Nov 232011

I see a lot of frustration brewing around how the media have been portraying Arsenal in recent weeks. After a couple of months of daily ‘crisis’ articles, many have been chasing other negative angles due to the team’s improved performances and results on the pitch. There was Van Persie’s contract (which still has nearly two years to run), Walcott’s contract (ditto), the ‘one man team’ nonsense, and finally the completely out of context claims that Wenger said he might leave at the end of the season.

On that note, does anyone else spot the irony that the press claim we’ll implode when Wenger leaves, just weeks after saying he was past it and should be replaced?

It is easy to get annoyed. After all, our last twelve games have produced an impressive 10-1-1 record, and even our much maligned defence is showing signs of tightening up, but despite that, there is still a negative overtone to almost every article we see. As an example, each Van Persie goal now guarantees an analysis along the lines of ‘totally reliant on him, they’ll plummet when he gets injured’. It is almost as if we should apologise for having a world class striker at the club. Do they think he is here by accident?

But take a step back for a moment, and realise that being the underdog, the team that no-one expects to succeed, is no bad thing. We’ve seen in recent years that the squad haven’t always handled expectations particularly well, so the longer the press refuse to talk us up, the longer we can carry on quietly working our way back up the table, slipping under the radar (in other words, we’ll be the anti-Spurs). We’re level on points with Chelsea and Liverpool, still in all four competitions, and could progress to the Champions League knockout stages tonight (while other English clubs are struggling to qualify). Some crisis.

The press have always taken a long time to come round to anything, good or bad. Only now are they beginning to realise that John Terry is slow, that Cech isn’t what he was, that Carragher and Gerrard’s best days are behind them. Likewise, they still haven’t noticed how solid Koscielny has become, or how effortlessly Arteta has fitted in. They even think Ramsey isn’t ready for first team action, despite assist after assist.

And it isn’t just Arsenal – they take ages to come round to any player. I remember it took Malouda about four months of brilliant performances in his second season at Chelsea before people realised he wasn’t as terrible as they thought. Outdated punditry views is nothing new – it is a cross between laziness that stops some of them from keeping their opinions up to date (here’s looking at you, Match of the Day), and a total refusal to back down on an opinion that has been proven wrong.

To bring it back to Arsenal, witness the analysis of Robin Van Persie. 31 goals in 29 league games in 2011 is a quite ridiculous record, the sort reserved for Messi and Ronaldo, who play for brilliant teams in a league containing an obscene disparity of quality between clubs. The Premiership is tighter, which makes the record even more impressive, and that is before you take into account that we haven’t had the best 2011 as a club.

But instead of focusing on the record breaking, they keep banging three drums. The first is the one man team garbage, which is ridiculously disrespectful to Ramsey and Walcott, who keep presenting chances on a plate to the Dutchman. Yes, he got both goals against Norwich at the weekend, but Vermaelen was the best player on the park by a distance. Any mention of that? Of course not.

The second is that Van Persie isn’t a natural striker. Really? The reason he gets so many goals is that his movement around the box is top notch, one of the key assets of being a ‘natural striker’. His finishing isn’t half bad either. To say he would be good in the Bergkamp role is probably true, but to say he should therefore play there is plainly stupid.

The final tired line is that he ‘is no leader’. Again – really? Aren’t we always told that the best leaders are those that lead by example? Those that the team look to for inspiration? Surely that makes him a more than adequate captain? I find English pundits have a massively outdated view on what being a captain actually is, as if shouting is all in entails. If you hadn’t noticed, the man they think should wear the armband – Vermaelen – isn’t a shouter either. He is quietly authoritative, and organises well, but he isn’t barking orders like Tony Adams once did. Yet he is clearly a good leader too – there are many different types.

A lot of the frustration comes from Match of the Day, where Hansen and Lawrenson are so painfully dinosaur-esque in their approach to punditry, harking back to the old days where flying tackles were okay (how many times have you heard them utter the phrase ‘nowadays, that is a yellow/red card’, as if ‘nowadays’ is so much worse?), managers shouted, captains shouted and everyone hoofed the ball past the ‘two banks of four’ to the big bloke up front. The irony is that a man most thought would make a terrible and annoying analyst – Gary Neville – is providing ten times the insight over on Sky, and is currently one of the best to listen to. Yes, I really did just say that.

But instead of getting angry about it, chuckle at their ignorance and move on. So what they that don’t give us a hope? So what that they think Koscielny is terrible, that Mertesacker’s 80 caps mean nothing, that they think we’ll have an exodus in the summer? Or that they think Spurs will finish above us? After all, we’ve heard so many of those lines before, and by May they are usually dismissed for another year, buried away as secretly as Harry Redknapp’s financial dealings.

