I was delighted when Arsene Wenger took the trouble to write me an email yesterday about the win over Wigan, the remaining Premier League fixtures and the battle for fourth place. He ended by saying: “We have been in this situation before and I think we have the focus, the quality, the spirit and the desire to achieve what we want.” It seemed somehow typical of him to take time out of his busy schedule to find such reassuring words for me, and it all contributed to the rosy glow that had enfolded me ever since Santi slotted that final penalty late on Saturday afternoon. However, his sentiments didn’t seem to have such a positive effect on Le Grove’s apostles, who were positively apoplectic this morning about the situation that The Arsenal find themselves in: indeed, the manager was openly mocked for his letter, and I guess the sad thing is that he always will be now by certain sections of the fan base, no matter what he achieves between now and whenever he decides it’s time to call it a day. What I did find interesting was the scorn that was poured on the Untold lot, and in particular the link made between those who support Arsene Wenger and those who hold any kind of religious faith: both positions were laughed loudly out of court as being quite ridiculous, it somehow not quite occurring that it was they themselves that had made the comparison.
But strangely their leaps of logic made me think of the following lines from Melville’s Moby Dick (and I wish I was mature enough not to find that funny).
“There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.”
If, as I suspect, we have all felt like like that from time to time in our Arsenal journey, then how much more must the manager have felt like it in the aftermath of crushing defeats and unwanted embarrassments. But what else is there to do when all seems lost? You can’t just give up, so you might as well light your lantern and provide something for the crew to fix their gaze on in the hope that things might somehow seem better in the morning. However, right now I don’t find the Manager’s words at all empty: we are in a good position and are very far from despair – we have been here before, and if anyone doubted the spirit and desire then they should have had all doubts removed by the Wembley performance. There seems to be a common perception that 120 minutes and penalties will have left us spent, exhausted and not at all ready to take on West Ham. But the bookies don’t think that: we are 4/9 to beat them with as big as 7/2 the draw and any price you like on a real hammer blow to our Champion League credentials. And you can bet the manager and players don’t, and nor do I. I reckon that the burden of expectation pre-Wigan has been pretty intense for the team, and that has now been gloriously lifted. Expect to see us quick out of the blocks this evening, with Podolski, Rosicky and Giroud all particularly keen to stake their Cup Final claims. Jenkinson too, and Gibbs will provide fresh legs, while Kalstrom may also play, which will be interesting. I expect we won’t see quite see so much of Ramsey, Oxlade, Santi and Sanogo (my new favourite player), but they will be waiting in the wings, and I also expect that the manager will make at least one tactical decision that will surprise us all a little bit. For the first time for quite some time I am really looking forward to the game, and although I am sad that the Box Office wouldn’t let me purchase two tickets for it last week (you’re only a Red Member, Sir: more than my job’s worth to let you buy both), I shall be very much there, right in front of the TV, ready to do serious battle with anyone who says that this is a poor squad managed by a man who no longer knows what he is doing. I don’t need to believe in him: the stadium we are playing in is proof enough of his genius.
Once again this post was brought to us by @foreverheady .