For Whom Nothing Is Written
For Whom Nothing Is Written
T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was a brilliant visionary, a man of science, an outsider, a foreigner in a foreign land and in his own. He was illegitimate and likely gay, a tough combination in those days. Lawrence was multilingual, competent in French, Ancient Greek, and Arabic.
His nearly impossible, nearly suicidal, unfathomably risky exploits reshaped the Middle East (for good or bad) and played a major role in the Allied victory in World War I – single-handedly in one sense. (Although the Arabs who joined with him, fought and died might quibble with that simplification.)
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a fascinating read – Lawrence’s own account of his involvement in the Arab Revolt – and a primary source for the Academy Award-winning film.
One of the primary themes, illustrated in the film, was the battle between Lawrence’s belief that “Nothing Is Written” ie that fate is not determined, and the Arab fatalism of his allies ie “It Is Written.”
And I think it has parallels at our club…
Lawrence proposes a daring surprise attack on Aqaba which, if successful, would open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviate a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal. While strongly fortified against a naval assault, the town is lightly defended on the landward side. He convinces Prince Faisal to provide fifty men, led by a sceptical Sherif Ali. Two teenage orphans, Jack and Aaron, errr… I mean Daud and Farraj, attach themselves to Lawrence as his servants.
They cross the Nefud Desert, considered impassable even by the Bedouins, travelling day and night on the last stage to reach water.
Him For Whom Nothing Is Written
Prince Feisal: Gasim’s time has come, Lawrence. It is written.
T.E. Lawrence: Nothing is written.
Sherif Ali: You will NOT be at Aqaba, English! Go back, blasphemer… but you will NOT be at Aqaba!
T.E. Lawrence: I SHALL be at Aqaba. That, IS written. [pointing to forehead] In here.
And then, much later, after the victory at Aqaba…
We are little men, pygmies, if you will, among whom a few giants walk.
We however believe we know the future. “Our defense will always be shit. We will never spend any money. We will always sell our best players. This team is fully of average players. We can never win anything with this manager and this owner.”
But nothing is written. Not for Wenger. Nor for this team or for this club or for Jack or for Ramsey or Theo or Gnabry or Ox or Santi or Sagna or Gibbs or Zelalem or…
Or for us.
Let’s talk about some of those players…
Flamini: He left us in ’08 under a cloud. At 29, his career was in Limbo. But he professed a desire to return to the PL for some unfinished business and to win the big one. He trained with our squad for 2 weeks to regain fitness, but impressed all with his attitude AND his fitness. Sadly, he couldn’t cost us £15m. But he has been a bit of a revelation to us. A superb option. In fact, even those of us who are massive Arteta fans (which is ALL of us) are now wondering whether he can be dropped.
Here is some stuff you should know about Mathieu… His favourite book is The Day of the Jackal. He never met a 2-footed tackle he didn’t like. “Dieu m’a donné deux pieds pour une bonne raison.” And above all…he is everywhere he is supposed to be. Him and Per are the last men to leave. They turn off the lights on the way out.
In two recent matches he has responded to the systematic hacking of Jack’s ankles with the following verbal assaults on the transgressors:
“You touch his ankles and I will take your eyes.”
and his latest…
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let Jack alone now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.”
Now that’s how you win your team over. Every team needs a Flamini. Forget on the pitch, it’s in the dressing room it counts. It’s a battlefield mentality. “Nobody fucks with Jack. Nobody fucks with any of us.”
And if that costs us a red card from time to time, so be it. Vieira had his share. And we still won most of those matches. Cos nobody fucked with us.
Gnabry: What a boy. I knew it. i fucking knew he would step up. And I’m Theo’s biggest fangirl. But Gnabry is a freight train. He gives us a very different kind of weapon on the right. He comes infield by default. AND he defends, tracks back. He tracks back so far that he ended on the far side of the box at one point against Swansea.
For an 18 year old, Gnabry’s strong, confident in possession, fast (an ex-sprinter) and panics defenses by running straight at them. He can finish, and he has a shot on him. Ox II perhaps? Now, that will be a battle.
