Week Three: Some Post-match Feuilleton

Aston Villa and Wolverhampton discover the benefits of mutualism, intended or not; Arséne Wenger is rudely introduced to disaster capitalism; Viagra is not a Spanish word, but might as well be at Chelsea as Juan Mata looks to be the panacea (also not Spanish) for creative dysfunction; Tottenham, more Arsenal-esque than ever this season, fall short of equaling the humiliation.

Arsenal supporter after Manchester United scored their sixth goal and then a minute after that.

Aston Villa 0—Wolverhampton 0

Television announcers almost always note Fabio Capello’s attendance at Premier League matches. In attendance to scout and judge, the either stern or frightening Capello contributes texture to the broadcast’s atmosphere. Capello’s reputation as stern or frightening is played up into the myth of some transcendent austerity that has finally begun to show cracks during his time as England manager. The characterization becomes the perfect setup to argue that only the supreme importance of the England national team could  exert the necessary weight of pressure to crack this nut. But forty-six years since England won the World Cup is a diatnt menory that has moved past the burden of history into facoid. The reality is that England has been mediocre for some time. Ther should be much pressure to surpass this.

Capello is there at Villa Park. Thinking Okay, we’ll let’s have a look at him, the camera seeks him out of the crowd and we know he’s hard at work as he should be, if England is to sustain or emerge from mediocrity.

Much like the last time we saw him at some other game a week ago, he’s sitting motionless, staring out at a blade of grass, chin lying on his chest and hemmed by concentric rings of aged skin like a melted Elizabethan collar. If the apparent refusal to improve his poor English is a sign of unwillingness to integrate into English culture, then one should look elsewhere for proof of effort.

His expression is that typically male brief wince of pain from getting out of a chair, except that it’s extended in time like a film still, requiring the use of his entire face to form itself. It might be displeasure from something he’s seen on the pitch, but unfortunately also resembles an expression of chronic intestinal discomfort.

Camera cuts to the stands are memorable usually when the match is dull, as was the case with this derby, although neither club will feel this way. Aston Villa recorded a clean sheet at home and Wolves recorded a clean sheet on the road. The match produced neutral material, which allowed both clubs to take the result and apply it to steady improvement.

Capello’s demeanor stood out this afternoon, because his assistant, Franco Baldini, wasn’t there talking into his ear and providing a human voice that looks to be missing from Capello’s interior life during these scouting trips. Hopefully the borborygmus can fill in the silent periods and offer proof of his existence. He better look alive with less than a week to prepare an unfamiliar squad for an important Euro qualifier.

Manchester United 8—Arsenal 2

What is peculiar about Arsenal these days is that there is both so much to say about them while at the same time so little. A match report or commentary at this point falls into the latter with the exception of what has got to be the breaking point and the implication that will follow.

Arséne Wenger has slowly been losing the rhetorical capacity to successfully refute the reality imposed upon him. The final two months of last season through last week’s loss to Liverpool has seen his continued efforts fall short to the point that there is no longer a contested reality, but two realities—the one we live in and a separate one he inhabits alone.

It has become clear that an irrefutable disaster would be necessary for significant changes to take place. Fortunately, it has taken place in August and not in September. New signings need to be strong enough to merge the realities again. Three days remain to find out.

Chelsea 3—Norwich 1

Chelsea looked like the Chelsea of the two previous weeks, which means they looked like the Chelsea of last year until Juan Mata came on as substitute in the 68th minute. Chelsea had 70% of possession and dominated the match, but had little to show for it. Sounds like Arsenal, but until Chelsea put on a performance reflective of their new manager, they will continue to resemble an impotent man who has mastered foreplay.  To continue with sexualized references, Chelsea lacks a skillful ball handler, one who can penetrate and spread the seed around. Mata, in his 22 minutes, provided all the virility.

Tottenham 1—Manchester City 5

Arsenal’s total humiliation at Old Trafford was perfect timing for Tottenham, who will thank their rivals for putting in a worse performance, although it can be argued not that much worse. Arsenal played with the reserve team on the road, while Tottenham had a full squad at home.

