RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Sunday, September 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: ARSENAL FC

{get you a spirit warrior like Kolasinac, who fights dudes with knives bare-handed}

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, venmo us tips @ravenmack23. You may also enjoy the Sportsball 69 podcast.]

Let us discuss the footballing metaphysics of this Arsenal football club, what which has been positioned in the upper echelon of English football since the days of there being munitions factories in London where the workers self-organized a football club. All those stories make the historical insignificance of American soccer clubs so glaringly obvious, like “Well, they had to create a major league of soccer in order to justify having purchased hosting World Cup 1994, to make it all look legitimate, so DC was chosen as one of twelve cities to just have a team, all of a sudden, for no real reason other than it’s a big city so we figured fuck it, let’s give them a soccer team to play in the American football stadium. Maybe we’ll have enough bougie ass fuckers attend that it’ll survive more than the previous three major soccer leagues in America lolol.” Of course, Arsenal is still adjusting to life post-Arsene Wenger, who was literally born into managing the club after World War II, named after the club, and leading them to many invincible victories for decades, and was the motivation for the British movie Boss Baby, which was remade in America, specifically his leading Arsenal to an FA Cup title in 1950 as a toddler.

The confusing thing for me though is why are there so many hipster Arsenal fans in America? Specifically around my age, which suggests that during the ‘90s, when the English Premier League was committing corporate colonization of global territories, there was an appeal in America that fed people. My old college roommate is an Arsenal fan, though we never talked about soccer back then, likely because we both did a lot of drugs, and I was pretty fucked up. He laughs about me liking soccer now on the rare occasion I see him. I guess his dad was English or some shit. My dad was a chainsaw mechanic. But you know, Nascar ain’t what it used to be. THEY DON’T MAKE ‘EM LIKE TERRY LABONTE NO MORE. But the Gen X Arsenal support in USA is pretty strong, maybe because they were stable then, or the reputation of the Gooners hooligans impressed Americans, who want to emulate fucked up shit like that, or I don’t know. But it seems if you find 3 fortysomething soccer fans in America, who are white, at least one of them is gonna be an Arsenal fan, and likely two of them.

But Arsene Wenger is gone, having finally retired after a thousand years, and Unai Emery has taken over, with conflicting results. When it comes to the rest of English football, they’re still a dominant and highly competent Arsenal squad; but when they have to face legit power clubs like Man City or Liverpool this past week, they tend to look like a club playing a tier above their caliber in an FA Cup. And though they’ve won three Premier League titles in the Premier League era (since 1991), they haven’t done so since 2004. Can you coast by on being good but not great continuously, without pissing off the supporters? It was essentially supporters claiming Arsene Wenger wasn’t able to win the big trophies any more that led to him finally getting shit-canned, so you’d think their expectations are big. I guess if the previous manager had forever, the new one’s gonna get a second full season maybe. But maybe not. Anyways, here’s the 25 dudes who are the metaphysically most prominent in the past 100 actual competitive matches for these Arsenal fuckers. [RAVEN]

#1: PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (up from #20 last time Arsenal were metaphysically ranked on 15-Sep-2018; also his FIRST METAPHYSICAL STAR) – Another multi-generation footballing metaphysics story. Pierre-Emerick’s father – Pierre-Francois aka Yaya – was a prominent Gabonese player in the ‘80s, having become a star midfielder for Stade Laval in France’s Ligue 1. Laval enjoyed their greatest successes in the ‘80s, in their first decade after becoming a professional club. Yaya Aubameyang had two children by a Gabonese woman, the first born while they still lived in Gabon, the second born in Paris, after Yaya was playing in France. Pierre-Emerick, however, has a different mother than his older siblings, as Yaya fell into a Spanish woman while playing for Laval. And in true deeper African football metaphysics, this cursed Stade Laval, who were relegated just before Pierre-Emerick’s birth in 1989, and even fell to the third tier of French football, where they bounce between that and second tier to this day. Pierre-Emerick’s combination of Spaniard and Gabonese blood have proven to be powerful though, becoming the first Gabonese player to be declared African Footballer of the Year (in 2015). He had become a star in Germany for Borussia Dortmund, after having established himself previously as a youth in Milan. And though Aubameyang, like Ozil and others of prominence on this club’s metaphysical roster, has just crossed the threshold of the age of 30, he still has promise. He only netted one goal last year in Premier League play, but did chonk in 8 in 12 appearances in UEFA play, and the addition of the younger, harder, faster, better, stronger Nicolas Pepe gives Emery the opportunity to play both men for a strong attack. Honestly, with African presence up front, heavy Balkan influence in the defender lines, really if they just added a Slavic GK and some sort of Gaelic wildling as an attacking option late in matches, they pretty much built Arsenal like I built nonsense in Football Manager. If Unai Emery can purchase a good magic sponge, and edit Arsenal’s finances, they should win the Champions League 9 seasons in a row, just like I do. [RAVEN]

