Dispatches From Scallywags #3: The Reckoning (Arsenal v. Chelsea)

Alright, if you haven’t seen them yet, take a mental stroll through DFS #1 and #2 to give you a general idea of what we’re doing here: the three of us (the “some Canadian guys” in this website’s title) take in an important Premiership matchup from one of Toronto’s best soccer-friendly pubs and do a “live” blog, featuring the atmosphere, the highs, lows, funny descriptions of people losing their minds, and some puerile humour thrown in for no good reason.

So far, Grant’s win-loss record (via Chelsea) is 0-2, and Jamie’s (via Arsenal) is 1-0. But that’s definitely going to change, as we’ve got Arsenal v. Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final. Win, or go home. Well, actually, I guess they’re both already at home, more or less. But whatever, it’s a big deal.

Sadly, we don’t have any fancy auto-update technology, so you’ll have to feverishly click “refresh” on your own… that’s assuming I can actually catch a wifi signal from the bar. So if your furious refreshes do nothing, you know I’ve been unsuccessful.

Alright, let’s get this nonsense started!

10:01 The pre-match ritual at our apartment. I sit in the living room watching some other goofball matchup (Stoke v. Blackburn, as it were) and Grant spends his final few moments of the morning dicking around on the Internet in his room and slugging his dangerously strong home-brewed coffee.

11:35 I roll into Scallys and Jamie is waiting, daintily sipping a cup of tea. He doesn’t like coffee, apparently. He says he “just wants to get (the tea) into him… to steady the ship” before beginning the onslaught of booze, which will capsize said ship. I’m also writing this update just to check if my stolen bagel shop wifi is working.

11:42 The downstairs area is filling up. I see about six Arsenal kits and about a dozen folks of unknown allegiance who seem oddly entranced by the Aston Villa-West Ham matchup on the big screen. Jamie tells me that some guy at the bar is talking like a pirate. Evidently the Chelsea folk are going to cloister themselves upstairs, possibly because that’s where the patio is. And yet, despite this being the first open-patio weekend of the year, the weather is overcast, cool, chance of rain. Somehow fitting.

11:55 Alright, as expected, my three-year-old dinosaur of a laptop was unable to cobble together the connectivity of the wifi signals from Scallywags itself and the bagel shop across the street into any sort of usable, reliable Internet connection during the match. So this live blog is actually, as before, simply a “live” blog, written in real-time but posted after the match. I assume this makes no difference to you, since I assume you weren’t feverishly clicking refresh during the match to read our witticisms as they happened – and if you were, holy smokes. You are committed, and probably should be committed.

11:58 In a bout of collective mental clumsiness, we try to figure out how this edition of Dispatches will work, given that Jamie’s crew is rollin’ on the first floor, and Grant’s on the third. Grant has just departed to suss out the situation upstairs, and claims he’ll report back to us. “That’s the last time we’ll see him until the end of the game,” says Jamie. But Grant actually calls us for an update. There are about 10 people up there now, and he’ll watch the first half with his Blues buddies, apart from us. Then we’ll “reconvene” at half. Right.

12:05 There’s a sizable contingent of Gooners here, and Jamie is reporting that the Chelsea supporters group head honcho and some others have just rolled in, fashionably on-time-but-just-barely, as usual. A United fan also stumbled in, looked around confusedly, looked at his phone, dropped in, then walked back out. “Tomorrow, buddy.”

12:07 The volume goes up, the server begins to look a bit frazzled as the floor is now full of Arsenal fans and sympathizers. Jamie tells me he’s now alienated his entire work-based dodgeball team after ignoring them at a bar earlier this week to watch the Canadiens game, alone, in a corner, with no sound on. Odd team choices, this guy. The nervous hand-wringing begins.

12:10 The commentators with their circa-1935 Orson Welles microphones appear on the screen, and the crowd of about 50 on our floor gets all riled up and clappy upon seeing Cesc (or as Grant would call him, Cedric) Fabregas and co. in the tunnel.

12:12 The crowd claps more respectfully as some family members of Hillsborough victims appear on the pitch at the new Wembley. Speaking of, the crowd is divided almost perfectly down the middle between red and blue (at Wembley, that is), which is a mighty impressive sight, and reminiscent of those hilarious-for-a-while Halo-themed web cartoons. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

12:15 Jamie’s focus is desperately flitting from one TV screen to another, even though they’re all showing the same thing. His knuckles rap on the table, expectantly. He claps, along with the others, when “Cedric” appears on screen. The crowd at Wembley is in full voice. Jamie’s “Oh, For Fuck’s Sakes!” counter is at zero.