Let them chuckle, let them taunt. As long as we have the last laugh, I couldn’t care less who is shouting loudest now.

  11 Responses to “Remain the underdog, keep quiet, and have the last laugh”

  1. A very thoughtful insight and well written. Now let’s see we become the first English club from the PL to progress in the knockout stages of the CL. Arsenal keeps making them look stupid with their good results and then shove it up their “Harry” arse.

    • Cheers. I am surprised at the English clubs in Europe this season (at least in the Champions League, the Europa lot are doing well). Looking more likely that at least one of the four will fail. And we had a tough group.

  2. Wow…nice post/blog. Lol at the line about Harry’s financial dealings. You’ve put down almost my exact thoughts. For one, for many years now , I’ve learnt not to pay any attention to anybody in the football media that talk about Arsenal. They all hate us…especially Wenger with a burning passion. Nowadays, I just laugh /ignore all the crap they spit out about us. They are all a bunch of jobronis. My only anger is towards soft/easily swayed “so called” Arsenal fans that listen to them and come out chanting for Wenger to go etc etc. I personally also like as we fly under the rader…but frankly this tottenham team is really good. I rate them above Man U right now…but lets see how things pan out..If we finish above them then we can be looking at 2nd place…and if Man City decide to come back down to earth…then we can only hope for the very best…ie first place. Its wonderful to dream!

    • Agreed.
      The totts are a cracking team at the moment and I rate them also……..however,although we lost to them earlier this season,I still felt we were the better team-and that’s not sour grapes.
      The dutchman handled in our box,and the second was the usual speculative shot they come up with when they do us….Bentley,Rose ,Huddlestone etc…….other than that I don’t think they enjoy playing us at all,they would’ve happily taken a point that day.
      I just hope that they,along with Citee have a bad patch.Manyoo always do…just like us,and Chelski aren’t the same team anymore.
      Without wanting to sound like a pundit-it’s all to play for this year.

      • It is very open, and very telling that we’re still up there after such a disastroud start. Spurs are stronger this season, no doubt about it, and their main advantage is their lack of European football.

        But, ultimately, they’ve had a good side for a few years now, but lack something. This year, with Man City gatecrashing the top spots, I think they will miss out, and I suspect Liverpool will be the other team ousted.

  3. this is one of the greatest comment i have ever seen u have deep knowledge of football we are jus tired od the media alligation towards us arsenal last year it was cesc if he leave the team is dead now to the rose of the great robin van persie arsenal dont surely depend on one person we made them footballers thought them how to play if they turn there back on us god will surely turn his back on their carears were is helb were is flamini lets see wat happen with cesc an nasri arsenal is greater than them

  4. Very well said, spot on. Also Gary Neville shocked me to, but he “s the best on TV
    thats for sure.

  5. I think they dislike Arsenal so much because we consistently make a mockery of them. They say Arsenal are going to fail miserably against Chelsea, they say we’re not going to finish in the top 4 (been going about 6 years now), they say without this player or that player then Arsenal are nothing, now, after adjusting, we are just as good without Nasri and Fab. They say the manager has lost it and the summer signing are woeful and then arteta and Gervinho have slotted in brilliantly. They say Walcott is a crock and has no footballing brain then he scores a hatrick (though Hansen still decided that he would only pick out the one poor cross from Walcott in that game out of 8 or 9 and point to this as the reason he will never go anywhere).
    We consistently prove them wrong and now they’re bitter. This year of course we will be lucky to finish in the top 6 nevermind the top 4, Van Persie will get injured and we will plummet down the table because our manager hasn’t bought the right players.
    And then when we have a good run in the CL and finish comfortably in the top 4 they will hate us even more for yet again humiliating them.

    • 100% spot on!! Everything you’ve said is exactly spot on. I’ve just watched the latest soccernet press pass discussion and one of the “Arsenal hater” pundits is still yapping about how our Champions league group was poor and how we haven’t played any good team in our current

      Frankly if we win the premier league this year…two things might happen 1. The pundits might just explode and go and shoot Wenger dead to get rid of him or 2. They might all commit mass suicide.

  6. It’s worse than saying “Arsenal are (screwed) when van Persie gets hurt” — not “if,” “when.” Lots of idiots — mainly Tottenham fans — are saying he’ll be sold in January. They can’t figure out how their own manager thinks, how can they know Arsene Wenger is going to accept a bid for the best player in the Premier League right now? (And that IS van Persie.)

  7. Perfect Blog. I have been saying this for months. But I am surprised you have not mentioned Frank McLintock! Yes a legend, but everything that comes out of his mouth is pure garbage. If he is that worried about the team stop slagging them off and get behind them? I just want one trophy this year so I can call him an absolute tosser! The guy has really gone down in my estimation.

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