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Jacques and his master are driving down a quiet winding road along the Dalmatian coast. It’s springtime, the rugged Dinarides mountains on their left are sparkled with blooming Brnistra shrubs, and on their right the turquoise waters of a calm Adriatic sea are punctuated with the small fishing boats that are moored along the coast. Jacques, as ever, is the man behind the wheels, expertly maneuvering the clunky Peugeot that his patriotic master had insisted on. As they approach a sharp bend on the road Jacques notices a humble tavern next to a small road leading off from the highway into a picturesque seaside village. He slows down and takes the village road, comes to a stop in front of the tavern, turns off the engine and sprightly gets out of the car. His fellow traveler, jolted from his reverie on the passenger seat, follow him out but not without expressing his annoyance at this sudden stop.

[Master]: I don’t think I remember having asked you to stop now.

[Jacques]: You did not. But this tavern looks like one of those where you can find a warm plate of grilled squids and some cold dry white wine any time of the day.

[Master]: But it’s only 11 in the morning! And you ate an elephant’s breakfast just a couple of hours ago. Unbelievable …

[Jacques]: Monsieur, if you must compare my young and healthy appetite to an animal’s I rather prefer it to be a lion than an elephant.

[Master]: Why not hyena? You seem to be devouring everything lately …

[Jacques]: It’s the healthy sea air, and all the lovely exercises I get at night when you are snoring in your room.

[Master]: Rascal!

[Jacques]: Don’t be mad Monsieur. Let me show you something. Look up at the mountains towards your left.

Jacques points his right index finger towards high up at the nearly vertical cliffs where there are no trees or shrubs. Master’s gaze follows him impatiently, but once he realizes what Jacques is pointing at, he too is equally amazed and amused. Someone, most definitely a madman to have risked that climb, but one not without artistic talent, has drawn up in the mountains a gigantic mural of red-and-white squares neatly arranged within a perfect circle.

[Master]: What is that? Icon of a local pagan religion?

[Jacques]: You can say that…a godless religion. I understand that the grave and philosophical concerns have kept you preoccupied lately, but have you not at all seen this sign before in these parts of the world in the last few days we have been here? It is everywhere.

[Master]: Now that you mention it, I do recall this pattern…but it is too ubiquitous to pay any special attention to, until you see a replica of such a daring scale and placement…

[Jacques]: It is the emblem of a local organization.

[Master]: A secret society?

[Jacques]: Just the complete opposite. It’s a football team. They call themselves Hajduk.

[Master]: Oh no! One more of these groups of mad men. Europe now seem to have fallen completely at the mercy of these roguish lads everywhere…

[Jacques]: Ladies too…

[Master]: What a pity! I wonder what my good friend Denis would have said about this football mania of these times. Something very profound and witty at the same time…

[Jacques]: Well, we are no longer living in Monsieur Diderot’s time. Or in his imagination for that matter…

[Master]: I preferred it so much more, even though life on the road is now much more comfortable. This new man has a pitifully limited mind compared to him … and what a horrid imagination, naming himself after Faust…

[Jacques]: It’s true he doesn’t hold a candle to Monsieur Diderot’s genius, but I like him all the same.

[Master]: And let me guess, like the rest of the hoi polloi he too is a fanatic for football. Well of course, otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing such inanities this morning…

[Jacques]: You must admit that something that inspires a man to climb up there – (and here he points back towards the mural on the mountainside) – just to draw a sign to express his love cannot be so easily ignored.

[Master]: Is that him? The new one? Faustus…

[Jacques]: Oh no no! He is not that inspired. And besides, his love is dedicated to another team…

[Master]: Are their signs visible on the mountains too?

[Jacques] (pointing to the tavern): Let us go in. You made me thirsty as well.

Jacques and his Master walk in through the open doors into the small white-stone cottage with wide windows overlooking the sea and a single spotlessly clean wooden table with a few chairs spread around it. They choose two chairs opposite each other but then moved them slightly away at an angle from the table so that they can both face the windows while not completely losing sight of each other. A waitress brings two glasses of water and asks what they would like. Master asks for a strong coffee, Jacques orders a plate of scampi and squids, a bottle of white wine, and two glasses. Once the drinks are brought in, he pours wine in both the glasses and hands one over to his master.

[Jacques]: À votre santé!

[Master](breaking out in a forgiving smile): Santé! Rascal… so, what about this other team? Is it in these Balkan lands too?

[Jacques]: Far from it! It is in a place you never could bear to visit.

[Master]: Marseilles! Awful…

[Jacques]: Not really…Londres!

[Master]: How horrible! I am being imagined by an Englishman…poor Denis!

