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Tea and Crumpets with The Arsenal Offside

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arsenal choking sign

With a game against the only side near the top of the table Tea and Crumpets doesn't instinctively dislike fast approaching, it seemed a good time to move away from the more formal trappings of our last few pre-match conversations here at The Liverpool Offside. To that end, we recently sat down for a light snack and a bit of banter with Martin of The Arsenal Offside. After enjoying a delightful foie gras and pear compote appetizer, we moved on to ham hock terrine with crispy quail eggs for the main course. It had just begun to dawn on me that these lofty Arsenal sorts might in fact dine rather better than their prawn sandwich eating counterparts over at Stamford Bridge when Martin began to choke on his crispy quail egg. Once that was out of the way, we were able to move on to the conversation...

goodman big lebowski eight year olds
8 year olds, Dude.

In the Congo, local legends speak of the Dongola Miso, an inhuman beast with terrifying eyes that stalks the night, making off with children who dare to stay up past their bedtime. Meanwhile in London, a certain football club's manager has had tales told of his penchant for stalking those not yet fully developed. Now, while it would of course be beneath me to make some crude joke as to his particular predilections as so many have before, I am nonetheless left to wonder why it is that certain sections of Arsenal's support insist on employing a phrase such as "Up the Arse!" when it is quite nearly impossible for one to thereafter avoid conflating the two. So: Arsene Wenger on one hand. And the love that dare not speak its name for fear of being blacklisted by IT departments far and wide on the other. Is there any reason Arsenal fans should want to make a point of this?

Hmmm. Now that you mention it, I believe in my younger days I may have seen an adult film called "Dongola Miso"... Wait, where were we--oh yeah, that phrase. Eh, it is a bit unfortunate, but I don't think that many Arsenal fans actually still use it--I certainly don't see it in the comments or on Twitter all that often. I think Come on Arsenal, or Come on You Gunners, or Fuck Manuel Almunia, has largely replaced it.

"Fuck Manuel Almunia." How quaint. In any case: Andrei Arshavin. He's either the world's most beloved misogynist midget, or he's the world's most beloved three-month old baby with giantism who can miraculously play football and could have a non-ironic conversation with Borat. Either way, he really only seems to perform against Liverpool. Or at least that was the case in the past, when he seemed at least competent against much of the rest of the league. With many considering him somewhat less than that recently, should we still be terrified that he'll score a hat-trick on Sunday before making weird facial expressions that suggest he's either exceptionally happy or needs to have his diaper changed?

It's weird. I've said for the past couple of years that Arshavin is one of my least-favorite players on the current Arsenal team, because he doesn't work hard, doesn't track back, doesn't run much when he doesn't have the ball, etc. But a funny thing has happened over the past couple of months--while you still won't see him go on many gut-busting runs the length of the pitch, I think he's actually been quietly pretty effective away from the ball lately. And ironically, his finishing has been pretty shit during that time. But he does lead the team in assists, and only Nani has more Premiership assists than Arshavin this year. And he does have history on his side against Liverpool. A hat trick would be pretty stunning, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he carved open the defense with a couple of brilliant passes.

arshaven funny face
He can hear you talking about him.

There have been growing rumours that Arsene Wenger could find himself out of the manger's job, failing upwards as though he were a police officer or military commander who couldn't quite cut it in the field and so found himself promoted to a nice little pay packet at a comfortable desk instead. Is there a chance this could actually happen should Arsenal again end the year trophyless?

No. Your question presupposes that failing to win trophies is a fireable offense at Arsenal. Which presupposes that the board of directors' primary goal is to win trophies. And I'm just not sure that's the case. Much to the chagrin of many Arsenal fans, I think the board may be perfectly happy by being competitive in a number of competitions, and to keep cashing the Champions League TV checks and turning a profit, which Wenger has never failed to do. And by all accounts he has a great relationship with the board, so I just don't see it happening. And frankly, although I'm not sure what fans think really matters that much, I think the discontent with Wenger has mainly been a vocal minority. I think most people still definitely are on board with him and want him to continue, although I doubt many people are still blind to some very real flaws that he has as a manager.

In the mid 19th-century, classically trained French chefs introduced both beef and western cooking techniques to what had before then been an exceptionally insular Japanese culinary tradition. One of the most lasting impressions was made by the French chef's knife, a multi-purpose tool that could do many tasks nearly as well as the dozens of specialty knives Japanese chefs spent a lifetime mastering the use of. Combined with creeping industrialisation and the growth of a middle class, this multi-purpose knife was seen to have great potential for a new class of Japanese housewife who would have neither the time, money, nor ability to utilise the myriad traditional Japanese knives but would also have more need to prepare complex dishes than those in the lower classes. However, the French chef's knife was still seen as dauntingly large for a housewife, and perhaps worse for the still largely xenophobic culture it was foriegn. The end result was the creation of a knife that combined the French blade with the pattern of a Japanese vegetable knife to create a new single multi-purpose tool. It was a poor compromise that didn't multi-task as well as the French knife or deal with vegetables as well as its Japanese predecessor, largely created to serve a market while satisfying concerns that had nothing to do with its actual utility as a kitchen tool. While it is today largely shunned by serious cooks in Japan and unheard of in professional kitchens, in recent years this knife has been pushed on a Western audience by celebrity chefs marketing a cute and approachable knife primarily to women and not worried about its actual utility as a kitchen tool, happy just to make money selling impractical Santokus to people who mostly don't understand they're buying a sub-par compromise whose raison d'être would likely have Andrei Arshavin nodding along.

