“We’re not a one man team! Did Robin save the penalty at Anfield? Is Robin assisting himself in all these goals? Did Robin make the last-ditch block at the Hawthorns? Shut up with your one-man team rubbish, we’re not a one-man team! One man team, why I outta… one man team… what are they like… one man team…”
And so we sat, bent out of shape about something only an Arsenal fan would ever get bent out of shape about, rocking back and forth and twitching slightly more violently each and every time van Persie scored yet another goal for us. All. Season. Long. Of course it’s a stupid term and one made up exclusively to wind people up. It’s reductive and it’s insulting… but oh boy did we rely on that Dutch person a lot last season. The facts and stats that just kept on coming were of as much use in the super-straight laced world of statts as a chocolate teapot of course: “If Arsenal didn’t have van Persie they’d have scored three goals all season long/Arsenal haven’t scored a left-footed goal that wasn’t from a Dutch left foot since 1972/If van Persie had only one leg, he wouldn’t have scored this season”… and I’m only slightly exaggerating.
Given I generally think wins come from sparkly magic win dust and losses come from the loss monster cursing you with his loss electrons every now and again, stats in general bore me. I just think that trends are there to be bucked, you know? I always believed Gael Clichy was only a match away from his next Premier League goal. And I was right, that one time. So when you add into the equation stats about facts that aren’t even correct – we HAD Robin van Persie, so why are you tools talking about how we’d be faring if we didn’t? – it just adds to the bulging eye vein and the ground down stumps in the back of my mouth that used to be teeth.
But anyway, the one man teamism. We weren’t lucky in any way, shape or form to have had the Dutch person in our team last season. He was there because he’d been bought in 2004 and was finally, after about seventeen million years, in one working, placenta-free piece. But people behaved in such a fashion that would have led a non-earth-dwelling human recently arrived on the planet to have believed that he’d been given to us as some sort of consolation prize for losing Cesc Fabregas. (I hate people saying we ‘lost’ him. We didn’t ‘lose’ him. We sold him. Don’t be so passive. Even if we did sell him with our hands tied behind our back and looped over our head and with our elbow joints bent back to front, clinging on to his leg and sobbing that this time it’d be different.)
So on the Dutchman went, scoring, scoring, scoring. One busted ankle and we would have been in a right old pickle. Thankfully his ankles continued bust-free and our heavy reliance on that one man paid off. This season, however, it’s a different story. Arsene Wenger has said he does not expect Olivier Giroud to score 30 goals this season, and that it is more the case that he will be expected to share the workload with Lukas Podolski. So far, this has been working beautifully. Yes, it took the Frenchman a few games to get into the swing of things, but his first league goal against West Ham last weekend was the product of about five matches worth of “It’s coming…” There would have been additional pressure on him had the goals not been coming from other sources but they have been and in spite of the little (HIDEOUS) slip-up against Chelsea, our goal difference is still looking pretty cracking.
Last week over the space of two matches, we scored six goals and had six different players score them. It’s just as well because asking any man to come into a team and replicate the form of another man who scored nearly forty goals in one season would be a big ask. A big ask people seem to keep underestimating though, and maybe it’s the fact we’d got so used to relying on that one source to bring them. That the question “How are either of these two new unproven in the Premier League players going to score 40 a season?” was ever asked gives you an idea of how easy it is to lose a grip on reality once you’ve been treated to something a little out of the ordinary. This idea of multiple goalscorers is somewhat of a bafflement it seems. I fully expect the posting of this article to be followed by three 0-0 draws but for now, it’s nice to not be relying on one man. We’ve removed the focal point and up has popped about three or four consistent sources of goal celebrations. And what’s best is that we don’t flinch every single time our goalscorer does the slidey-knee celebration (who remembers puking their heart out when he scored that first goal back after injury and proceeded to JUMP ON HIS KNEES?)
With Olivier’s fondness for running and jumping on people smaller than him and the apparent tendency to manpile this season, we’re still only six goal celebrations from knackering all our goal sources, but never fear: even at 2-1 up against Olympiacos in the dying seconds last week, frustrated forward Thomas Vermaelen was still bombing up-field trying to make another. After a summer of such transition, it’s oddly comforting to know that some things will never change.