I just finished reading a bunch of media reports about Arsenal's game with Liverpool, and had I not seen the game itself, I'd probably be either on the verge of suicide or on the verge of blowing up the Emirates. Metaphorically, of course, because I don't have time to fly to London right now. Anyway. As we all know, the media are incredibly hard working, have tons of time during the game to write incisive, original stories about what they're watching, and can spend hours after the match coming up with original observations and fresh analyses, putting in proper context everything that just happened and making objective sense of it for those of us that wish to know in more depth what state the club is in.
Man, I needed that - I haven't laughed that hard in weeks. Anyway, I was reading all the ARSENAL IN CRISIS and WENGER LOST THE PLOT and TRANSFER ACTION NEEDED NOW-type stories, and then I went back and watched the game again.
I'm not naive, and I'm not for one minute suggesting that Arsene Wenger rest on his laurels and that he not buy anyone before the end of the month. But did you see what I saw in the game on Saturday? Did you see all these kids? They're pretty damn good.
I watched the game after I saw the score and read a couple of match reports - stupid West Coast and stupid lack of wanting to be surprised. Seriously, England - 4.45AM kickoffs? What the balls? Be like Spain! Kick games off at 10PM London time! Think of your former colonists! We want sleep!
Anyway, I saw 2-0 to Liverpool, read about how the Arsenal world was ending, and was bracing for an awful performance by Arsenal, and what I saw really surprised me. Arsenal didn't play badly - they played stupidly. They played like a bunch of inexperienced, overexcited kids. Hey look - the average age of the starting eleven on Saturday was 23 years old. Do you remember how impetuous, full-speed-ahead and hard to control you were at 23? Oh wait a lot of you are currently 23. Or younger. GOD I AM AN OLD PERSON
Anyway, trust me, young'uns - at 23 you're all energy and pace and still learning how to channel those two qualities. I was fully prepared to write a piece basically being despondent about this upcoming season (I even started a piece about how this season is starting to compare with 1994-95, when Arsenal finished 12th and this happened in the last second of the Cup Winners Cup!), but then I rewatched the game and I felt better.
This, friends, is not a bad team. It's not a worldbeater, yet, and it absolutely, unequivocally needs strengthening, but you know what? I'm more optimistic about Arsenal now than I was on Friday. Frimpong was a nutjob on Saturday, but that'll calm down, he'll start to benefit from good coaching, and when he does he is going to be one amazing player.
I learned a lesson this weekend, a lesson that I already knew but it really bears repeating here as it will serve all of us well over this season as you watch games. Trust your eyes, not the media. You saw them play Saturday, and apart from a comedy own goal and a Frimpong moment of madness, Arsenal played pretty damn well. They're changing their style a bit, getting away from the Barca style of a million short passes (if I hear another person say the phrase 'tiki-taka' I'll set something major on fire) and starting to rely on a speedy game with longer passes, and they definitely need some reinforcements, but maybe, just maybe, Arsene knows more about what he's doing than do the media or the loudmouths at the bar or on the Internet.
Arsenal are in good hands, and while as mentioned the trust in Arsene is not limitless, after Saturday, it's still there. We'll see how I feel on September 1.