By Billy the Dog McGraw
Landlord, The Toppled Bollard, Islington
As usual for a Friday I trotted off to the allotments on Hackney Marshes where I bumped into Dennis Bergkamp who was bemoaning the state of his turnips.
“But what about that Terry Enry?” I enquired, ingloriously.
“But what about my turnips?” said Dennis, and I think we decided to leave it at that. Except he then looked furtively over his shoulder (which gives him quite a view of the world, what with Dennis being taller than the Post Office Tower) and then looked back to me (well over my head actually, me being more of the Arshavin standard measurement) and said, “All football is bent. Listen to Liam. Read Roy Keene. Watch my lips.” And then he went quiet.
We discussed why English people eat Brussels Sprouts and why we have to import them from Belgium, why swedes come from Sweden, and why Freddie had red hair, but eventually talk turned to alcohol, and I took Dennis to the pub.
Dennis does not drink so I had to make up for him with a quadruple whisky and ginger as a chaser to the opening four vodkas, as we got down to the business end of the business end (whatever that means).
We talked about hating players, both on your own team and another team. Arsenal loved Henry, so the rest of the world hate Henry. That’s how it goes. Arsenal are playing the best football in the world, and Eduardo suffered the most horrific injury in the world – so now Eduardo has to be the bete noir. (Apparently that’s Dutch).
My mate Roger (to whom MAKING THE ARSENAL is dedicated, as you will know if you have got your copy yet) didn’t hate players, but he was never over enamoured by Ray Parlour and that Dixon character. Didn’t really matter too much what they did, Roger never really liked them, and felt that every victory was gained in spite of them, and every defeat was because of them.
Perry Groves told a story recently about stepping up to take a penalty and being booed by his team’s own supporters – although I don’t know which club he was talking about. Roger didn’t care much for Perry either, and got a bit fed up with me when I pointed out that we scored more goals with him on the pitch than when he was not on the pitch. But I was always careful to put such points to Roger when he was driving, so he couldn’t do very much except make comments about me not knowing where the bar was when we got to the pub.
My point is that we seem to need someone to boo – or at least dislike.
We don’t get it here too much on UNTOLD ARSENAL because if someone comes on and tells us that Denilson is lightweight, Diaby can’t pass straight and Eboue is too Eboue, then I tend to write back to them a detailed and comprehensive analysis of football, statistics, and the two solutions of each passing movement as a quadratic equation with both real and complex coefficients. I also tell them to fuck off.
Diaby and Denilson are particularly interesting cases – because the stats are very much in their favour, and if you ever spend a game watching just them rather than the game all around them, it is illuminating in the extreme. I did it once for a piece I wrote in a Sunday paper, and then went back and watched the match again on TV – totally different game. Its a really odd perspective.
Denilson might play tomorrow – I really hope so. That 6-1 total and absolute annihilation of Everton on Day One was down to a middle three of Song, Denilson, Cesc. (Actually did you know that some of the anti-Arsenal blogs are now Denilson deniers and actually say that we lost 3-0. A bit like the BNP who refuse to recognise all the black players who played for England. So when we beat Lichtenstein 7-1 they reckoned we lost 1-0).
All of which is a diversion from tomorrow, and (just because I couldn’t stand any more of it) the wild insanity of the anti-Henry, anti-Brady, anti-France blogs, radio, newspapers and TV of the last day or so.
So let’s get down to the turnips (as Dennis would say, what with him being Dutch and everything) and look at tomorrow’s team…
Goal: Aluminum, (Fabianski)
Back four: Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Silvestre (Senderos, Eboue)
Mid-three: Song, Fabregas, Denilson (Nasri) (Traore) (Ramsey)
Front three: Eduardo, Arshavin, Nasri (Rosicky) (Merida)(Vela),
My doubts are: will Denilson be thrown straight in (depends on how well he’s feeling) and will Nasri or Rosicky play in the front. And of course much depends on whether Arshavin was able to find a plane back from Russia. I think Diaby is still injured from France, and I am saving Eboue as a replacement at the back in case of injury there.
But put Denilson and Song in the middle and Cesc becomes an attacker. With my selected front three, you have three others (in parenthesis as we used to say in the world of journalism back in the middle ages) who could step in and do stuff. Cue flexibility. (Actually I think Cue Flexibility is an Irish boy band).
Last year Sunderland was a disaster area for us – I seem to recall a 0-0 and a 1-0 defeat, and I can’t even bring myself to look it up to see if that is right.
But this year, I have no doubts. 4-1 to the Arsenal.
Now remember that after the last Arsenal match 2 weeks ago the bookies went into uproar, and I was done over by a dozen officials from the EPL who accused me of match fixing. (I’ve still got the scars). But it is not my fault that no one here is a fortune teller except those who are fortune tellers.
If you mention you read UNTOLD ARSENAL to the bookies you get your teeth pulled out, so don’t do that.
And to end – a request. I can’t go to Sunderland – can anyone email me a link to a TV channel on the internet that will allow me to watch it? Send to me privately because it is probably a criminal act to put it up publicly on the site. Email Tony@hamiltonhouse.orangehome.co.uk – not my normal address.
CHRISTMAS PRESENT TIME. The perfect Xmas gift – MAKING THE ARSENAL written by me. Sillier than putting a tree in your sitting room, more amusing than the Irish FA, and less corrupt than FIFA. “Laugh, I nearly dropped my treble gin with Guinness,” – Billy the Dog.
Details at www.emiratesstadium.info – or you can try Amazon but they keep running out. Waterstones have just ordered some so you can try there – but you will get them faster if you follow the links on the site. Or during UK office hours phone 01536 399 011 with a credit card. If you order from us, and you want me to sign it, just say what you want me to say (in English please).
(c) Tony Attwood 2009. Reprint without permission and I’ll smash your face in. (Sorry that was Billy the Dog, not me).
NOW ON THE HISTORY SITE complete update on the match fixing scandal from a historical and contemporary perspective.
(When the revolution comes the first place we take over is Radio 5).