Football is a game of emotions more than anything else, as Paul Williams ponders this week.
Football is kind of mad, isn’t it?
I mean the idea of twenty two men kicking around a pig’s bladder for 90 minutes is one thing. The sheer emotion and energy we invest into following the chosen twenty two or, more specifically, our chosen 11 (+ 3 substitutes) is, if you stop to think about it, truly mind boggling.
(Yes, me again – when our editor calls a bit of writing “long overdue”, well even I can take that hint.)
Why does this happen?
And I suppose the answer is, for men, specifically, what the hell else would we have to talk about if there was no football and there were no footballers?
I love snooker, cricket and tennis, but none of these sports really capture the nation in quite the same way.
Tennis certainly won’t once Sir Andy Murray, legend, finally calls time on a brilliant career.
Rugby? With apologies to the rather large wing of egg chasers that exist within my family (yes, including dear old Uncle Stevie), there is no way – absolutely none – that rugby can harness the emotions in quite the same way.
Nobody really cares who wins a rugby match, it’s all about the drinking and vomiting into a bin outside Twickenham’s Cabbage Patch at closing time.
Football on the other hand?
Oh, we care.
We care a lot.
I’ve been thinking about that almost every day this week.
I guess it started with Arsenal’s basketballesque 3-2 win at Watford, which featured four different contenders for goal of the month.
Watford had won one game of their last 15 at home, which put this game firmly into banana skin territory. More than that, it was absolutely a banana skin you could see the Arsenal team bus hitting at speed and ending up smashed all over Vicarage Road.
The game felt a little like that, didn’t it?
Granted, it was nowhere near the ignominy of the infamous 2-2 draw we somehow escaped with under Unai Emery a couple of years back – 31 shots against!! – but even a hack like me could see that we were nowhere near close to controlling the game in the way we wanted.
And for those wonderful strikes, not just from Martin Ødegaard, but Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, too, not to have got their full reward would have been an absolute travesty.
Yet, that’s nearly what happened after Moussa Sissoko bundled home a late goal to give Watford a hope that had seemed so forlorn for most of the second half, despite our lack of control.
So it was that I sat, cowering on my sofa as the referee added five minutes of injury time and I awaited the death blow that would surely follow.
But, wait, no. Not this time.
Arsenal, for once, took advantage of West Ham blowing chances like bubbles at Anfield and could look forward to the Blue Moon rising over Manchester later on Sunday evening.
Would a Watford equaliser have changed the way I had felt about the exquisite violence of the finishes administered by both Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli? Probably not, but it would have changed the way I felt about the game in general.
And this would have been a shame, given it was Martinelli’s first goal since forever and that, alongside the increasingly impressive Martin Ødegaard, our Starboy is growing week by week into someone very special indeed.
As it was, the biggest mystery to come out of the game was, of course, why the hell were we wearing those red shorts? Everyone’s got an opinion on that and mine is, not a good look, guys.
In further “We care a lot” news, Dele Alli returned to Spurs with Everton and raised the ire of one of my mates for the sin of clapping the Spurs fans as he left the pitch following a 5-0 drubbing.
Two of my best mates are Everton fans, but the man most affronted was Gabs the Bee who thought Dele was out of order and that his new club should take precedence over the old.
I thought, aside from the fact it involved Dele and Spurs fans, the whole thing was just natural human behaviour (I have checked, Spurs fans are indeed human, just about).
The Everton fans in my life are so resigned, they could barely bring themselves to shrug.
I guess there are probably some of you reading this wondering why the hell you’re having to read about Dele Alli on an Arsenal website. I say to you, like Gabs the Bee, you’re taking your football too seriously.
For the record, when we watched Match of the Day together (AT GABS THE BEE’S INSISTENCE) following Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Brentford last month, he called Ian Wright a c**t because he didn’t like Wrighty’s “kick about with the lads” dig; that’s how seriously Gabs the Bee takes his football.
So, if you are on Gabs the Bee’s side, you’re also calling Wrighty that word. Got it?
Finally, for this week, it would be utterly remiss of me not to mention the UK government belatedly freezing Roman Abramovich’s assets.
So, Chelsea will head out of winter and into a frozen spring.
Ha f**king ha.
Obviously, this has come about because of the terrible, horrific and utterly needless war Russian are waging on Ukraine, so it doesn’t feel like something we should spend too much time laughing at it.
For all the Chelsea fans in my life who are good, decent people (they do exist, my mum is proof), I am sorry that this has happened.
But when I think of the Chelsea fans who chanted Abramovich’s name during the applause for Ukraine last weekend, and then again after sanctions had been issued, I think they got exactly what they deserve.
Chelsea fans knew the money was dirty. They didn’t care.
Chelsea players knew the money was dirty and yet they lionised, as John Terry did last week, a man who had no business being lionised.
They didn’t care at all.
Well, it’s been 19 years in the post but, finally, the bill has come due.
Maybe they’ll care a lot now, too.