Date: 31st August 2010 at 8:42pm
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According to that ever reliable bastion of truth and knowledge Wikipedia, whipping boys were first established in the 17th Century in England. The term derives from a position held by a close confidante of the King`s eldest son. The idea emanated from the philosophy of the Divine Right of Kings. Since Kings were apparently chosen by God, it went that nobody was fit to punish the King`s son except for the King himself. But obviously the monarch was often too busy chopping off heads and eating boar and goose sandwiches to discipline his next of kin. Teachers and carers were not worthy of bestowing punishment upon the young Prince, so they appointed a ‘whipping boy` to act as an avatar of punishment and scathing for his Princely friend.

Though the Royal Family still hangs around like a bad smell in England, the whipping boy tag only applies in a metaphorical context. (Rumour has it that they`ve had trouble filling the position in a literal context since Prince Harry dressed up as a Nazi). In the Arsenal lexicon, the term “whipping boy” has come to mean “player what we don`t like much and fink should be sold.” A number of current squad players have had this visage thrust upon them. Alex Song was given a generous 45 minutes in an Arsenal shirt before the Red Section (you know, the ones that tell you how they think you should support the club?) cried “Off with his head” from the gallery at Craven Cottage. Philippe Senderos is apparently the only defender in Christendom that has ever had a hard time with Didier Drogba. Denilson has bore the brunt of the crowd on his back to the point that he is suffering a terminally gammy vertebra. Apparently, in a paltry 28 appearances stretching over 2 years, Mikel Silvestre managed to sleep with the significant other of every match going Gooner. Emmanuel Eboue was condemned to the guillotine until we worked out, that, err, he`s not actually that bad. (Of course, those guilty of humiliating him so publicly are the very ones that now “ironically” fete him as a cult hero and wear hilarious tee shirts in his honour. Guilt can do funny things to people). Nicklas Bendtner likewise was dissed and dismissed by the masses- largely on the basis that he wore pink boots and had a rubbish haircut. That was until the end of last season when, ooh looky here, he`s playing regularly and, what d`ya know? He`s scoring an absolute fecking truckload of goals! Well bless my effeminate boots!

The last 18 months has seen Manuel Almunia`s bleached blond barbigerous features in the stocks. To the quite unbecoming point that nobody gave a rat`s arse about the fact that his early season loss of form last year might just have been due to a quite tragic family bereavement. Yet those super uber fans at Red Action organised a “show of support day (?!)” for Cesc because his Granddad was ill last October. Who knew compassion was commensurate with quality? Now Arsenal have failed to sign the desperately average Mark Schwarzer (who Arsenal fans had mystifyingly convinced themselves was the answer due to the fact that, errr, his name ain`t Almunia…..or Fabianski) we can expected the extended disco version of “worst goalie ever” from N5. Every goal conceded will be his fault, of this there is no doubt. Every save and cross claimed will be quietly forgotten as eyes drop to the floor and feet shuffle, but the next time someone pounds the ball into the top corner from eight yards, the guillotine will be prepared as the blood thirsty masses rush forward to dip their hankies on the blood that is shed.

But who will join Manuel in the stocks this season? The new boys usually get a season or so of “youngest child” treatment whilst the cellophane has only just been taken off and they`ve still got that lovely new smell. There was potential for a while for Sagna and his crossing to begin to test some tempers until, well until we started scoring quite regularly as a result of his raids down the right. Fabregas will be psycho analysed, as every misplaced pass or shanked shot points towards Catalonia; but he still won`t quite reach pariah status. Andrey Arshavin has always been a bit of an idle wayward genius, but people are apparently only making this observation now that Hasbro have released a new line of G.I. Joes to burgle our miniscule attention spans, but there will always be just enough moments of genius to keep us swooning. My money on the next prime candidate would be Abou Diaby. Capable of the sublime and the ridiculous- usually in the same passage of play- Diaby could be a couple of shinned passes away from becoming the doyen of the Gooner voodoo dolls. A certain level of resentment does seem to be bubbling under the surface, but having just walloped the ball out of play under no pressure and caused a clenching of teeth; Abou spoils our fun minutes later by beating three players in one movement before rapping us a verse of “We Ain`t Goin` Like That,” causing us to sheepishly return our sharpened knives to our jean pockets. But a bad run of form for Diaby could see him cast asunder.

Carlos Vela might well be an outside bet after a pretty ordinary season last year, anymore indifference from the mercurial young Mexican could see him on the receiving end of some acid tongues. Gael Clichy has been a feature of the toy box for some time and his plasticy sheen has been weathered with supporters; with the newer and shiner Kieran Gibbs competing for a space at the summit of the toy chest, expect Clichy`s every solid performance to be held up as bona fide evidence that Gibbs should be subject to our whims. One thing is for sure, whilst Manuel will be the undisputed whipping boy in chief, we Arsenal fans need a deputy to bear the cross of the entire team`s ills. We need someone to blame for global warming, the economic downturn and to bear our frustration when one of the golden boys messes up. (I.e. the next time Vermaelen once again gets too tight to Drogba and gets massacred by the Ivorian who scored four goals against Arsenal last year under the Verminator`s watchful eye). Who`s your money on?LD.