I’d never intended to blog about football, but sometimes you wake up on a Sunday morning having fallen asleep during Match Of The Day the night before and, as a disgraceful “beautiful game”-hyping armchair Arsenal not-quite-supporter one just feels injustice and hatred towards Newcastle United and also Mark Lawrenson and so feels the need to blog.
First up: genetically I ought to be a Sheffield Wednesday fan, as that’s the team my parents and (one) brother support (the other decided, despite being from Sheffield, to be a Manchester United fan at the age of about 8, for some despicable reason). But I was born in Exeter and don’t particularly like Sheffield and also on my 14th birthday in 1993 they had the temerity to not win the FA Cup final against Arsenal, instead stringing out the pain to a mid-week replay and an injury-time-before-penalties winning goal by, of all people, the clumsy donkey workhorse defender that was Andy Linighan. Pain doesn’t come much more intense. I’d received my first CD player as a present for that birthday, and decided that music wouldn’t hurt me the way Sheffield Wednesday had, so I got into The Beatles instead of follow that particular team to its current horrific state.
Then, as some kind of ideologue or idealist or dreamer or idiot or something, and also through confluence of circumstance, I ended up watching Arsenal a lot on TV before shifts working in a pub between 1997 and 2001. My boss at the pub was an Arsenal fan. And Arsenal at that point played exceptionally beautiful, intricate, aesthetically pleasing football. So I applied the same logic to being a football fan as I did to being a music fan, perhaps, almost, and they became the team I wanted to see win (or, rather, the team I wanted to see score spectacular goals).
When the oligarchs started moving in and spending billions of pounds on making football teams into invincible wrestling conglomerates, Arsenal’s relative fiscal reserve added another layer of ennui to my affection for them. They’re not crass nouveau-riche tosspots, you see. Well, not compared to Chelsea or Man City. Nor did they allow themselves to get bought-out and screwed-over like Liverpool or Man Utd.
So this is why I like Arsenal.
Right. Rant. Any team that gives away a 4-0 lead established within the first 26 minutes needs some serious “don’t take your foot off the gas at halftime” realtalk aimed at them. Especially against a team that’s just sold their misogynist thug star centre forward for £35m to, oh, some nouveau-riche playboys, or whoever.
That said; rant.
Diaby shouldn’t have retaliated against Joey Barton, even if Joey Barton does deserve to have stones thrown at his head in the street for being a nasty vicious Scouse thug. He shouldn’t even have retaliated at Joey Barton for streamrolling through him with (what looked like) one set of studs up. “That’s a firm but fair tackle,” says Lawrenson. No it bloody isn’t, it’s thuggishness. Only putting one set of studs up doesn’t make you a gentleman. Barton, on the other hand, should have been given more than a frown. Considerably more.
The linesmen (emphasis on “men”; Sian Massey, I am sure, would have done a better job because she seems to be very good at her job, unlike these tools) disallowed a perfectly onside goal by Newcastle. I’m loathe to admit it, because I find it funny when Newcastle lose and because I wanted Arsenal to win, but it was a fine goal. Rosicky was in the wrong place. They also awarded a penalty (Newcastle’s second; the first was fine, totally legitimate – a clumsy, silly challenge) for what looked like some very gentle and aimless jumping-for-and-missing-the-ball which appeared to be absolutely equally weighted between two Arsenal defenders and a Newcastle attacker, none of whom elbowed anyone else or handballed it or fell to the floor or pushed anyone else to the floor. Stupid decision.
Almost as stupid as not sending off Kevin Nolan for getting the Arsenal keeper in a head-lock and throwing him to the floor. Headlocks, whether the ball is in play or not, are a little unsportsmanlike, right?
They also flagged offside for a spectacular Van Persie finish which, when the BBC laid their digital offside-line over the screen, showed that Van Persie was absolutely shoulder-to-shoulder level with the defender. Possibly his kicking foot, as he kicked, might have been beyond the defender, but his body was not. “That’s offside,” says Lawrenson. How is it offside, you moron? I know the rule changes every ten minutes but the original intention is surely to prevent dirty goal-hanging cheats, not, you know, people level with the defender and outside the box (he was outside the box, right, just about?) from scoring great goals. What happened to “benefit of the doubt” being given to the attacker? Also, what happened to “when the ball is played”? Because that line wasn’t overlaid at the moment the ball was played forward, I’m pretty sure. I don’t know. It was late and I was practically asleep.
I’m going to stop now before I sound like (more of) an idiot.