Sunday, 13 March 2011
In praise of Arsenal...
When Arsenal lost to Man Utd in the FA Cup on Saturday, and reduced their possible trophy haul this season to one, I tweeted a quite average little joke about their diminishing returns: 4-3-2-1 - Arsenal are The Ramones in reverse.
A Gooner friend on Twitter took some exception to this. How many trophies are you lot competing for, then?
I thought about it and answered: In all honestly, probably none.
I also said that I was well aware (by proxy, not through experience) that getting knocked out of big competitions by great sides in high profile games on a quite regular basis is a fate that only befalls teams who are pretty bloody decent in the first place.
And that Arsenal have been a better side than us for about 25 years, a fact which I've happily conceded many times. Okay, maybe not 'happily'.
It got me thinking, though, about the nature of rivalry and about the perils of becoming a good side, if that is, indeed, the direction in which we're heading.
Regarding rivalry, there are two opposing schools of thought. The most dominant one revels in the defeats of others, most especially Arsenal and Chelsea.
Then there are those who believe that supporting Spurs has nothing to do with hating Arsenal. Or Chelsea. Or, in fact, with 'hate' in general. These people do exist, believe me. They're just quieter than the other lot.
My position is somewhere between the two. I wanted Birmingham to beat the Arse in the Carling Cup final, I wanted Barcelona to knock them out of the Champions League and I wanted Man Utd to win on Saturday.
But in each case, as the 'right' results panned out, I didn't feel the need to project my satisfaction outwards, towards Arsenal friends and fans. Maybe clink a glass or two with some fellow Spurs supporters, perhaps crack the odd gag between us. But no need to goad or to gloat. After all, what have we achieved in this scenario? Fuck all. What's it actually got to do with us? Fuck all.
Enjoy Arsenal defeats and Chelsea failings, sure. But don't let them define you, or your support of Spurs, that would be my stance, I think. And certainly avoid using them as a stick to beat their fans with, because when it comes to defeats and failings, our club provides them with much, much bigger sticks to beat us with.
The other thing I thought is that I'm dreading drawing Chelsea in the Champions League. For a start, I think we'll get beat. But it's also such an awful, galling and gut-wrenching way to go out of a competition in which, by and large, we've performed pretty fucking well.
It would be almost too big a game to bear. It'll be a result for the record books. A defeat for the ages.
But, here's the thing, sides like Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea play these high risk/high reward games all the time. Quite often against each other.
They get to the sharp end of the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League pretty much every year. Every year they face matches and challenges that we find daunting and almost unimaginable. And they lose some of them. And we take the piss. But, well...
Also, my first thought after Man Utd's 2-0 win was that Arsenal can still win the league. And, therefore, have a better season than we have had in half century.
If you wallow in other sides' defeats as much as in our wins then two things are certain: that 'other side' will, eventually, win something big, at which point our sulky silence will just make us look stupid in contrast to all the noise we made when they didn't win; and even more surely, our next defeat, possibly to them, is just around the corner. We too will fail to win a trophy. We will fail to win nearly every single competition we enter. That's the nature of football. And when we do, we will consider those than give us stick for it to be small-minded irritants who, frankly, can fuck the fuck off.
Stand up if you hate Arsenal if you like, I'll watch the game, and then stand up because I support Spurs.
(That said, if they don't win the league I am going to try and come up with some porn-related quip about blowing it on a regular basis. So, that's something to look forward to).