#2: GRANIT XHAKA (down from #1 last time) – Another return to the Raven Mack football metaphysics main talking point of the fall of Yugoslavia, and the diaspora that created in footballing terms. Yugoslavia as a nation played above their weight historically on the international stage, similar to the Netherlands. I mean really if you think about it, all South American nations with success internationally play above their weight, if you consider their weight their economic prowess on the globe. That all stems from colonialism and conquest though. But even in terms of narrowing the conversation down to Europe, Yugoslavia played above their international role politically, and Yugoslavia did not have the same colonial benefits like the Dutch or French or Spanish had. But once Yugoslavia fell apart, it came apart very ugly. Xhaka’s parents were Kosavar Albanians in the Serbian part of Yugoslavia, and his father was an actual political prisoner there, for helping lead student protests in Belgrade against the central government. After nearly four years in prisons, and before everything really fell apart, Xhaka’s family moved to Switzerland, early refugees of the ethnic crisis, where he was born, and plays for the Swiss national team. In fact, during World Cup 2018, one of the tensest most charged moments was in group play when Switzerland and Serbia played. UEFA and FIFA work hard to make sure the ethnic nationalist rivalries of post-Yugoslavia do not get drawn together in competitions, though they don’t admit to that publicly. But two of the top players on the Swiss team - Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri of Liverpool, have Albanian heritages, based in Yugoslavia, which was persecuted by the Serbs. Aleksandr Mitrovic of Serbia scored 5 minutes into the match, but both Xhaka and Shaqiri netted second half goals for the win. When Shaqiri scored the go ahead goal, and Shaqiri ran over the opposing sideline flashing Albanian eagles in celebration, Xhaka right with him. For two young men who have lived lives in exile from their familial homes, it was a great footballing moment of comeuppance, not necessarily against their oppressors, because the men who make up the Serbian national team had nothing to do with the historical atrocities of their countrymen, but that’s the amazing beauty of football metaphysics - it is all the sediments and layers and political intrigues and economic oppressions of the past century-plus, layered in to sport. Because of the single half of football, I love Xhaka (and Shaqiri). I do not notice Arsenal all that much, for some reason my football gaze is blinded by those red kits with the white sleeves. It’s too ugly, too beyond my lust for garishness. But when I’m stuck there watching them, and I see Xhaka, or Ozil and Kolesanic (both up later on this list), I realize there’s a lot to their squad that I enjoy - those strange wanders of men whose notion of home has always been transplanted, about Europeans who are Muslim, how the various cultures of our world all seep into each other, cross-pollinate, and the fences or walls we use to distinguish nations or cultures are not real at all, and it’s all very meandering, and at the heart of it all is simply human beings who want to fucking do well, and show those who would have them not do well a big ol’ middle finger fuck you when we do succeed. [RAVEN]

#3: SHKODRAN MUSTAFI (same as last time) – Our dude here has been a solid part of the Arsenal defense for a couple of years now, so naturally they have told him to get the fuck out. Technically he’s still a part of the squad, but Unai Emery has so far refused to even play him and has told him to look for somewhere they can sell him ASAP, which is pretty fucking harsh, but hey that’s life in the big city, baby. Poor Mustafi has no shortage of options, though, as he’s already played in Italy and Spain, and his native Germany would probably love to have back. Or maybe he can explore his Albanian roots and be a big fish in a small pond. But wherever he ends up, it won’t be with Arsenal, who are always looking for better options to cover for the fact that they have been a squad in freefall for a few years now. That’s always a weird time for a big time club because they always have an outsized sense of importance, thinking that they can just import better dudes from the mainland and ship out dudes like Mustafi who they scapegoat for their failures, but the reality is that they aren’t gonna get anyone as good as Mustafi because who wants to play for Arsenal right now? Still, they’ll sell him away, sacrificing him because they have to burn something that can make them feel like they are making progress or cleansing bad psychic energies, but that’s really all just an illusion, and running Shkodran here out of town will just lead to shittier psychic energies for everyone. But, shit man, like I said, that’s life in the big city. You either learn to live like an animal or Axl Rose is gonna scream at you until you die. [NEIL]

