What seems like a lifetime ago, I used to play a lot of pinochle and cribbage with my friends. Inevitably, when one of us would really get on top of the other and our luck was either at its height or its lowest ebb one of us would blurt out “the worm is going to turn.”
When the worm turns and your lucky cards start to run out, it’s one of the worst feelings ever. Here you are at the top of the world, holding good cards and dominating the game and then suddenly you get one shit hand, then another, and your opponent is grinning, and rubbing his hands together like an evil villain (did anyone see Beckham doing this?) and before you know it you’ve been skunked and your opponent is laughing and dancing.
Basically the worm turned yesterday. In the first leg, Arsenal were widely seen as lucky to escape 1-0 and so it should surprise no one that 8 minutes in to the second leg the worm turned, Gibbs slipped, Ji Sun Park luckily chipped over Almunia and Arsenal, just like my card player, hung their heads and knew that the tie was over.
I’m not going to sit here and give you a match recap, because Gunnerblog, who was actually there has done it better than I ever could. I’m not going to rip the team, because I really still don’t know what to think. And I’m certainly not going to rip the manager, I’m not anywhere near the level of football knowledge that Arsene Wenger possesses and have enough humility to know better than to question his choices this season.
I will, however, disagree with the people who say we need to go out and wholesale buy a bunch of players, people like Adebayor. I disagree with them because it wasn’t Djourou or Gibbs or Song who cost Arsenal that game yesterday — they played their hearts out. Just look at Djourou tracking all the way back on that last Ronaldo goal: Cesc had given up on that play. Look at who stupidly fouled Ronaldo for the free kick that gave them the second goal, that was van Persie. Arguably, Arsenal’s top two players were at fault for two goals, so for me, when we talk about bringing in “top class” players I wonder who we think we’re going to replace?
Song? No. He was top class yesterday.
Gibbs? You can go straight to hell. That 19 year old showed more class and talent over those two legs than any player I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. I bet the boss plays him against Chelsea on Sunday.
Nasri? Walcott? Toure? Djourou? Almunia? I mean come on… this is a very talented team! Can you imagine what we’ll look like next year when we play with Walcott, Nasri, and Arshavin swarming up front, Cesc and Song providing the spine, and Sagna, Toure, Djourou, and Clichy at the back?
No, rather than blow this team apart, Arsene’s big goal now has to be keeping this team together. Arsenal are never going to spend £65m on a Frank Ribery, they just don’t have the money. No one really does, Man U have mountains of debt, Chelsea owe their owner nearly a billion dollars, and worst of all Liverpool are facing a financial crisis when the banks call in their loans at the end of this season. There are only so many sheiks to go around and bail these teams out and the odds are pretty good that at least one of the top four clubs would be allowed to go bankrupt if they all went down simultaneously.
No, Wenger needs to keep the core of this team together, if he cuts some folks free (and I think he will) he’ll need to replace them with top talent at a good price. I have complete faith in Wenger’s ability to do so: he bought Arshavin and he bought Eduardo both at cut rate prices.
The point is that the core of this team is solid, the backups are solid, and with a few exceptions we have a deep team that was absolutely decimated by injury this season. It’s unrealistic to say that Arsenal needed more depth at Center back; how many world class defenders are going to be happy sitting on the bench waiting for their opportunity to get a game through dead man’s boots?
Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough about this. I’m going to be doing my annual recap of the top performers this year and there will be plenty of opportunity for us all to argue and yell at each other and say “you’re not a real Arsenal supporter!” in those posts.
For now, what I want to say is simply that I do believe in the core of this team, despite what the pundits have to say, despite what Adebayor thinks, and despite what some supporters think. It’s been a very good season, I think a lot of players have grown immeasurably and I think that we will continue to see these players mature. Trophies aren’t our birthright but I really do feel like they are forthcoming, just hang in there and enjoy the football along the way.