Arsenal’s failings will do nothing to obscure Tottenham’s issues. Tottenham has the uncanny ability to have an interest in a player after learning of Arsenal’s interest. The emulation of their hated rival has been taken to a new level through developing a kind of transfer market constipation. Tottenham has not been able to sign new players or even make wage bill space due the inability to shed the surplus of high-earning substitutes and fringe players. This is a scaled down version of Manchester City’s indiscriminate strategy of signing a surplus to be whittled down, which, in a down market, proves difficult to execute without losses.

Ledley King was forthright by admitting that the uncertainty surrounding Luka Modric’s future has been a disruption without having to admit that it is part of a general paralysis following their disappointing fifth place finish and exclusion from the Champions League. By season’s end they might have the privilege of adding stunted growth to their emulation of motionlessness.

Manchester City played circles around them. How quickly their fortunes have reversed.

West Brom 0—Stoke 1

A club fighting to stay in the first division captures broad support if the club has a good start to the season. The latest and very memorable example was of course Blackpool.  The wore orange, pardon tangerine, and played in an unfinished stadium with a pitch that froze because they didn’t have the money to install a heating system under the field like the other nineteen Premier League clubs. At the New Year, Blackpool was in tenth place after eighteen games. They managed this successfully by never deviating from their style of play, through a commitment to have a go at the opposition regardless of stature, attack throughout the game regardless of score, and entertain their supporters regardless of match outcome.

Little dogs don’t know they’re little, and act tough because they think they’re big. Little dogs are more foolish than courageous, since courage would derive from knowing that they’re little dogs; instead we fear that the little dog is not very bright and one of these days the little dog will get mauled.

Blackpool was a little dog— a really little dog—a breed that trembles just from existence in the big-big world. Everyone knew Blackpool was not considered even one of the best in the Championship. The difference is that Blackpool knew they were little dogs, but by remaining true to themselves they projected big dog. Too bad big dogs are big precisely because they have a strong defense, which Blackpool never had.

There is a risk to supporting Blackpool; affection and identification was tinged with a perverse fascination. Remaining true to identity and to the spirit of the game turned out to be a noble suicide mission, a car crash we knew where to be when it happened.

After Liverpool sacked Roy Hodgson for failing to right the ship and return them to their rightful glory, Hodgson lied low, retiring under the horizon in a damp ha-ha well out of sight, until West Brom put their faith in him as savior. They had fallen to seventeenth place when Hodgson arrived with pressed tracksuit on hanger and swung over his shoulder. With thirteen matches to save the season, West Brom, not satisfied with survival, climbed to eleventh place at season’s end, proving that Liverpool had not stripped Hodgson of rank. He was just a captain without a ship.

West Brom established themselves as a confident and entertaining mid-table club, so it seems a little unfair to suffer a difficult start to the new season, taking zero points from three matches. A tough schedule and a couple of mistakes see them dumped into 19th place going into the first international break.

Yet there is no evidence of internal concern. The grumbling out and about is concerned specifically with a weak defense, further weakened on deadline day, which saw three defenders leave without replacement. Overall, support is upbeat.

In successive weeks, West Brom lost to Manchester United 2—1 when West Brom scored against themselves, and lost to the old Chelsea 3—1, burying the memory of Peter Odemwingie’s early goal before the first half was over.

A slightly kinder, if not deserved, outcome would have granted West Brom a point for their efforts, a reward more symbolic than material. A more welcomed gift would have been the respite of a lesser club the following week, which turned out to be Stoke. Stoke doesn’t like respite. Too sibilant. Sounds like something associated with sissies. Manager Tony Pulis has whittled a dangerous butter knife, the most formidable mid-table team in recent memory by adding just enough skill to limit maximized physical strength from taking over their entire identity.

The formidable reputation is blunted somewhat by West Brom’s home advantage. The mid-table companions battled out a 0—0 draw until the 88th minute when a communications issue between goalkeeper Ben Foster and defender Gabriel Tamas gave Stoke the undeserved win.

West Brom: not unlucky or pitiful. There is only circumstance possessed by the cruelty of chance wielded through the vagaries of ping-pong balls squeezed out of a pneumatic vessel printed with club names. Inevitably, there will be another more favorable circumstance to come. If fortune doesn’t improve by then, last Winter’s sympathy can be thawed for reuse.

9/2/11

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