12:16 Kickoff. Jamie groans loudly.

12:17 1′ Ivanovic falls down. This makes the Gooners happy. The Ivanovic “Falling Down” counter is at one.

12:19 4′ A cock-up by Fabianski (editor’s note: this would be the theme of the day) almost lets Drogba head it into a gaping net from 20 yards, but it’s cleared off the line in time. OFFS Counter: 1.

12:21 6′ Jamie’s teeth are gritted tighter than they were for his Grade 2 class photo. He politely requests that Drogba “fuck off” after he draws a foul.

12:24 Both teams seem to think the whole “stringing more than two passes together” strategy is overrated at this point. Jamie takes out some of his uneasiness on an unsuspecting piece of garlic bread.

12:25 10′ Jamie and the Gooners, for about the third time already, get really excited about a Walcott run through the midfield, which results in nothing. “Is it too early in the day for garlic and beer?” I don’t think so.

12:28 12′ Jamie’s face sinks into his hands after an Eboue giveaway. “Eboue Complaint” counter: 1.

12:30 15′ Van Persie with a free kick from about 35 yards out. Whole lotta nothing. Neither team seems interested in “attempts on goal” at this point either. Tense moments on the pitch and at the pub, as Jamie’s begins chewing one of his fingernails relentlessly. I hope he knows he only has 10 of them to go around (unless he gets really desperate… and flexible…)

12:32 16′ Denilson giveaway at midfield bumps the OFFS Counter up to 2. Drogba gets a half-chance at goal at the tail end of it.

12:33 One of Chelsea’s trainers, a tubby chap, is shown running along the sideline holding some shoes. I remark that I didn’t know that my landlord was on Chelsea’s reserve squad, but that with all the injuries, maybe he could make Arsenal’s reserve squad these days. “No, only if he was a 14-year-old. Anyone under the age of 15 can seemingly make Arsenal’s reserve squad.”

12:34 18′ Walcott thumps (?) one into the back of the net, behind a bewildered Cech. Jamie jumps up as though someone had unexpectedly squirted water up his arse. The floor is going nuts. Jamie points at the table repeatedly, proclaiming that he had predicted the 1-0 scoreline and Walcott goal. “Grant’s definitely not coming down here for the second half now!” A song almost gets started up, until the folks at Scallys decide they’d rather just “ooh” and “aah” at the replays of Walcott’s goal or, as I call it, chapter 43 in “The Ongoing Downfall of Petr Cech”.

12:37 21′ Jamie encourages Arsenal to take it into the corner for the next 70 minutes. We see Fabio Capello on the screen, and he looks remarkably similar to his doll on Special 1 TV. “Imagine saying ‘Excuse me sir, can I date your daughter?’ and seeing that face.”

12:38 23′ I make some remark about the healthiness of the cheese on the garlic bread we’re eating. Just then, a Malouda shot slips under Fabianski but goes a few feet wide. “If there’s anything that’s bad for my heart, it’s shots like that, not the cheese.”

12:39 Jamie invents the first verse to a TV program called “Fat Guy in Little Coat”, starring Guus Hiddink. I don’t think he’ll make his living the same way that Charlie Sheen does on Two and a Half Men, at this rate.

12:40 25′ An Arsenal run into the Cheslea 18 brings Jamie to his feet again. The subsequent non-shot brings the OFFS counter to 3. He’s now standing, leaning, with his arms crossed, wearing a sort of tough-but-worried expression you’d expect from a 16-year-old who’s trying to impress the members of a gang he’s hoping to join.

12:42 26′ Arsenal Midfield Giveaway #412 of the day prompts an audacious 35-yard attempt by Drogba that sails high, prompting derisive hooting from the Scallys faithful.

12:44 Jamie slumps back into his seat. I guess they didn’t let him in the gang.

12:45 29′ Walcott slips between his defenders and forces a good save from Cech from 20 yards out, but the replays reveal he was “offside”.

12:46 A text message sent to Grant (“What’s the mood like upstairs?”) yields a one-word response: “Unbothered.” Jamie? “I don’t buy that for a second. Grant isn’t unbothered at the best of times, even if it has nothing to do with soccer.” I love vicarious shit-talk.

