I come in peace. Many of you will refuse to believe me, refuse to switch your phasers from ‘kill’ to ‘stun’, but it’s true.
I was talking to a Arsenal fan, an apologist in some respects I guess, who quite articulately defended where Arsenal were potentially leaving the door open for leg pulling. ‘Arsenalization’ being one and the advent of a new generation of support amongst it’s following being another. He spoke of evolution.
We’ll return to that at the foot of this piece, eh?
The victory yesterday was by six goals to nil. Not to be sniffed at. You can indeed only play the team in front of you, but to listen to Walcott himself and to the crows of of many Arsenal fans you might think that was not only the war over but history had witnessed something of unprecedented note.
Walcott first. I don’t dislike the lad, I had the ache about him wasting a seat on the plane to the World Cup before last. His inclusion was the direct result of mutterings and mumblings between Arsene Wenger and Sven Go On Then I’ll Take The Money, Son. But it wasn’t the player’s fault and I guess at that age I too lacked the self respect and the moral fortitude required to say, ‘You are out of your minds, very very flattering but if it’s all the same, I’ll watch it on the telly.’ So I won’t hold that against him.
Fabio Capello acting alone got much wrong in South Africa. Hell, some people are publishing entire books on that specific issue as we speak. There was however a belief in Walcott that ultimately was defeated by his abilities.
In the build up to this most recent Tournament, Theo had unarguably a mixed bag. There were games he did well in and games he did less so well in. That is fair comment. One could dwell upon the odd good performance, but it would ultimately be as unbalanced as dwelling on the odd indifferent one.
So this was a plane he didn’t board. Comparative to those who play in similar positions that did it was almost ceratinly the right decision. That said, Fabio made such a collosal fist of everything he did he probably would have scuppered any team on any given day. But that’s by the by.
Walcott yesterday displayed some tremendous talent. But his performance was by no means without imperfection. ‘But he scored 3, you’re an idiot!’ came the cry. And here, several paragraphs in, eventually is my point.
It was Blackpool. Blackpool minus a player. Blackpool the team tipped by 99.9% of those asked to tip a team that would be relegated. Blackpool, a team who beat Wigan, who went on yesterday to also demonstrate that they too are Wonky Wigan, perhaps irreparably so and also fundamentally unfit to be a Premiership competitor either.
So Arsenal have a lot do. Their position this season is similar to the gag where the ‘men’ are asked for a man to step forward and volunteer. All bar one man take one step backward and… you get the picture.
Suddenly, they are faced with a huge task, essentially no better off than they were last time around. The prolonged absence of silverware has been abated by top four finishes and credible Champions League runs, but Arsene will have to dig somewhat deeper to find the what’s required to signal real change.
Transfer talk has been frankly moody. Alumina to be replaced with perhaps an equally not breathtaking Schwarzer. Retaining the services of Cesc was probably an achievement, but Brownie Points don’t win titles.
Walcott, like Arshavin is a player who can change games. But unlike Arshavin, he’s not quite there. Alan Hansen normally hypnotizes me into a coma with his over plucked Dancing Eyebrows™, but last night on Match Of The Dior Shirts he made a really accurate comment on ‘Theo’.
When he has too much time to think he frequently makes the wrong choice. Against Blackpool there was no need to be so mentally guarded. The average speeds Walcott was humming at and with his close control, their defenders were obstacles of marginal worth.
His mind was on one thing and three times he achieved it.
But on a great many occasions prior to this he has had to mentally stop, weigh situations up and this is where Hansen’s charge of questioning Walcott being the proud owner of a footballing brain makes sense.
I won’t bore you with a list you know it already, but the annals of footballing history are littered with the names of men who invariably didn’t hesitate. Men who didn’t own , one might go as far to argue brains that calculated stuff that might be useful off the pitch. Best, Gascoigne etc etc… but when it came to brains on the pitch they unquestionably had footballing ones.
So Theo, good luck. Whatever club anyone supports, it is the pleasure of the real fan to watch great football. But there is much to do at The Emirates. As individuals and as a whole. Blackpool was a good win. Happy times. Hurrah, but there are stiffer tests to come.
All about Wenger there are other clubs evolving. Or at least trying to. Any God botherers still reading at this point may either declare a fatwa upon me or naff off and get yourselves to mass… The process of natural selection applies to football teams as well as other beasties.
Manchester City are trying to drag themselves from the primordial shadows of Yanited. Their spending in this window has been alleged to have hit nigh on one million pounds a day.
What they will achieve is anyone’s guess. Much talk of Milner, Barry and Lescott being vastly overpriced, but the bottom line is whilst they are not stellar footballers, they are quite good. They probably won’t let you down. They probably have the maturity and just about the wit to aid making it up out of the swamp of mid-table to the rarefied air of the Premiership’s upper plateau.
Whilst the Bellamy debacle sees a Premiership quality player demoted to the ranks ofa Championship demi-god, it’s all for the good of the cause. Tevez remains and there is a seemingly endless procession of equally talented mercenaries on his shoulder.
Manchester United themselves have had a low key window. Aquiring like Ancelotti no great stars of stage and screen, but guys that will shore up existing strengths and again, fend of potential weaknesses. To listen to some talk, you would get the impression that United are somehow The Rolling Stones of the league. Trading on past tour glories, banging out a ‘Best Of’ every gig, but essentially no longer able to pull the birds as well as they used to.
This is, of course rubbish. The MacDonalds Chartiy Instant Win Restaurant Shield (only at participating stadia) was a salutory reminder that they are still very much the daddies, not the grand daddies.
Ferguson knows what evolution is. He breathes it. He has been part of a dynasty of achievement at Old Trafford. Even now, the ruddy faced grump from Govan is continually leading the way. Liverpool in the midst of thier financial fiasco lost not only their manager, but their way. Sir Alex is frankly made of sturner stuff.
His response has been to step forward and almost casually remind everyone who he is. What the club is. Yes of course there are massive concerns. Arguments that Ronaldo’s money went into keeping a Texan shopping centre open aren’t baseless, but for all the protestations to the contrary, the evolution is Manchester United slowly continues unabated.
Elsewhere in the distance there is a London football club in N17 doing it’s best to evolve too. This creature’s instinct for survival may just mean it makes it. The signing of William Gallas of all the signings is the most significant. I don’t mean because he’s a magnificent player but because he surely signifies an intent to make it at any cost.
The bane of Spurs has been the lack of consistency and if I might speak frankly the fannying about that has gone on in a Lilywhite shirt. Gallas has to be a shining example of a man in diametric opposition to such fragilties. It won’t sit well with many Spurs supporters, but the needs of the many outweigh those of the few and the sooner the narrow minded whining stops the better.
Harry Rednapp is, even in this which may be his footballing dotage an ambitious man. And if he wishes to manage England as much as I suspect he does, this may not be to Tottenham’s long term advantage but it will ensure that they make the ‘evolutionary cut’ this season.
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