For the first time I can remember, I’m looking forward to the international break and a weekend with no league football.
Usually, the international break is an irritation, a diversion from proper professional football, a sideshow that gets in the way of the serious business of supporting a team — week in week out, season after season — be it Orlando Pirates, Atletico Madrid or Arsenal.
The appalling start to the season by the Gunners — three losses on the trot, zero goals scored, nine goals conceded, nine points dropped, zero points awarded, bottom of the log — has left me gutted.
It’s the worst ever start to a season in the club’s history, a mess and there’s no real reason for things to improve.
Right now, Arsenal reject Mesut Ozil has more points in his surname than the Gunners have in the kitty, with matchday four and a potential beating at the hands of the mighty Norwich when the leagues resume becoming a very real possibility.
The truth is, this time around the international break is a relief, rather than an irritation, a welcome weekend off from taking another hiding in the league; another 90 minutes of being a soft touch for whoever we come up against.
Another weekend of singing “you’re nothing special, we lose every week.”
Another post-match appeal from Mikel Arteta to “trust the process”.
A long, painful season appears to lie ahead.
At this moment the ANC supporters must be feeling something like we Gooners, given the governing party’s failure to register candidates for the local government elections before the deadline set by Electoral Commission of South Africa expired and its general inability to tie its own laces, politically speaking.
There are plenty of parallels between the Gooners and Khongolose.
Arsenal — under Arsene Wenger — gave us The Invincibles, beautiful, liberating football, 38 games unbeaten in the 2003/2004 season, 26 wins and 12 draws.
The ANC — under Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki at least — had its Invincible moments, what with kicking out the Nats and liberating the country from a couple of hundred years of white domination; drafting the Constitution and the like.
Right up until 2008, when the wheels fell off.
Then, like Arsenal, the ANC fired the coach who delivered them their best results in their history; gave Mbeki, like Wenger, the heave; brought in a coach who spoke funny; who didn’t know what he was doing.
Until, of course, he screwed up.
Put the team in the bush.
Got himself fired.
Which, by my accounting, makes President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s current “coach” and our head of state, something of a Mikel Arteta, a former midfielder and key figure in the team who left — for the business world, which is a pretty fair analogy for Manchester City — had some success and came back, all prodigal son and shit, to save the day.
Like Arteta, Ramaphosa got off to an indifferent start — a couple of decent results early on.
Then the slump.
Like Arteta, Ramaphosa has been forced to work with the former coach’s squad, which is carrying a lot of overpaid, deadwood who simply aren’t good enough to play at that level.
Like Arteta, Ramaphosa needs a couple of seasons to offload most of the duds who he inherited when he took the helm.
And like Arteta — a fellow process man — Ramaphosa is finding it a bit tough to clean house, given the lack of willing takers for “players” with a reputation of being useless, own-goal specialists, more helpful to the other side than to their own team.
Think Callum Chambers and David Mahlobo.
Sead Kolasinac and Nathi Mthethwa.
If Ramaphosa is the ANC’s Arteta, facing an uphill battle to turn the ship around and a fair amount of aggro from the supporters (read branches and the comrades in business) for his efforts, who is Arsenal’s version of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule?
Granit Xaka jumps to mind the most quickly — an allegedly senior leader who is more of a liability than anything else, a red-card specialist with an uncanny ability to undermine the project from within and get himself sent off — who is currently serving a suspension.