The Strain of Loyalty

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The drumming noises have been those of betrayal and mercenarism. Once heroes, even captains, these men have been crucified in the memories of long-suffering Arsenal fans as Adams, lured by rival teams, their equivalent of the forbidden fruit. They see it as unfair competition, those with a monetary largesse abusing their ability to offer some degree of wage multiplication. Whether the Manchester sides and Barcelona can be considered present-day rivals to Arsenal is highly debatable for the simple fact that the Londoners are no longer the force they once were. Those traitors moved to ascend the footballing hierarchy. They moved to attain success, amongst other intangibles.

They were replaced, to the best of the Arsenal powers of seduction. Germans and Spaniards came in to replace the Dutch- and Frenchmen. Even Thierry Henry, however ageing, returned once and is about to do so again. The Arsenalisms of fiscal austerity would do Merkel proud, but represent a 21st century footballing failure of insight. For all of Wenger’s nous, this seems a painful misstep. Despite this, his team has replicated top-four finishes. The Holy Grail, however unlikely, is every season a possibility.

The Germans and Spaniards employed are no slouches. They are internationals of rude pedigree playing in a system to which they should suit. The midfield is on paper a colossus and if early performances are any indication, Jack Wilshere is worth every drop of hype. If these performances are any indication, he will be the next departing mercenary in the eyes of the fans forever loyal. He will seek pastures anew. Football is so often a tale of potential unfulfilled, which pains the heart to witness. Somehow, there must be a reincarnation of the fully powered Arsenal of the early-Wenger era, or the red of North London will linger a breeding ground for the Big Teams.

An objurgation ofttimes aimed at Arsenal is one of excessive on-field dalliance, of pretty sashaying culminating in nothingness. The intricacy is initially pleasing, then tedious, complex, unnecessary, and then it dies. The Arsenal way is Bollywood-esque flirtation, a kiss away from something, anything. It is not a sign of altruism; rather it exemplifies one thing – an inexistence of plerophory. Instilling belief is the domain of the manager, and perhaps the time has come for fresh innovativeness.

The suggestion is not fickle. It has grown over eight years; it is more than pyrophoric. The greying man in the Arsenal tracksuit is running out of ideas. He has proven himself over sixteen years to be an entrepreneur of beautiful football, of this there is no doubt. Arsenal, though, need change. Arsene too looks like he could use it. The eurozone turmoil is a stellar example of how drawn-out inaction spawns innumerable costs. Arsenal will linger as it stands, as their new rivals embrace change in the name of progress, and they will crumble. Departures are neither a tale of dollars nor a tale of perfidiousness. It is the impecuniosity of success that drives them on, and the current batch will never forget Bradford City 2012.

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Defending the idea of the Foreign Owner

By Darshan Joshi

The plain truth is that we made this possible. It is no revelation that money and status are the drivers of ambition, or that money goes where money grows. The brutal truth is that we are powerless to stop this. Accepting change can be painful, as us fans yearn for the ‘better’ days of yesteryear where we didn’t hear at regular intervals of interest repayments and stock exchange floatation on the back pages of our newspapers.

However, there in lies the issue that lacerates deep at the philosophical core of football – the sport holds different meanings to fans, to players, to investors and to politicians. This disconnect of perceptions cannot be understated because power, of fame or influence, and money go hand in hand. Football clubs are no longer run as democracies.

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Soothing Europe’s debt woes: oil millions and inflated wages

By Darshan Joshi

Football is ofttimes accused of self-serving megalomania. These accusations aren’t necessarily baseless – while FIFA and it’s regional tributaries do give back, they do so somewhat disproportionately to their behemoth fiscal inflows (see here). It can be argued though, that once in a while, football contributes to economic improvement in a side effect capacity. World Cups and European Championships tend to, like the Olympics, engage workforces in bruising multi-year structural endeavours; upheavals of transportation systems and the erections of stadiums spring to mind, followed by bouts of anticipatory and in-tournament tourism.

Hotels pay taxes, as do the sole proprietors and brewers whose quarterly earnings are handsomely bloated by FIFA and/or UEFA action. Of course, these are merely the side effects of football’s competitive brainchildren. If domestic fiscal policy is aided by the right to host these events, football’s pockets are aided and then given a soothing massage by the gold-plated hands of a platitude of hulking multinationals.

