Saturday, March 2, 2013

The North London Derby Prediction

Arsene Wenger earlier this week stated that Arsenal make no special preparations to face superlative players. Arsenal suddenly make so much more sense to me.

In Soccernomics, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, the argument is made that innovative advantages do not live in perpetuity. In other words, if I show up to our office or worksite or lab or *ahem* soccer league with an innovative and effective way of doing the same old thing, I will enjoy a substantial advantage over my opponents for as long as it takes my opponents to either counter my innovation with an innovation of their own or to simply start doing the same thing that I once did so uniquely, and even potentially improve upon my methods.

The case study they use to illustrate said point? Arsene Wenger.

Kuper and Syzmanski are able to pinpoint the exact moment Wenger was no longer "The Professor" and simply became "Wenger." That exact moment? 2006.

This is an image from the near tomorrow
Look, I appreciate Wenger and his very French very stubborn insistence that his methods are not flawed. I appreciate his ability to find young talent and polish it into professional class. I find the brand of football Arsenal plays to be mostly pleasing to the eye (I can do this because I'm not an Arsenal fan and I'll never want to kill myself when they can't play Any. Other. Way. even when they need a goal in the 93rd minute). I can even endure Wenger's constant diffusion of responsibility for his team's inability to do anything other than qualify for the Champions League and get knocked out of domestic cup competitions. I find his peanut butter mouth accent charming, his ridiculous coat ridiculous,  and I kind of dig the fact that he was boning down with an Algerian female rapper half his age...allegedly.

What I enjoy most though, is his tragic inability to innovate again, the caricature of himself he has become, and the manner in which Arsenal fans have adopted their manager's delusional optimism, an optimism that blames everyone and everything else for their side's failure. I don't mean that as schadenfreude. I don't enjoy Arsenal's failure out of spite, but I do enjoy the morality play the Gunners have become. It's like Aesop's Fables or Animal Farm or Oedipus Rex or This Is Spinal Tap all come to life. Arsenal are a cautionary tale warning against the hubris a novel idea can cultivate.
Gareth Bale is not someone like Ricky Lambert who just happens to be his side's best player. Gareth Bale is in the purplest or purple patches. He's wearing a Barney suit, stomping grapes, and listening to Gogol Bordello's Start Wearing Purple on repeat.

Wenger hasn't planned for him? He's either lying or doing the most Arsene Wenger thing Arsene Wenger has ever done. I'm going with latter.

Prediction: Gareth Bale - 3. Arsenal - 1.    

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