Boring boring Arsenal

Declan Rice makes sure everyone knows he isn't celebrating his goal against his former club, West Ham

Life as an Arsenal fan was pretty great last season. No expectations whatsoever going into the season meant that those non-expectations were vastly exceeded. Infinitely exceeded, in fact. Of course, that bit late in the season where we wheeled out the old cannon and proceeded to blow our own foot off was a bit disappointing, but I was able to remind myself that at the beginning of the season, I said I'd be delighted to be back in the Champions Leage at the end of the season, and also Man City are the biggest cheaters to ever cheat at football (and I'm including fellow Manucian and diving shite-weister Wayne Rooney in this list, so that's saying summat, innit?), so I guess second is quite all right. I mean, ending the season with the Arsène Wenger Memorial Top Four Trophy is a great achievement, right? Not to mention starting the next season by winning the Jose Mourinho Counted It As A Trophy So It Definitely Is One Community Shield Trophy! 🏆

This season, given that expectations were on, has been a little less great. It started well, if slightly unconvincingly, with a couple of wins. That draw against Fullham that came next was a bit "same old Arsenal, always letting some chap score a last minute equaliser / winner", but whatever. We turned United over at home the following week, though, and it felt like a bit of spring had sprung. And then of course we had to have a pointless international break, and when we got back from that, it seemed like the tension had gone completely of of the spring, but we kinda flopped around and eeked out a 1-0 win over a dreadful Everton side away at Goodison Park.

And then came the first North London Derby of the year. I had foolishly booked a table at the local Arsenal pub (next time you're in Stockholm, pop over to The Flying Horse and tell them I sent ya) for myself, three mates, my son, and three of his mates so that we could watch the match together with a load of other Arsenal fans (and somehow a guy who wore a Spurs shirt and then my son's friend the Chelsea supporter and my son's other friend the Man U supporter—why is he friends with these yahoos again?).

So it started out with some hilarity as giant goober Romero put one in his own goal, spurring a chorus of "What do you think of Tottenham?", but then who else but the famous Swedish winger Huengminsson knocked one in the other end just before half time, but then absurdly assholish Romero fouled Saka in the box because of course he did, the outrageous oaf, and then Saka channelled some 80s Val Kilmer or 90s Dennis Bergkamp or 30s Eugene O'Neill and went all Iceman and put away the pen, but then the big Swede equalised again a minute later and that wanker in a Spurs shirt actually celebrated and somehow managed to keep his teeth (he was lucky that Swedish supporters only get violent when it's hockey being watched).

So that sucked.

The next two games did most decidedly not suck, though. First a four goal thumping of Bournemouth, then the classic One Nil to the Arsenal against City!

But then Chelsea. Ugh. What a shambles that was, and we were super lucky that Super Dec and Trossardinho were on hand to score a couple of late goals and get us out of the bus stop in Fullham with a point. 😢

5-0 over Sheffield WTF then 0-1 to Newcastle WTF!? 🤬

If you don't remember that game, it was the one where Joel Willock crossed the ball after it had gone out of play and then some wanker was offside and then Joelinton pushed Gabriel over and the referee awarded a goal and then VAR reviewed looked at each incident in turn and basically concluded that the referee on the field couldn't have been certain the ball was out and couldn't have seen the shove on Gabriel and somehow it wasn't offside and allowed the goal to stand and then Mikel Arteta lost his shit and said the standard of officiating was shocking and then the FA charged him with saying a thing that many other managers had said and was true, and then ruled that in fact Arteta hadn't done anything wrong because what he said was actually true and it didn't fucking matter because we still lost the three points.

We righted the ship a bit with five wins on the trot, though none of them was super convincing and we did that annoying thing against Wolves where we have a game good and won and then give up a late goal to sully the clean sheet. I know, I know, it's a bit of a champagne problem to complain about winning a game but not keeping a clean sheet, but listen: after years of sausages, I've now become accustomed once again to caviar.

Then that loss to Villa. Oh. my. gawd. Booooooooring and frustrating and... argh!

