As controversy appears to have become attached to our shirt tails in what is only the first month of this season you can perhaps be forgiven for thinking the Boring, Boring tag of a couple decades ago had something going for it. There may have been other seasons that have started as eventfully as this one but if there were I can`t for the moment recall them.
The 6 – 1 drubbing of Everton in the opening game was one where things tended to go for us and the nature of the goals in the next encounter, the first leg of the CL qualifier against Celtic, seemed to foster that impression. But both games and the first home game of the season, a 4-1 win against Portsmouth, showed examples of the team at its most exhilarating counter attacking best. Celtic weren`t the strongest they have ever been but Arsenal still became the first English side to win a European tie at Hampden Park in almost 30 years. The hysteria which surrounded the return leg at the Emirates, disguised an easy win in what was in reality a perfunctory encounter.
It probably seemed the perfect victimless contest for Uefa to act as though they were capable of doing something of worth. That they made a horlicks of it by picking the wrong target for the right motives was as predictable as it was painful to observe. By pandering to media and Scottish sensitivities they heightened the controversy that in turn, raised Celtic ire to absurd levels of what was to prove hypocritical hysteria. So much so that the VitalCeltic site has taken to heaping a completely unjustified degree of disgraceful abuse on the club and its supporters.
The next game against ManU was controversial mainly for our not uncommon ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory all by ourselves but Rooney was able to show, less controversially, that it is possible to avoid accusations of cheating if you master all the necessary skills properly. The events of the weekends game against City have been done to death but the ramifications as City fans come grudgingly to accept that Adebayor`s punishment had nothing to do with racism or some paranoid conspiracy to deprive them of their claim to the Premiership title are still to be witnessed in absurd allegations against the Arsenal and its supporters.
Whether the degree of overreaction to these events from media, pundits, officials, players and fans had any role to play in the first half performance against Standard Liege would be hard to claim but the players certainly looked shell shocked. The result was more valuable than the performance as Cesc later put it “It is very good for the confidence and morale of the team. Sometimes even when you play well you lose and it can affect your head.” By comparison the equaliser, which had it involved a British side, might have invited a similar about of bile, was accepted as one of those decisions that go for you just as we are told we must accept those that go against us. We have yet to have legions of Liege supporters assailing us with the degree of venom and bile adopted by some Celtic and City supporters. They seem ready to accept that controversy or not their own shortcomings contributed to the result. It seems controversy can exist without the British need for insane levels of hyperbole.
One man who seems to best demonstrate how to deal with times and situations like these is Eduardo. He kept his own counsel during the decisions leading to the ban and its retraction. He wisely avoided feeding the headlines the way other players, past and present have done and even afterwards said little more than acknowledging his confidence that the result was always going to be just. Again, as Cesc explains it “Eduardo was always the same and finally the truth came out. He is very strong, a very positive guy. We don’t worry that he is going to go down or going to be depressed. He stands up.”
Events shape other events, good and bad, but we will benefit from a period with an uneventful sense of purpose – to get the job done over the next few weeks with Eduardo like control and focus. We need to get back the confidence and ability we have shown in most of the games so far. Focussing on our football should be excitement enough.
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