The team selection against Arsenal demonstrated once and for all (had confirmation been necessary) where the priority for this season lies. Eight changes from the team that faced Barcelona had me fearing the worst but we managed to nullify the threat of Van Persie and without him on song, Arsenal have very little else to offer – the one man team label looks more than accurate. I was a little aggrieved we hadn’t played a slightly stronger side as I felt the Gooners were there for the taking, but our schedule being as it is I can fully understand why.
I don’t really enjoy my trips to Arsenal anymore – it’s the ground where I feel most that I am part of the corporate monster that football has become. The soulless bowl of a ground, the in-your-face marketing, the hundreds of tourists, the obviously changed demographic of the Arsenal support. You could argue that this is the same almost everywhere that you go in the Premier league and you would be partly right – Arsenal just seem to have taken it to a new level especially compared to the character that Highbury had. What is worse is their attempt to manufacture character with some really cringe-worthy banners (Who Needs Batman When You’ve Got Robin, The Verminator – I could go on), half-hearted attempts at European style scarf twirling, anthem “The Wonder of You” (pass me a bucket) and if you really want a treat – google the Arsenal Away Boyz – yes, with a “z”, it’s just so tragic.
As I said, all of us are part way down this highway to hell and one of the reasons I would rather that Chelsea didn’t leave Stamford Bridge is that I know that this scenario would await us too. New stadiums are not to generate and cater for local support – they are to lure more foreign fans and exploit them financially. Three quarters of a million foreign fans came to the Premier League matches last season. Over 88,000 foreign fans attended matches at The Emirates in the 2010/11 campaign (54,000 at Stamford Bridge) – the average spend for a foreign fan is over £770 – those figures tell you all you need to know as to how important in the grand scheme of things domestic football fans are. But enough about the distasteful side of the game…..
When the final whistle went against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge I was absolutely emotionally drained – I felt I had kicked every ball, put in every tackle, forced every shot onto the woodwork – so god only knows how exhausted the players must have been – the mental strength as well as the physical excursion must have been colossal under the never ending waves of attack. The reaction in the press to our amazing win can best be described as “lukewarm”. We had the usual suspects accusing us of being “anti-football”, and there were plenty of pious column inches whining on how we didn’t take Barca on at their tippy tappy game. Of course these same journalists had predicted a hammering for Chelsea and it obviously needled them that we had somehow through the use of black magic actually had the audacity to beat the best team in the world ever.
Of course those of you reading this know what happened last night – you know whether I am nursing the mother of all hangovers having secured a Champions League Final place, or whether I am sullenly preparing to make my way to Barcelona Airport cursing the UEFA cohorts for the inevitable refereeing atrocities; I do not have that luxury – but what I can say is that we got further than any other English club, confounded many of the so called experts and pissed off lots of journalists and opposition fans – and that will certainly do for me!
QPR this weekend and sadly there seem to be some definite signs that they may avoid the drop. We need to win this game – not just because of the rivalry, but it will be our last chance to win a league London derby this season! That is a horrendous stat and goes somewhat to explaining our current position in the mini-league that exists for Champions League places.
With any luck Tottenham’s implosion will continue – wouldn’t it be simply marvellous for them not to win another game for the rest of the season. Hopefully having put QPR to the sword we can then concentrate on sending Newcastle to whence they came as the Geordie love-in is nearly as nauseating as the press’ pandering to United.
Although you want real Twilight Zone stuff and just mention Liverpool’s current malaise to a journalist – they suddenly become deaf, dumb and blind. No-one wants to talk about “King Kenny’s” failing management tenure holding up the Carling Cup as “proof” that they are making headway…hmmm…
My guess is some auspicious sounding title will be created for Dalglish and he’ll be moved upstairs – unless the unthinkable happens and they somehow win the FA Cup….shudder….
The finishing line is in sight and sadly, we’re not n contention to be first across it, but there are other prizes which could more than make up for that – all it takes is a bit of bottle, a man with a plan, a committed team, support full of belief and a massive slice of luck…..