I wish I could have stayed home and at least watched one of the two Champions League games this week but alas I do not write full time for a living and since it wasn’t even Arsenal playing had no excuse to miss important meetings at work. I didn’t even think to record either match because I fully expected Barcelona, Real Madrid, and UEFA to ensure that the Spanish teams faced each other in a Classico to end all Classicos so I haven’t even seen either match on replays. And maybe it’s just apathy but I also haven’t seen any videos online from either match.
I have, however, seen this GIF of John Terry getting a red card:
John Terry is such a national treasure.
I mean, what else would journalists have to write about if it wasn’t for JT “fooling around” like this all the time? Think about it for a moment, because of that knee to Sanchez’ back JT is out of the final and the newspapers are all abuzz with every angle of the story; there’s the “moment of madness which let down his team”, the “team petitioning UEFA to let JT lift the trophy despite the ban”, the “he’s not that kind of guy”, and countless other angles which I don’t have the stomach to read.
Not that all this coverage of Jazza Tazza makes me sick, it fills me up!
Speaking of which, if you haven’t gotten enough of JTazzy there’s a huge story brewing about whether or not he and Anton Ferdinand will shake hands on Sunday. Imagine for a second what it must have been like to be Adam in the Garden of Eden; there’s no sin, all of your wants are cared for, and God smiles down upon you filling you with the holy spirit with every velveteen step that you take. I kinda think that’s what the lives of sports reporters who cover John Terry must be like: twenty-four seven manna from heaven.
John Terry’s such a national treasure he was even voted Dad of the Year.
But back to the sports for a second, if you’ll indulge me.
Like I said, it was a bit of a shock that both Spanish teams went out in this round because when I saw them play, they didn’t just win games they eviscerated their opponents. Barcelona in particular is an amazing team to watch; every movement is synchronized, every player knows exactly where a teammate will be, and every pass is perfect. They are so perfectly meshed that they actually have difficulty inserting a player like Cesc Fabregas. This despite the fact that he was “trained” at Barcelona, because he’s got this Arsene Wenger swing beat in his head while his Barcelona teammates are playing classical.
Cesc is like this kid who was trained at the Vienna Philharmonic for a few years, then joined the Max Roach trio for a decade, and is now back in Vienna trying to fit in with the Orchestra. But a swing beat in that team is exactly what they needed to beat Chelsea and instead they have stifled him and when things are going badly, they take him off.
As Arsenal supporters we know that as much as anyone. Become too predictable and the opposition is happy to sit back and let you metronimcally pass the ball around the perimeter of their parked bus or lob low-percentage crosses at their giant center halfs. Insert some unpredictability, drag the opponent out of their shape, and you stand a chance of getting a goal.
Unfortunately, I suspect that Barcelona won’t have learned this lesson. Thinking that Messi is enough Jazz in their orchestra they will probably double down on the rigidity. Which makes me wonder if Cesc has a place in their team? Not because he’s not good enough, but because he’s not the right type of player. This is a team which got rid of Eto’o for Ibrahimovich and then Ibra for Villa and now Villa is out of favor. It’s only a matter of time before they look at Cesc and wonder if he fits or if it wouldn’t be better to start a player who grew up in the Barca system and, crucially, never left.
The lesson here for Arsenal is not to let Plan A consume you. I’ve seen Arsenal play defensive football, they did so and won against Barcelona last year, so I know that a Plan B exists. But the problem is that sometimes that Plan B goes missing for a while and the team becomes too predictable.
This problem of predictability is especially true as Arsenal face a bit of a nail-biting run in of three games versus Stoke (who I think kinda dislike Arsenal, not really sure), Norwich, and West Brom (two teams with nothing to win but also nothing to lose). With Chelsea now in the final and facing a depleted Bayern team I’m starting to think that they have a real chance at winning the Champions League. That earns them automatic promotion to the Champions League group stages next season regardless of where they finish on the League table and as a result turns the Fourth Place Cup into a Third Place Cup.* Meanwhile, Newcastle is a real threat for Arsenal’s third place and while they have some tough games versus Chelsea and Man City, they are the form team of the League at the moment and have won all six of their last matches since losing 2-1 against Arsenal.
To put it mathematically, if Newcastle win two and lose two of their four remaining games Arsenal only have to win one game. But if Newcastle get two wins and a draw then Arsenal need a win and a draw. If Newcastle get three wins and a draw, Arsenal need two wins and a draw. ETC. Basically, I’m saying that we can give Newcastle the game in hand as three points and then have to match them or best them point for point in the final run in.
Which means that I’ll be rooting for Chelsea on May 2nd before I root against Chelsea on May 19th. And isn’t that just gross?
Right, well, I’ll probably leave things there before I have to change the name of the blog to 7amkickoff: the Barsenalerry blog from a lunatic’s perspective.
*FYI, third place also goes straight into the group stages.