There is a saying in Russian which goes like this: to step on the same rake. Now, if you have watched Tom and Jerry, you probably remember how Tom did that a couple of times. However it was portrayed more as an accident, a clever trap, a bit of comedy.
In Russian this idiom is used to describe someone foolish enough to make the same mistake twice, or keep making it repeatedly. Stepping on a rake is a painful experience, one that you will remember for a long time and one which will make you tread carefully near this gardening tool.
Unless you are a fool who doesn’t even learn from his own mistakes. I can’t think of a better idiom to describe Arsenal Football Club. Sod Victoria Concordia Crescit, we should just go ahead and engrave the whole rake thing on our emblem. Once we come up with a more elegant way to put it. For marketing reasons, naturally. We are a business first of all, not a football club.
The burning desire to copy and paste from some of my previous reports is massive once again: in fact it is this desire that made me think of the idiom. Does that say something about my partial, or total, inability to come up with new stuff? Possibly. I’m pretty sure there’s a clever tactician out there who can aptly demonstrate our defeat yesterday differed in at least some way to other meek surrenders to mid-table clubs.
Another viable explanation is that Arsenal do indeed step on the same rake over and over again. The sense of Groundhog Day isn’t coincidental, rather it’s demonstrative of on-pitch shortcomings. And off-pitch shortcomings. If there was a third type of footballing shortcomings, we’d likely have it too.
If you want a concise summary of the story of yesterday’s loss, here it is: our more talented team didn’t turn up to play and got beat by a less talented but better drilled unit. We seem to be confidence merchants more than any other team in the league. Not just a lot rides on the level thereof for us – everything rides on it.
I’m pretty sure most games we lose in the tunnel. A cruel irony and a 180 U-turn from the Invincibles team. The lethargic, one dimensional, slow-paced football is the consequence, not the cause. When we play like that and lose I want to say every time a really simple thing: we don’t get lucky.
Of course it’s not true and I understand it. This feeling is down to a selectiveness of our memory. We just don’t remember the lucky escapes as well as unlucky non-escapes. However I remain convinced we win and lose on merit in 90% of the cases, maybe more than that.
I remember writing an article, a long time ago, about why I support Arsenal. I think I echoed some of the thoughts expressed there at a later date in a similar context to today’s piece. Ultimately the details of when and how I put it matter not, only what I said does. It was simple: Arsenal get what they deserve, and it reminds me of my own (mis)fortunes. I either work hard and get an acceptable result or I don’t work hard and then too get what I deserve. That’s why I can associate myself with Arsenal, and this revelation must have happened on a subconscious level much sooner than I could formulate it and put on paper. Or in a Word document.
Arsenal get what they deserve, and yesterday it was nothing. Away to a well-coached group of players Arsene Wenger’s team played some truly dreary football. Was a thought that turning up would be enough to win sitting in the players’ head? We can’t know for sure, but it definitely looked like it. We underestimated our opponents while putting too much stock in our own superiority. We got deservedly punished for our arrogance.
Is Neil Swarbrick a monumental incompetent twat who bought into Richarlison’s dive? Yes. Does it change the fact we didn’t even look like we were trying? No.
Blaming external factors is easy. I think it’s natural for human beings to do it, at least their first urge is always not far off of blaming everyone and everything else but themselves. This, I think, stems from a need for any given person to live in peace with himself. We tend to justify our actions because we can’t live in a perpetual state of self-inflicted blame.
However it doesn’t mean that people don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t, learn from their mistakes. And most absolutely do learn from them. It is the only way for us to improve professionally and simply as persons.
But Arsenal don’t seem to do that. We keep on the same manager despite his painfully obvious inability to adapt and change. We keep on the same players who time and again do not deliver. We go through transfer windows aplenty without properly investing, when it’s clear investment is needed.
We exist in a state of comfort. And by “we” I mean Arsenal Football Club, not its fans. We have an owner content with the situation as long as he gets a sizeable profit from his investment (because it’s an investment for him). We have a manager who delivers this profit and who is therefore kept on, regardless of the team’s more tangible successes. We have a board chronically incapable of putting pressure on either the owner or the manager. A board with no footballing knowledge and no apparent desire or understanding to create a structure supporting a fading (faded) manager. But nonetheless some of them (and I hope in my heart of hearts that not all), like our esteemed Chief Executive, receiving hefty bonuses. Apparently for drawing not-so-clever analogies between Arsenal and Leicester City.
And then we have the players. Who turn in crap performances with an alarming regularity (yesterday was our third in eight league games – no prizes for guessing how many losses we have), but who keep their places and even get offered new contracts. I swear to God if we kept Oxlade-Chamberlain by paying him 180k per week it would be the ideal demonstration of how we do things and what we have become as a result.
And the fans … have become an afterthought. An inconvenience, White noise, background static. No one cares what they want. Our chairman thanks us for the interest in THEIR affairs and our manager routinely blames us for a bad atmosphere at the stadium. Our chief exec delivers slick speeches with no visible actual follow-up on the field, while our owner might simply have died a long time ago and no one would have noticed. He’s THAT disconnected from anything Arsenal.
I can’t even begin to describe how this whole situation disgusts me, and how it makes me despair. My own helplessness to influence any of it is a big part of that despair. Instead I, along with millions of fans worldwide, am forced to watch Arsenal dance on the goddamn rake and wonder whether that last hit on the forehead will actually change anything in the future. I know the answer unfortunately.