeat that last line five times really fast, it will come true.
Why such a vague and opaque opening ramble? EPL ticket prices. Rather, the soaring, ever-increasing EPL ticket prices.
Allow me to explain. Continue reading “Globalization Myths & EPL Ticket Prices” »
The Podolski puzzle. For almost a decade, the German has shined for his national team and enjoyed a few good seasons in the Bundesliga at now-relegated club Cologne. However, doubts lingered. Criticisms circled. Why did Lukas struggle and leave Bayern Munich? Was it his mentality? Is he only good as a big fish in a little pond? Was he played out of position? What, exactly is his position? And therein lies the dilemma.
A dilemma which Arsene Wenger must now face. Continue reading “Tactics: Does Lukas Podolski Stretch or Expand Arsenal?” »
Merriam-Webster defines “mercenary” as “having or marked by an eager and often selfish desire especially for material possessions.” Arsenal fans recall the Ashley Cole saga. In 2005, Ashley, his agent, and several Chelsea honchos met at a hotel to discuss his footballing services. He did not inform Arsenal of the meeting, the word “tap up” took on a whole new meaning, and he was fined. However, he did sign a one year extension with Arsenal.
Nevertheless, Cole departed for Chelsea after only a year later. In his own words, Arsenal’s offer of 55,000 pounds per week left him “trembling with anger.” Despite this admission, Ashley, nicknamed “Cashley” in some parts, has claimed steadfastly that he left Arsenal for footballing reasons. This summer he opened a twitter account, and promptly taunted Gunners fans with his trophy haul since leaving. 11 to 0, for the record. Conclusive proof Cashley is no mercenary? Not quite. Continue reading “Ashley Cole isn’t a Mercenary, just Misunderstood” »
Oh, Arsenal. We saw the Van Persie exit a mile away, but Song? Really? Really? For 15,000 pounds a week in a salary bump? Premature, knee jerk conclusion: Arsenal is definitely not playing “Moneyball.” Moneyball is an attempt to obtain a sporting advantage over rivals through the use of novel statistics. Arsenal doesn’t play “Moneyball” because they put money before the ball, not after. Arsenal plays monopoly but without the dice. Pass start. Collect Champions League cash. Do not win trophy. Play again.
In a pessimistic sense, one could say that Arsenal’s transient and often youthful roster mirrors the failure of the 21st century community to offer steady and stable employment for the world’s crop of widely talented twenty-somethings. New Arsenal players arrive wide-eyed and eager to work with Mr. Wenger. They come from such lovely destinations as relegated German club Cologne and financially destitute Spanish club Malaga. However, within a few years, rather than get a raise or promotion, they get sold to Barcelona or an EPL contender. Faces change, but the revolving door keeps spinning. On the other hand, Gunners are not unpaid intern’s assistants who run to Starbucks to get the right diabetic-friendly sugar. They get a chance to play and are paid well, even if most players come on a relatively short-term lease, not for life.
Still, to use a comparison, the Gunners eerily look like several of the mid-sized financial services firms in the Washington, D.C. area. These firms hire recent college graduates, get two years out of them at a very modest salary, and then expect (or indirectly force) them to jump ship. No salary increase ever. No improved benefits. Just the door if you have the audacity to ask. In a real sense, Arsenal bothers us because sport is fantasy and escapism for many. To look at a “sporting” club and see the same turnover business culture stirs the stomach. You may call Van Purse-strings a mercenary, but Song? No way.
Still, ’twas not always so. Hope springs eternal. I found and now somewhat pleasurably (in the Schadenfraude sense) offer a few highlight quotes from friends of mine that are Arsenal fans. Names have been changed to protect the perpetually embarrassed and masochistic. Continue reading “Past Optimistic Quotes from Fans of Arsenal FC” »