#4: ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE (up from #10 last time) – For all of Arsenal’s faults as a supposedly top-4 EPL club, they don’t lack for striking firepower. As a manager, it’d be tough to choose between Aubameyang, Pepe, and Lacazette here. All three of them have, by most metrics, devasting straight-up goalscoring records. And all three happen to be Francophone dudes with African origins. Straight up: it’s hard to argue against France (or the former French colonial empire) as the forge of top strikers these days. It’s been building since Drogba and Henry, but it’s entering its full developed peak now. Vardy, Kane, and whatever dudes are rolling out of the Spanish and German spheres are nowhere near this level. But reading up on Lacazette, it got me wondering what kind of subdivisions are at play within the national origins/allegiances of these dudes raining goals down on the nets of Lique 1 and the EPL. Lacazette has Guadeloupe family origins, so along with players from French Guiana like my beloved Celt Odsonne Edouard, there’s the intergenerational trauma of the transatlantic slave trade. But then players like both Pepe and Aubameyang are French born, but with colonial origins (Gabon and Ivory Coast, respectively), who chose to represent their ancestral nations. Maybe it’s a dumb-as-fuck, fucked up white dude question, but which is the “worse” metaphysical state—to be enslaved and transported, losing invariably those connections to homeland? Or to be colonized and exploited without (legally-technically) being enslaved? Is there a division within this Francophone playing wealth between players descended from “New World” enslaved people and players descended from individuals in colonized African nations? I don’t readily know, obviously, but diving into the minutiae of French football, which is difficult because despite being a respectable, competitive European league system, of course the EPL is going to muscle it out of the way and treat it as nothing more than an aggregation of feeder clubs, it’s a way more complicated, fraught national-identity-metaphysical landscape than perhaps any other European national set-up at present. Anyway, to return and refocus on Lacazette the individual player, I suspect he’s more or less Arsenal’s third striker now mostly on the basis of size. He’s not a small dude, but he’s still under six feet. There’s a discernable move away in current world football from strikers under 6 feet tall—push those guys out on the attacking wing, basically. Instead of a poacher’s graft, the emphasis now is on lone striker hold up play and some indeterminately defined concept of POWER. Indeed, I see in the recent football-outrage news that the French National team left Lacazette out completely for the latest call-up. I attribute this trend to the modern football abomination (along with the “sweeper keeper”) of playing only one striker, instead of the divinely-sanctioned pairing of one big ugly bruising 6’2” motherfucker that owns all balls into the box and one wispy 5’7” fast as fuck, poacher wasp orbiting the other dude’s mass like a satellite. I’d like to see Lacazette in another team, where his obvious talents are appreciated more. [PAUL]

#5: NACHO MONREAL (same as last time) – The Spaniard has been a fixture in the Arsenal defense for years now, but that just means that he’s getting old and you have to think Arsenal is itching to move on as they try to rebuild. But, for now, Nacho is still with Arsenal and we’ll see how he does. I am not optimistic, though, as 33 years old in this game is fucking ancient already. He still hasn’t really lost much of a step, but it’s probably only a matter of time and then it’s on to living fat and lazy with some mid-tier La Liga outfit until retirement comes and he can bake in the Spanish sun with what I can only assume is a hot ass wife and yes my google image perv skills have just confirmed this. That is not a bad way to go, but it probably doesn’t speak highly to his psychic contributions to Arsenal in the near future. It’s all well and good for him that he’ll be free balling his lady in a half drunken haze, maybe chased by some light opiates, but that just will leave Arsenal with yet another hole to fill, a spiritual energy spot to be replaced by some new big dicked youngster with plenty of cum and little brains to know what to do with it, and that will all be very exciting for everyone, but that is all in the future, which is just a sunset away for Nacho Monreal, and in the here and now he’s still with Arsenal and he’ll still get the call, but for how long? That’s an awkward place to be, a sort of spiritual limbo that will do no one any favors. He knows and they know that they’re probably looking for someone new to kick it with, and so what do you do but half ass it and start to plan for those days in the Spanish heat with your hot wife? That is where Nacho Monreal finds himself, and that’s the sort of ominous spiritual energy he brings to Arsenal right now. [NEIL]

