I can’t speak for you but I’m still reeling from the wham bam of this whole three cup finals in a week mularky. In contrast, our near neighbours (both geographical and in terms of league position) seem to have forgotten all about footy, and are instead on a protracted leave of absence. As they organise tiddly wink contests and ping pong leagues down at the Lane our bruised and battered boys have been facing some not so pretty and perhaps surprisingly brutal treatment at the hands, elbows and studs of Everton. All this a mere three days after facing the less violent but but no less resilient public service vehicle parking practise from the Mustard Men of Norfolk. And before you can say pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, tired limbs and bruised knees will be having the old embrocation applied by beefy men in roll-neck sweaters as the troops muster again for a short jaunt to Craven Cottage.
For all his faults Martin Jol isn’t known for sending his guys out to kick, block, body check and trip the opposition so hopefully it’ll be safe for us to unwrap Tomáš Rosický tomorrow and let Jack take a rest on his road to recovery. Dropping two points at home is of course no disaster but it does make this ten cup final analogy I’m so fond of somewhat confusing. You just can’t have a drawn cup final. Shouldn’t there be a replay? Penalties? As far as I can see the two we didn’t get on Tuesday makes the three more important tomorrow and that is all it means. On occasion the truth is better in it’s simple unvarnished form. Seven from nine will just have to do and it would leave us gazing down imperiously upon the Tiny Totts as is our wont and, lets not be coy here, our right.
The dynamic has shifted this week whatever the outcome down at Stevenage Road tomorrow. We have been coming up on the stand side for the last few furlongs and all of a sudden, as the jockeys in front of us decide to pull up and let their nags take a munch on the graminoids we have thundered past with nostrils flaring and foam flecking our flanks. OK, look I appreciate the horse racing analogy is entirely inappropriate because the Spuds have games in hand on us, so our thoroughbred will be forced to stop and watch as they dig in their spurs and try to get their poor old bow backed mule back on track, but that’s my point. The dynamic has indeed shifted, they face a different kind of pressure and it’ll be interesting to see just how they cope with it. They certainly didn’t manage to cope with the pressure of staying ahead of us so let’s see how they manage playing catch up.
This stage of the season appears to be a time for predictions. I noticed with mild amusement (it takes a lot to make me actually laugh so unless you are PG Wodehouse, Mel O’Reilly or Bill Hicks, don’t bother) that twitter has been full of comments of the ‘We want City to win because then they’ll have a chance to catch Man U and will try harder to beat Spurs” variety. The ‘They will be in danger of relegation if they don’t at least draw and so will be a tougher match than you think’ species of suggestion grips people as the end draws nigh, and why? Well it’s just human nature. The closer the finish the greater impact the tiniest fraction of advantage appears to bestow upon the fortunate. And so, simple souls that we are, we seek desperately for meaning in the chaotic jostling for position, but really what matters is the same as that which has always mattered. Doing well in our games and hoping our nearest rivals fare poorly in theirs. The things that count are fitness and form of key players at the arse end of the season, also coolness, experience and intelligence of the manager and coaching staff, the run of form our opponents are in when we happen to play them. This last point often seems critical to deciding where teams end up.
Everyone has good and bad runs of form in a season. If you are unlucky enough to meet a lot of teams in their purple patch and if coincidentally other top sides meet the same teams on their down-slide it makes life tougher for you. It is of course only at or near the season’s end that these things come under the microscope and so take on a crazily exaggerated significance. Let’s face it you can beat a side who are in the middle of their best form for decades and drop points to a pile of shite who don’t deserve to be on the same pitch. Football at any level is a sport and the chaos and unpredictability is what adds the chilli powder to the finger shoved up the horses backside at the start of the race.
Before I sign off, and I have to keep a little bit back for tomorrow you know, I think it’s about time we expressed a mea maxima culpa moment here on Positively Arsenal. In any venture such as ours, worthy, noble, pure and with the greatest imaginable intentions to be scrupulous in our support, unimpeachable in our editorial content and consistent in our argument it is vital that we accept responsibility when we err. Many of us lambasted the doomsayers among the online Arsenal support when they said that we shouldn’t bitch about lousy one eyed refereeing displays. Also they said if teams set out to bully our players and (within the strict rules of the game) illegally attack and assault them with impunity then it was simply up to our players to take it and not to use it as an excuse. We derided these arguments for the hollow empty bells that we clearly saw them to be. As the great man himself has repeated ad nauseam, we do not call for any special protection we simply ask that the rules be applied. That officials officiate and that when a semi evolved throwback, perhaps sporting a red and white stripy tunic, hoofs one of our delicate and beautifully formed performers into the sky, it is surely incumbent upon those entrusted with the laws of the game to admonish, punish and if necessary lead the thuggish miscreant to a cage and feed him daily with some suitable fruit.
However I think that we all have come to accept that referees will never ever offer us the same protection afforded to the the red Mancs, the establishment will not show the worst fouls committed against us on their televised highlights nor discuss them on their radio call ins. Calls in. Whatever. The party line in the media will stay the same and be regurgitated by weak Arsenal fans and all other fans alike. Teams will send their players out to kick us. It’s a fact; it will happen, and Moyes has simply underlined that. What the team did on Tuesday has for me proven that sadly the Private Fraziers among our support were actually correct. It’s going to happen so we have to take it. We have to win despite the intimidation and weak or corrupt officiating. And by golly they showed they could take it. More than once I assumed players were out for the count never to rise again and each time they came back faster, stronger and more skilled than their violent, brutish opponents and whilst we didn’t win we certainly proved we cannot be intimidated out of the game.
I shall be intrigued to see if the Red Nosed one employs his old tactics against us or actually tries to play. If the former it will be a clear indication that he knows we are back, once again a force with which to be reckoned. Not, you understand, that I give a hoot for his opinion.