So Arteta, who has always been a defence-first sort of coach, finally feels he has the players to implement his preferred style of football, which is all about "control" and "killing the game with 300,000 passes in the opposition half", which is basically code for "boring". I mean, I guess I know how fans of Pep Guardiola teams feel: boring football is fun when you win and just plain eye-rollingly boring when you don't. And we didn't win that Villa game. Nor did we win the Liverpool game two weeks later, even though they were right there for the taking. And then we didn't win the West Ham game a week later nor did we win the Fulham game on New Year's Eve. At home!

Boring boring Arsenal. Top of the league before Christmas, down in forth a week later. Playing the slow, turgid, predictable kind of football that everyone in the league has figured out. Predictably, Arteta mentioned how predictable we had become in the press conference following the Fulham match, and incisively stated that we needed to find a way to be less predictable, or more unpredictable, whichever, really.

So off we jetted to Dubai for some warm weather training, and then we came back and hosted Crystal Palace, and I must have gotten something in my eye because I thought I saw Zinchenko playing, but standing where a left back would normally stand, and not only that but surely that couldn't be Ødegaard drifting over to the right side of midfield, could it? That's not the way we're supposed to play!

So I went to wash my eyes out, and when I came back, it was 2-0 to us and apparently Gabriel had scored a brace? OK, same old Arsenal, always scoring from set pieces. 🙄

Then Trossard scored, and I was watching the clock tick down, hoping for the whistle but knowing that some dude from Palace would come up with a last minute clean sheet soiler, probably caroming the ball off of three Arsenal players after Zinchenko tries a dribble on his own goal line, when OMG Little Gabi scored a goal in the 94th minute and then a more or less identical goal in the 95th? That I did not predict.

Nor did Roy Hodgson, whom I honestly felt sorry for. This poor guy has been dragged out of retirement twice by Crystal Palace to bail them out after sacking some horror show of a manager, and seems like a lovely old chap who deserves to put his feet up with a cuppa and finally give "Gravity's Rainbow" a right go, but instead is being subjected to 5-0 thrashings.

It was at this point that I was confident enough to reserve a table at the pub again. I looked for a match that was a few weeks away (it was the 20th of January or so when I made this decision), we might have a chance of winning or at least not losing, and started in the afternoon so we could bring the boys along to the pub with us (under 18s aren't allowed in pubs in Sweden after 8 PM). Only one match in the next month met those criteria: West Ham. I rounded up the usual suspects and made the booking.

Then two days later, two of my mates were having a few drinks and then decided to have a few more, and before they knew it, they were suggesting we go to the pub for the Liverpool match on the 4th. Liverpool! Who were top of the league and playing well and had just frustrated us at Anfield!

Upon getting that text, my reaction was immediately, "Are you serious? There's no way I'm subjecting myself to that level of sadness in public!" But somehow that got lost in translation between my brain and my fingers, because when I read my response the next morning, I had apparently typed, "Fuck it dudes, let's go!" I had also apparently booked a table, at least according to the confirmation email I had from The Flying Horse in my email. 🤦🏼

OK, so next came Nottingham Forest, and things were going well, comfortable 2-0 win, clean sheet, and then of course there's some mixup at the back and some dude scores in the 89th minute and I HATE THAT SO MUCH! 🍾

The following week, I was a bundle of nerves as the time approached for me to catch the bus to the train to the pub to see Liverpool beat us at home. I asked my son if he'd give me a point, but he was holding out for all three like he's never seen Arsenal play before, so I was feeling pretty despondent as I slunk into the pub and found my table.

The place was absolutely packed with Arsenal supporters. Maybe not as many as for the NLD earlier in the season, but still packed. I quickly downed a beer to take the nerves off, then ordered another for the first half. I was about halfway through that one when Saka scored! The place went absolutely wild! Strangers were hugging each other and dancing around like they'd sustained serious head trauma. Ah, life was good!