#6: SOKRATIS PAPASTATHOPOULOS – Sokratis – or So-Crates as he’s more popularly known in the Bill & Ted canon which is an authoritative work that we’re bound to respect – was an important part of the Borussia Dortmund defense for years before deciding to cash in and spend his golden years with Arsenal. That’s all well and good for him, but it likely speaks to yet another bloated spiritual carcass washing up on shore in the coming years for Arsenal. I mean, when it’s time to rebuild, you probably don’t want to do with a dude who is only gonna give you a piece of himself and collect all the money before fucking off back to Greece. And right now, it seems like that’s where Sokratis’ mind is anyway, as he’s busy trying to get Greece to fire their national team’s head man, which means that Sokratis is bringing rotten spiritual energies to two different countries right now. He’s on the wrong side of thirty like our dude Nacho and that sort of double oldster psychic rot punch is not gonna do anyone any favors. But that is what Arsenal is stuck with now, and if they think they can squeeze some more life out of dudes like Sokratis and Nacho (who also fight crime as a Cheech and Chong like duo which is something I’m not making up at all, no sir, Sokratis and Nacho, out there keeping the dirty side streets safe so they can get high and fuck questionable women . . . Sokratis and Nacho, they even have business cards written up that just say “Sokratis and Nacho” which they leave stuffed in the worn out pussies of those questionable women, and again this is not something I’m just making up, it’s just what’s happening in the world) more power to them, I guess. But my thinking is that this is a poor recipe for a rebuilding team, who need young and hungry go getters to drag them back to life and not a couple of old pussy hounds, who, shit, I may have actually just New Wrote them into having positive psychic energies, but we’ll just have to see how it all plays out, now won’t we? [NEIL]

#7: BERND LENO – Ol’ Bernd here is Arsenal’s keeper, having inherited the role from Petr Cech, who had been the man for the past few seasons. Leno is probably gonna be the dude there for a while after coming over from Bayer Leverkusen where he spent years holding shit down as their keeper. That would almost suggest that he’s on the back end of his career, but he’s still only 27 and presumably has a lot of life left to live in this foreign land where he can only hope to do what Adolf wanted to do back in the day, which is conquer England with his Teutonic cock. He’s not necessarily a top tier keeper, not even able to land a spot on the German National team in last year’s World Cup, but he’s still a dude of some note and to be honest that is the best Arsenal can really hope to get right now, as they are a team sort of in limbo, clearly way behind the top powers like Liverpool and Manchester City, and thus unlikely to attract a truly blue chip kind of keeper. Still, Leno is solid enough and they could do worse, which might not sound like the best of spiritual energies, but it’s better than nothing, and certainly better than trying to hang on with a dude like Cech, who would just be trying to ride out the end and look for better pastures to finish off his own career. You take what you can get when flinching before the glories of the past while the future’s potential glories remain hidden behind a cloud of uncertainty, and so you hold to a dude like Bernd Leno and hope he’s enough to see you through to that moment when those clouds lift and you can see better days ahead. [NEIL]

#8: SEAD KOLASINAC (up from #13 last time) – Look, I am a fan of Bosniak players already, who have suffered the disintegration of Yugoslavia yet moved on continued to survive, alhamdulillah. And on face level, Kolasinac is similar to many stories – family relocated to Germany, where he was born, and could’ve played for either the Bosnian national team or German one, and in fact played for Germany as a youth before choosing his parents native land at senior level. But Sead Kolasinac is the most Bosniak Muslim player there might be currently. First off, Paul and I have these running notions of what constitutes the perfect football metaphysics of a squad, and somewhat crazy Balkans are important on defense or as GK. Kolasinac is natural born defender, and aggressively so. In fact, his nickname is “The Destroyer”. And being a practicing Muslim, he’s pals with Mesut Ozil, but just over a month ago, The Destroyer was accompanying Ozil and Ozil’s wife in London, when the SUV they were in was attacked by masked thieves armed with knives. THE DESTROYER JUMPED OUT THE VEHICLE AND STARTED FIGHTING THEM, BARE-HANDED AGAINST MASKED ASSASSINS ARMED WITH KNIVES. Ozil has still been getting back to top form after this, BUT KOLASINAC HAS ALREADY BEEN PLAYING AGAIN. The Destroyer is pure spirit warrior, and I hope Swansea gets promoted and somehow they get Kolasinac (which of course is unreasonable, but what would sports be without the unreasonable expectations of supporters). [RAVEN]

