Culture Magazine

Eerie Sights Of Bejing (Milan 4-0 Arsenal)

By Sgulizia @catch22soccer

Eerie Sights Of Bejing (Milan 4-0 Arsenal)

Does it matter to anyone that Arsenal actually dominated possession? Of course not! It would have suited them better the other way around: to sit deep, soak pressure, and strike back at the first occasion. Watching Arsenal keep the ball in wide areas, for absolutely no purpose, was a spectacle similar to admitting that some unknown monstrosity is bellowing. It’s just that passing is the ideology of the day in football, a figure beyond delight for the connoisseur. And one never tires of gazing upon excellence. (I think it takes a good fifty times more now, with the tragic frisson of one-two touches, to finish what would have been easily within reach according to the natural inducement of the game.) It is in a match like this where Milan ceaselessly hammers, nails, pounds, and cobbles together—as it appears to all observing it—what is left of an English team once clad in the respectability of tasteful high-diamond pedestals and clever wing-solutions. Milan resembles the mane of a lion. Will they liberate us from the ignominy of so many Catalan salt-and-pepper factories? Will they rewrite a national drama? Will they someday appear to be the ones we’ve been pining for so black-puddingishly? What’s marvelous, though, is the splendid shock of rogue, bearded midfielders arching and plummeting the ball from all over the pitch.

San Siro looks like Imperial Bejing, not just for it hosts a coach that is remarkable for his ideology, both brave and brutal, and never changes his formation (so does Wenger, without seeming to know, however, how to get the best out of his own strategy): there is a dismal state of repair on the full-back line that is a pity to behold, because it has been so long abandoned, and lumps of masonry scattered around like the remains of a project that got dropped for God knows what reason—the kind of shape you make out as you slither through the mud, while the Great Wall has shrunk, reaching the edge of the Gobi Desert. And there are always dizzy barbarians to be pushed off the gates. Assuming that Milan’s role is that of China’s capital city, we can imagine puzzling orders and counter-orders being passed by horse riders, and minor officials sent to the remotest valleys of Tibet. In my view, yesterday’s match marked the real rite of passage from Ancelotti’s gourmandise to Allegri’s ruthlessness.

I can no longer recall the days where a trequartista was at home in San Siro, like a comedian in the turn-of-the-century Café Bümplitz in Berlin. Now, amid bad and unseemly tobacco fumes, rude remarks, and the clatter of tankard boots, the ones who perform don’t bother finding an elaborated, curly through-ball from the quarry of their authorial cranium, but simply enter into the action like a wraith from the underworld. A dramaturgy of ushers and circumlocutoriness on performance nights has been abolished; opera glasses at the stadium are not necessary to magnify trifling yet crucial bits of play from the seats, but to appreciate the ravishing fragrance of muscles and thighs. For, seriously, one thing is clear: Milan is simply bullying beyond each obstacle. Especially when an adversary, like Wenger, comes to Imperial Bejing without a plan on how to contain Boateng and Ibrahimovic, free to shuttle and roam to the sharpest of their senses, and places Song too high in midfield, as to trumpet forth news that will never come. We, however, deeply regret seeing so highly admired and esteemed artists such as Mexes, Van Bommel and Thiago Silva betraying their art in such fashion and surge to kick the ball and boot drunken louts out the door in the wee hours. Yet, as much as we can hope that such conduct does not become a trend, in the future Pato and Inzaghi—the gentler race, those who gave out leaflets of skill under Ancelotti—will have no choice but to rest in bench peace.

In the minor Kammerspiel that is now Arsenal, Van Persie, who was joined at some point by fellow-artist Henry only to allow Abbiati to celebrate a save in muscular, thuggish assertion, retained a towering and bewildering attitude. Never the one to return and crash Van Bommel’s passing, Van Persie had a fabulous don’t-mind-if-I-do-ishness, speaking a language that is surely the most unimpeachable if it was actually useful. On the other side, Ibrahimovic took for himself the part of the lead-actor who drops hints nugget by nugget, as it were, such that a player in his team listening to him might take a notion to kneel at the big man’s feet to gather the morsels. What about the others? Robinho did his swirling trouser-legging by the touch-line, Ramsey could use a round of cognac, and Theo Walcott was so resplendently languorous, so lazy, so gluey, so very reptant, and so terribly if-not-today-why-not-tomorrow—a pleasure I can not recommend in good conscience. Meanwhile, when the mood happens to strike, the Milanese lion has the gaze of a hungry, hungry beast and the powerful tail, up and down, thrashes the ground. ♦

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