The amazing thing about spending a year in another country is not just the access you have to all these new cities and cultures to see and explore, but it’s experiencing them as well. What’s the difference, you may ask?
I visited Rome some 7 or 8 years ago with my parents and some Italian family. Being young I didn’t really take it in and have few memories of it, so I really did arrive in the capital with a clean slate and no real expectations.
Having a near perfect location for our apartment, we did the site seeing on a beautiful Friday. As Sam mentioned in part 1, we hit most of the main sites and relaxed, taking in the city. I decided to take the typical British route with proceedings and toured the town in shorts and a top in 18 degree weather – though other Italians, clearly used to much warmer weather, still traveled in jackets and scarves. Couldn’t quite believe it! Saturday wasn’t anywhere near as great in terms of the weather, but an action packed day kept us busy and our football brains ticking as the day went on.
Having witnessed an end to end game between Roma and Napoli, two of Serie A’s better sides, we were only hoping for even half the game down at the pub where we went to watch Liverpool host Arsenal in the late kick off.
After heavily debating the decision to drop Alexis Sanchez to the Arsenal bench, and trying to think of a way Arsenal could go get a victory at Anfield, we made our score predictions. I amazingly predicted a 3-1 Liverpool victory, which turned out to be the final score. Sam on the other hand went for a 1-1.
Before the 90 minutes kicked off, we found ourselves at the Official AS Roma store, where they had a vault full of bits of Roma’s history, and a replica World Cup which had been won by the Italians in 2006 and of course Roma legend, Francesco Totti. It really spoke volumes of the history of this club, which is only right considering the history of the city as a whole. You see, walking round Rome wasn’t really like walking around many other cities. With the Vatican only minutes walk from our apartment, the Colosseum standing tall and proud as always, and Piazza Venezia glowing in the sun but under the lights at night as well, you almost felt like the history of the Romans followed you around everywhere you went. It’s rare to visit a City and feel so swamped in its history from every angle and every side street.
We arrived at the Irish Pub, and ordered our food. I like to practice (show off) my Italian wherever I go, and in an embarrassing attempt to order my food in the countries language, I was taken aback by an Irish murmur saying ‘what was that sorry?’, and Sam looking at me, cringing a bit and saying ‘just order in English mate’. Chicken wings ordered, and the game began.
Liverpool, very typically, made a super fast start. They had Arsenal on the back foot early on, but Arsenal seemed ready for this. They kept their fullbacks deep and Chamberlain and Welbeck looked disciplined – for about 9 minutes. A ball into the box wasn’t dealt with by the Arsenal defence after Koscielny missed the initial header. The ball falls to Firmino’s feet who controls and smashes past a helpless Cech. 1-0 (10mins). Anyone surprised? I wasn’t.
Arsenal began to slowly play and gain more possession of the football, but their was no real threat. Liverpool stood toe to toe with their opponents and criticisms that they can’t defend were strongly argued against on Saturday afternoon as they limited Arsenal to very little space and ideas.
2-0 Liverpool was the scoreline as another ball rolled across the box to a free Mane, who drilled the ball past Cech once more. Klopp’s side had responded perfectly to the defeat earlier on in the week to Leicester, and at half-time, the Reds were cruising.
The introduction of Alexis Sanchez for Francis Coquelin speaks volumes of both players. Coquelin, one of Arsenal’s best players in the opening months of the season, hasn’t been at it for a while now and was replaced for a man who’s clearly struggling behind the scenes, with constant reports that he’s fallen out with manager Arsene Wenger.
Alexis Sanchez added some threat to Arsenal’s attacking line, and got the assist for a very well taken Danny Welbeck finish early in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as Liverpool defended well, conceding possession to the Gunners but shutting up shop well, and leaving the icing on the cake just on 90 minutes as Wijnaldum put the game to bed – 3-1.
Sam was deflated, whereas I was just bored. It was so predictable. I think Sam said ‘good prediction’ to me at one point but sorry to say it wasn’t really, it was just so predictable.
The result leaves the Wenger Out Brigade singing loud and proud, with a protest planned before the game against Bayern Munich, while the Wenger In’s are hoping for a continued Cup run to boost fan’s morale and for Ozil, Sanchez and Wenger to lay down their futures to the fans. The problem is, I don’t even think those three know what’s going on.
From Liverpool’s point of view – they were brilliant! They attacked quickly, Lallana was fantastic in the middle, and they should be really proud of their response. In my league predictions, I said Klopp and Liverpool have always struggled against weaker opposition. Well, all their defeats have come against sides in the bottom half of the table, so he needs to address this issue and I believe it comes down to two things: squad depth, and motivation. One affects the other, and it’s resulting in Liverpool missing out on another title race, but not for the right reasons.
In true travellers spirit, we didn’t let the results get us down, nor did we let tiredness slow the night! Having met some really lovely friends of Sam, and hosting them at our place before dancing to Hey Jude in the city, we continued till the early hours and enjoyed one last big end before our early trains on the Sunday morning.
You see, the amazing thing about spending a year in another country is not just the access you have to all these new cities and cultures to see and explore, but it’s experiencing them as well. After a few hours of dancing and chanting, we headed for a 15 minute walk towards none other than the Trevi Fountain, not far from Piazza Venezia where we got our cab home.
As we sat there all together, having thrown our coins into the fountain on a mild Spring evening, we just relaxed and appreciated the beautiful city we were in. You throw coins into the fountain in the hope that life will take you back to Rome again, and I tell you what, I didn’t need to throw a coin into a fountain to know I’d be back here one more time.
As we sat there and took it all in, we enjoyed our company and no one else’s. No tourists, no police or guards, no adverts and offers here and there, no bulls**t. That to me is the difference between seeing a city, and experiencing it. Here in Bologna, as I write this now, I can’t say to you that I’ve visited all the churches, eaten in the finest places and walked up the famous hillsides. I’ve just lived and experienced it, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the country. Of course, it wouldn’t be the same without us following the football everywhere we go.
It was a great weekend, thanks for everything Sam!