[Jacques]: That is a very parochial view, if I may say so Monsieur. Monsieur Diderot himself had no problems with other cultures and people…and anyway, he is not an Englishman, and he doesn’t live in Londres.

[Master]: How intriguing!

[Jacques]: Hardly! The team he is in love with has devoted followers from all over the world. From the Americas to Africa to Asia, even many of them are in France …

[Master]: What strange times! Colonials and French cheering for a bunch of Englishmen…

[Jacques]: Well, you should also know that many of the athletes who play for that team are too from far flung nations. Brazil to Scotland …

[Master] (taking a large sip of his wine): I see. So not much of English connection then. I can live with that.

[Jacques]: It is still an English team, with English roots, English affinity and history. But not only…

[Master]: I must say I find it hard to be at ease with this shape-shifting world. So, you are saying there are many people around the world who also follow this English team without themselves being English or connected to Angleterre anyway…how odd! Why though?

[Jacques]:  It’s not odd. Did your friend Denis not have anything but the greatest admiration for the Flemish or Dutch masters even before ever leaving France? It is the same.

[Master]: But that’s art! Timeless, universal…not ersatz war of athletic fights.

[Jacques]: You do sports injustice Monsieur. A plebeian pastime it might be in its origin, but it too can appeal to the universal and noble strands in our mind…it can inspire beyond boundaries.

[Master]: I will need time to accept your bold claim.

[Jacques]: You mean you will need examples to be convinced.

[Master](scathingly): You are right, let’s speak our minds.

[Jacques](excitedly): Whenever do we not! Alright, Hajduk is an example. Did you know they were formed by a bunch of Dalmatian students studying in Prague after they watched a match between the two big Prague teams, Slavia and Sparta!

[Master](now a bit amused by Jacques’s excitement): Go on…

[Jacques]: Take the example of your friend Monsieur Diderot, your favorite Denis. Didn’t he spend a lot of time, fruitlessly, trying to persuade his friend and benefactress tsarina Catherine to reform her empire towards his lofty values of enlightenment? Even making a long journey to the Scythian land…

[Master](visibly frustrated): Oh, you oversimplify. You know very well the complex nuances of their relationship … and in any case I don’t see what connection that has with your claim about a football team’s universal connection.

[Jacques]: Well, a leopard doesn’t change its spots. That old rapacious empire is still an old rapacious empire.

[Master](pretending to yawn): You bore me! I thought we are not going to indulge in geopolitical speculation. This Faustus really has a rather common mind.

[Jacques]: Have some patience…there is a football team called Shakhtar Donetsk that has been displaced for more than 8 years, and now that is of course the least of their concern. Their most capped and decorated player is from this region, and he started his career in Hajduk.

[Master]: That proves nothing about the universality of footballing art.

[Jacques]: I agree it is not the strongest example. However, I thought I will bring that up to remind us that while we are enjoying this lovely – (here Jacques spreads his two arms wide around his chair, gesticulating animatedly) – view and wine there are millions of people suffering because of a senseless war.

[Master]: As I thought, a very ordinary mind …

[Jacques]:  That may be so, but I find we should try our best to not easily forget or ignore the pain of others…

[Master]: Simple-minded platitudes … vapid moralizing. Reminding ourselves ceaselessly of the sorrows of others neither leads to solving the conditions that lead to suffering nor does it help us understand the world.

 [Jacques]: If you cannot simply and directly empathize with the human suffering, I am afraid you start losing your humanity.

 [Master]: That is what great art is for. To give our absurd lives and absurd sufferings an arc of meaning. To create a deeper connection with the fleeting reality. 

[Jacques]: Football can do that too. Give our senseless lives an arc of meaning, as you said. And when football is played in a certain way it can give an aesthetic joy that is no less sublime than the movements of ballet.

[Master]: And this English team you started talking about give our simple-minded Faustus such joys and meaning?

[Jacques]: Him, myself, and a million others. Tens of millions of others.

[Master]: I am guessing their emblem must be a swan swimming in a lake. Or snow-covered mountain peaks. Maybe a solitary boat floating on quite azure sea…

[Jacques] (laughing mirthfully): Now who is being simple-minded?

[Master]: A kingly lion racing across the Serengeti?

[Jacques]: In this century they call it a logo. And our logo is a cannon, and I think I should draw one of those on these mountains.

[Master] (finishes his glass of wine in one gulp and stands up): Jacques, I forbid you to…

[Jacques](ignoring him, talking to himself): What an interesting idea!

