A degree of irrationality can affect us all from time to time.
Last night, for example, I took Jo to see Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Movie Doctors show. This was a highly entertaining show put together to run alongside the two men’s just released book of the same name. In the course of the show, Kermode discussed a movie named Zardoz. Heard of it? No, thought not. This science fiction film was made in the early 70’s by two men who should have been riding high. The director, John Boorman had just made one of the great films in Deliverance, whilst Sean Connery had just finished a run as James bloody Bond. And yet, they made this… well, just look at the trailer.
Look. At. It.
You can’t get “ZARDOZ! ZARDOZ!” out of your head now, can you? Or that jockstrap?
I would apologise to you, but I feel it’s Mark Kermode’s fault, not mine.
Anyway, my point, and after 150 words you’ll be relieved to hear that there is one, is that smart men can make stupid decisions all the time. Or maybe not even a stupid decision, but a decision that seemed sound at the time, but later saw them donning a metaphorical red jockstrap and handlebar moustache.
We played Spurs at the weekend. Of course, you knew that. You also knew that we did so, with a squad that was almost on its knees having been riven by injury. From Swansea to Munich, two away games let’s remember and back to the intensity of a north London derby. I think it’s fair to assume that, under normal circumstances, Le Boss might have made a few changes. However, aside from Mathieu Debuchy replacing the injured Héctor Bellerín after Swansea and Gabriel coming in – less than successfully – for Koscielny in Munich, the team stayed as it is. Like the rent in the Godfather Part Two.
The room for wiggle was so minimal, that Santi Cazorla, in the words of Arsène, the “guide” to our game was removed at half time of the Spurs game because he was feeling dizzy. The guy who owns the hairdressers I go to, Colin, is a Spurs fan. I saw him on Monday and he suggested that Cazorla had been left dizzy by the attentions of the Spurs midfield. Of course he did, it wouldn’t have been the first time that had happened. Think, though, of the travelling the Arsenal team had done over the course of the week and how much energy, mental and physical, Wednesday night’s chasing in Bavaria must have sapped from them.
It doesn’t seem that illogical to think Sunday was a simple case of a game too far for a team on its knees at the end of a tough week, does it? Or, in particular, the midfield maestro through whom all that is good about our game goes.
It’s not quite red jockstrap and handlebar moustache territory for the gaffer, particularly with the likes of Rosicky, Wilshere and Ramsey, who could have all deputised for the Spaniard injured. However, I don’t think I was alone in suggesting in the summer that, perhaps, signing someone of similar ilk to Francis Coquelin might not be bad idea. This mythical creature would have been able to step in for Coquelin when required, he would also be able to play alongside him, if necessary. In Munich, for example. I suppose the manager’s riposte would be that he has Mathieu Flamini available and he certainly made a difference when he came on. Perhaps that was just by virtue of being able to run around and shake a few trees.
Likewise, the situation that has seen us reduced to playing the the slightly less lesser spotted Joel Campbell (™Matthew Wade) is not something that merits 55,000 Gooners screaming “ZARDOZ! ZARDOZ!” at the manager. Unless, that is, you are of the opinion that Ramsey and, in particular, Rosicky, Wilshere, Welbeck, the Ox and Walcott are far too injury prone to be trusted. Why always them indeed?
Seriously, though, what is he supposed to do? I don’t know anyone who wants to see any of these guys sold. I mean, I have my doubts over Jack Wilshere and we all know Rosicky’s Arsenal race is nearly run, but, aside from these two? That still leaves us four good options. One of whom, Danny Welbeck has already spent more time injured than available for Arsenal. Welbeck has also already spent more time injured at Arsenal than he ever did in six years in Manchester United’s first team squad. How are you supposed to predict that?
*Insert your own joke here*
Happily, Joel Campbell was able to contribute to the win at Swansea. However, that contribution feels to me a bit like the one Kieran Gibbs made on Sunday. That is to say, I don’t think it’s something we can, or should, realistically expect too often. I mean I know Gibbs is a winger turned fullback turned substitute, but I reckon if you threw him on in search of a goal ten times, you’d be lucky to get one out of him.
Oh, but what joy that this weekend saw the one in ten come. I guess that’s the point of having a squad; someone will step up, do their bit and get us to the international break unscathed. There was something in that refusal to surrender to the enemy, despite a largely horrible seventy minutes, that reminded me of the Invincible season. In particular, how that squad battled through the Old Trafford suspensions, injuries and family bereavements and just would not lose.
Yes, I did just invoke the Invincibles, deal with it.
Watching in the pub on Sunday, Ben and I always felt that if we could get one, Spurs would collapse and we might go on to win the game. Here is another decision threatened by the red jockstrap. The decision not to recruit a centre-forward of a higher calibre than Olivier Giroud ultimately cost us two points on Sunday. For me, the header he flicked wide from six yards felt unforgivable, but that’s in the context of it costing us a win against Tottenham. You can’t look at Olivier Giroud’s season as a whole and just write him off on the basis of one, missed, header. Tempting though it may be.
Besides, as I said all summer, even if Arsenal could have located an external replacement for Giroud, that man would have cost more money than Arsenal were prepared to spend. By the way, haven’t we dodged a bullet by missing out on Karim Benzema? Now, we’d all be rushing to pin a red jockstrap on the manager if he’d signed the Frenchman.
It was interesting timing, the north London derby taking place on Remembrance Sunday, it can’t have been the first time. However, as the Twelve Pins pub was filled only with the sound of The Last Post in the last moments before kick off, I found myself wondering. I looked at our expensively assembled team of multinationals, not one Englishmen (but two Germans) amongst them, massed on the halfway line. I looked at the Spurs team and I thought to myself, yes, I know, they are Spurs and we are Arsenal, but do we really hate each other that much? Two tribes of football fans? How much hatred is this fixture worth? Surely, on this day, commemorating the end of two world wars which saw an unimaginable loss of life, we could put the hatred down and the football into context?
And then, just as The Last Post drew toward its conclusion, a voice in the otherwise silent pub cried out “Kill them all!”
I reached for the red jockstrap I was carrying in my manbag.