The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
Seriously. The next time someone tries to convince you they have Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur or the English Premier League—or even football itself—figured out, just go ahead and quote some Lao Tzu right back at them. You won't be sorry.
Recall, if you can, the peaks and valleys of the roller coaster Arsenal currently find themselves riding. Barely more than three weeks ago, Arsene Wenger's Gunners demolished Blackburn 7-1 at the Emirates. Wenger earned some relief, Gooners found some release and the assault on fourth place seemed inevitable.
In the eight days separating the second Sunderland match and Sunday's showdown with Spurs, the world of football media joined together in unison for one major Arsenal freakout. Arsene Wenger was done, on his way to being done or completely incompetent, insane or indefensible, they said.
After Sunday's stunning fightback, some of the boo-birds will fly away. But maybe they shouldn't go too far. Any observer of Arsenal's full season would agree that the critics have been right about a few things at least.
It's too soon to tell how much, though. It's still possible the critics were right about everything; and it's equally plausible that Arsene has known all along. In this schizophrenic Arsenal season, it's nearly impossible to know, and Sunday's 5-2 win over Spurs hasn't changed that.
That won't stop the pundits from making bold claims about Wenger's competence between now and May. But if this season has shown us anything, it's that the more you talk about it, the less you understand it.
Thanks, Lao Tzu.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @MikeCummings37
Six months and several disappointments into the term, we now have a buzzword for Arsenal's 2011-12 season.
Every few weeks another talking head appears, armed with a new indictment of Arsene Wenger following another crushing defeat. Littered in the weeks between lay a string of stunning wins, each more of a shot-in-the-arm to Arsenal's flailing season than the one before it.
Wenger has lost it. Then Arsene still knows. Then he's lost it again, this time for good. Then he still really does know.
It's time for everyone—fans and media—to take a step back. Arsenal can and will go on without all the bickering.
Look, we all know that Arsenal haven't been great this season. Wenger has clearly struggled more this season than in his previous 15 years in North London combined. But that doesn't mean he's going anywhere, at least for now.
Considering the fact that Wenger has stuck around Arsenal for the better part of two decades, it's likely he'll still be present in North London after the season. Then he'll have a reported £55 million to work with, and we'll have another chance to judge.
Until then, let's try to stop freaking out every time Arsenal and Wenger do something wrong (or right). For now, it's time to let Wenger show what he can do with the rest of the season.
Did Sunday damage 'Arry?
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is the hot favorite to be England's next boss. Considering the final scoreline of Sunday's match, it's fair to ask whether the result took a bit of the luster off England's golden boy.
Spurs were beaten soundly after taking a two-goal lead inside the first 35 minutes.
Louis Saha did well to get free in the middle of Arsenal's defense in the fourth minute, but his shot benefited from a wicked deflection off the heel of Thomas Vermaelen (and what the heck is up with him lately?).
Emmanuel Adebayor doubled Spurs' lead with a well-taken penalty in the 34th minute, but the manner in which Gareth Bale won it was dubious to say the least.
Apart from that, Spurs offered little, and by the time Arsenal equalized two minutes before halftime, it was no more than the Gunners deserved.
In truth, Arsenal were worth the result—and the scoreline flattered them only slightly. Tottenham, by contrast, saw their slim title aspirations flicker out. And now they must look over their shoulder at the oncoming challenge from both Chelsea and Arsenal seven points back.
For fans of Tottenham and England, Redknapp's response will be interesting to say the least.
Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky laid off a perfectly weighted pass for the onrushing Bacary Sagna, ran onto the return ball and, with one deft flick, lifted a short shot past Tottenham Hotspur keeper Brad Friedel for a 51st-minute goal.
Rosicky's rare strike turned into the match-winner. It was no more than the maligned 31-year-old deserved for an outstanding—and astounding—performance in Arsenal's weary midfield.
It was outstanding for Rosicky's workrate and creativity, for his willingness and ability to be where Arsenal needed him, when Arsenal needed him there—whether it was in Tottenham's box or defending in his own.
And it was astounding for how unexpected it was, to everyone. 10 days before, former Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit reportedly uttered Rosicky's name in the same breath as one-size-fits-all scapegoat Andrei Arshavin.
"Thank you, but goodbye," had been the suggestion from Petit 10 days ago.
"Thank you, and well done," is more like it after Sunday.
… give it to him.
If it's true that Arsenal will offer RvP £150,000 per week after the season in contract negotiations, good. That kind of sum would normally lie beyond the pale in Arsenal's rigid pay structure, but in this case, it almost feels inevitable.
Van Persie again showed on Sunday just how much he means to Arsenal. In a word: everything.
Theo Walcott may have been the two-goal hero. But Robin van Persie was the minor deity who bent the will of players and match alike to his slightest whim.
Whether it was curling an impossibly gorgeous shot past a left-for-dead Brad Friedel, or holding up play and laying off a final pass so perfect even the woefully unconfident Theo Walcott couldn't miss it—Robin van Persie did everything a club could ask of its best player and captain in a heated crosstown derby.
It's hardly the first time, either. Van Persie inspiring Arsenal has become an event so commonplace that it's almost too easy to miss.
But Arsenal would miss van Persie if he left—probably even more than any of us can imagine (and we can imagine a lot, thanks to this season). That's why they must give RvP whatever he wants.
Coming into Sunday, Arsenal and Spurs had combined for 41 goals in their last 10 matchups.
On Sunday, they made that look boring. Seven more goals and a thrilling comeback showed that the North London Derby is England's most competitive and most exciting rivalry.
The two clubs have always been close thanks to geography. Lately, they've come even closer together in the table—and it's made for exciting viewing every time they collide.
Oh, for a late-season Champions League knockout tie between these two. For now, we can only dream.
But next season?