Arsenal and Man City: Treading Water

The tallest blade of grass is the surest to be cut.‘*

Have you ever tried to tread water?

It f***ing hurts.

So much effort just to stay, essentially, in the same position. With a lot less energy.

Perspective is everything.

Above water? Serenity. Below the surface? Chaos.

There’s a finite element to it that always bothers me. It’s like doing a long, arduous sprint on a treadmill.

Eventually, you will fall. Eventually, you will sink.**

ūüĆä

Don’t believe me? Ask Ars√©ne Wenger and Pep Guardiola.

¬†At one point, both achieved accomplishments akin to¬†Michael Phelps’s in the pool. However, unlike the¬†American icon, both have struggled to retain dominance in the latter stages of their respective careers, leading to vociferous (and often embarrassing) arguments over whether they have overstayed their welcome.***

 Tuesday night was a perfect example of this anti-climatic paradox. Both Arsenal and Manchester City recorded much-needed wins to boost (and secure) their Champions League qualification objectives.

¬†In Manchester, City made light work of a West Brom side that had one eye on the beach by putting three past them in relatively quick fashion. Gabriel Jesus scored a tap-in from Kevin De Bruyne on 27 minutes, before they reversed roles just a couple of minutes later. Yaya Tour√© joined in with proceedings, scoring on the 57th minute from ¬†Sergio Ag√ľero’s fantastic pass to put the game beyond doubt. Hal-Robson Kanu grabbed a consolation goal for Tony Pulis’s side on the 87th minute.

Meh.****

¬†At the Emirates, Arsenal kept the pressure on Liverpool by dispatching an already relegated Sunderland, Alexis S√°nchez scoring two cleverly crafted goals to take his tally to 23 for the season. The home side had 62.5% possession, 36 shots (12 on target) and 17 corners to Sunderland’s three. Arsenal now need to beat Everton and hope Liverpool lose at home to Middlesborough to qualify for the Champions League.

¬†Fun little fact for you – Mesut √Ėzil created 12 chances, the most in a single match since Opta began keeping records.

Meh.

 Despite the (relatively) comfortable victories, they were played out to atmospheres of apathy and abjection. Thousands of empty seats; minimal noise; palpable frustration.

¬†We’re talking about top international players here… S√°nchez, Jesus, √Ėzil, De Bruyne – the list goes on. Fans¬†had the chance to watch them… and a considerable amount¬†chose not to.

 This is why this instalment of #TGIMD is pretty light on the match analysis. The results were important in a sense, but also completely irrelevant in the same breath.  Arsenal and Man City could have thrashed their legs about and scored six each, but the league table, and feeling of frustration would have been the same. It simply cannot be ignored.

 Earlier in the week, one manager acknowledged that he would probably have been sacked had he achieved a similar failure under his previous clubs, whilst the other contradicted his own now infamous claim that reaching a certain league position is something to be proud of.

 Regardless of your stance on both comments, it is clear that both Wénger and Guardiola were acknowledging that their fanbases had lost interest in watching their teams stay afloat.

¬†Now I don’t know about you, but once I¬†have admitted that I am¬†struggling to stay above water, I am either propelling myself forward, or getting out of the damn pool.*****

Let’s see what choice they make.

ūü§Ē

J

#TGIMD

*One of the 10¬†principles of underachievement from¬†Ray Bennett’s¬†The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great.¬†

**Unless you turn down the treadmill’s speed. Or jump off. Or go underwater. You get my drift.

***Phelps won multiple golds in 5 of the 6 Olympics he competed in, before retiring on top and joining the latest Baywatch crew. Pep is rapidly losing what’s left of his hair, and as for Ars√©ne… you live by the meme; you die by the meme.

****Fans of lower league teams will probably call me a spoilt brat… but remember, perspective is everything.

*****OK, I think I’ve run (swum) with this analogy¬†as far as my legs (arms) can take me.

[Image provided courtesy of wikiHow.]

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MVP(iece of information)

Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer.‘*

QUESTION:

Who do you think will win the 2016/17 NBA Most Valuable Player Award?

ANSWER:

Well, that’s simple. It has to be Russell Westbrook. The guy just managed the first season average triple-double since, Oscar Robertson, in 1961/62.** In fact, he’s the ONLY other person to do that. And a 31.6/10.7/10.4 triple double at that.

Of course, I wouldn’t begrudge you¬†make the case for Harden. I mean, he did break another Big O record – the first +29/8/11 stat-line since 1964/65, and became the first ever NBA player to register 2000 points, 900 assists and 600 rebounds in a single regular season.

But¬†triple-double, c’mon!