The waitress returns with two plates of seafood. Jacques looks longingly at the food as the waitress arranges the cutlery around the plates. Master slowly sits down. Jacques makes a joke and the waitress laughs. The curtain draws as we hear a faint murmur of conversations between the three of them.

                                                                        ~ The End  ~

41 Drinks to “Jacques Introduces His Master to the Arsenal”

  1. 1
    bt8 says:

    Sounds like a delightful spot for a vacation and a splash of white wine with your grilled fishies, Faustus. Thanks for an entertaining read. 🙂

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Enjoyable read Dr.F. I hope you finished the cannon carved into the mountain before you left!

  3. 3
    Countryman100 says:

    No one writes like you do Dr F!

  4. 4
    bathgooner says:

    Transcendental, doc!

  5. 5
    Trev says:

    Bath, I’m just sitting here thinking about my teeth, no matter how hard I try to
    transcend dental meditation ….. 😳

  6. 6
    bathgooner says:

    Extract yourself, Trev.

    Offers coat vi-carious-ly.

  7. 7
    Trev says:

    Well done, Faustus, an engaging and enjoyable read, if a somewhat romantic view of what following the Arsenal is all about from all corners of the world. We have all been very lucky to enjoy some fantastic times watching the Arsenal.

    Maybe you were lucky to avoid having to run for your life at various times and places in the seventies – and wondering when you might breathe again as you were carried out of the ground, feet off the floor, at the back of the North Bank.

    On the other hand, just maybe you weren’t.

    The knowledge and commitment of some of our foreign fans amazes me though. I cannot imagine ever being so consumed by gridiron or baseball – although many are. If you like American football, they have apparently built a whole new stadium for it down the Seven Sisters Road !

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    Very fatalistic, Dr F. To be continued, one hopes.

  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@7: For this far-flung, at least, there is no rosy, nostalgic glow when remembering going to the football in the ’70s. It could be brutal.

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    Analysis welcome tomorrow!

  11. 11
    Countryman100 says:

    Oops! Wrong link!

  12. 12
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks DrF
    An evocative and thoughtful piece.
    An arc of meaning – like a Sammels thunderbolt through the wall and smashing the back of he net. That works for me.

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@10/11: It will be universally decried as a fix as all 20 PL clubs complain that the fixtures computer is biased against them to favour rivals.

  14. 14
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for an amusing and enjoyable piece Dr F.
    Yeah, same old as you say.

  15. 15
    OsakaMatt says:

    Looks like Tielemans is close according to reports.

  16. 16
    Cynic says:

    Palace away to open then with the first home game against Lesta

  17. 17
    Cynic says:

    Fixture announcement tumbleweed…

    That Palace game is on a Friday night, live on Sky, on August 5th

  18. 18
    OsakaMatt says:

    For no particular reason I don’t like being the first game away on the Friday night.
    Anyway, it looks an easier start than last season.

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    Here’s a quick month-by-month guide to next season’s fixture list.

    Palace away on the opening Friday is a potential banana skin, but we should get off to a fast start to next season as the next four games, Leicester (A), Bournemouth (A), Fulham (H) and Villa (H) are winnable. We should aim to end August with at least 13 points.

    Then comes the first trip to a ‘big six’ club, ten Hag’s Mancs at OT, followed by Everton at home in the weekend after our first Europa League group game. We then make the cross-town trip to Brentford to wrap up September.

    October looks testing. The home NLD is followed by a visit from ‘Pool, with a Europa League game in between. Then we have a trip to Leeds after another Europa League game, followed by a mid-week visit from Pep’s Haaland-reinforced City. Away to Southampton, which will be after another Europa League game, is always a tricky visit. The month wraps up with a visit from Forest. It risks being a deflating month.

    We then visit the bus stop after our final Europa League group game before hosting Wolves in the final match before the World Cup break in mid-November.

    We resume by hosting West Ham on Boxing Day and make the trip to Brighton on New Year’s Eve.

    January also looks potentially tough with a Saudi-fuelled new-look Newcastle visiting three days later, then the FA Cup, followed by the away NLD and the visit of the Mancs.

    February should bring some relief, with a visit to Goodison, Brentford at home, a trip to Villa Park and then Leicester at home.

    March has us hosting Bournemouth and Fulham, then off to Selhurst Park.

    April will bring the return of some tricky games: home to Leeds but then trips to Anfield and West Ham, followed by the Saints at home, Citeh away and Chelsea at home.

    The run-in in May looks relatively benign, a trip to St James’, Brighton at home, Forest away and ending with Wolves at home on the final day. None, I expect, including Forest, to be battling relegation.

