Villa at home to Arsenal and this time it’s for real.
There’s no time to think about Wednesday night’s epic because the next test of our title-chasing credentials comes on Saturday afternoon. It’s on TV and we might, for a chance, get more than a passing mention before kick-off.
Arsenal. What can you say about Arsenal that hasn’t been said a million times before? Nothing, so may as well repeat it. Football has gone from being a sport to a part of the entertainment business. We might not be too keen on the new fans who come to the match in their official club leisurewear, clap along to the inanities over the PA and say gosh isn’t football lovely but they’re a source of income so best ignore them and carry on as best you can. Not Arsenal. They’ve industrialised the entire process, so that their entire crowd is full of entitled, sanitised, corporate-minded, money-driven ‘supporters’ who discovered football with all the zeal of a Victorian explorer coming across an undiscovered African tribe in the nineteenth century. It’s theirs now and they’re turning it into what they want it to be. As someone said last season, Arsenal supporters behave as though they’ve read a guide on how to be a footie fan, written by an American. Point and laugh if you like but don’t get too close; it might be catching and the last thing the world needs is an outbreak of Piers Morgans.
Then there’s the match. They’re doing well but can’t understand why a manager they forced out is better than theirs. A sense of proportion, or even reality, has never figured largely in the Arsenal mentality. What was said before Wednesday stands here – this is the sort of match and these are the standard of opposition we have to judge ourselves against now. No excuses, no work in progress, no they’re better than us anyway. They ‘re not; nobody is anymore. And if we win we’ll probably break another record, if anyone’s still counting.