#9: ALEX IWOBI (same as last time) – I feel like I went too hard on Nigeria in our last installment, so I was stoked to get the opportunity to write about a Nigerian player this week. Much like my ill-informed white dude ramblings about Francophone Black players, I tend to blabber my strong Nigeria opinions based of a solid 20+ years of trying to intermittently understand Nigerian history and society. I spent a lot of time reading about the Biafra Revolt/Nigerian Civil War (I imagine picking one label over the other tells you something about the speaker). And I came down pretty squarely on the “side” of Biafra/the Igbo (of whom Iwobi here is—and even finding this article where his dad laments that his son can’t speak the language, which is kind of devastating). Mostly because, due to my own Greater Appalachian affiliations, I’m gonna back the people sitting on top of massive natural resources that a central government/economic power decides rightly belongs to them because the folks sitting on it are bunch of hillbillies (or swamp people, in the case of the Igbo) too stupid to manage their own affairs. I mean shit, Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union all backed the central Nigerian government against Biafra, because that petroleum has to keep FLOWING motherfuckers. But then you also had a number of white mercenaries on the Biafran side, which is usually an indicator of something fucked-up going on. But then yet again, a couple of those mercenary dudes (one of whom was a degenerate/deranged Welsh guy) basically starting working for free out of respect for the Igbo. So….I don’t fucking know. From what I can tell, bar a holdout fringe, most Biafra-Igbo folk seem chill with integration into the current Nigeria, just with some degree of relative autonomy, etc. But I still from time to time see shit about them getting fucked over, by the government, by western oil companies, etc. Iwobi here just, somewhat surprisingly, moved from Arsenal to Everton, after several years of good, solid play. The Gunners seem to be fucking around with putting young, untested dudes out on that left side, which makes me think some top EPL clubs are more hard-up for cash than football media would have you realize. But Iwobi is at the Toffees now, and I can’t really conceive of that as his best move. But maybe he does ok and bounces to Manchester United in a couple seasons. Or maybe Wolves. [PAUL]

#10: MATTEO GUENDOUZI – A beautiful young Frenchman in the midfield, with flowing locks, and the endless bounding energy of a 20-year-old. The arrival of David Luiz at Arsenal is actually great because they are like big dog/little dog twinsies. Also, more metaphysics, as he has Moroccan heritage, and could’ve played for them at the national team level. Two years ago, the Moroccan manager approached him, to attempt to have Guendozi play for Morocco at the senior level, but Guendozi’s pops met with the Moroccan manager as well, and it was deemed after that meeting that young Matteo was a Frenchman for life, though he has never played for the senior French national team as of yet. [RAVEN]

#11: LUCAS TORREIRA – Another young midfielder, to complement Guendozi - Arsenal are actually surprisingly well-stocked with young talent. How do they always remain not the best though? What is the psychic impediment for this club? Even with Arsene Wenger, he was always overshadowed by Alex Ferguson, and in recent years by Manchester City as well. What is the psychic boost that energizes a club beyond the quagmire of great success but not quite great enough? That’s the troubling thing about great talents that don’t stand out in some other way - Torreira and Guendozi are great, but there’s a missing spirit warrior on this club. I mean, let’s even look at the greatest rivalry of spirits, across the river from Lucas Torreira’s Uruguayan roots, in Argentina, where the eternal derby of discussion remains Maradona or Messi. Maradona is an unparalleled spirit warrior, who has circumnavigated the letter of the sport but always uplifted the spirit of it. Messi has no parallel as a player, yet somehow always seems to come up just short in the grand psychic battles on international and intercontinental stage. And you look at Liverpool for comparison, a squad that we’ll cover in 15 days, and somehow has more than one spirit warrior, all at once. These are the intangibles you can’t find on data metrics, those weird things the old school scouts claim to have that data will never, which is true, though they also tend to give themselves a larger slice of self-importance than they probably deserve. But Arsenal is missing that spirit warrior, the role that I guess Ozil had, though he never really seized it by the neck like a true spirit warrior would. Can one of these young guys blossom into that spirit warrior? I don’t know. Spirit warriors are identifiable in that sensual intuitive way, long before they’ve grown into full adult humans. So I don’t know. It feels like Arsenal is gonna remain in that same highly competent but not the greatest zone they’ve been mired in. [RAVEN]

#12: AINSLEY MAITLAND-NILES (up from #18 last time) – Ainsley Maitland-Niles is exactly the type of name that would show up seventh in the opening of a sketch comedy show’s cast. To Maitland-Niles credit, he’s the one dude on Arsenal’s squad who can fill in at a wide range of positions, which he does. He was out for the first part of Unai Emery’s stint as manager, breaking his leg in Emery’s first match. Once he healed up and got back into the line-up, Maitland-Niles earned a regular spot as right back, though he has often said he prefers playing winger. [RAVEN]

