Oh Arsene, my Aresene.
God bless you. After a thoroughly forgettable weekend in the Premier League, you gave us the gift that keeps on the giving -- the ArseneFAIL -- losing 3-2 at Swansea City Sunday.
Problem is, this one is hard to laugh about. There are no referees to yell at or cynical tactics by the opposition to blame. No reason to throw your arms up on the touchline like a miniature version of Christ the Redeemer.
Nope, the Gunners were simply out-played by a team that had much more in the tank, even with less to play for ... assuming you figure Swansea seems a little too solid at this point to be relegated. It leaves Arsenal four points behind Chelsea for fourth place and, ahem, 10 off third-place Spurs.
Hell, Arsenal is level with Newcastle United, which posted a confident 1-0 win against QPR in Mark Hughe's managing debut, despite the absence of Demba Ba.
Dismaying for Arsenal fans, this looked like the winning form this season -- a goal from Robin van Persie -- and away the Gunners go. Except Swansea, a team that wants to pass and move and play something of a 4-3-3 like Arsenal, went out and won the game with Danny Grahamn erasing Theo Walcott's equalizer at 2-2 in the second half in about 70 seconds. (Think Monsieur Wenger would swap Andrey Arshavin and Walcott for Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer?)
Not even the El Cid presence of Thierry Henry could rally the Gunners late. Oddly enough the best chance to level the game at 3-3 came from a surge forward by Laurent Koscielny.
After van Persie -- the top goal scorer in the Premier League this season -- the rest of the Arsenal lineup remains average, to slightly above average, so in that regard losing to Swansea and its collection of Grahmans, Ashley Williams and Leon Brittons isn't too crazy.
More interesting is the sort of "Freakonomics" aspect of Swansea's rise under Brendan Rogers. You'd never think some random lower league team -- one in Wales no less -- would use the Barcelona-type passing style to rise the ranks and crash the Premier League party. Thinking outside the box, not wasting money on bigger names, though, seems to have worked in Catherine Zeta-Jones hometown.
And for one Sunday, they out-Arsenaled Arsenal.
What a pass by Landon Donovan.
What a pass.
Let's take a moment.
Did you wipe the tear from your eye?
Probably the most important thing to ever happen. Ever.
Sarcasm aside, I missed it live since I was watching a game that mattered in England -- Spurs/Wolves and, yes, it was one hell of a through pass to Vicotr Anichebe.
That said, it really shouldn't come as any surprise that, arguably, the second-best American professional is actually able to contribute at the Premier League level.
Maybe Everton, since it doesn't have any money, can turn itself into the England version of the U.S. National Team, taking a page from the days of the old NASL. Edson Buddle is on trial with the Toffees so perhaps David Moyes can convert his basement into sort of a youth hostel for vagabond American internationals and instead of paying them can simply put up their room and board as they try to impress Jurgen Klinsmann without resorting to changing their birth certificates to have umlauts in their last name.
I hear, too, Mrs. Moyes makes a lovely German Muffin for breakfast.
Makes sense, actually:
Maybe I've related more and more to Tottenham in recent years, as they seem to embody my core philosophy of "you're a winner and a loser." How perfect was it for Spurs to take a million bows for beating toothless Everton in the midweek to pull three points behind Manchester City, only to struggle to a 1-1 draw with Wolves a couple days later, right?
Figures, too, Luka Modric finally gets on the scoresheet and the rest of the team is crap -- notably Emmanuel Adebayor.
Spurs were certainly due a hiccup, and given the club's MO we probably all should have seen this Mustard Yellow tinged red flag miles away. To Wolves credit, too, Mick McCarthy's grim bunch played a taught game with on-loan Arsenal youngster Emmanuel Frimpong doing his best hockey agitator performance.
Looks like I'll be getting up early Sunday for City/Spurs, as if Tottenham is honestly realistic about winning the title, it'll have to go to the Etihad and take three points. (More than likely, though, this will be the halftime song next week at Eastlands, not to be too negative on Spurs chances on the road.)
A line on a fellow Ginger(*):
It was probably friend of the Blog, @30frames who alerted to me how on Champions League telecasts, Derek Rae and Tommy Smyth used to wax poetic about Paul Scholes like American commentators on Brett Favre during his pomp.
Unlike Favre, in a crazy, unforeseen comeback to Manchester United, Scholes has helped the team and not acted like a greedy, legacy-driven prima donna like the ol' gunslinger during his failed stints in New York and Minnesota.
Suppose, too, Scholes has some miles left since he retired from international duty for England a decade ago.
Not sure Scholes will be contributing in April, but he's given United -- which got a nice game from Luis Valencia -- a big lift when it needed it, tying City for the time being on points.
Just remember, at the end of the day, things always come up Milhouse for Sir Alex Ferguson.
(*) I'm only like part-ginger, as unlike Paul Scholes I can get a tan. Fact.
Around the League:
The Internet scripted the only goal in Chelsea's 1-0 win over Sunderland. Fernando Torres hits a sideways scissor kick off the crossbar, only for it to fall directly on Frank Lampard's foot. Sublimely brilliant give both players histories. ... Poor Fulham. The Cottagers go to last-plast Blackburn, watch Yakubu sent off inside of 20 minutes then lose 3-1. Truly a non-fun season for Fulham, Clint Dempsey aside. ... I had Liverpool's scoreless draw with Stoke on my TV most of Saturday morning. Didn't write down a single note from it. Let's move on. ... If you read this article from the Telegraph, Bolton are seriously effed if they get relegated. ...After winning away at West Brom 1-0, Norwich City's record is a lucky 7-7-7, thanks a lot to the 15 goals combined from unheralded Steve Morrison and Grant Holt. ... Chris Samba has handed in a transfer request to Blackburn. He's a player I've always enjoyed for his sheer physicality, yet it's not like Blackburn's defense has been very stout with him in the center of it, realistically.
Fantasy Team O' the Week:
Christopher Price's "thescouringshirefc" takes top honors in a low-scoring week with 65 points, led by Nathan Dyer, van Persie, Ryan Taylor and Steve Morrison.
One Other Thing:
If you haven't been able to tell in my writing over the last year or so, its suffered a gradual decline mainly due to lack of focus on soccer for some other "off field" stuff, but some things have changed -- for better or worse -- and I feel a new sense of commitment. Hope to keep it going through 2012. Nothing worse, as a writer, when you feel you've written every sentence you're ever going to write already.
In the words of Frank Costanza, "I feel like a Phoenix, rising from Arizona."
One More Other Thing:
Why do I keep dreaming of Kevin Prince Boateng and Benoit Assou-Ekotto forming the most awesome wrestling tag team ever?