The qualifying rounds of the Champions League shouldn’t be some great drama for a club like Arsenal. They should be nights where the stages are set for the great drama of the knockout rounds. Nights where the qualification for the next round is taken for granted and the moments of interest are in the details of foreshadowing. Tomorrow’s discussion should be, how did Aaron Ramsey play? Did he dawdle on the ball too long there? Was Arteta unscathed in that tackle? And so on.
Of course every match generates some talking points for the scribes the next day and some ammunition to put into the bunker as future talking points. Perhaps tonight it will be a goal that Cazorla scores, a gaping miss by Gervinho, Giroud scoring and subsequently taking his shirt off and causing a mini-baby-boom among Arsenal supporters, whatever the event there will be talking points.
But hopefully, there will be little real drama, we’ve had enough of that for the week. Let’s leave the drama bombs to clubs like Chelsea, who were beaten by Waxtap last night. Beaten I might add on the night that they reinstated their disgraced captain, who is serving a domestic ban for racially abusing a fellow professional footballer. I think it’s safe to say that there will be little theater of that type tonight at the Emirates.
Still there will be a story arc and perhaps even some conclusions, because this is one of those rare European nights where the dramatic groundwork has already been laid: Arsenal v. Schalke is the game that follows the “infamous Norwich loss”.
Armed with my list of notable Arsenal defeats to lesser teams since 2009 (Hull, Stoke, Villa, Sunderland, Wigan, Blackburn, West Brom, (relegation bound) Newcastle, Bolton, Stoke, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Swansea, QPR, Wigan, and Norwich) I thought about going back through the archives and just quoting myself from the match preview of the next game. You know, the normal stuff about how this is a “must win” game or how so-and-so can “get his Arsenal career back on track” and that the club can “give the fans what they deserve”. How the players need to show “passion” and “urgency” and restore “pride” to the badge. And then sprinkle in some of the more bizarre pre-match tirades about how the “lickspittles on Fleet Street can stick their predictions straight up their fat asses (I’m looking at you, Lawro), Arsenal are going to come out and show they mean business.”
Of course I want Arsenal to beat Schalke, beat them handily in front of the home crowd. I want everyone of the Arsenal supporters filled with a sense of hope for the season that only a big win can provide. But rather than a story of redemption or “getting a win to ensure we can rotate our players properly” I wish that there was no higher purpose to this game other than a simple football match between Arsenal and Schalke.
My day will be notably undramatic. I woke up at 4am, let the dog out, put the kettle on and took a bath. Then I got dressed while the coffee steeped. Let the dog back in and in the most dramatic moment of the day (so far) decided that I would write about how wholly uneventful my day will be and how I really hope it stays that way.
See, there will be no going to the pub and eating lunch while watching the game. There will be no “banter” between me and the people I despise (everyone else at the pub who isn’t an Arsenal supporter). There will be no sneaking off to the back room at work to watch 20 minutes of the game. I will be in meetings. Yes. Meetings. The most interesting thing I will do in those meetings is decide who will perform what mundane task between now and the next meeting.
I suppose Liz Hurley could descend from whatever chariot she rides across the sky upon, take the form of a swan, and declare her undying love for me. Or perhaps there will be a paper jam in the printer and one of the students will need me to clear it. As a gambling man, I’d put money on the paper jam.
I will leave work early, though, which is nice. Then I will come home, turn the heat up, take out some dough to rise, and take the dog for a walk. And only after all that, I will turn on the Arsenal game.
At half time, I will take a look at my dough and make sure it hasn’t risen too much. You always have to check your dough during proofing, agitated yeast can lead to a quick rise, and over-proofed dough tends to fall flat in the final bake.
That’s a metaphor.