Somewhere, an Arsenal fan just hanged himself. The malaise which the Gunners have slipped into over the past couple weeks was one that most saw coming – a function of questionable transfer business and an unfortunate series of injuries.
However, to concede eight goals, even at a venue like Old Trafford, is an unprecedented feat of self destruction. If he stays, Wenger better make sure he hasn’t got plans for Thursday nights anytime over the next eighteen months.
In many ways, playing in the Europa League is more manifestly demoralizing than not participating in Europe at all. Every week critics are reminded that their favorite punching bag dropped down a tier or so – just look at pre Kenny Dalglish Liverpool…
For all the goals and excitement, Sunday was a somber day of football. On the East coast of the US at least, all that happened was engulfed in the surreal atmosphere of a New Jersey hurricane, one which managed to deny this writer his fill of Premier League action. Moreover, the nature of North London’s demise was anything but pleasurable. What was once a set of closely fought fixtures began to gravitate towards the farcical – Roy of the Rovers stuff from Edin Dzeko but just the opposite from Arsene Wenger…
Both Spurs and Arsenal will seek comfort in the other’s annihilation – Tottenham fans pointing to the six goal margin, Arsenal ones to the White Hart Lane venue. Neither set of supporters can take much solace in their teams’ transfer activity though. If Harry Redknapp plans to replace a clearly unsettled Luka Modric with Scott Parker then, possibly, Park Chu Young won’t be labeled the least able replacement of the summer.
Clearly, there are problems in key areas that need solving. Spurs have yet to be vindicated in their purchase on loan of Emmanuel Adebayor, while Arsenal continue to toil in their quest for a central defender. In certain Manchester nemeses, no such weaknesses are apparent.
Rather than expose new signing David De Gea, Manchester United’s supposed “crisis” at the back resulted in the delivery of an ominous message. Jones and Smalling are both in Fabio Capello’s England squad for qualifiers coming up next month – two savvy buys by Ferguson, more proof that the Scotsman will never let his team grow stale.
Danny Welbeck too has made waves, now tied as the league’s second most prolific Englishman, the academy product is just a hat trick off teammate Wayne Rooney. His rise over the last seven days has been remarkable, unfortunate then that he was omitted from the England squad due to an injury
Across town Manchester City’s depth comes from money rather than development, with new acquisitions like Aguero continuing to shine brightly, and old ones like Dzeko just starting to. Their attacking fluidity is reminiscent of Arsenal at their best, though the support which Fabregas and Nasri never had at The Emirates is provided by a healthy backbone of Toure, De Jong and Kompany.
City may have taken multiple tries to get to the top, but in the end their hit and hope approach to market usage has trumped Arsenal’s measured and conservative one. Perhaps the success of Mancini, Sheikh Mansour and Gary Cook is indicative of the modern game – the long term rewards that City’s money will bring should stretch out farther even than Wenger’s infamous six years.
At the Etihad Stadium, City are poised for a shot at greatness. They have well and truly out muscled their adversaries. No longer will Spurs catch them at the death to claim Champions League qualification, no longer even will Arsenal worry them in pursuit of prizes yet grander.
And in that truth, there is sadness. Call it nostalgia if you will, but the destruction of two teams once celebrated is one not worthy of jubilation. Many find joy in others’ misfortune – the Germans even have a word for it – but no matter how many goals Manchester racked up, there was never going to be any happiness about Sunday’s striking bonanza.