This isn’t to take¬†anything away from The Beard‚ĄĘ. ¬†The Rocket’s talisman improved their record from 41-41 in the previous season to 55-27, a return to former glory not seen since… well, Westbrook in the same season. After the proverbial leash that was Kevin Durant decided to loosen himself, leaving¬†Russell high and dry, it was inevitable that he would go on a tear. However,¬†the extent to which he accumulated crazy box score after crazy box score and clutch point after clutch point, exceeded the highest of expectations. Brodie‚ĄĘ didn’t just have his cupcake and ate it, but went for seconds, thirds, thought to hell with it and finished the damn box.***

To be fair to Harden, he was hardly frugal with the amount of times he dined on the opposition. First player to record a +50/15/15 stat-line with 50/17/16; one of two players to record a 53 point triple-double with that triple-double; first player to achieve multiple 50 point triple-doubles in a single NBA season with a 51/13/13 against the Philadelphia 76ers in January 2017.**** And his win share score is 1.9 points better than Westbrook’s (15). And his field goal %¬†(44), 3 point field goal %¬†(34.7) and free-throw¬†% (84.7) all beat his adversary.

Wait a minute.

Westbrook did accumulate the highest points ever in a triple-double with 57, and broke the record for triple-doubles in a single season with 42 (another Big O record). But Harden became only the fourth player in NBA history to achieve a 40/10/10 stat-line in consecutive games. Westbrook¬†was one of the other three guys, but that’s beside the point.¬†Or is it? He did the same thing this season, part of a 4¬†game triple-double stretch in which he averaged¬†34.75/13.5/12.5, which would be impressive except that he became the only player in NBA history to have a seven game triple-double stretch, twice, in the same season, but then now I think about it, Harden had more 20 point (29) and 30 point (28) games than Westbrook, but then Westbrook had more 40 point (14) and 50 point (4) games than Harden; OK well let’s look at advanced metrics, Westbrook’s player efficiency rating (30.70) is better, but then Harden’s scoring (1.537) and shooting (.525) efficiency rating are both higher; steals per turnovers? That’s Westbrook’s (0.30); assists per turnovers? That’s Harden’s (1.95); Westbrook’s team finished 6th but the usage percentage (41.7) suggests¬†that he was asked to do more but then again you can’t exactly hold that against Harden because the usage percentage (34.2)¬†suggests he ran his offence more effectively but¬†if you look at the statistical efficiency per 100 possessions Westbrook had a higher defensive rating (104) but then again Harden had a higher offensive rating (118) so when you compare that to the value over replacement player rat-

Sorry, what was the question again?*****

J

*American novelist Norman Malier’s words of wisdom.

**Oscar Robertson (known as ‘The Big O’) averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in the 1961/62. The record had been thought to be unbreakable, until this season.

***Congratulations to the Oklahoma faithful – you’ve won the award for Pettiest Insult Directed at a Former Player. Remember guys, pictures last a lifetime; memes last forever. Take a look.

****Harden is tied with Wilt Chamberlain for this particular record. Wilt managed 53/32/14. Absolutely absurd.

*****We have two months left of this. ūüė¶

[Image provided courtesy of GQ; statistics provided courtesy of Basketball Reference, ESPN, NBA Miner, Wikipedia and the Denver Post. My head hurts.]

And so it begins…

Yeah, I know.

Technically, the first post was my introductory post.

And technically, said post was posted a number of months (years?) ago.

And to save you from wasting your thoughts on deserved criticism of my action or lack thereof, yes, technically* the very point of said post could be (and probably has been) said about the Mongolian outback that is this blog.**

But no more.

On April 10th 2016 I made a promise to myself and you, the people, to provide you with GOOD talking points, and GREAT discussion, AND DAMNIT I AM GOING TO GIVE YOU IT.

(wipes tear from eye)

So with that being said…

Before the regular posts start coming, here are just a few points, about the Talking Points that will ensue.***

  • Apart from resembling the inner ramblings of a madman, this page will most likely read as a running commentary on all things sport, with a particularly strong focus on football and basketball.
  • To all those who despise just that, don’t worry. Sport is, on the most part, synonymous with the global issues and stories that constantly surround and consume¬†us. Thus, I will bring in various socio-political/pop-cultural links, as and when I see fit.
  • So hopefully there’ll be something for everyone most people, apart from those who despise just that, to which I solemnly say – I’m sorry. I can’t do anything for you.****
  • Through a mixture of habit and inspiration, I have developed a deep love (and hatred) for footnotes. So expect them. A lot. (Thanks KCL/Bill Simmons).
  • It will not be another year¬†before I post again.

So, there you ago. Please welcome me back into your loving arms. And feel free to share. If for nothing else than to heap shame upon me should I disappear into the outback once more.

Until the next post…

Happy reading.

J

 

*(I completely agree with you – ‘ironically’ would work better, but RULE OF THREE man! Always respect the rule of three. Cheers prof.)

**My sincere apologies.

***I really am going to run this ‘Talking Points’ thing into the ground, aren’t I – it’s TP from now on.

****Can someone let me know who actually came up with the whole ‘you can’t please everyone‘ phrase? Thanks in advance.