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Arsenal Away…
by Ed Bottomley

Playing Arsenal has always been horrendous… Being a south Londoner by birth, there were seasons when I saw Everton away a lot more than when I saw them at home. It always seemed to end either in ignominy or at very best a draw.

My best mate was a Gooner. Him and his dad used to take me to Highbury, half to gloat and half to test me; to see if they could turn me. Only once did they expose me as an Everton fan, in 1996, his normally calm dad exploding in rage at an impudent Everton win and outing me.

“He’s a blue, this one!” he screamed, as I sank deep into my chair…

Silence for a few seconds, then a hand on my shoulder. An elderly Arsenal fan leaned over…

“Always had a soft spot for Everton. They’re a proper team.”

A low hum of agreement followed that declaration. I was sitting in the East Upper, the soft underbelly of Highbury full of gentle Arsenal fans.

Years later, I was sitting with my dad in the Clock End when a fan leapt onto the pitch and tried to swap shirts with an awful Alex Nyarko. Now I watch from 3,000 miles away but the feeling is always the same – we’d be lucky to get anything out of Arsenal away.

Unlike the soothsayers, naysayers, and top football experts on Twitter – I didn’t think our starting lineup was that bad…

And then this happened.

Talk of relegation is as stupid as talk of European qualification but if this game was played on a playstation you’d rage quit and change the difficulty level.

A complete demolition, even by our sorry standards, against Arsenal. A game all but over within nineteen minutes with Aubameyang scoring the fourth on 37 minutes. Everton were just bystanders, a team of neutral observers. Pickford punch drunk in goal, most of our defenders playing like ghosts, Schneiderlin sticking to his philosophy of “better late than never” when it comes to tackles. A confused Mangala – our new defensive spirit animal – looking lost. Has anyone ever told him he’s a defender?

I love Oumar Niasse, he follows in the footsteps of Denis Straqualursi , technically horrific but full of heart. Our Oumar even hit the post today, and covered every inch of the pitch, like a diligent cleaning lady – stoically hoovering the living room while the house burns down.

And poor Theo, poor bloody Theo.

If the Leicester game was uplifting for Walcott, this must have been thoroughly depressing. Nothing says “we’re not going to miss you Theo” like drilling four past your new team in the first half… The poor sod was even hooked on the hour, replaced by consolation goal scorer DCL.

And naturally Everton Twitter went nuclear and called for Sam’s head. Despite Wenger never having lost any of 21 home games in the Premier League against Everton. Despite Everton having gone without a win at Arsenal since 1996 when Bruce Rioch was manager. Back when the gentle East Upper shrugged their shoulders and smiled at my support for Everton. Everton are rotten to the core right now, and it goes far beyond firing the manager.

People were critical of Allardyce for his negative style. He was billed as a radical defensive puritan. But this is worse than that. We have no identity, and no character. We flit from game to game – sometimes playing well, sometimes remembering to defend, sometimes pressing, sometimes winning, and other times getting destroyed. There’s no consistency. The pendulum swings, faster and faster, like a wagging finger telling us what idiots we were in the summer. Nothing Allardyce has tried to do with this team has stuck. But then we could say the same about Koeman – we looked devoid of ideas when he was manager too…

Now is the winter of our discontent, but this all goes back to our mad summer where all the millions in the world and a director of football couldn’t give us even a whiff of strategy or planning. We’ve managed to turn almost every player into a worse one than when they signed. This fecal Midas touch even translated itself to managers where even showing an interest in Marco Silva saw Watford’s form nosedive.

We’re paying for our transfer incompetence now, and I don’t even know what the answer is.

Written by Ed Bottomley

Everton fan exiled in Michigan. Duncan Ferguson obsessive, history buff, optimist. Follow me on Twitter @DixiesSixty

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