We always knew that we will revisit this some day. The mauling (let’s not pretend it was anything else) that we received last season at Old Trafford left us with poached, scrambled, boiled and however else you can do with eggs on our faces. As if that wasn’t enough, this pre season we added the acrimonious departure of Robin van Persie (post is still open to public domain, hence the lack of vulgarity) to Manchester United. Two things which should come hand in hand as we look towards the match tomorrow.
Arsene Wenger once again asked for leniency from the fans, “a more respectful reception” for the former Arsenal captain. A call that is similar to the one that he asked for when Emmanuel Adebayor or Samir Nasri was to come up against us. Sorry Arsene, that’s never going to happen. On what premise should we afford respectability to a player who jumped ship after consistently professing his love for Arsenal Football Club? Because he gave us 8 seasons (many will claim it was only 1.5 seasons)? All that came shattered with that open letter on his website.
Till this day, I’ve only been able to read it once. I don’t think I’ll change my mind even if I read it the second time. Not that I want to change my mind, in any case. Yes, you can say that he wanted to stay on and honour his contract with us. One final season, without renewing his contract. However, that doesn’t tally with the statement that he made. A statement which he could easily have or did inform Wenger and the board, but should never have been made public. For that, I cannot forgive.
You may have your points on how we could have kept him, inspite of that statement but unfortunately, I could never accept any of those points. A player, a captain who displayed a blatant disrespect not only to the club but also to the man who brought him through and developed him to the player that he is today, is unforgivable. By releasing that statement, he forced the hand that fed him. The only path, was a way out of the club. That he rejected the supposedly ridiculous high wage that Manchester City were prepared to offered, means little to me. You do what you want, I’m going to chastise and boo him for the rest of my living life.
Then we come back to the other matter at hand, the match itself. The 8-2 thrashing was and is still single-handedly the most embarrassing match for me as a Gooner. It eclipsed the previous one that was also on the same ground, that 6-1 defeat many moons ago. The irony is that, that 6-1 side contained a whole host of legends from the Invincibles group. Therefore, it is also hard to judge who were worse. In fact, in terms of team strength, the two teams that lined up for that 6-1 were definitely better than the teams that played the 8-2.
Of course, things are circumstantial. Last season, we were still reeling from the departures of Cesc Fabregas to a large extent and Samir Nasri to some degree. We had players who were on the treatment table and had two greenhorn players in Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin starting that game. Then you take into account the 3 or 4 top corner goals that United scored. Rarely would you ever see one side score that many goals where you can’t fault the keeper, one way or another. That defeat also came on the back of a tough and gruelling crucial tie away at the capital of Fruili that is Udine. All that contributed to the massive defeat.
Tomorrow is about revenge as well as regaining some pride. In recent seasons we’ve fallen way behind United. A far cry from the heady days when we would be the team that Alex Ferguson feared the most. A team whom he will always want to show his mind games, to try and distract us. Of course, money then came into the picture with the arrival of Chelsea and then City. It propelled them into title challengers, unfortunately, at the expense of our club. A win tomorrow won’t mean that we’ve regained our place and push out the two clubs but it will show that we are no push-overs and we are here to challenge.
Wenger says that he won’t show/talk to the players about last season’s game. I actually think he should. The players should be forced to re-watch that game after every training session that comes after the Reading game and prior to the United one. Every player should be made to realise the challenge that they will come to face tomorrow and how Arsenal fans sung their voice out that day despite the result. The last 15 minutes and the rendition of “We love you Arsenal, we do” continuously, still send shivers down my spine.
It’s time the players stand up and repay the fans.