Trevor Francis, Commentator for the Arsenal vs Cardiff match: “It’s a joy to watch the best midfield in the country.”
Tony Jones, Commentator for the Cardiff match: “It is one of the toughest tasks for the like of us to pin down this Arsenal midfield to a precise formation because there is a real fluidity and flexibility and quality.”
Trevor Francis: “I think that opening attempt by Jack Wilshere gives you the perfect demonstration of the flexibility of this Arsenal midfield.”
Jack about to crack the crossbar
So, Arsenal were kind of envious of that Man City Tunnelcam thingy, even if they don’t like to admit it. So much so that they decided to run a secret test. Why was it hidden? Because Arsene was against it, against the invasion of privacy, the trespassing in the Sanctum, the ravishing of the Vestal Virgins.
It had been Arsene who had stood in the way of the “Being Arsenal” project. And until very recently he had blocked the Summer tours also.
And so, the Arsenal PR department undertook a secret trial. They set up cameras all over the corridors around the dressing rooms, not at the Emirates, because Arsene would have twigged that, but at Cardiff, as a joint exercise with their people. And then they sat back in their chairs to watch the action on the CCTV screens.
They picked the wrong day.
The buses pull up and the players get off, and our boys are resplendent in their Arsenal suits. So far so good. Arsene himself looked as imperious as the Roman Eagle. There was an expectant buzz about the day. Another chance for Arsenal prove they were for real. And another chance for Cardiff to take a Top 4 scalp. You could feel it. And you could pick it up from the Tunnelcam too. Our PR guys were pumped, smiling back and forwards, high fives to each other as they watched on. It was great TV.
Then the Captains trotted out of the dressing rooms with their team sheets to hand them to the match officials. Cardiff’s captain was done in seconds. But Arteta seemed to be delayed by the officials. They stood there, staring at the sheet. They held it up and turned it upside down, then on its side. One of them even scratched his head. They handed it back to Arteta. He refused to take it back. Voices became raised. Then Arsene walks across to add his voice to the conversation. He points at the sheet, gesticulates. Arsene puts his hand on one of the officials’ shoulders. The official brushes it off angrily. Arsene shoves the official. The official shoves Arsene. Arsene kicks the official in the shin. Two of the other officials jump on Arsene, one on his back, piggyback style. Arteta stands there with his mouth open holding the team sheet…
The Arsenal PR guys rise slowly from their seats and over to the recorder. They hit the stop button. Then the delete button. “Never speak of this again.”
Really it wasn’t Arsene’s fault. How do you fill in our teamsheet formation and do it justice. Sure, Arsene does have a tendency to over-complicate things at times, but, come on, 4-2-3-1? Sorry, that would be just a lie.
He thought about just giving them names on a teamsheet. But that’s like describing life by listing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. It does everyone a disservice.
And so Arsene looked to go beyond some names on a sheet or a 4-2-3-1 diagram. He had struggled for some time to come up with a model for his midfield, first to communicate it to his team, and then to communicate to the outside world. He could feel it but he couldn’t describe it.
But then one evening at his Gentleman’s club in London he happened to share a glass of sherry with Erwin Schrödinger, the father of Quantum Physics.. And yes, the cat killer. Probably.
So, they’re chatting away and Arsene brings up his problem ie how to model his formation. Well, it wasn’t more than a few minutes into the conversation before Erwin told Arsene “Hold it right there, my friend. We had the same problem with Electron Orbits, with the Atomic model.”
“Here is what we used to have to use to describe the orbits of an electron.”
“It is an embarrassment to Quantum Physics,” Schrödinger continued “. I would not use that piece of paper to clean up the mess after one of my cat experiments.
It is a child-like representation. It is a doodle. Inadequate, ignorant, insulting. These electrons, they are the stuff of life. Where are these electrons. They are nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Let me show you some pictures, Arsene…”
Erwin showed Arsene the diagrams of the orbitals of an electron in a hydrogen atom. These were the visualizations of the solutions to his “Schrodinger Equation” describing quantum mechanics for subatomic particles. And they were beautiful, worthy of the mysteries of the life force. They were probability clouds for the possible paths of an electron orbiting a nucleus. The electron could be anywhere in that cloud. But it was nowhere until it was somewhere, until it was “observed” or until it interacted or collided or until there was an event. Until it was detected in one specific location it was in no specific location probably and every location possibly.
Arsene was beside himself with excitement. “This is exactly it! He cried. “You do not know where any electron, I mean player, is until you see a replay of a goal or an incident. And then you see Giroud on the wing, Gibbs in the center alongside Wilshere. Ozil on the other wing. It is exactly the same. You cannot mark, block or stop that which is everywhere and no where.”
Finally, he felt understood. He felt unleashed. Erwin and Arsene swapped diagrams until the early hours that morning. They laughed, they drank, they scribbled. Then a drunken Arsene told Schrödinger that putting an “ö” in his name had now gotten boring and he should change his Twitter handle. Schrödinger protested that he’d never heard of Ozil, and they fought. Then they laughed and drank and scribbled some more.
Even more than the Cardiff game, I was blown away by the Marseille game. The front 5 were sublime. They were everywhere and nowhere, as they were against Napoli and as they would be against a very organized Cardiff. Then add in cameo appearances by Sagna, and Monreal or Gibbs. They were a blur, a cloud. They were everywhere and anywhere. You couldn’t predict who would pop up where. The players didn’t take positions. They represented probabilities across the pitch.
Jack impersonates a winger vs Marseille
OG impersonates a winger to feed Jack with Ramsey running to the CF spot for a “near miss”
Jack’s shot hits the crossbar vs Cardiff
A snapshot at 31″mins against Cardiff
The 2nd goal vs Marseille, started by some excellent holdup play by OG on the right wing, then a through ball by Ramsey to Ozil who squares it for Jack’s run to the penalty spot.
The 1st vs Cardiff started by OG coming deep to the halfway line and pulling the Centerbacks all over the field leaving the space for Ramsey’s Center Forwardesque header.
Giroud on the wing. Jack at Center Forward. Jack on the wing with Ozil at Center Forward. Rosicky, Ramsey, Jack, Ozil, Giroud, and at times, Flamini, with Monreal and Sagna dipping in at will…a blur, a cloud. And Cardiff was the same. This time with Santi, Ozil, Jack, Ramsey, Giroud and Arteta and later Flamini who decided he also wanted to play Center Forward for that Jailbreak goal.
And remember that first goal against Napoli. Giroud on the wing having dropped back. Ramsey haring up the wing. Ozil charging up the middle. Electrifying.
All 4-2-3-1 nominally. But in reality it’s all a 4-1-Blur
The formation when written down is really a starting position, a first offer, an opening bid.
Formations are redundant now. The formation is but a polite suggestion from the manager as to how the players might want to arrange themselves at kick off. But only if they don’t mind. The manager’s only firm rule is “don’t bunch up together too much, lads, if you can help it.” So, as you can see, not that firm a rule.
But even that rule was broken. Look at this flashmob moment.
Everybody all grouped together in the center of the park for an instant before they scatter. How do you defend that?
Steve Bruce: “it’s so difficult to set up against Arsenal because the players seem to play anywhere and everywhere” #ArsVHull
The possibilities are infinite. No wonder Sir Gary Neville says that his favourite team to watch this year is Arsenal. He’s not wrong.
Ironic that Heisenberg is certain he’s uncertain while Hansen is certain he’s certain.