Bendtner: Why not? Why can’t it be? It can and it probably will. You couldn’t make this shit up. Arsenal! It’s got more plot twists than Mike Baldwin, Ken and Deirdre.
Fear not, Gunners. Nik’s a changed man.
Jamsey: Again, it’s not Jack or Ramsey! It’s Jack AND Ramsey. It’s Jamsey. Jack is slowly rebuilding his game. Really, he’s building his game. He was all “potential” before he got injured. His requirements in the future will be far more demanding in terms of role(s) and responsibilities than his early “run at ’em with the ball, and tackle like a terrier” task. But Arsene will keep finding ways to get Jack loads of minutes till Jack hits full force. Arsene has decided it’s Jamsey. So let’s just all accept it and move on.
And I haven’t even mentioned Ozil. I notice that phenomenon quite a lot recently. I keep forgetting about him. Why is that? Has he been a disappointment? Err…he’s been terrific. But he’s kinda low key, isn’t he? He’s not a star. He just plays. He plays in stealth mode.
For example, on the 2nd counterattacking goal against Napoli, there he was on the right touch-line, pretending to be a sub warming up, whistling surreptitiously, with his hands in his pockets, until Szczesny spotted him and supplied, and then his face took on the aspect of the assassin, as he picked out his sightline, to hit Ramsey and kick off another devastating counterattack. And goal. Marvelous.
It was the second of the day. The first had 21 passes and involved every player on our team except Szczesny, Per and Koscielny. And it was brilliance. I was dumbfounded. All I could tweet after it was “Holy. Fucking. Shit.”
Szczesny was pretty pissed off to be left out of the fun. So he made sure on the second goal that he had the first pass: WS to MO to AR to JW to OG to JW to Og to AR. Goal.
Now imagine Szczesny grabbing the ball and quickly looking up to see where he’s going to sling it, like a quarterback with 2 wide-receivers he can hit. “Will I go Ozil on the right or Santi on the left?” Counter-attacking heaven.
He’s a funny bugger, that Ozil. For much of the game he’s hard to spot on my TV, a bit non-descript even. Not doing much. Till the goals. Or the near goals. Or the highlights reel. Or till I go back through one of those “Ozil vs X” videos and you see he’s actually involved all over the gaff.
What is strange is that I seem to always remember him at Real wearing that girlie hairband thing and being soaked in sweat and looking like he might collapse of exhaustion. Oh, and soaked in sweat. For us he seems to just jog around. And he seems to influence our games rather than dominate them. He goes up and down the gears without seeming to change pace.
But when he runs with the ball, the periscope is always up, looking for the pass that will make the difference.
I suspect Ozil will bring out the Ozil in all our players. They will all learn to play with the periscope up, trying to emulate those parts of his game that blow them away. In fact, Ramsey’s cut across pass to Gnabry for the 1st goal was so Ozil I thought it WAS Ozil. It’s tempting to think that Ozil inspired it but to be fair, Ramsey’s been doing that stuff since the pre-season.
And GZel must think he’s dreaming to have come to the same club as Ozil.
But I think that creativity is going to break out all over. Every player’s inner Ozil will be unleashed.
You will have noticed I have not mentioned our position in the league. It’s early days. We need to play all the big boys. Twice.
Gary Prince made me chuckle before the weekend. He mentioned a Spud he gave up on who had just informed him that the Spuds were leading the league since they were tied on points and only behind on goal difference. And goal difference only counts on the last day (though generally it’s irrelevant in Spurs’ case.) I am hoping Gary can check in with his Spud mate. I look forward to hearing how the Spuds are still leading the league today on the basis that points, too, only count on the last day. Which, I guess, is sort of true.
What we CAN say is that we have had a great start. We have handled a bunch of critical injuries as if it ain’t no thing, Gnabry and Flamini filling in without missing a beat or more correctly, by adding something new. And something that we can now call up throughout the season as an option. Dare I say, the injuries have made us stronger and cost us not a point. Gnabry now makes our squad 1 player deeper than it was a week ago.
There will be many ups and downs this season. But this team, these players, the way we are starting to play, it’s just a little bit awesome. Nothing is yet written for them.
YOU cannot say “We will never.” You cannot say “It is written.”