On a microcosmic footballing level, we have clubs and players, also ofttimes accused of self-serving megalomania (at least there is a consistency in this sport). Many of these are privately owned, usually by a variety of tycoon (oil tycoons, sport tycoons, cyberspace tycoons, Wall Street tycoons, even chicken-farm tycoons – let’s call them the 1%). Once more, the reasons behind the neoteric ‘let’s-buy-a-football-club’ revolution are of the rapacious sort. There is money in football, and lots of it.

There is no money in Europe, though. Economies are shadowed by the doom of grotesque debt-to-GDP ratios, high unemployment, rising taxes and rousing interest rates. The future is murky.

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On Balotelli action and Pepe inaction

By Darshan Joshi

One week, two alleged stamps. Both assailants bad-boys of their clubs’ cities, further apart in distance than footballing heritage and seemingly now closer yet in terms of notoriety. One incident exponentially more temerarious than the other, and thus rightly so – relatively speaking –, one man went unpunished, and the other supplied with a four-match decapitation. Only, if just one of the two crime scenes were to be punished retrospectively, it was the wrong one left exonerated.

Mario Balotelli may cast more than an envious gaze at the Spanish footballing authorities, much as the English do those shores with an understandable predilection for sunnier days on a golden beach. The decision to deplete Pepe of a suspension for an ostentatious trampling on the hand of Lionel Messi was absurd. Perhaps the powers-that-be took into account, unfairly, Messi’s status as The Second Coming of Diego Maradona – karmic law suggests an equal and opposite reaction to every action – and Pepe was thus the purveyor of retrospective punishment too, of a sort. Only, Messi isn’t Maradona, and so his Hand isn’t exactly His Hand.

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If it isn’t working, Fernando, change it.

By Darshan Joshi

I find it difficult to engage in schadenfreude when it comes to Fernando Torres because he’s so pretty. Sure, it was funny at first – £50m former world’s best striker looking less likely to score six yards away from goal than world’s most hideous face Steve Buscemi at a nightclub – but it’s now become a global source of depression (step aside, financial markets). It’s not easy seeing someone who at one point was such a phenomenal artist that he could easily have been the topic of ‘The Artist’ go through so much misery. Especially since he’s got such a pretty face, such a pretty face.

But Fernando isn’t alone.  Torres shares similarities with a certain Elizabeth Grant that go deeper than a fine façade, a sexy silhouette, and tantalising talent. Elizabeth Grant is the musician Lana Del Rey, but Lana Del Rey is the controversial success Elizabeth Grant wasn’t, and in the same manner, the controversial success that Lizzy Grant wasn’t. Lana Del Rey doesn’t really exist, but she is the artist behind what The Guardian have chosen as the finest piece of music in 2011.

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Wonderkid in flames

More a tale of life than footballby Darshan Joshi

Idiots, some might say, believe everything they’re told, mostly out of complete ignorance. Idiots learn, though. With some education, even a dunce with the propensity to behave only in a way befitting a Shakespearean jester will have in himself instilled the wit to argue a personal theory. The problem, and this, quite ironically, is a personal theory – idiots are so consumed with this release from intellectual śūnyatā, that they go on to apply their newly acquired knowledge in every situation possible. It is simply an uncontrollable libidinous necessity to overcompensate for their years of dim-wittedness, like an ex-Nickelback devotee forcing upon others his infantile love for proper music. Graphically, the IQ of an idiot on the quest for knowledge is represented by a negatively charged quadratic function. The initial results are astonishing, but the peak is no steady state and eventually, innate nature takes over again, and they start to disbelieve facts.

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Hype and the birth of the monster that is modern football

By Darshan Joshi

Hype is like a phoenix. It is afforded life, it blossoms, it blooms. It peaks. It dies down; it turns to dust; yet it remains deathless. It is as immortal as it is intangible. Its hyperphysical presence experiences a ceaseless resurrection; it evades an escape from memory. Hype is a monster we create. Hype is the reality that Frankenstein’s creation wasn’t. Hype is the be all and end all of all things. Hype is the aggrandisation of the history of football, and it is thus the Brahma of modern football.

Hype, though, is not a spontaneously combusting element. It is we let it be. We impregnate hype. Money is a culprit. Technology, media, culture, history, globalisation; these are all culprits. They are what we let it be, what it is, and what we will cultivate it to be. It is infinite in size, and in potential. We have made football what it is today. Every cent, television image, chant, experience, story, every word – it is an amplification of this hype, an amplification of what we let happen. We are at fault.