#13: LAURENT KOSCIELNY (down from #8 last time) – Koscielny always appeared to be an ugly brutarian, and tbh I never liked him. Felt like he had been out there fucking people up as an on-pitch Gooner forever, so I am thankful he has gotten too old and lost his special relationship with Arsene Wenger, and gotten transferred back to his native France. French club soccer never exists in my world, as I never get that bored to trickle down to watching Ligue One. Usually only time they show up on my sling feed when I’m bored as fuck, there’s a Turkish match on too, and I’m always gonna go there first. A black guy with the last name Babel who had pink hair scored today while I was watching Galatasaray fuck up some lesser Turkish club. A pink-haired Babel in Istanbul is always gonna appeal to me more than an entire league of Laurent Koscielny monsters. [RAVEN]

#14: HENRIKH MKHITARYAN (up from #21 last time) – Mkhitaryan is probably the most prominent Armenian player in recent memory, who came to prominence at the continental level at while absolutely crushing it for Shakhtar Donetsk in the Ukraine, where he became a star. This led to three seasons in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund, then a move to Manchester United, where he languished to be honest. He came to Arsenal as part of the switch that saw Alexis Sanchez finally go to ManU, and though he still always seems to be battling injuries, he did tally a half dozen goals last season (plus 4 assists). So even though the Gunners only seem to get him a bit above half the time, he’s a solid contributor when active. His inactivity made big news late last season, when he didn’t travel to the Europa League final, as it was in Azerbaijan, which has hostile relations with Armenia. [RAVEN]

#15: MESUT OZIL (down from #6 last time) – I’ve always been interested in Ozil, due to his history as a player of Turkish origins and devout Muslim who in fact was the reason the German national football team had a prayer room installed at national team facilities. Ozil has made no effort to hide his spirituality, in fact admitting that he prays in Turkish during the German national anthem. And yet he’s also that weird liberal form of Islam seen where west and east meet, because he’s also got tattoos (often considered haram). And he has often talked about how his game is in fact a blend of Turkish feel and German discipline. Ozil’s getting older now, for an attack threat at least, having crossed that 30 threshold last fall. And he’s not been a lineup favorite for Unai Emery like he was under Arsene Wenger. Ozil has never done a stint in Turkey yet either, and oh man what a tour that’s gonna be when he inevitably falls into that aging superstar role. Likely Galatasaray is the only one that could afford him, maybe Fenerbahce, but I’d love to see him playing for Besiktas. Then again, Istanbul Basaksehir – less than 30 years old – has been making moves to be considered on same level as the three more established Istanbul clubs, and has connections to Erdogan, who officiated Ozil’s wedding. Perhaps he goes there. But Ozilmania when he finally goes to Turkish Super Lig is gonna be great. I am slowly getting hooked on Turkish football tbh. [RAVEN]

#16: AARON RAMSEY (down from #7 last time) – After a million years with Arsenal, including a couple maybe a half a decade ago now when he seemed primed to be among the world’s best, Aaron Ramsey has moved on to Juventus, where he hopes to ride out his career in the glory he obviously wasn’t gonna find with Arsenal. And that is probably the most emblematic of all spiritual energies for Arsenal right now. All their heroes of the past are moving on, and it’s probably for the best because when you’re rebuilding you can’t really do it when the past’s fixtures are still hanging around. That is just awkward for everyone, a type of spiritual poison that can leave a team stuck in a weird sort of limbo, a purgatory of the soul where they can’t do anything but hold to something that is already dead because once upon a time it was your best hope for a happy life. In short, you have to know when a relationship is over. You can’t let that shit linger and make everyone’s lives miserable and so it’s a good thing for both Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal that he has now fucked off to Italy. It might hurt right now, but it’s better in the long run. Still, that leaves Arsenal with a spiritual hole to fill, and for Ramsey it just means that he can try to dick his way down Italy until he crosses the Mediterranean to Turkey where he can smoke hashish and suffocate in between the thighs of some forbidden infidel, which is honestly the best any of us can hope for. [NEIL]