And as Sherif Ali might have said about Wenger, had he been a Gunner, “Truly, for some men nothing is written unless THEY write it.”
Sir Gary Neville
And minutes after we clinched the Top 4 spot last season, when pundits and media across land mocked us for celebrating “like we had won a trophy,” Neville had this to say in our defense:
“They have built a football stadium, they’re paying off their debt and they’re nearly there.
If they move up now it will look like one of the most magnificent managerial performances if you look back in history.
Half the Arsenal fans are annoyed because they think they should be doing more and should be doing better, but of all the madness and debt that surrounds football, what they have done is absolutely the right thing.
What they need to do now, having nearly paid off their debt, is they need to go now. I think he knows, Arsène Wenger, that moment is now.”
Excellent stuff. Cheers.
Bravo Maestro-Encore Encore Encore
Brilliant article and great photos! Thank you
Stirring stuff….I got a little bit tingly reading this… It feels reminiscent of 1997, when everyone at Highbury could feel something stirring, a rustle in the hedgerow… call it what you will, we felt it. I think we might be nearly there now. If – IF – January can be productive, we may yet upset the applecart.
At the time when GNev said those words, they made my hairs stand on end. I realised the true awesomeness of the position we have got ourselves into. The next 5, 10, 20, even 50 years are set to be ARSENAL’S years. If we dont do it this year, no sweat. We have all the time in the world, mostly thanks to one man.
This is brilliant writing. Top notch stuff. Gave me goose pimples and all.
Gon give the Italians a nap come this evening. The Arsenal can do it. Come on You Gunners!!!
Utterly superb. Just great great writing.
Feisal: What I owe you is beyond evaluation..
Masterpiece. I love your funny/amazing retelling of the exploits our players/Arsene/Ivan, etc. You have an amazing style of writing.
I especially love your character profiles of our players. I laugh, re-read them and relish them. Sometime ago you had said that Szczesny was basically british because you were sure he tried to sell you a dodgy car radio. That was gold.
Did Flamini really say, mess with Jack and I take your eyes out?
Excuse my French but that is a fucking top drawer blog post.
Max respect man.
Did I mention I just added you to my list of Blogs From Which Not A Word Will Be Missed? Well, I just did.
Bravisimo, fantastico, excellent! And did happen to mention well done!
Spot on. Having just watched us completely and utterly nullify a decent Napoli side, this season is beginning to give me the shivers…
This is absolutely brilliant. Joyous read,almost as good as THAT 1st half!
Feel sorry for you Poznan – Arsenal keep raising their game and you are too! But how are you going to follow tonight’s performance?
Paul – You have a gift as a writer, prescient is the word. Hours after you publish this, our team for whom nothing is written, simply goes out an annihilate Napoli. You predicted the same prior to Bayern. It is because you are insightful as well as funny, honest writer. Brilliant.
I love your invocation of TEL’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom as it is one of my favorite books ever. Imagine him with AW facing the AAA media: yes, we will go to Aqaba and annihilate the Turks without spending a quid on the transfer market. We have sketches of the Krac des Chevaliers, and though it is known to be impregnable, we can take it in 90 minutes with 11 Gunners and a few subs.
Class blog PIMP!
Gary Neville’s words, ever since he said them, ring in my head like prophecy. haha, it is written! but wenger wrote it 8 years ago.
…and this is exactly why I subscribed to you. Brilliant stuff. Had a lone tear in my eye at one point…
Another heartrendering work of staggering genius.
Loved Naughty Nik checking out the swans cheerleader’s ass in the photo too.
المادة الرائعة، أحسنت
Enjoyed this read very much. Truly a gifted writer.
The future is very bright…..
Can’t wait for your next installment. Cheers.
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Excellent, excellent piece.
The ‘stealth mode’ on Ozil is something I’ve noticed too. In the TV coverage, he always seems to be in the periphery, and I keep hoping he sees more of the ball. I remember half-time breaks when I’ve been wondering if we’ve brought him in enough on the play. But the highlights reel has all Ozil…. that one touch, dummy, shimmy, the left instead of the obvious right……
I do hope he brings out the inner Ozil in all of us.