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From one recalcitrant to another, we have Mancini’s first test: curing a suicidal Manchester City malaise (by Darshan Joshi) 

At least Roberto Mancini’s selection headaches are thinning. The petulance of Edin Džeko will see the Bosnian left out of City’s weekend clash with Blackburn, while Carlos Tévez’s latest insipid tirade has seen Mancini finally pull the plug on last season’s top goalscorer. It says a lot about a club when Mario Balotelli ranks amongst the manager’s favoured fowards; formerly the bad boy of Eastlands, he even afforded Mancini a hug at the weekend. Given the sights radiating from the away dugout at the Allianz Arena last night (involving Balotelli’s seniors no less), the lack of a united club identity is wholly apparent. Sometimes, a real love and passion for your team is what can spur you on; we certainly saw it with Bayern Munich. While City’s self-absorbed hara-kiri wasn’t the only power at work in Germany (the hosts, and especially Franck Ribéry, were sensational), it robbed Mancini of the chance to tactically manœuvre his ailing team’s fortunes in the match.
In England, the media and neutrals alike have been encomiastic in their salutations for this new-look, offensively-tilted Manchester City team, but the first test of their domestic season has not come from heinously efficient and resilient opposition. It has come from within. Roberto Mancini’s selection woes might give way to medical maladies; a migraine he doesn’t yet have a transfer window to fix. Until then, Manchester City, for all their potential, could be their own worst nightmare.

From one recalcitrant to another, we have Mancini’s first test: curing a suicidal Manchester City malaise (by Darshan Joshi

At least Roberto Mancini’s selection headaches are thinning. The petulance of Edin Džeko will see the Bosnian left out of City’s weekend clash with Blackburn, while Carlos Tévez’s latest insipid tirade has seen Mancini finally pull the plug on last season’s top goalscorer. It says a lot about a club when Mario Balotelli ranks amongst the manager’s favoured fowards; formerly the bad boy of Eastlands, he even afforded Mancini a hug at the weekend. Given the sights radiating from the away dugout at the Allianz Arena last night (involving Balotelli’s seniors no less), the lack of a united club identity is wholly apparent. Sometimes, a real love and passion for your team is what can spur you on; we certainly saw it with Bayern Munich. While City’s self-absorbed hara-kiri wasn’t the only power at work in Germany (the hosts, and especially Franck Ribéry, were sensational), it robbed Mancini of the chance to tactically manœuvre his ailing team’s fortunes in the match.

In England, the media and neutrals alike have been encomiastic in their salutations for this new-look, offensively-tilted Manchester City team, but the first test of their domestic season has not come from heinously efficient and resilient opposition. It has come from within. Roberto Mancini’s selection woes might give way to medical maladies; a migraine he doesn’t yet have a transfer window to fix. Until then, Manchester City, for all their potential, could be their own worst nightmare.

Naked mummies, other Egyptian malarkey, and oh, I don’t know what’s wrong with Arsenal

By Darshan Joshi, writing from Sydney

It is fair to say Arsenal are being unravelled.

The word ‘unravelled’ always brings me back to those Egyptian mummies. What if the hundreds of yards of linen used to wrap these Pharaohs of old acted as a way of preserving not just the bodies of these dead kings, but their lives? Imagine Akhenaten roaming the streets of New York, Tuthmosis swimming across the Thames, Tutankhamun climbing Mount Everest, announcing their plans to go after the woman of their pleasing. All it would take is one exceptionally curious archaeologist with cojones of steel to engage in a little unwrappin’, and bam!, our world is penetrated by a multitude of mummies with iPods whistling this kind of music in their ears, drinking out of Starbucks cups specially designed with hieroglyphics, sent down by Anubis and Ra and Horus et al, promising immortal life, plenty of sex, unflinching wealth and nice triangular towers.

Perhaps losing to Blackburn Rovers, then, was the best thing that could have happened to Arsenal. Now that they have been demummified, they look cadaverous. European football will feel the wrath of an uglier Bakary Sagna, a shorter Andrey Arshavin, and a skinnier Tomas Rosicky. A blinder Arsene Wenger. Doesn’t that frighten you? Arsenal are now a bunch of naked mummies. With emphasis on naked.

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