#17: PETR CECH (down from #4 last time) – Even before I delve into any discussion of Cech’s career statistic and playing minutiae, I want to hit the two obvious points inherent to Cech: club loyalty and the violence of the keeper position. Maybe it doesn’t have the impact it would with an outfield player, but you basically have a dude INTIMATELY connected with a club (Chelsea, damn near 500 appearances) move to a cross-town rival-tho-maybe-not-quite-Old-Firm-level.  As a player, it’s questionable to do such a thing, especially mid-to-late in your career (anymore, you can easily get away with it as a young—maybe under 22—player). And yet, Chelsea actually sold him to Arsenal and Cech has returned this season to Chelsea in a coach-adminitrator role--this blows the metaphysics of the switch all to hell. As a frothing follower of one half the Old Firm, I cannot conceive of this happening and can only use it as evidence of the craven, soullessness of the EPL and the clubs (particularly the traditional top 4-6) that comprise it. On the second point—keeper violence—Cech with his Soviet T-34 tanker helmet headgear is a prime exemplary image. As a viewer, it has always surprised me that goalkeepers do not get way more physically fucked up in matches than they do—diving at the feet of a striker and taking a cleat or shin or knee to the head; or diving across goal to save at the near post and just crushing into the goalpost. I’m sure I could pull up more examples from some Internet research, but as a Celtic supporter we have the John Thomson dead goalkeeper legend—massively head-trauma-ed to death after saving at the feet in a 1931 match with Rangers. I remember once, like ten years ago, seeing an orthopedist to get my jacked right knee checked out (imaging, cortisone shot, etc.) and the doctor was a former collegiate goalkeeper (at some middling Southern school like Winthrop or Belmont or Richmond) and we spent the majority of the appointment talking about playing that position—particularly keeping your elbows out and swinging when collecting cross balls, for both protection and to smash up opposing players that might be getting pretensions. He seemed pretty enthusiastically brutal in his memories, to be honest, and I’ve wondered just how far an EPL (or other European goalkeeper) could get away with being as obvious as this dude sounded. Anyway, Cech is supposedly considered one of the best ever goalkeepers, shit-load of appearances for clubs and national team. But to be honest, during his peak Chelsea years I wasn’t exactly tuning into their matches, so I’m struggling to think if I’ve watched him play more than 2-3 times tops. [PAUL]

#18: HECTOR BELLERIN (down from #2 last time) – Barcelona-born youth who was in the Barca academy but moved off to London and Arsenal’s youth academy when he was 16, where he has been ever since. And with nationality kinship, one would think with the arrival of Unai Emery, Bellerin would have become a starting XI favorite. However, he tore a ligament this past January, and is still sidelined. Bellerin is much like Arsenal itself - tons of talent and pretty great, but not quite over the top. But Arsenal’s defense definitely needs a boost, and Bellerin coming back in the next month might be what they need, to finish 3rd or 4th instead of 5th or 6th. [RAVEN]

#19: STEPHAN LICHSTEINER – I remember watching the 2010 World Cup and, in addition to the vuvuzela-hornet sound, the Lichsteiner and Schweinsteiger surnames made an impression on me. Despite Lichsteiner being Swiss and Schweinsteiger being German, they put me in mind of some overt BDSM Tom of Finland shit—like characters from a fuzzy and badly tracked second generation gay porn VHS tape that you watch in a Southwest Virginia third-floor apartment with your leather-bear (but still hillbilly as fuck) gay cousins, stoned out of your eyeballs on multiple gravity bong hits of that super sticky Floyd County weed that you can smell easily from ten feet away despite being sealed in a Ziploc bag. Teutonic Inches, wherein Dr. Lick-in-Stein and Officer Baste and Stick that Pig star—big gym-rat lightly hairy dudes trying to sound like Dieter from Sprockets while they balls-deep piston-drive each other’s copiously oiled asses to Einstürzende Neubauten albums. I watched it for the hilarious dialog, really.  To be honest, I’m surprised that Lichsteiner even made this list, with a paltry number of Arsenal appearances so that I don’t even know why they bothered to sign him (and no doubt pay his “veteran” ass a shit-ton of pound notes) exactly. Again, Arsenal and some of these other EPL perennials be hard up after making poor choices. [PAUL]

#20: MOHAMED ELNENY (down from #14 last time) – I am always rooting for a good Egyptian to succeed in this land of infidels, a sworn brother of my man Mo Salah, but Elneny really hasn’t established himself yet with Arsenal after coming over from Basel, and right now he’s stuck in a sort of limbo as the team looks to send him off to Turkey but Galatasaray doesn’t want to pay him anywhere near what he makes now, and so he’s stuck between worlds. That has to sting a bit. Arsenal doesn’t want him, and Galatasaray thinks he’s worth less than half of what he’s making right now. That is not a fun place to be, and I feel for him, as he probably thought he was destined for all the riches the heathens of Europe could give him, but now he is just a dude scrambling for a future of any kind, dealing with all this while also dealing with finding dead bodies back at his Egyptian home. For real, just last month they found a dude dead at his crib, presumably having fried himself while trying to steal cables from Elneny. So nobody wants him right now except for maybe some Turks, who want to slash his wages and probably make him perform humiliating acts at the owner’s daughter’s birthday party, and back home he has fresh corpses stacking up behind his house, trying to literally rip the infrastructure from it and leave him having to hire probably the same dudes who are stealing it all to fix it back up from him while their cousins’ corpses are being hauled off in the hot sun in an ancient land with strange gods and hidden secrets stashed away beneath its desert sands. These are hard times for Mohamed Elneny, and for Arsenal it just means another dude to try to sell off while no one wants to play for them. None of that is a good psychic energy to have hanging around, but fuck it, at least Mo Elneny can turn to his boy Mo Salah in these strange and terrible times. Arsenal, though, has no one to turn to so fuck them I guess. [NEIL]

