Saturday 2nd November 2019 ko 15.00
FA Premier League
ARSENAL 1 (Aubameyang 20)
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1 (Jiminez 76)
For a while I’d known my future brother-in-law Scott wanted to visit the Emirates Stadium. Now on one hand I’ve seen enough of Arsenal over the years for there to be little or nothing to be achieved from another visit. It is a case of “Been there done that” but on the other hand, he’s family and I’ve got history.
Back in the early 90’s I lived here, and even 30 years on North London still resonates with me. So much has changed some for the good, some for the bad, and I do still wish someone would reopen the Rainbow Theatre as a rock venue!
But as much as the Emirates Stadium is a new-build it is also a throwback to days when football clubs were situated in the middle of their fanbase, the stadia sprouting up between the houses. Bristol City’s Ashton Gate certainly retains that feel, and Bristolian Scott certainly saw the similarities!
Because however difficult parking is, I’d never be able to take my wheelchair-bound father here, it is fun walking from Finsbury Park tube station. I got to be a street guide, pointing out the infamous Finsbury Park mosque and the development that is what’s left of Highbury.
But that walk is a wonderful place to observe the human race, even if you don’t like football. The former Geography student in me observes what happens when 60,000 people visit the same place every 2 weeks. Front gardens tend to be concreted over for burger vans and kitchens get converted to temporary tea bars.
But the footballing times they are a’ changing. The scarfs on sale outside have as many former players’ names on them as the current team. No longer are Arsenal racing certainties to make the Champions League slots, and manager Unai Emery was juggling problems with two of his stars. Captain Granit Xhaka’s reaction to being booed as he was substituted against Crystal Palace was unacceptable, he was dropped and his column in the programme was his terse press release previously posted on his Instagram feed.
Then there’s the perennial issue of Mesut Özil. Nominally described as 4th captain it would be lazy of me to describe him as enigmatic; I’m not even sure mercurial would do him justice. On his day he’s Arsenal’s most creative midfielder, but the baggage that comes with him makes him a divisive figure. He was superb here, but is he really worth the eye-watering salary, high by even the eye-watering standards of the Premier League? And if you decided to offload him, who would take over his wages?
Ultimately, Emery wasn’t able to make it work for all parties and was sacked 3 weeks after this. On the evidence of this game that dismissal was very predictable. Arsenal may have a superb attack in Aubameyang and Lacazette but save for Özil they stumbled far too often when feeding them.
Arsenal took the lead, the key pass coming from Lacazette to his prolific strike partner. I expected the cliche “One-Nil the Arsenal” at that stage, but these days there’s a soft underbelly to their defence. Dani Cebellos failed to track Joao Moutinho who hooked a cross to Raul Jiminez who’d got goal-side of Lucas Torreira to head home. Would Tony Adams have allowed that?
The frustration for anyone connected with Arsenal was obvious. A fan yelled,
“This season is a disaster, we’re only fifth!”
Now perspective is everything and I do wonder what a Bury FC fan would make of that statement! But by Arsenal standards this IS a poor season, the club known for success with almost metronomic efficiency under Arsene Wenger is clearly at a crossroads. If Emery couldn’t pick the correct route, can Mikel Arteta?
Now I’m certainly not qualified to answer that question, so at the final whistle Scott and I strolled back to Finsbury Park, stopping for a hot dog and to people watch as we walked.