“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain.
In my more optimistic moments I like to think this is the crux of the matter with regard to the Arsene doubters, and there’s more than a little ageism around when it comes to some of the Twitter comments. Indeed, many of the Tweets and the Tweeters remind me of the child who is forever telling his parents how much better and cooler all of his friends’ parents are. All week I have been promised “Twitter meltdown” should The Arsenal come up short against Wigan, and have even seen pictures of nuclear explosions posted as a warning of the least that AW can expect should he fail to deliver on the Wembley stage. In fairness, that’s not such a bad metaphor: it’s clear that the nucleus of Arsenal support was split some time ago, and I can only hope that a top performance today, and then a string of good results in the League, will allow that energy to be harnessed in a positive manner.
There was a time in the Everton game last weekend when such positive hope seemed futile. As we moved the ball laboriously back and sideways we looked a far cry from the side that carried all before it through much of 2013, our defensive frailties and toothless attacks making me wonder if I would ever get my Arsenal back. It hardly seemed possible that this was the same team that had swept Napoli so imperiously aside back in October, but of course, the point is that it wasn’t the same team at all. It was a team that had been decimated by cruel fortune, and for a moment it seemed to have no answer when Sagna was cynically dispossessed deep in the Everton half before our defence conceded its second comedy own goal in little more than a week. It all seemed too much, it simply wasn’t fair, and no wonder than more than a few shoulders slumped.
But then something rather special happened as Ramsey and Oxlade entered the fray. Although both were on the injury comeback trail, and hence were never going to be risked for the full 90 minutes, they made a significant difference: the game had already gone, but they brought more than fresh legs to the side. Suddenly there was forward momentum, vision and pace. Even more importantly there was belief. Belief that this side was good enough, belief that individuals could make a difference, belief that the season wasn’t going to implode. More players are returning too: Gibbs is back, and Kos, Mesut and Jack are on the horizon. Their return could well see us back to something near our best, and remind us why this squad is on the verge of something special. Today is a big day for us all. For the manager, for the players, and for the fans. We all have a stake in it, and we have been looking forward to it ever since Santi scored that wonderful goal against Spurs at the very start of this cup run. Aaron Ramsey reminded us all last weekend that we do indeed have a reason to believe, and I for one can’t wait to see The Arsenal back at Wembley again.
So put away your doubts, and remember that we are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.