‘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.**
Don’t believe me? Ask Arséne 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 Touré joined in with proceedings, scoring on the 57th minute from Sergio Agüero’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.
At the Emirates, Arsenal kept the pressure on Liverpool by dispatching an already relegated Sunderland, Alexis Sánchez 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 Özil created 12 chances, the most in a single match since Opta began keeping records.
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… Sánchez, Jesus, Özil, 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.
*One of the 10 principles of underachievement from Ray Bennett’s
**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 Arséne… 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.]