12:47 Hiddink gets in the ear of the fourth official about something, possibly the location of the nearest concession stand. A few moments later, Jamie drops some f-bombs at the television for no discernible reason.

12:48 33′ Uh oh, right back we go, Malouda beats the trap, and slips one past Fabianski at the near post from 12 yards out. It’s 1-1. Jamie’s OFFS counter bumps to 4, and his Eboue Complaint counter from 1 up to 3. A few Chelsea fans sprinkled into the Arsenal crowd on his floor express their delight through clapping. The commentators claim the keeping was “suspect”.

12:50 35′ Drogba stands over a free kick, about 20 yards out on a diagonal. It faffs around in the box for a moment but is eventually cleared. Jamie keeps wiping his face with his hands, as if he had a giant beard from which he’s trying to dislodge chunks of food.

12:52 37′ Arsenal’s inability to clear the area results in an Anelka shot that dings off the post. The life expectancy of the people around me instantly drops by a few months.

12:54 38′ Ivanovic sees yellow for a clumsy, ugly challenge on van Persie at midfield. If the game keeps going the way it’s going, with Chelsea now firmly in control of the run of play, I think Jamie will be seeing yellow by day’s end too, from the alcohol intake.

12:56 Jamie makes his first tactical move of the day: taking Diaby out of the game because of his constant giveaways. Arsene Wenger, for his part, doesn’t agree. Not yet, at least.

12:57 The mood upstairs, according to Grant’s text message: “Still unbothered.” Jamie: “Grant’s just playing it cool because he’s terrified of hubris.” What about your earlier hubris? “Well, I am a lot more bothered than I was when Arsenal was winning.”

12:59 44′ Essien with a shot from 25 yards out, easily handled by Fabianski. A few seconds later, Midfield Giveaway #894 gives Chelsea another half-chance. The ball goes out of touch and the ref retroactively shows yellow to Ballack for a challenge on Fabregas.

1:00 45′ More bumbling, and the Eboue Complaint counter is at 4. Jamie continues to wipe non-existent food from his non-existent beard.

1:01 45’+1 OFFS counter: 5. And nothing of any particular incompetence even happened. Just generic frustration. Jamie clenches his fist as if trying to crush a walnut.

1:03 45’+2 Meek header from eight yards out handled by Fabianski. Cleared and there’s the halftime whistle. The folks in red all shuffle up in a mad dash to the washroom/outside for a smoke.

Halftime thoughts? Jamie: “I can say I’m pretty bothered by how they’re playing. Since Malouda’s goal, I’ve been fairly bothered. They’re obviously suffering from all the defenders they have out. I’m thinking that a scarecrow with William Gallas’s face on it could do better than Eboue.”

Dave, some Arsenal fan who has sat down next to me: “It’s tough to watch. After the Champions League game, and now this…”

Grant: “I don’t want to jinx anything, but I do feel pretty good. But Chelsea did dictate the play for the last 20 minutes. You can also write in there that a bunch of high school punks have snuck in and are just standing there being dicks, and they’re starting to annoy me.”

Evidently some old British man was bemoaning Malouda’s uselessness for most of the first half to Grant. His reaction to the equalizer? “Well, that was OK, I guess.”

Grant and Jamie are both all smiles right now, as Grant desperately searches for someone to mooch a cigarette off of. This will change within the next 50 minutes. We discover that there’s nowhere for me to plunk myself down with my laptop on the Chelsea floor upstairs, but Grant promises to send down “increasingly inflammatory text messages” to keep us abreast of what’s going on. Of course, if Chelsea goes down a goal, Grant will be too tense to move or think, never mind manipulate the buttons on his cell phone.

After what appeared to have possibly been a civil discussion of the first half between him and Jamie, Grant departs upstairs to “continue binge drinking.” And, presumably, to watch the second half.

1:20 About to kick off the second half. The commentators mention the words “extra time”, which causes Jamie to groan and, presumably, experience unusual muscle spasms. He orders another beer; “If I can’t win the game, I’ll certainly win the drinking competition.” Second half kicks off.

1:23 48′ Adebayor gets a second to unleash a shot from inside the 18, but it sails tantalizingly over the bar. Jamie is angered that I’ve mentioned Adebayor’s physical resemblance to old MuchMusic VJ Master T. “You’ve ruined Adebayor for me!” What?

