ARSENE DON'T TWERK
Mickey Blue Eyes.
The internet is useful for communications with family and friends and for a search for serious information; otherwise, it is as much a waste of time as any other human invention that magnifies trivia or gossip. For instance, aptly named Twitter and its mirror Facebook are both as useless as a human appendix......the sooner we are rid of it the better. But occasionally when I log on something catches my eye on the starter page.
Such an event happened last Thursday morning when I saw the headline Plankton Found On The Surface Of The International Space Station. If that kind of thing fails to pique your natural curiosity you best check your pulse rate. Suitably intrigued, I read the article and then committed the mortal sin of quickly scanning reader comments, usually a nono waste of neurons......at least until I happened on a Ridley Scottesque that read, It's plankton now but wait till it hatches. At which point I almost inhaled my coffee, toast, bacon and eggs in one go. It shows you can never know enough about survival, the origins of life and human ingenuity.
Thus there is a dawning Zeitgeist that Yankified "woohoo culture" would try the patience of a sedated sloth. You know the score......an audience en masse emits an orchestrated high-pitched effeminate woohoo squeal to indicate "surprised" approval, or you get an email with a moronic woohoo tagged on. You witness that kind of behaviour and you figure maybe plankton have an edge on humans after all. So enough is enough, just as it was (eventually) during the unlamented ugly reign of three quarter kecks with black socks and dirty white trainers, or, so help me, the grotesque spiky-greasy haircut era. Small wonder civilised aesthetes have labelled this The Age of Shoddy. In my outrage I am all for feeding persistent culprits through a bacon slicer and throwing the bits to hungry seagulls at the Pierhead. There are limits even to my tolerance.
Arsenal, for another instance, are a woohoo market brand, not a football club, who play their home games at the Norf Lahndan Julie Andrews Arena, supported by woohoo zero-hours IT clerks/ArferDaley shmucks who sing antiseptic woohoo songs written by woohoo Cliff Richard, and vote for the woohoo Bullingdon baboon Boris Johnson. The only surprises are Dick Van Dyke is not their life president, Kathy Burke is not their tea lady and there are no Pearly Queens on their club badge. Their transition from the appalling George "Bunger" Graham regime was completed long ago, to, oddly enough, moody intellectual Arsene Wenger. The Germanic Gaul could not be further from a woohoo personality: you could never imagine him twerking his booty on Saturday nights. He is more likely to be tucked up in bed with a copy of La Nausée and a cup of hot heliomalt. It is a startling fact that I have never seen Wenger laugh outright. Even when he smiles he looks like he just squeezed off a secret fart suffused with Chanel no. 5. Nevertheless, the man is a great manager, a fact disputed only by the Meldrew Tendency among their woohoo fans, indentured yoyos who moaned because they were trophy-free for nine years. Listen to those birdbrains for more than two minutes and you appreciate why the rest of the country want to keep them locked up inside their cramped M25 ghetto and why poor Arsene has bloodshot eyes.
But enough of this levity, already. Our Saturday match loomed. We had a deadly serious analysis to perform: Could Bainsey and Peanuts rip themselves a new one as they turned the enemy right side defence into shmatters? Would Rom do them again as he barrelled in from our right? Would their Yank and Russki oligarch money count (see messrs. Kroenke and Usmanov)? Would Sylvain and Jags show more steadiness against fast raiders? Would chunky Oxlade-Chamberlain be able to overcome James McCarthy and Gareth Barry in midfield? After we gave them a sound 3-0 malleting last season I had the satisfaction of bumping into Speaker of the House and Arsenal fan John Bercow who was at the match. Fuelled by more Sauvignon Blanc than was good for me I was unable to resist my worst chauvinism and said, "That's three points of order, John." To his credit he smiled thinly and shook hands. Like all of us I wanted more of the same. There was no reason to think it unlikely: our present squad is capable of beating anybody in the Premier League. I was as optimistic as ever.
It was a pleasant early evening despite disappearance of our week-long "Summer." The stadium and the pitch were in perfect shape, new floodlights in, the Street End upper stand fascia restored to its original Archibald Leitch form. Outside, new banners on the main stand had new faces. The moving finger writes, then moves on. It all looked terrific and hugely colourful. Summer torpor vanished in an instant.
