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A Small Minority of Idiots

Five Things We Learned from This Weekend's Football

With its array of fickle manchildren, Arsenal Fan TV is the gift that keeps on giving.

An Arsenal fan complaining after they beat Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season

Arsenal Fan TV Is the Gift That Keeps On Giving
After drawing a home game with Tottenham that they clearly should have won, it’s hard not to feel that we’ve been here before with Arsene Wenger. The repeated injuries to key players, the dominance, the pretty play in front of the opposition, the concession of a shit goal – it leads us back to the same old debates. Is Wenger really football’s last romantic? Or just an old man left behind by history? We’ve been here a thousand times. So instead, let's talk about Arsenal Fan TV.

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Arsenal Fan TV had its first big hit at the start of last season with this now-legendary “shape up or geehheeehhhh” interview, but since then there’s been a constant array of wallopers, bells, lengths, balloons and rockets queuing up every week outside the Emirates to have their say. None of them are remotely rational. One wonders whether, after that first taste of fame, the producers have hunted down interviewees on the basis of who looks the most likely to burst into tears and self-immolate while daubing “Wenger out” in his own blood over the Dennis Bergkamp statue.

This tactic is presumably what leads them to people who say things like "they bantered us off for 90 minutes with shithousery". And also to this belter, who sighed and grimaced his way through his post-Spurs interview on Sunday like he was being vox-popped by the BBC at the scene of an orphanage bombing.

To be fair to the channel, however, it does a decent job of showing Arsenal fans how they really are. We can say what we like about them, but no other set of supporters in the country does as well at having one uniform identity across their entire fanbase, which in today’s globalised era is truly remarkable. They might U-turn, knee-jerk and revise with all the ideological consistency of a paper shredder, but they also do it with the discipline of a Roman legion. Who decides whether Mikel Arteta is great or shit this week? Do they have party whips? Fuck it, I don’t want to know. But it’s impossible not to be impressed by it.

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Wayne Rooney Knows Where the Bodies Are Buried
Rooney may have scored in the win against West Ham, but the big story was his sending off. His general lack of vision, attitude and wastefulness have all stoked the idea that he’s holding the team back, but hacking someone down needlessly to almost throw away a game was the most obtuse example yet of his regression. He can’t even foul someone properly at this stage. And why foul him anyway? There was plenty of time left, United were winning, they had defenders back, and it was Stewart fucking Downing.

Rooney had already gone from hero to being almost reluctantly cheered, and now a sizeable majority of United fans want him out. Unfortunately, the chances of getting rid of a player in the midst of a severe decline on £300,000 a week are slim indeed.

Alex Ferguson has been reproached – rightfully – for not leaving much petrol in the tank for his successor. But you can't say Fergie didn't do his best to jettison Rooney. After a wonderfully Machiavellian skewering on his way out, along came a new manager with a grudge, the knife was sharpened, the bodyguard had been bought off, and Rooney was standing with his back to to the door on a high balcony admiring the view.

Unfortunately, David Moyes chose to give him a new contract, before Van Gaal handed him the captaincy and declared him undroppable. Ferguson also appeased him to an absurd degree for years. All three are very different characters, yet all stuck religiously to Rooney as the centrepiece of the team. The photos he has saved on his hard-drive must be truly special.

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Eliaquim Mangala's wonderful own goal versus Hull

It's Official: There's a Worldwide Centre-Back Crisis
Foreign imports from anywhere outside the big few leagues, even if they play in the Champions League, are like supermarket wine aisles: almost all of the people judging the quality of the product seem to be doing so on the price alone.

On that basis, it was nice to see £32m Eliaquim Mangala put in a hilariously shit performance against Hull this weekend – not quite up there with Jon Walters versus Chelsea, or Jonathan Woodgate's Real Madrid debut, but certainly belonging in their company. After the hangover of a brilliant World Cup, we've all come to the realisation that everybody stopped making decent centre-backs in about 2004, and people are starting to panic. How else does David Luiz = £50m make any sense?

Other positions are disappearing from the game, of course – the midfield general, the touchline-hugging winger, the pure poacher – but the loss of commanding defenders is more bizarre, because nothing has replaced them. Maybe it’s related to the loss of the hard man – Liverpool’s toughest defender flouncing out of the ground in a huff after not being picked for the derby was surely a sign of the times. Four years ago, people were saying John Terry had lost it and was on the way out. Now, he’s the best defender in the Premier League. What happened?

Jagielka's derby rocket

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We're Already Being Spoilt with Amazing Goals This Season
This weekend, we saw two games settled by a late 30-yard volley off the underside of the bar, and a majestic overhead kick. They’ll be added to efforts from Angel Di Maria, Nikica Jelavic and others to add up to an already-impressive Goal of the Season longlist.

It's a shame then that we've all been spoiled slightly by sites like 101greatgoals and their ilk. Jagielka’s volley should go down in legend, but we’ve long seen the same thing happening in the Indonesian League or the Paraguayan second division once a week, if we’ve been arsed to click the link. Sure, it’s still not comparable to being in the moment (it was a late equaliser in a derby, after all) but there should still be something to appreciate in a great goal for a great goal’s sake. At the moment, it seems like the only way Graziano Pelle’s goal is likely to be remembered is if we all recall it as the only decent thing he ever did after he pulls an Amr Zaki and moves to FC Utrecht or Reggina in disgrace after 40 appearances and 4 goals.

Screengrab via the BBC

The Scottish League One's Where the Real Action Is
A rare detour now to the Scottish third tier, where Peterhead travelled to take on Dunfermline. The game will live long in the annals of history, because by half-time, Peterhead had managed to reduce themselves to eight men, and were denying reports that their manager had been arrested at half-time.

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It’s not uncommon for a player to lose it, but it usually comes in derbies, World Cup finals, or relegation deciders. To completely lose the plot in a standard early season game between two mid-table outfits is rare. For an entire team to collectively and totally lose it is another thing entirely. It is a thing of beauty, like sisters who shave their heads when their siblings gets alopecia. One man snaps, and the rest gleefully follow him into an orgiastic bloodbath out of self-destructive solidarity. James Redman’s two-footed tackle later produced both a tribute act and a brawl, with Peterhead three men down at half-time. Emboldened by their rage, and playing in a classic 4-3 formation, it took a screamer and another man down to injury to finally finish them off.

As so often in Scottish football, however, it’s not so much about the game, but the game after. Premier League footballers in England might have to give out bland, corporate drawl on Twitter, but in Scotland, nobody gives a shit. Strikers react to abuse regularly, club captains become embroiled in lengthy historical debates with rival fans, and in the case of Andy Rodgers, produce a great brand of post-match analysis. Having not taken any part in the game, the Peterhead striker decided to take to Twitter to calmly discuss his thoughts on the match, his opponents, and the inhabitants of the town of Dunfermline:

Shhhhhh, no more tears now… MT @Andy_Rodgers: at least I'm not J Falkingham. horrible cheating shitebag of a boy! #wank #badguy #shitebag

— Michael Thomas (@michael1885) September 27, 2014

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@Andy_Rodgers: And as for the town and people of Dunfermline……wow!!!! Absolute creatures!!!!” @DougieT4

— Beau Breckenridge (@bbreck12) September 28, 2014

We thought “‘#headsgone” was a great footballing hashtag. But “#wank #badguy #shitebag” is surely going to top that list for a long, long time.

@Callum_TH

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