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Got any cards up your sleeve, Unai?

OPINION: The way Arsenal were brushed aside by Man City shows what a dull season everybody may be in for – not that elderly Greek men care

16 August, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Arsenal boss Unai Emery

I’M not asking for a medal or a certificate – the race is only with yourself, kids – but to be fair it was a heroic performance by me.

On Sunday evening I found myself marooned at a holiday hotel in a quiet corner of Crete and had to walk for at least an hour in the baking Greek heat in search of somewhere showing Arsenal versus Manchester City.

Kicking my way through the dusty road, my bald pate getting redder by the second, I thought to myself of all the stupid things I’ve done to see the Gunners, knowing this time that a home defeat was waiting at the end of the trek.

Puny, stray cats miaowed at me, mocking me, their feral existence stealing dinner scraps from fish restaurants suddenly seeming more fruitful than what now seems like a lifetime of watching and hoping for better from Arsenal. No, it’s not been that long, but in the distance a couple zipped past on a jetski, living a sexier life. I could have been a jetski man once.

When I finally found a bar in the winding steps of a fishing village showing the match, eight elderly Greek men were there playing cards and arguing like caricatures of elderly Greek men playing cards.

Then there was me – the hero who had walked a thousand kilometres just to vote – and two Manchester City fans wearing shirts. See last week’s column about English football fans insisting on packing their replica shirts – pathetic! I was wearing a sensible, normcore T-shirt from H&M, since you ask.

The whole experience was yet another reminder that the Premier League is not as all-encompassing as it thinks it is. Raheem Sterling scored past the handless Petr Cech and the Greek men did not even turn around. Someone had laid a bad card.

More worryingly, the goal sparked the most pathetic whimper of satisfaction from the City fans. They obviously had not risked sunburn and eagle attacks to be here.

Their quiet ambivalence says it all. Here is a team that has spent so outrageously that they can put Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne on the bench and still know that they’re likely to win at Arsenal.

I hear you saying: “This is because beating Arsenal is no great shakes anymore and it says more about us than them.”

Maybe, but even at this low ebb the Gunners still have top-level players and an exciting new manager. The idea that they can be brushed aside like this by the champions without any suspense even for their own fans shows what a dull season everybody may be in for, including the City supporters.

They could win the league without a sweat. Where is the sense of achievement in that?

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