Anyhow, is there much chance the FA, English national team, and London media will ever understand Jack Wilshire?

Is Jack supposed to be the inferior knife? Anyway, um... we love Jack. Jack is awesome. I wouldn't go so far as to say he's been our best player this season, but he has been awfully close, and I think what is going to make him such a star isn't his talent or skills--although he has both in spades--but his attitude. I've said over and over again this season that if we had 10 more players with Jack's attitude/mindset, we would never lose a game. And I believe it. More than any other player on the team, he leaves everything he has on the pitch every game, and you can just tell that losing really eats away at him. His game is still far from perfect--he doesn't shoot enough, he is still prone to sloppy, dangerous tackles--and he has no fear of 50/50 tackles and it's a miracle he hasn't gotten badly hurt from that yet. But I really do think he may turn into the English Pirlo, and he'll be a fixture at Arsenal--and captain someday--for a long, long time.

fabio capello bathing suit beach england
Coach. Mentor.
Molder of England.

As for whether he'll be understood--well, I'm not sure the FA, the English national team, or the media ever will understand him. I'm not sure we really understand him--coming up, I think everyone thought he was the long-term heir to the advanced playmaker/support striker role which Cesc fills now. But his tenacity actually works so well in a deeper position where he can fight for, and win, more balls off the opposition, and his pace and hustle allow him to join the attack without getting caught too far out of position, that I do think he might be best served long-term in a deep-lying playmaker role. But I certainly don't think you want to deploy him like Capello has where he is the lone deep-lying midfielder and has all the responsibility for shielding the backline, because that's not really his game and squanders so much of his talent.

I think the all heart and hustle and not a brain cell in sight 4-4-2 midfielder so beloved of the English footballing establishment was the inferior knife. And the media were the idiots pretending their shoveled sewage was gold. Though I do suppose, as with so many things, that one is rather open to interpretation.

In any case, given that Arsenal has so far choked against Birmingham and had all the backbone of a wet rag whilst dropping out of the FA cup against United, not to mention managing all of 7% possession against Barcelona at Camp Nou after teasing supporters with a strong first leg in the Champions League, and on top of all that recently managed three straight lifeless draws in the league to effectively hand the title to United... Well, is it fair to expect Arsenal won't be bothered showing up against Liverpool on Sunday? Or have we reached the point where the pressure's off, the title's out of reach, and the Gunners will make a valiant late stand to give all the fans hope for next season?

I'm surprised that a Liverpool fan is so eager to hand Manchester United their 19th league title, Noel. It seems to me that the sensible thing, since Liverpool has very little to play for, would be for you guys to roll over and not show up on Sunday, so we can win and use that momentum to go on, win our match in hand, and be confident and in good form when we host Manchester United. We beat them in that match, then we're just 1 match in hand with all the momentum. Hey, stop laughing--it could happen! But we have to beat you guys first--why wouldn't you want to help us out here? If you do, and win the trophy, we'll send you a fruit basket or something.

In all seriousness, I don't really know what to expect--this is the time when we pretty much completely packed it in and stopped playing last season, and we have been dreadful since beating Barcelona two months ago. Hopefully getting Szczesny and Djourou back will be a big boost, and we can raise our games against you guys, because I know you've been playing quite well lately, and will give us a test. Hope it's a good match, and they entertain us. Best of luck to you--while I could not match your wit, I very much enjoyed this question exchange. I've always had a soft spot for Liverpool and, aside from Sunday, hope you guys have a strong finish to the rest of the season.

Kind of you to say, though I do believe some would insist that wit is just a nice way to say "pompous jackass." Even then, it's largely down to a strict drug regimen and as such owes a greater debt to my various doctors than it does to any natural talent. In any case, it was enlightening to get a respected Arsenal take on matters, and let's all hope you manage to somehow take the title this season. Even if I could never see clear to hoping for a Liverpool loss in the match ahead and will be baying as loudly as anyone for blood, victory, and the bottle of bourbon I've misplaced.

And I suppose that wraps up another inscrutable edition of Tea and Crumpets, though for those who just can't get enough--which I'm quite certain means you--my return engagement is up for your perusal over on The Arsenal Offside.