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.
Though you’ll notice that Gallas stayed clear of the circle of love that sprang up around Robin after the game.
My feelings for Arsenal are pulling against each other at the moment. They’re a fascinating collection of something, they play in a style I love, and I’ve reached the point where I’m so annoyed by the clearly-real-in-some-form underground pressure on Wenger that I may be seeing it where it doesn’t exist. That said, seeing them go through an unambiguous collapse would in some ways be a purer experience of who they are this season than sitting through another run of last-ditch restitutions, which puts me in the strange position of liking them and therefore wanting them to lose. Also, and this would be true of any really big team, there’s a certain pleasure, almost a relief, in watching them crack up, in exactly the same way that there’s a tiny anarchic thrill in the news that some famous old painting has been lost, even if you generally mourn it. It clears a space. Having that feeling stifled is frustrating, even when your principles demand it.
Also, and I may be the only person who feels this way, I find myself resenting what they did to William Gallas. I’m less and less inclined to blame Gallas for anything he did as captain and more inclined to blame Wenger for making him captain in the first place. Gallas was always an intensely crazy player who should never have been submitted to the code of stern morals that goes along with a captaincy. Once he was asked to see the world that way it was only a matter of time before the straight lines were going to go snaky. Now he looks admonished where he used to look triumphantly sullen, and I miss the old version even if I couldn’t exactly lay out for a Sophoclean chorus why anything he did was defensible.
At any rate, watching the comeback at Stamford Bridge this afternoon was an unexpectedly weird experience, made more so by the fact that it was van Persie, Gallas’s probable bête noire, who did all the scoring. Chelsea are not themselves lacking in the department of major significance, but I couldn’t help but feel I was watching some sort of intra-Arsenal trial by combat, in which the right side won (as ordained, etc.), and I kind of wished it hadn’t. At the same time, the fact that even now Arsenal refuses to run down the clock or play defensively at the end of a match gives me a contradictory twinge of affection. I can’t decide if I feel guilty of being proud of them or proud that they’re making me feel guilty.
Otherwise: Big Phil’s gargantuan track suit and Arsène Wenger’s impossibly puffy coat could have an intriguing battle of their own, in the tradition of Godzilla v. Mothra. They both look like they could probably move under their own power anyway.
It was nice to see Stoch making his debut for Chelsea. Wait, who? Anyway, Bendtner must have enjoyed it. I think I saw him complimenting the kid’s haircut after the game.
The Djourou own goal was just a thing that happened. It doesn’t require analysis, the way random droplets of rain landing on your window don’t require a bowl or a fish.
by Brian Phillips · November 30, 2008