The teams were announced. Seamus Coleman was back in place of John Stones, Kevin Mirallas in place of Aidan McGeady, our only changes from the previous week. Arsenal had millions of $$ and Roubles on the pitch but nobody that caused particular concern. They even had the most overrated player in English football, one Jack Wilshere, typically in the national team only because he is within a bus ride of Wembley, can say "Wha-evaaaa," and one I would not pay in jellied eels or used cars. Our Boys looked more than capable of seeing them off, money or no money. The general opinion amongst Evertonians I know is that we are within a couple of players of a very formidable team indeed. But we would say that.
If anything the first half was even better than the opener versus Leicester. Arsenal were swept aside, their only threat down our right, and one shot which sailed high into the Street End and another gifted to them by Seamus, both from their only decent-looking player Oxlade-Chamberlain. I have to say El Bob's right side tactic had me edgy: Rom played wide and just doesn't have the pace to double back in defence when there is a sudden switch. Consequently Seamus was on his own a lot of the time and though McCarthy was his usual all-action self in right centre midfield even his busy body cannot defy the laws of physics and occupy two spaces at the same time. But to my surprise it worked well until late on.
As usual most of our attacks would develop down our left. Which meant Bainsey-Pienaar was always going to get "special" attention. Sure enough, in the first few minutes one of their centre backs went high and straight through Peanuts, a clearly intentional knee in the lower back. The little man was out of it before he could begin, the obvious objective of the "accident." Doubtless Wenger "Didn't see it." Yeah, right. The referee did nothing, which, of course, only encouraged the enemy to do similar whenever they could get away with it. As the game wore on they got more schoolyard nasty-kickykicky when they failed to get the ball back. Pienaar limped off after ten minutes, subbed by Leon Osman. To my further surprise it had little immediate affect, though we never reached the level of left side passing we now take for granted. We plainly had enough to have the enemy running in circles yet again, though not with much penetration in the opening phase. Still, it looked like it was only a matter of time.
Footy justice arrived with the opening goal on twenty minutes. Once again the dagger went home from, where else, our left. Poor Arsenal was as bemused as any other team Our Boys have turned over thus. Arsenal committed their umpteenth foul - I could hardly tell if it was Chambers or Wilshere, both of whom spent the evening kicking whoever was nearest - slightly right of the centre circle. Jags took it and rolled it across left and forward to Barry, then left and forward to Osman, then left, forward and wide to Bainsey on the touchline, then backward angled to Barry just outside the penalty area; defence assembled, it looked like the chance was gone. Not a bit of it. He almost casually looped a left footed air ball that took out the entire Arsenal defence, including their kickers at the far post. Rom and Seamus skewered them on a joint blind side run from our right and the latter butted it home from the goal area angle. Satisfaction all round.
A few minutes later it should have been two from a move started by Tim Howard from left of our penalty area. He rolled it out short to Distin. Barry made himself available in the clear left side, took the pass, went forward three or four metres and then looped another casual long ball forward to the centre midway in their half. Steven Naismith got there first in front of their kicker and headed it forward and up and beyond their second kicker for Mirallas to run clear through the centre. A few seasons ago it would have been buried no sweat, but these days he seems a little uncertain. He missed.
Arsenal were in ribbons, quite unable to cope with the passing that lacerated them, particularly when Barry's left foot directed matters. In one move there was something like fifteen passes back and forth across the park before it threatened to release Mirallas on the left. Chambers promptly went straight through him as he had done on Pienaar. Even the referee could hardly deny this one. Free kick outside the left angle of the penalty area, ideal Mirallas territory. He took it right footed and swerved it narrowly into the side net. Shortly before half time a hapless cockney midfielder passed the ball straight to him on the half way line left of the centre circle. From where he tried to lob the 'keeper but sent it wide. Over on the bench Wenger had a face like a smacked anus as he watched his expensive Drury Lane doormen being minced to a smooth paste, their only contribution an ability to break quickly from defence. Invariably their breaks were snuffed before they could make anything of them. And that is how the second goal arrived a minute before half time.