1:24 50′ Diaby with Arsenal Midfield Giveaway #1,239. “Why the fuck is he still in the game?” Because Wenger has the job that should rightfully be yours, Jamie.

1:26 52′ A van Persie cross into the area, Adebayor’s chance foiled by Terry’s intervention. I think Jamie just clenched his butthole. Jamie then hopes that Terry gets accidentally kicked in the face and knocked out, as he did once before. “Just to even things out, with injured defenders.” Ooh, shit’s gettin’ serious now.

1:27 Jamie’s attempt to “steady the ship” with his first beer were apparently unsuccessful.

1:28 54′ Another giveaway, and Chelsea gets a good chance inside the area, stopped by a last-second tackle by… Eboue? I can’t tell for sure, but Jamie refuses to acknowledge the possibility that it was him. A girl at the next table bumps her OFFS Counter to 1. A few moments later, Jamie’s Eboue Complaint counter goes to… oh who knows, I’ve lost count.

1:30 The mood is palpably tenser on the floor now than it was at the end of the second half. More people are becoming audibly frustrated. John Terry is down with a knock, giving the Gooners a chance to expel some of their pent-up worry by swearing at the TV. A replay of Walcott’s goal celebration (a weird, upside-down, two-handed triangle) leads to a brief and uninformed discussion of Jay-Z.

1:33 59′ Arsenal, for the first time today, looks like Arsenal, with some bing-bang-boom in Chelsea’s area… but no bango (that is, goal). Jamie’s up on his feet again, with a little more spring in his step after that. Diaby screws up again, and Jamie curses Eboue. “Every time something goes wrong, I just blame Eboue… unless it’s a missed goal, then I blame Bendtner. Even if he’s not on the field.”

1:36 62′ Midfield Giveaway #2,895 leads to a short Chelsea counter-attack, thwarted just outside the Arsenal area. The Gooners are getting very excited about that stop, showing that the desperation levels are running high.

1:38 Dave claims I’ve “ruined” Adebayor for him too. In fairness, Grant is the one who came up with the Master T comparison. But once it’s in your head, you can’t get rid of it.

1:39 64′ A relatively benign foul at midfield is eliciting increasingly angry shouts from the assembled fans here. Arsenal, a few seconds later, win a free kick from about 30 yards out. Wenger looks mildly worried. Van Persie with a left-footed low cross, cleared easily. Most fans here are now resting their chins on their terrified, clasped fists.

1:41 66′ The teams trade decent chances at either end in the course of 30 seconds, without either keeper being tested.

1:43 68′ A one-two with Drogba and Lampard gives Frankie a good volley chance, that booms five feet wide of the net. “Fuck you, Frankie!”

1:44 69′ Arsenal gets away with one, as a handball by Gibbs in the area goes undetected by the officials (but not by Drogba, who gives the linesman an earful). “Shut up, Squizz! Shut up, Squizz!” instructs Jamie, as if the ref can hear me.

1:45 70′ Poor positioning by Eboue gives Malouda a chance at a left-footed volley inside the area, which drifts high and wide. Due to Jamie’s depth perception, he assumed Chelsea was about to score, and let out a high-pitched yelp, not unlike the sound made by those communication devices used by firefighters.

1:46 Two texts from Grant. “If this goes to penalties Cech will fuck us” and “Old man furious at Malouda”.

1:48 73′ Bad tackle by Denilson on Lampard, and he gets a yellow. A LOT of f-bombs get directed at the TV. “Denilson’s lucky he’s not stronger.” Dangerous spot for the FK, 30 yards out, middle of the pitch. Lampard stands over it. Thumped into the wall. Arsenal’s mild counterattack is meant with plenty of high-decibel yells of “Come on!” and “Go!”

1:49 Arshavin is getting ready to come in, and the Gooners are very happy. But their excitement is tempered by the fact that he’s replacing van Persie. Some fat dude at Wembley seems happy with the change, though. “Where’s the ugliest fan? Let’s show him!” Jamie is less happy. “Why would they take off van Persie instead of Diaby, who is literally more useless than my shit?”

1:51 Grant, via text, expresses his opinion that Denilson should have been sent off a minute ago. Sure thing.

1:52 77′ Terry falls on his own but gets the foul call, and the first floor of Scallywags is becoming unhinged. Now every foul call, half-chance and clearance is eliciting noise levels that probably cause permanent hearing damage after three minutes of exposure.