    All in all, next season has the potential to be somewhat stop-start, with clutches of games against the big-six interspersing runs of winnable games and the usual banana skins. October will be a big test for team resilience and squad depth (and Edu’s summer recruitment). Get through that, and the challenges of January and April can be faced with greater confidence, especially as the big clubs will be carrying World Cup weary legs.

  20. 20
    Countryman100 says:

    Not often I get to correct you Ned but Leicester in August is a home game.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    You are right about the Leicester game, C100. Also, in May, the Fulham game is away and Palace is the reverse of the opener, so at home.

  22. 22
    Sancho Panza says:

    I’d like to think we’ll be ready for Palace this time around and give them sound 4 nil thinking which is what they deserve.

  23. 23
    Sancho Panza says:

    Spill chucker alert #tonking

  24. 24
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words.

    Ned, do the monks feel excited about writing some new previews, like Forest and Fulham? 😊

    This will be a strange season. No one knows how the players will react physically to a winter World Cup in desert, and then emotionally react to the effort of playing over the holiday season immediately thereafter, some of them maybe still harbouring disappointments …

  25. 25
    TTG says:

    Transfer alert!
    We are signing Porto midfielder Fabio Vieira on Friday for a fee around £30 m .
    He is about 19/20 .

  26. 26
    Sancho Panza says:

    He’s 22 apparently. He came from Porttoto to play for Arsenal Viera Fabiaoh Viera Fabiaoh.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    Fabio Vieira looks like rotation/cover for Ødegaard as a 10 rather than a midfielder in the engine room. I assume Tielemans is still pencilled in for that. Vieira (oh, oh, oh; he comes from Santa Maria de Fiera) was voted player of the tournament at the last U-21s Euros. Apparently, we tried to buy him in January. At 35 million euros plus 5 million in add-ons, he must be rated by Arteta. MØ8 looked knackered late on last season and faded out of games, so top-quality cover to spread the workload seems a smart move.

  28. 28
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Top stuff Doc. Inventive and surprising. Just like some of the best Arsnal teams.

    No other blog is putting up a piece like that. This bar rules.

    Drinks on me!

  29. 29
    Cynic says:

    Hopefully that dreadful Status Quo dirge will get replaced with a Depeche Mode chant this season (Our own, Gabriel, Jesus).

    For a few weeks anyway, then that can quietly die as well before it too gets flogged like a dead thing with hooves.

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Vieira is going to be 40m euros with add ons according to the report I read. Seems a lot for rotation/cover. A sign of the times I suppose and it will be make for lots of competition with ESR and MO already there.

  31. 31
    bt8 says:

    They have an impressive Roman castle in Fabio Vieira’s home town. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CasteloStaMariaFeira1.jpg

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    And from the same town as Neves of Wolves….

    Seems like MA is doing the same to the midfield and attack as he did to the defense last season. Hope so anyway as I’m quite happy with Tomi and Benjamin

  33. 33
    North Bank Ned says:

    We will have a minimum of 46 games next season and could play up to 65 depending on progress in the various cup competitions. More than a dozen of the first-team squad will also be playing World Cup games. We shall need depth to rest and rotate. Top clubs now have two starters for every position.

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    Porto have announced the sale of Vieira to Arsenal to the Portuguese Stock Exchange

  35. 35
    bt8 says:

    Welcome Fabio V.

  36. 36
    ClockEndRider says:

    Nice work, TTG. Thx for the report. So that’s signing no. 3 then, even if the other 2 so far are back up.

  37. 37
    Cynic says:

    £27.5m plus addons for Mane is a ridiculously cheap deal for Bayern.

  38. 38
    North Bank Ned says:

    What GSD said @28. Where else do you have to keep copies of the OED, a medical dictionary and the Oxford Companion to European Litterature to hand?

  39. 39
    North Bank Ned says:

    Cynic@30: You are right that Bayern has done a smart piece of business for Mane. Even if they end up paying the full 9 million euros of add-ons to the base 32 million euros, it will take the fee only up to the bottom end of Mane’s market-value range. Yet from ‘Pool’s point of view, they’ve got cash in to offset half of what they paid for Nunez and have replaced a 30-year-old with a year left on his contract with a 22-year-old rising star.

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    True enough Ned. I had half-hoped we’d get a wide player and give ESR a shot at the AMF role in competition/rotation with Ode. He did fine on the left especially first half of last season but central seems a better fit for ESR to me.

    Mane, on the other hand, may be a good buy but I am a bit doubtful about players who have a good half season just before a move. Mane had been way below his best for most of 2021. He’ll probably knock in 30 goals next season now I’ve said that.

  41. 41
    Bathgooner says: