Lots of football fans are spending a lot of time discussing the various merits of teams not their own. There is even a rift among Arsenal fans – but fear not for this is a rift of the gentlest and least acidic nature – as to whether Leicester City should stop irritating everyone and bugger off or whether they might continue just long enough to take points from Manchester City. Some are looking nervously over their shoulders towards Paxton Road as the noisy neighbours continue to stack up points in what looks like a irritatingly consistent fashion. Others worry that Manchester United, despite being written off as a disaster movie, are actually still in fifth place and hardly an irrelevance given their historical tendency to spoil things for everyone around them.
Supporters, like gunslingers in a wild west saloon, sit nervously fingering the hammers on their Colt revolvers, casting quick uncertain glances around the room unsure where the real danger lies. Such is the nature of the 2015/16 season. Uncertainty is king, the unexpected the only thing worth betting on. Some adventurous fellow was actually giving out his score predictions for all the top six clubs over the next few games. I read them and stood to applaud such selfless endeavour. Bravo sir. Could I suggest you perhaps get a hobby? Maybe he thinks he already has one.
The fourth estate, that foetid swamp of amoral, parasitic blood suckers doesn’t know which way to turn and is terrified that Arsène may put two fingers up to the lot of them and actually win the title. Instead of simply acknowledging where the club is they are trying to pile on pressure with their ‘the best chance for years’ narrative or as in the case of disaffected ex players like Robson openly stating that Arsenal ought to win the thing so that if anybody else does it can be painted as a huge failing by the manager and players.
I have a subtly different take upon all this hoo-ha and folderol. As soon as we hit the top of the table I actually cease to give two hoots about any of the other teams regardless of their upcoming matches or current form. Only when they appear on the Arsenal fixture list do they even truly exist for me. You see, my fellow followers of football’s finest, the time to worry about what the others do or don’t do is when we are chasing them not the other way about.
When my mother taught me to drive back in the halcyon days of the Triumph TR7 and Ford Fiesta XR2i, she would swat away any comment I made about the vehicle driving in such close proximity to my rear end that it appeared to be attempting to mate with my lumbering Austin Maxi. She would tell me in no uncertain terms not to worry about what was happening behind me “Let them worry about you” was her mantra and it is sound advice whether on the A362 or when contemplating a possible push for the Premier League pole.
We, in contradistinction to all other sides, enjoy the comfort of only needing to concern ourselves with our own result. Win today by any margin and we go top again. It is a splendid state of affairs. If and when it changes I shall alter my stance and ponder the results of the team or teams in front of us. Until then I’m not interested in the rear view mirror. There is only one goal and that is victory against Chelsea.
Any other year and a visit from any other team languishing in fourteenth place might not cause much of a flutter. Add to this the possible return of two of our better players and one might have expected a little more confidence in the run up to such a game. Except of course it isn’t any other team is it? It is the demon spawn of Fulham. The financially doped, universally despised, diving, cheating, thuggish ensemble of brattish, unsavoury ne’er-do-wells who have never made life easy for us. Like Liverpool and Stoke I expect them to raise their game today. The graph showing their league progress this season may have virtually flat-lined over the last dozen games or so but they still posses a talented and capable squad and we will need to be at our most truculent, determined best to prevail.
The table however, does not lie. Arsenal is where it is on merit and likewise our visitors are where they are on merit. Play to our potential and we can beat anybody. Refuse to rise to their illegal tactics or respond to their deliberate provocation and we will return to the top of the table this evening.
A capable referee is vital in this fixture as anyone who witnessed the debacle at Stamford Bridge can attest. I see that a certain Mr Clattenburg holds the whistle, cards and shaving foam today. I won’t presume to be able to distinguish his ability from any of the other hapless and most probably corrupt gang of useless, myopic and inconsistent fools who spoil so many matches every year, but I’m sure Andy Nic has Clatty’s picture on his bedroom wall and will be better placed to tell us what a decent, professional and responsible fellow he is. So I’ll leave that to you Andy.
Personally I used to hate playing Chelsea above all other teams. Their demise as a threat and the departure of the graceless one has somewhat drawn the sting as far as that goes. I still want to beat them of course. Granted, given that a win puts us back on top, I want us to beat everyone we play so that doesn’t mean much. I just feel, Diego Costa aside, that a little of the venom has left this particular fixture and that is all to the good.
Calm professional heads needed from now until May, I fancy. The kind of serene determination best able to shuck off the occasional predictable disappointment and get back to winning ways tout de suite. I firmly believe we have these kind of players. Given even half decent luck with injuries and a bit of backbone from the fans we should be there or thereabouts.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s do that which needs to be done today and allow tomorrow to wait until its appointed hour. At the time of writing our destiny is still in our own hands, get the job done today and we can begin to prepare in a similar vein for the visit of Southampton, with whom we also have a little unfinished business to attend. Oh dear, just listen to me, preaching live for today and at the same time lifting the skirt of the calendar to peep upon the knickers of tomorrow. I apologise. I will leave you to your pre match rituals. I’m off out to brave the weather on my trusty mountain bike and assuming I don’t leave the saddle in an unplanned and deleterious manner I shall return and resume our intercourse down among the wines and spirits. Salut!