Arsenal most recently won our FA Cup match against Aston Villa over the weekend, but we had a rather disappointing match against Manchester United (a deeply despised rival) on the same day as the Niners final playoff game (January 22nd), which Arsenal lost 3-2. Heartbreaking, really, and as Sundays go, that was a particularly disappointing one. One of those days where everyone you want to win loses... An interesting point: there was a substitution at around ~60' into the Arsenal match where our Manager, Arsene Wenger, took off a stellar young player by the name of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (we call him "Ox") and put on Andre Arshavin in his place. Now, a few years ago, Arshavin was an excellent player for us with pace, cleverness, a fine finishing touch, and a nose for the net. But something has happened in the last couple of years, where his skill and confidence seem to have deteriorated significantly. He's no longer the player he once was, and yet Wenger (the Manager) continues to rely on him and believe in him, time and time again. Needless to say, after the Ox/Arshavin substitution, ManUnited's Manager made his own substitution and re-aligned their team's formation, and ManU immediately exploited Arshavin's weakness and scored the winning goal. If it were a chess match, that would have been Checkmate, and it was frustrating because Ox was doing so well (he assisted on one of our previous goals) and every Gooner (Gooner = Gunner = Arsenal fan) on the planet knows that Arshavin is mediocre at best, these days.
Anyway, it brings up an interesting point: Why do Coaches and Managers stick with a losing proposition (namely, an inferior player) when it's clear as day that said player is unable to perform at the highest level and is hurting the team? A great baseball analogy would be Aubrey Huff last season for the Gigantes. He showed up to spring training out of shape & wasn't playing well from the get-go, and he never quite found his rhythm, yet Bochy kept starting him, game after game, month after month, apparently unable to apprehend what apparently every other person in the friggin world could see plain as day: Huff couldn't play. I'm sure there's a certain myopia that sets in, deep in the clubhouse mentality, but it seems to be something a bit more insidious than that, especially regarding Arshavin: a willingness to lie to oneself about the truth. I mean, we all do it, to a certain extent, perhaps because we don't want to admit that we're wrong, or losing our edge, or we're getting older, or that we bought something that isn't worth what we paid or whatever, but the difference is that the self-deception that Arsene and every other big-time (and not-so-big time) manager perpetrates has tremendous repercussions: financial, emotional, career-wise for the players... I don't know why it happens, or why it happens so often, really, and it's baffling, to a certain extent: Why can't they see it? Why don't they realize that their loyalty to an inferior player is costing the team? I know there are myriad variables that go into these decisions, the majority of which we're blissfully unaware, but still. Does Wenger really have no choice but to sub Arshavin and Chamakh in every match at '60? Doesn't the predictability alone give him pause? I'm glad we have Ox up and running, now, but still. Why does this happen?
A friend of ours, named Hippo, explains it thus: "This is a symptom of the sporting times. $$$ + superstition (AKA strategy) = playing someone who has/is/will continue to underperform. Managers must consider the effect they have on the clubhouse/locker room as well as on the playing field and often they cave to the pressures of consistency and not rocking the boat. Also, you've spent the money for the player, & now you have to play him. Although in futból, unlike baseball, you can easily ship a player off to some other club without much fanfare. Baseball is different in that they can't so easily rid themselves of a functionless player because they HAVE to continue paying them if they cut him, and they can only trade them to 31 other teams. American Football seems to do this best: when a player has worn out his welcome they dangle him in trade talks and then release the guy without an obligation to give him even his next paycheck (this happens every year to a number of big name guys - Braylon Edwards being a great example this year for you 49er fans). It comes down to dough and superstition."
Well, okay, that's definitely a huge part of it. But regardless, it's infinitely easier to sit on a barstool and figure out the world and solve all it's problems than it is to actually DO something. And barstools are awfully comfortable...
Speaking of which, Arsenal has a bloody-early-butt-crack-of-dawn match this coming Saturday morning at 5am PT vs. Blackburn Rovers, and if the pub is open for the match (which they most likely will be) we'll be there. Blackburn is struggling quite a bit this season, and we should have an easy time with this match, but one never knows. Besides, Theirry Henry, one of the greatest strikers to ever play the game and an Arsenal legend, is on loan with us for the next few weeks, and we don't want to miss a minute of his action on the pitch. And there's something about watching a live match with your mates at your favorite Pub when all the world's deep in slumber that just can't be replicated.