1:53 79′ Drogba gets a hearty Bronx cheer for losing possession in the area. Jamie: “Let it be known that Eboue is driving me to drink.” He then takes a nice slug from his pint, for reinforcement.

1:55 Grant’s text: “Arm numb.” That’s not good.

1:56 81′ Free kick to Chelsea. Commentator: “Drogba almost always seems to score against Arsenal.” At least four different people at Scallywags, to the commentator: “Shut the fuck up!” The FK looks dangerous but is cleared.

1:56 Bendtner’s appearance on the screen, warming up, brings a loud, collective groan from the Gooner faithful.

1:57 82′ Chelsea sub. Kalou for Anelka. Dave: “Fuck you, Anelka!” Arsenal sub. Bendtner for Adebayor. Jamie’s OFFS counter breaks. “Alright Bendtner, prove me wrong!”

1:58 84′ Immediately afterwards, Drogba beats Fabianski to a high, bouncing ball at the edge of the area, moves around him and slots it into the empty goal. 2-1 to Chelsea. Off comes the shirt and he’s happy. “What the fuck was that? What the fuck was he doing?” A poor decision by Fabianski. If deflation and disappointment were foods, this room would smell like pungent rotten eggs right now. Jamie looks like he just found out he couldn’t go to summer camp after being promised by his parents.

1:59 Grant’s text: “Semen in pants.” Dear God I hope it’s his own.

2:00 86′ Essien thumps a shot over the bar. The Gooners are buoyed, to a very small extent, by the arrival of Nasri on the pitch, replacing Denilson.

2:03 88′ Toure called for a foul on Drogba at midfield. Arsenal’s movements are now being met by a smattering of half-hearted applause, though the mood here is decidedly dire.

2:04 90′ An Arsenal throw right near Chelsea’s corner gets hopes up again, but they’re dashed when a looping cross is handled easily by Cech. Three minutes of time to be added. Chelsea kills a few moments on a midfield free kick.

2:06 90’+1 Arsenal corner. Arshavin thumps it in, cleared (poorly) by Cech, thumps it in again, cleared again by Cech, big kerfuffle in front and a few moments later, play is stopped for a pair of Gunners and a Blue down in the area. Grant’s text: “Drogs took out two.”

2:08 90’+3 Dropped ball, kicked softly over the Chelsea endline by Arsenal. WHY? With all that’s at stake, fuck sportsmanship, just take the ball and have a go!

2:09 90’+4 Arsenal can’t get it up the field far enough; the Gooners look resigned to gloom. Jamie wanders away somewhere. Some fans are already streaming out of Scallys (hopefully after settling their bills). And there it is. The final whistle. Hiddink rubs Ray Wilkins’s bald head, delightedly. Fabianski is clearly the goat here. I’d like to ask some of these departing fans for their thoughts, but I’m afraid my laptop will get smashed.

Dave: “Well, shit!”

Emma, via text: “Who won? I can’t find any results online… who’s not speaking to who?” We had hoped Emma could have joined us today, but apparently she had to buy a purse. Seriously.

The bar has cleared out quite quickly, as is customary amongst the losing supporters. I imagine many of the Blues upstairs are probably tucking into a new beverage. The leader of the Chelsea supporters group has come downstairs to playfully strangle a man in an Arsenal jersey.

Jamie is back; he apparently was in the bathroom, as opposed to having disappeared. Grant is here now too. “Alright, Grant…” says Jamie, before Grant can say a word. Grant: “What? Was there a soccer game on?” Grant is evidently already drunk and wants to continue on a patio. Jamie is understandably less enthused. Wherever this day takes us, I’ll say right now, the chances of our podcast tomorrow being coherent are very, very low. But should listen anyway!

The up-to-date DFS records: Grant 2-1, Jamie 1-1. Because I’m sure you’re keeping score. The two of them exchange some petty, juvenile insults, and then we’re done. So long from Scallys!

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3 Responses to “Dispatches From Scallywags #3: The Reckoning (Arsenal v. Chelsea)”

  1. Guys you should be listening to the real game right now FC United 0-0 at the half in a must win game…

  2. So you’re so confident in United sweeping all the trophies that you’re now delegating your mental energy to whimsical, invented Manchester teams? That’s pretty cocky, Sam.

  3. Well can’t say I’m super confident of the sweep, in fact I still don’t think they will do it….

    As for FC United they won 1-0 with a goal in the 90′ 🙂

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