The enemy made another unconvincing attack down our right before Jags stepped in and cleared a ground pass thirty metres to the right toward Rom, who had to step back a metre or two to reach it. A kicker came in behind him intent on cleaning him out the way Pienaar was put out of the game. Except he got his angles all wrong and Rom got them all right, rolled him on his left beautifully the way English crowds love, and sprinted clear down the right. Whence came another kicker sliding in yet again for ball and man, not caring which it was. But there was nobody there. Rom was gone, skipping off on an inward run that almost mirrored his goal against them last season, the crowd on its feet, agog. This time he got to the right edge of the area and instead of shooting dinked a cute forward ground pass right as Steven Naismith scissored there in the clear and stuck it in. Appropriately, it 'megged their 'keeper. Christ, but it was beautifully end-to-end. All the better too because it defeated a couple of thuggish "tackles."
At half time our worldly Street End nous pondered the second half. Given the previous week we were Evertonian careful. It was important not to let in an early goal. On the other hand if we got one it was game over, as it was last season. All we had to do was play sensibly. No more goals and the game was ours. But we were naturally wary about our ability to kill off teams after we had overrun them. We had too many uncomfortable examples.
Alas. Once again, calamity of our own making, virtually nothing to do with Arsenal except their acceptance of gifts. In fact they almost scored - should have scored - straight from the kick off when their weird-barneted expensive front man volleyed over. If that failed to wake up Our Boys nothing would. And the enemy carried on kicking anything that made them look foolish, which was a lot. The net result was as intended, to slow play and effort through attrition. You cannot play football if you spend an unreasonable amount of time sailing through the air. In the end it worked, though for the most part it looked like it would fail. Arsenal were slightly more threatening but managed to create only one clear chance which Tim Howard saved brilliantly. Apart from that we had several moments of our own without being able to create clear chances.
The turning point came when Rom had to go off with a quarter hour left. Up to then we kept them stretched wide across the pitch despite the absence of Peanuts. McGeady came on and went to our right but could make no impact and at this stage is clearly unable to deal with hurly-burly, though excellent when attacking. Which meant Arsenal could do more down our right. That was the origin of both their goals in the last five minutes, both easily preventable, both due to utter torpor in Jags and Sylvain and a consequent failure of communication with Tim Howard.
The first came when nobody moved to tackle their man wide on their left and close to the goal line. He made what looked like their umpteenth harmless ground cross to the centre edge of the goal area. Anybody could have cleared it. Anybody should have cleared it. But nobody did. So naturally their man tapped in. You knew, just knew, what was coming next: Lady Bad Luck.
In the last minute they made another innocuous attack down their right. Their man got to the edge of the penalty area and hit a hopelessly inept ball - hard to recognise if it was a shot or a cross - that sailed wide on their left, so bad nobody in our defence went after it. Which meant their man did, collected it and hit over a cross unhindered by anybody. Equally unhindered by Jags and Sylvain their bad-barneted front man headed in from the angle of the goal area. It finished 2-2. Dick Van Dyke had been in jail and the key thrown in the river, only for Our Boys to don Scuba gear, dive in, find it and hand it back to him. It was a stupid result with nobody to blame but ourselves. It was no consolation that if Arsenal is supposed to be challenging for the title then we should piss it by ten points. Instead, it was another two points thrown away, a total of four points that will probably be decisive at season end.
Despite the intense disappointment there were good things to take from this game, though the loss of Pienaar may prove difficult overcome in the long run: last season we faltered on the run in because he was out injured. The most pleasing things were the level of teamwork and passing, much superior to Arsenal's and well in keeping with last season's best. The best player on view was Steven Naismith, closely followed by Jimmy McCarthy. Everyone else played to their capacity except for the final five minutes. Had we won 2-0 we would be purring about it. But that is not the way football works. Further attention is required if we are to give Chelsea more of the same. We can be sure their display will not be as hapless as Arsenal's.
Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed rumours plankton arrived on the International Space Station at the end of last season in the aftermath of our loveable neighbour's wonderful arsefall. This may or may not be coincidental. Give it some thought......if you can stop laughing.