Doing just enough for victory after the introduction of a young French forward and marking the departure of an established player to Manchester City. How very, very Arsenal...
We're not a fan of meaningless marks out of ten, so here's a ratings system you can really get on board with. From 'breaded ham' to 'cat litter' with plenty in between...
If in doubt about what to write, the standard issue response last season was to mock one of three things. The first was Roberto Mancini: possibly his scarf and haircut, possibly his hilariously bad man-management style of telling his players he hated them and that they were sh*t. Occasionally he'd have a scrap with them on the training field, in front of men with cameras. It was pretty great, to be honest. Now, he's done one to Turkey and is top of the league, really excelling with the richest team in the Super Lig. We miss you, Roberto. #RIP
The next thing was to mention Roy Keane after an insipid Manchester United display, where Tom Cleverley only moved sideways and Paul Scholes dropped ever deeper until he was six feet under. Manchester United hadn't bought a midfielder! Alex Ferguson said it was the best squad ever! Roy Keane said last year that Alex Ferguson didn't know the meaning of the word loyalty. That's true, because if he'd stuck around for the sake of us then United would still be interesting to write about. It's like Alex Ferguson cares about nobody but himself, which can't be true. David Moyes has just made them a bit boring. We miss you, Alex. #RIP
The other thing was to make fun of Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers because of the things the fans said, and because of the way Rodgers said the things he said. It was always funnier to see Liverpool fans react in their traditional measured way in what was an inconsistent season. Now, though, with United and Spurs respectively rubbish and rubbish and mildly cheesy, and Liverpool operating with what is known as a 'plan' they are doing quite well and in the Champions League spots. We miss the reliable indignity and wordplay of Liverpool and their manager. #RIP #YNWA
'Cos now, what is there? People are discussing the season as one of the best in years. And, obviously, it is one of the tightest with hardly anything separating Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool. Of course, the one thing that does separate them is who is able to win the league (Chelsea or City) and who obviously won't because they're still jokes waiting for a punchline (Arsenal and Liverpool).
But what's happened? Manchester United losing was very, very funny for a while, but now they're also-rans, their performances are that of also-rans, and Moyes and his team, weirdly, seem to have settled for that. 'David Moyes team performs as a David Moyes team' isn't news, it's olds. How many times can you say, 'Well, they should have bought a good midfielder'? The answer is, 'a lot, with an ever-decreasing amount of adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, verbs, nouns and proper nouns, until you're just naming types of words to fill out the page.'
The most interesting thing that Luis Suarez has done is argue about a row that happened two seasons ago. John Terry has been quietly going about his business, not saying anything he really shouldn't, not kicking anyone in the face on the sly, not grafting or claiming he is ready to invade Syria should the Queen ask him. He's just there, being a JT facsimile.
Liverpool aren't smearing any other opposition players, and they're playing intelligent, enjoyable football, with an amusing ramshackle quality that comes from solely employing buffoons in their defence. Excellent up front, hilarious at the back - they are the mullet haircut of football, and can be enjoyed with a similar sense of irony only. Is that real fun? Yes, but not for anyone outside Liverpool.
Manchester City are winning games, only recently gifting us what has been promised all year, a Martin Demichelis foul-up, but in the most boring possible way. He got sent off because he mistimed a tackle, and it was probably a free-kick anyway, and it was Vincent Kompany's original error anyway, and they were going to lose to Barcelona anyway, so what's really changed? They're very good at home and improving away from home, and they've spent billions and have a manager who is open to working with executives who are doing a professional job in spending those billions. Manchester City have really good players and for the most part play really good football, and now Roberto Mancini isn't calling them all sh*thouses and telling them to stand in the corner, they seem to enjoy themselves.
And that leaves Jose. Ah, Jose. Manchester United fans have been seeing his press conferences and antics and saying one of two things. One, they're glad to have dodged a bullet with his classless behaviour. Or two, they wish they'd had him managing United because David Moyes is David Moyes. He would have guaranteed Champions League football. But that doesn't really matter, because he's the only one doing what is required of him. No, not winning football matches, who cares about the actual football? Mourinho is doing what is required of him: getting on people's tits. He's wound up the engineer Manuel Pellegrini, explaining to him some transfer sums purely to make Pellegrini defend something because he's at a club, not because he cares either way. He's done an impression of Brendan Rodgers, which was the funniest moment of the season outside of Manchester United's continual conceding of late goals. He's started flicking Vs at the press, the lowest of the low. Which might explain why they're so angry about the next bit.
He called Arsene Wenger a specialist in failure. Why? Because he is. Apparently Mourinho is privately slightly embarrassed about overstepping the mark, but he shouldn't be. Wenger is a specialist in failure and it is delightful to see people falling over themselves to condemn Mourinho when what they should be doing is asking Wenger every single day until he wins something, 'When are you going to stop being a specialist in failure?' Wenger's underachievement and perfection of quite-good-but-obviously-never-going-to-succeed teams goes hand-in-hand with the Champions League marketing men, carrying on the lie that fourth is a trophy. No, it isn't. A trophy is a trophy. Fourth place is failure, especially for Arsenal. Some people like Wenger, thinking he's entertaining, erudite and good copy.
Please. He's a nobody. If he mattered, he wouldn't be so genial. If he was under pressure to actually win stuff, he wouldn't be so mellow. If he was ever planning on changing, he wouldn't be so relaxed. An excellent manager changes his methods, not his principles. Arsene Wenger has no principles beyond defending his methods.
Well, this is something that can be written about this season as much as it can be written about last season, when there's nothing else to say in a boring, par season without anyone standing up for themselves. Fourth place isn't a trophy, Arsene. Third place isn't a trophy, Arsene. Second place isn't a trophy, Arsene. Going out to Bayern Munich, again, isn't a trophy, Arsene. Olivier Giroud isn't a trophy. Fancy midfielders aren't a trophy, either. None of what Wenger does is good enough, and he's had it too easy for too long. Thank God Jose Mourinho is back, a specialist in success.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton