If you didn’t see the Arsenal second-team in ‘action’ against Olympiakos in the Champions League last night, let me apprise you briefly of the pertinent detail: they were shit.
Ok, maybe not shit in a Blue Square Premier league, hoof it high, hoof it far, kind of way. But still shit. Shit nonetheless. Demonstrably shit.
Shit in a ‘wants to play a bit like the Barcelona B-team but definitely can’t’ kind of way. Shit without being shit-shit, if you will. Shit, would be beaten 99 times out of 100 by the Barcelona C-team, shit – but still just about sufficiently not shit to scrape a draw in the other odd game left over.
They were shit, anyhow. That’s the main thing… So, with that in mind, let’s take a little peek at how they lined up in last night’s afore-mentioned game. From leaky back to toothless front, via saggy middle:
See what I mean? Sort of shit, really, isn’t it.
Shit in a multiplicity of ways and – let’s be fair a fast moment – to a rich variety of extents. From actually not shit in any way whatsoever (Thomas Vermaelen, who must have felt a ripe old Roquefort in a cheese shop full of Edams), to the technically-speaking ‘beyond shit’ (Sebastian Squillaci, who wouldn’t even pass muster as the Edam’s waxy rind, and Marouane Chamakh, the Edam that long since rolled off the counter and wedged, out of sight, between the back door and the bin). With Andrei Arshavin (increasingly shitty even though he manifestly shouldn’t be) squarely in the middle between these two extremes; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the most encouraging mover away from the dread pull of shitness; and, on as a substitute for the injured (quite shit) Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone as its most conspicuous and hapless victim.
But, hey, no need to dwell on such things, eh? On this team’s helplessly dithering approach to keeping the ball and its subversive – almost pleasingly abstract – refusal to apply even basic defensive principles to the business of keeping it at bay…
Much more gainful, instead, to follow football’s most sacred maxim and “focus on the positives.” Of which, oddly enough, there were several. In no particular order:
One, obviously, the result didn’t even nearly matter. So all those flatulent whiffs of shitness were never in danger of wafting very far. (Here’s looking at you Manchesters City and United!)
Two, getting pretty roundly shat on will probably prove instructive for the younger fringe players more clearly destined for better times ahead. Oxlade-Chamberlain first and foremost (who Olympiakos decided early on to tackle in marauding gangs of five), but also Frimpong, if he can ever figure how to stop being stupid, Miquel, and Coqueline, as well.
Three, it sure makes you appreciate the Arsenal first-team more. Next to this shabby lot, the likes of RVP and Jack Wilshere look imperious and godly. (Yep, cannot fucking wait for Jack’s return from injury.)
Four. It’s all rather charming, no? Watching Arsenal last night reminded me most of all of following the England cricket through most of the 90s. Oh, for sure, those old teams seldom ever set the world alight – but, hey, you can’t pick the team your heart wants to follow and nor can you keep from wishing the silly buggers well.
The Ox might really become something special one day… And that was a mighty lovely biff that Benayoun scored Arsenal’s lone goal with, wasn’t it… And Mannone managed one half-way decent stop, too, so at least he saved just a little bit of face, right…
In other words, no, with the best will in the world Peter Martin is never gonna be confused with an Allan Donald steaming into bowl like a runaway train, or a Curtly Ambrose giving it some chin music. But one day in 1996 he bowled Brian Lara.
And Lara definitely wasn’t shit.