Hello there you wonderful reader you. I’ve been threatening to pen some thoughts for Dave for some time but never really managed to get enough time to jot down something vaguely coherent enough for what I think is deemed worthy of Gunners Town.
Usually my rambling nonsensicalness (that can’t be a word, surely, but I’m committed now, so there’s nothing further to it than to press on in blind faith that you’ve continued to read. Trust me, I’ll get to some Arsenal musings after this monologue) can be found on Suburbangooners.com in which I brain dump Arsenal thoughts onto online print, or chew the cud with fellow Gooners and Match day go-ers @oaf12 and @benleeder on our weekly Pod.
Anyway, enough of this shameless self-promotion, how about we get to the topic in hand and my primary driver for being here on your screen today? Which is to give you some thoughts whilst wedged snugly on the middle of a rammed South West Trains vessel on a cold Monday night, pausing only to catch breath in amongst a rather rotund woman and a man with a clear problem with his nasal passage, eh?
I don’t actually have a favourite player at Arsenal Football Club.
I know that might sound deliberately provocative, designed to spark an outraged comment or two, but it generally isn’t meant to be. It’s actually meant to be a comment to the current squad. Perhaps even the nature of modern day ‘squad football’, but I’ll come to that shortly.
I first started supporting Arsenal right at the beginning of the nineties. An impressionable young whipper-snapper, I became quickly infatuated with Arsenal and, with a pressing need go ‘be’ a player whilst kicking a ball around on a playground during school lunchtime, I immediately needed an individual to latch on to. Rocky Rocastle was an obvious choice. His ability on the ball, fantastic skill of always seeming like he could score goals out of nothing (Peter Schmeichel will testify to that), kept me transfixed.
When he was sold to Leeds I was mortified, but as a young Buck I quickly got over it and moved my adulation to another creative player with a great goal scoring touch: Paul Merson. I used to attempt to emulate his classic ‘pass the ball with the outside of your boot’ in school and football training and even to this day have to prefix every time I do that type of pass at a Goals in London with ‘here’s a Paul Merson for ya’. Merse of course suffered as a result of the arrival of Wenger but again, as before, I had an idol to latch on to in the form of the grace that is Dennis. I could talk about the fella all day, but it would no doubt be prose that you’ve already read about, so I’ll move swiftly to my point. Because from Dennis to Thierry, then to Cesc, I’ve always had a player that I favoured above others.
But no longer.
I don’t know if it is because we no longer have one single ‘stand out’ performer in the team – a talisman that all the players look to, if you will – but I have no desire to put all of my affections into one player-shaped basket. And I’m actually glad about that.
Perhaps it’s the heartache we’ve suffered in losing those ‘big players’ season-after-season before this summer, but I’m glad there isn’t that level of emotional attachment in one person. Instead, I have replaced that over-reliance on the individual with a love and affection for the collective. I love our team dynamic now. The players are as one, sharing the collective burden, looking out for each other’s interests and celebrating the joys as a footballing family. You can see it when they celebrate together. I sit in Block 5, 11 rows from the front by the corner flag, and I have seen those players metres away from me patting each other on the back, exchanging complimentary words with each other that the cameras might not pick up, feeling happy with the success of others. And there are so many examples of this to choose from. Olivier Giroud’s recent admission that he see’s assists for other as just important, the pre-season ‘banter’ between Rambo, The Ox and Theo in front of the cameras and even Flamini’s “I will blind you” – myth or not, it doesn’t sound beyond the realms of possibility, does it? But what it does show is that they are looking out for each other. Covering their team mates’ backs.
If this was a ship that at some stage were to sink, I think you’d find quite a few individuals at the helm going down with her saluting, because we don’t have a talisman and we don’t have a single ‘captain’ figure, we have a selection to choose from.
Football is about balance and I think Arsene has a great balance in the team. It’s a mixture of youth and experience, flair and grit, belief and overall ability. And not just that, but we’re another striker away from being a SQUAD away from success in my opinion.
I’ve caps-locked that word deliberately, and not just because I can’t embolden words in the notes section of my iPhone, but because I think it’s also a reason as to why I don’t have a favourite player any more. There are so many to choose from, it would simply be remiss of me to spend too much time worshipping just one. Or even two, three, four or eleven. It’s about sharing a little bit of affection for all of them, which allows me to cheer every soul on when I get inside the ground. Or, at least I try to, although some *cough* *cough* Bendtner *cough* test my patience beyond belief some time.
Perhaps I’m getting older and becoming a bit more stoical in my old age, or perhaps it’s the realisation of Arsene that we need a squad of great players, not an individual world class player, but I’m happy not having one person to pretend I want to be. Which is probably just as well, because they’re all younger than I am these days anyway, so it probably wouldn’t be healthy for a man in his 30s to be seen wanting to ‘be’ a player who wasn’t even around for Anfield 89. And besides, it’s not like I hang around Playground’s any more, they have names for people that do that without kids. Teachers! You lot…..
So whilst I wrap up this inordinately long ramble of musings I’m left with a pleasing thought that no longer am I chained to the need for one to rise above the rest. No longer do I long for one soul to save us all. This isn’t Highlander, there doesn’t only need to be just one.
Catch y’all around sometime.
Thanks Chris – A wonderful piece and from my own perspective very true. Please ensure you follow Chris, his pals and his great daily blog @suburbangooner