Life continued to be good as halftime approached, and I was just getting up to see a man about a horse when Saliba and Raya had a little misunderstanding about who should deal with the ball in our box and concluded that they should just let that other dude deal with it but then that other dude turned out to be a Liverpool player and he decided to shoot it and it deflected off somebody and onto Gabriel's arm and on into the goal and whyyyyyyyyy? Why do I do this to myself?

After sorting out my horse-related business, I got another beer and resigned myself to 45 minutes of us plodding around the pitch, taking 25 touches before passing it sideways or backwards and inevitably conceeding a late winner to Diogo Jota. I finished my beer, ordered another. The server was approaching to deliver it when Virgil van Dyck and Alisson Becker had a conference of their own about who should deal with a ball in their box and Martinelli just bodied Big Virge and scored, and everybody screamed, which scared the server so much she jumped about a metre into the air but somehow didn't lose her grip on the tray of drinks.

Maybe it was all the beers, but after that goal went in, I started enjoying myself. Liverpool were being held at arm's length, and Jorginho was putting on a masterclass of metronomic passing and pretending to get fouled and wasting time, and the sense of dread that Jota would snag an equaliser faded more and more and then Trossard got that ball on the wing and just embarassed two Liverpool players and then picked his spot on van Dyck's heel to bank it off through Alisson's legs and into the back of the net and euphoria set in.

So that's why when I sat down yesterday at the pub before the West Ham match, I confidently predicted that we'd win 2-1, with some West Ham Hammer hammering home a clean sheet soiler in the 99th minute. Others at the table were more bullish. My son though that we'd win 2-1 as well, but do so by first going behind early and then scoring two in the second half. Sadru said 3-1, sparking some debate because we were the away team so technically he meant 1-3, but c'mon, that's just splitting hairs. Alastir must have been a few drinks ahead of me, because he predicted 4-1, I mean, 1-4. James went for 1-3 as well, as did my son's Arsenal supporting mate. His Chelsea supporting mate said 2-1 to West Ham because in his opinion, Martinelli is an incredibly average footballer and Saka is super one-dimensional and never uses his right foot, causing eyes to be rolled around the table. His United supporting mate took the piss so hard he knocked the urinal cake right out when he called 7-0 to West Ham. Jerk.

The West Ham fans decided to boo Declan Rice every time he touched the ball. The same Declan Rice who was their captain, agreed to stay one more year when some big clubs were sniffing around the summer before last, and led West Ham to a European trophy (of sorts)? Yeah, apparently no matter how classy you are when you leave a club, no matter that your club's chairman confirmed you're leaving by saying, "You can't ask for a man who has committed more to us this season," you're a traitorous traitor who deserves naught but scorn if you leave.

So when we got a corner in the 32nd minute and Rice walked over to take it, Sadru made a joke about how Rice must really want to not celebrate a goal, so we'd surely get one here, and lo and behold Saliba met Rice's great delivery perfectly and planted a bullet header in the back of the net! We didn't get to see Rice not celebrating the goal because the camera stayed on Saliba, who very much didn't not celebrate it.

The atmosphere in the pub was raucous, and got even raucouser when Saka was hacked down by West Ham's hapless keeper and converted cooly from the spot. We laughed as the cameras showed West Ham fans already heading to the concourse for their halftime pints, then cheered when we won another corner, Rice put in another great ball, and Big Gabi was on hand to head home with authority. I guess Rice didn't celebrate, but we didn't get to see because of Gabriel's emphatic knee slide being featured exclusively on our screen. More West Ham fans got out of their seats.

Before we'd even had a chance to sit back down, Trossardinho cut into the box, embarrassed two defenders, and curled one into the top bins. Cue pandemonium in the pub, replaced by hilarity as the cameras showed West Ham fans streaming out of the stadium, having seen enough.

We took the mick out of my son's Chelsea supporting mate when Saka scored again (he's so one-dimensional; all he does is score goals!), then this happened:

Declan Rice makes sure everyone knows he isn't celebrating his goal against his former club, West Ham

I was decidedly not bored. 😂

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📝 Published: 2024-02-12
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