The sad thing is I’d been having a nice Christmas up until then. Shan’t be sending Mr Moss a card next year that’s for sure. Some people have tried to claim that as he missed a couple of other offences we shouldn’t be cross with him for gifting Southampton the game. Fascinating logic. That’s as polite as I can be on that particular theory.
The great thing about Saturday night is that I got to spend some quality time with Liz. After turning off the match and thereby saving myself the sting of the final goal and not having to see the faces of my sporting heroes in their degradation I wandered into her majesty’s throne room and watched the TV instead. Had I been at the game I’d have stayed and sung to the last of course, but having the luxury of watching from my Parker Knoll Albany Manual I was able to switch off the computer and walk away without the least stain on my character.
Public shows of solidarity are one thing, blatant masochism is another entirely. All that might have improved matters is if we’d watched something better than the frankly disappointing second episode of Luther. I wanted True Detective but was out voted. In fact, where my marriage is concerned I’m not entirely sure I have a vote. Or if I do I suspect my wife has the power of veto and can, like certain countries at the United Nations, ensure the will of the powerful prevails at all times.
Enough of my domestic cold war. On into Sunday and that strange disconnected feeling I always get when Arsenal lose a game. It comes, I suppose, from the effort of trying to whistle through the day with my hat at a jaunty angle all the time knowing that no matter how much I might convince the neighbours, their cats and the milkman I cannot entirely fool myself. There were some high points, moments where the wound felt less keen. My mountain biking took my mind of the football for a few wet and gloriously muddy hours, but in general there was a constant undercurrent not unlike a hangover dragging my day into deep and unpleasant waters.
When taken in the context of this crazy season, the result was actually perfectly in keeping in many ways.
Opponents in poor form? Check.
Opportunity to overtake nearest rivals? Check.
Top of the table unaltered? Check.
Still in contention despite crushing disappointment? Check.
There is definitely a pattern here and while I fully understand the frustration of not taking the chance to leapfrog the Foxes I am consoled by the fact that whenever we fuck up we seem somehow to remain in a strong position.The trick is of course not to fuck up again.
My concern is that while anyone with the power of sight knows full well that Jon Moss was the single biggest factor in the result at St Mary’s there were other ingredients in our humble pie. Chief among these was what looked from the outside like mental tiredness. It may have been physical – who knows? May have been the debilitating effect of too much pud. I doubt that in the modern age of highly tuned athletes but I know we’ve had to flog this same horse a little too often for comfort lately and I fear for their ability to find the strength to return to the fray so soon.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the quick turn around is just what they need. Perhaps they weren’t tired at all just overwhelmed by the circumstances and the impossibility of beating a side allowed, if not actively encouraged, to play by different rules. Oh and while we’re at it spare me the guff about ‘did the ref stop us scoring?’. This is Flying Spaghetti Monster stuff. We can all write a fantasy list of things the ref didn’t do. The only relevant thing is that which he did do and that was to gift the home side the game. Highly laudable and festive of him perhaps but an unwelcome example of seasonal altruism if you happen to be on the side of the good guys.
I’m really glad I don’t make predictions in these pre match meanderings. I shy away from them not just because they’re so tedious nor because they’re such an utter waste of everybody’s time. I can’t be arsed making up the future where my own life is concerned never mind trying to see into the tea leaves when I have no control over the outcome. In this season of bizarre results and ever changing fortunes the task of the football oracle becomes even more difficult. Did anyone think Chelsea would be lucky to snatch a draw at home to Watford now the Classless One has gone? Who of you saw Palace and Leicester doing so well for so long? Did any of us honestly imagine Mark Hughes and Stoke City would be playing with the artistry of Barcelona? How, if Van Gaal is so awful and Man United in such a mess are they only three points off the top four? Just what the hell is happening in the Premier League this season? I’ve put five quid on the game being stopped because of an Aardvark on the pitch later. Why not? It seems anything can happen right now.
The whole improbable mess is providing wonderful entertainment, I’ll say that for it. Anyone, it seems, can beat anyone, and everyone can beat Villa. The entertainment stops when it is us being drubbed by an out of sorts Southampton of course but we cannot expect our side to be exempt from the curious magical miasma which has descended over top flight football this season. The simple fact is we have to believe the boys can rise from the ashes, overcome their understandable disappointment and turn on the style against Bournemouth tonight.
Should I even bother looking at the form of our visitors? Given the utter unpredictability of the Prem at the moment I wonder. Taken over their previous six results they are doing better than us. In fact they are third in the form table right now behind only Leicester and Watford. Unbeaten in their last three away games they’ve won the last two on the road beating mid table West Brom and lowly strugglers Chelsea. Not happy reading for Arsenal fans right now and you can bet the boys from the south coast will be well up for it this evening. I just hope the complexity and speed of our passing will be beyond them and we can score early enough to hit the cruise control switch and see out the game without too much charging about.
Looking on the bright side we could go top tonight and Leicester and Man City cannot both win tomorrow. Watford are more than capable of shoving Spurs back down where they belong and Palace ought to be able to take advantage of this and ease them out of the top four. This time tomorrow everything might look a little rosier, so chin up Positivistas we live to fight another day and whatever happens there will, I suspect, be many a slip twixt cup and lip for all the teams chasing glory this season. As I’ve said many times it’s just a ride, and the ride sometimes goes down as well as up. Just hang on, smile for the cameras and try to look as if you’re enjoying it.