#21: ROB HOLDING (down from #15 last time) – Where do these big lump Great White English Hope central defenders keep coming from? Virgil could be 75% absolute shit and still walk as a god-come-to-earth among these boring-ass products of a three pint bareback-in-the-alley-beside-the-pub, two pump leg-shaker in some Midlands or Northwest England Shirechester shitehole. Still, I guess Rob Holding would be a pretty sweet nickname for some ugly pockmarked tracksuit wearing meth-slinger in New Bern, North Carolina. “Rob[bie] is always holding” turns to “Rob Holding” and maybe even morphs into “Bobby Hold” (which in a British context would connote he likes to get wasted and fight cops, or he’s just constantly death-grip jacking his dick). For real though, moving forward I’m gonna try my damndest to avoid writing about white English center halves. [PAUL]

#22: DANNY WELBECK (down from #11 last time) – I basically think Danny Welbeck is the name of that guy with the curly mullet who always plays a variation on the same stupid happy-go-lucky redneck dude from the south, who I eventually usually realize is Danny McBride. But still, whenever I’m half-paying attention to a soccer game on TV, doing my nonsense gibberish illegitimate artz at the table, and the announcer goes “and Danny Welbeck in with the challenge…” and I look up and lolol it’s definitely not that permed mullet faux redneck guy. Anyways, Welbeck has gone off to Watford, who have started the season at the very bottom of the table, struggling to get a single point so far. I would not have predicted that, but then again, one should never overestimate the modern footballing aspirations of any club whose crest still looks like a butter company logo from 1945. [RAVEN]

#23: JOSH WILLOCK – I don’t feel like writing about minor members of Arsenal’s squad today, to be completely honest. It’s a beautiful day and I could be hiking railroad tracks wearing nothing but a tattered pair of yellow Adidas shorts and Adidas slides, carrying Markal paint sticks and a pocketknife, no wallet no ID no nothing else, scribbling my name wherever felt good. I’ve left my shirt at home because honestly how free is a society if people have to wear shirts? Women too though. If women can’t safely not wear shirts, are you truly a free and progressive society? And if instead you have spiritual need to cover your body, perhaps the whole fucking thing, and you can’t do that, is that free either? I dream of a world where I can walk around almost naked, comfortably around people who are wearing full niqab, and we are writing graffiti together, or at least alongside each other, along the railroad tracks, while crows fly overhead cawing their own subhanallahs out loud. What the fuck does Josh Willock know about homemade falafel? [RAVEN]

#24: CALUM CHAMBERS (down from #19 last time; also ranked #8 for Fulham on 01-May-2019) – Calum (or variations of that) is signifier usually of some sort of Gaelic diasporan existence, or Welsh, but not with young Mr. Chambers, who is English as fuck, but struggled to gain permanent role at the Gunners, having suffered long loans to both Middlesbrough and Fulham in the past three years, both of whom were relegated while Mr. Chambers was on their squad. Allegedly he will get a chance under Unai Emery, as they need more consistency on defense. I hope that this means Arsenal gets relegated though. [RAVEN]

#25: CARL JENKINSON – At 27, Carl had a few years of promise at Arsenal, but now looks to be doing that protracted soft landing down the English League structure. Which is no diss, as he’ll probably get more supporter love and affection playing for Yeovil at 30 than he ever did playing for Arsenal at 23. For all the cultural cachet of Arsenal as a club, particularly in U.S. as the knowing hipster’s favorite team, I wish someone could explain to me exactly (or fuck it, roughly) what Arsenal mean. Sure, it’s got a cannon on it from its 19th Century founding association with an armaments production center that made the British Empire possible, with the attendant murder, rape, pillage, plunder, and dispossession of brown people and not-the-right-kind-of-white people from Galway to Bangalore, Hudson Bay to Cape Town. Sounds like the perfect foundation (no really) to erect a pillar of casually woke American hipster-dom. None of this is Carl’s fault, of course. I’m just happy he’s out of there, to get love in some West Country pub, about as far away as you can get from a cop-moustached 20-something barista in an Arsenal top telling you that the Celtic jersey you’re wearing is “cool” and how excited he is that “the gooners” signed Kieran Tierney.  [PAUL]

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