The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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A Weekend of Terrible Harvests

An eerie field of corn.

The match on everyone’s mind may be the lurid festival of Arsenal-Manchester United, but there are a few other pockets of fear and resistance that might be worth looking into. Terrible truths will be revealed. Buried secrets will come to light. Outside my window, gray piles of dead leaves will lie scattered upon the Observatory ground. The lack of a sensible youth policy will continue to bring about no consequences whatsoever.


Arsenal – Manchester United (12:45 GMT, 7:45am Eastern Time)

The doom facing Arsenal if they lose this match may be too terrible to contemplate, but Man Utd have fears of their own: already off the leaders’ pace in this Premier League season, they lose points here at their peril. Of course, scenting the carnage at Arsenal, the champions could be forgiven for letting a gleam of anticipation dance in their eyes. Silvestre, Gallas, Sagna and Walcott will play, if they do, through pain, while Adebayor, Rosicky, Van Persie, and Eboue lie slumped amid the ruins. On the other hand, John Djourou is healthy. So there’s that.

Sunderland – Portsmouth (15:00 GMT, 10am ET)

As the overlords, so the minions. Sir Alex Ferguson’s grim lieutenant Roy Keane leads his men against Tony Adams, Arsène Wenger’s wounded champion. At stake: the difference between being somewhere around 8th place and being something like 17th. The anxiety is delicious. The football, maybe not so much.


Inter – Udinese (14:00 GMT, 9am ET)

The champions of the league have slipped into the third place, and the upstarts of Udine have surpassed them. Now, having lured the rebels to their own home soil, Inter will be looking to restore order with one swift stroke of the executioner’s blade. Ibrahimović and Quagliarella both have five goals in the league, and they both have five syllables in their names, which I think is kind of…neat.

Manchester City – Tottenham (15:00 GMT, 10am ET)

The fascination surrounding Tottenham Hotspur at the moment has lost none of its pull. Under Harry Redknapp’s impassive gaze, impossible is nothing. After crushing one of the approximately 900 Eastern European clubs whose fans largely attend games in order to set fires (possibly because of the cold?) at midweek, Spurs now turn their attention to a team that struggled to outwit Steve McClaren. The Man City-Twente match was the most ragged UEFA Cup game I’ve ever seen (read that sentence again), and City’s total absence of discipline combined with Tottenham’s total absence of reality could lead to a thrilling encounter…or to a nightmare from which the Earth will later awaken blackened and desolate, and also really uncomfortable from having slept so long on the couch.

There are some other promising matches—the MLS playoffs on Saturday, Schalke-Bayern on Sunday—but these are the ones I’m currently planning to watch. As always, I welcome your own thoughts about the matches you’re watching, so if you gaze into the darkness and see the face of George Gillett staring back at you, feel free to unburden yourself in the comments.

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A Weekend of Terrible Harvests

by Brian Phillips · November 7, 2008

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