When Woolwich Arsenal played out a 3-3 draw against Newton Heath in their first ever meeting on 13 October, 1894, they never knew they would be superpowers in the League. Woolwich Arsenal became Arsenal FC while Newton Heath metamorphosed to Manchester United.
Last Saturday, I watched Arsenal’s childish display at old Trafford and I started questioning the headlines that read “United, Arsenal Re-ignite old Rivalry”, “Super Saturday”, “Arsenal Seek Old Trafford Revenge”, “Gunners Face Rivals United”.
After the 2-1 defeat, I got home and rushed to library to check the meaning of rivalry. I wondered if I cheated or was taught wrongly in my O’ level English Language exams.
- Longman says “Rivalry is when people or groups try to show that they are better than each other”
- Chambers says “a rival is one who strives to equal or excel another; one pursuing an object in competition with another”, “to be a rival, is to stand in competition with another with comparable claims”
- Microsoft Encarta says “Rivalry is an act of competitiveness”
In respect of these definitions, we were way short of the term “rivals” or “rivalry”. We slept all through the match, conceded an erratic-defending goal and a short defender out jumped our big players to score.Competitiveness? We can’t compete in terms of money, yet we fall short on the field also.
Our goal came in the only meaningful pressure on United’s backline. The goal unfortunately was a mere consolation and the last kick of the slop-sided game. There was no passion nor drive to equal United talk less excelling above them. There was no aggression from the players save that of Wilshere and Arteta. We were soft in marking, loose in tackling, slow in tracking back, toothless in attack; we just showed we aren’t in the same level as United.
Wilshere’s tackles might have earned him an early bath but he understood what a rivalry is. He has been in the arsenal frame work since his teens and must have been fuelled by the old epic rivalries between the two sides. Arteta’s premier League experience and new role may have propelled his game but the team showed class.
I didn’t see any shouts or face-to-face confrontation; I didn’t see anybody taunting Rooney for missing the penalty; neither did the captain challenge the ref for the decision. I searched for brawls and anger-in-the-eyes to no avail. Rather, we saw sloppy plays, no aggression, easy give-aways and to cap it all a swap of jersey, not even at the end of the game but at half time.
Hey, it was not a swap. It was a collect of jersey. RVP didn’t collect santos’. If they were equal, according to the definitions above, they would have swapped. We don’t swap jerseys with rivals.
I miss the Viera-Keane non-ending rows, the pizza throwing battle of buffets, the aggression, the taunts, the penalties, the feud, the no-handshake epistles, the shoves and pushes and the victory. Yes, the victory.
The last time Arsenal won at Old Trafford was on 17 September 2006, where Gilberto missed a penalty but Adebayor scored the only goal. Only one player present then is present now: Theo Walcott. RVP presence might have sparked fire against United because he knows what rivalry means and how it tastes. Yet Walcott is yet to sign da ting.
Where is the Rivalry now? When will we win at Old Trafford? We are losing our rivalry status and we need to save it.
I pray Wenger joggles his team well against Fulham on Saturday. We might have held out to a 2-2 draw in Germany against Schalke 04 but anything less than a clean sheet and a resounding victory on Saturday is failure. Let the Prof use our options.