What a weekend this could turn into. Shotta said he experienced the kind of disturbance in his waters which set off a rumbling in his tail bone causing him to wonder if the stars might align in our favour in one giant, glorious three day festival of sporting joy. Could Rafa sprinkle magic onto the King Power turf and inspire a Newcastle miracle? If so would it be the bookend to a weekend which saw City squander two of their three points in hand, England overcome their Welsh bogey, Chelsea get knocked out of the cup and the longest awaited most deserved red card ever being shown to that nasty little Chelsea player with who’s name I shall not sully the clean sheets of our pristine blog.
I am not one to question the strange spirits which so moved the vitals of one of our finest fans but Shotta knows, and so do you and I, that all of these events both past and in a hopeful, longed for future will mean little if we cannot do our bit and overcome The ‘Orns in our lunchtime FA Cup quarter final. The league results could still turn out in a manner helpful to our cause but Chelsea’s exit from our cup would be like ashes in the mouth if we fail to progress to our third successive semi final.
There is a lot of talk about prioritising this competition over that. This kind of cheap chat is of course the prerogative of the fans; people like us who have nothing to lose and who’s ideas and opinions will never be tested. We can spout any old baloney and deride as clichéd and empty the talk of dealing with the next match as it comes and focussing only on that game. Surely though, Arsène Wenger is quite correct to never give up on any of the competitions in which his team has a chance of success no matter how slight that might appear to be.
Imagine the opposite. Imagine a manager throwing everything at the FA Cup and writing off the Champions League because it looks an unlikely bet or the league because his team must rely on the mistakes of others. What kind of manager would that be? Not the kind I want running the side I support. Not the kind ever likely to inspire his players to success.
If our lads think about Barcelona while on the pitch against Watford they will surely come a cropper. We can indulge in such idle luxuries because it isn’t our careers on the line. We can miss a goal because we’re composing a pithy tweet, or trying to favourite a post on Positively Arsenal, but if a player misses one because his mind isn’t fully on the job in hand, he jeopardises his place in the starting line up.
I think it is important to understand the distinction between those of us for whom football is a passionate distraction and those who actually build their careers upon it. There seems to be a trend among some supporters to imagine their club owes them something. Their argument runs along the following lines. I’ve paid so much money following this team that I have earned the right to demand this or that from the club. Phooey. Yes you heard me, phooey I say. What utter garbage.
If I went to see every gig during the Burning Hell’s upcoming tour of Britain and Continental Europe it would bankrupt me. Would that give me the right to demand their next album contain songs written in a style of my choosing? No. Of course not. The price of admission would buy me the right to watch the band. It wouldn’t buy me the right to watch them play well nor to watch them play the songs I like best. They could play two hours of Lighthouse Family covers, and as long as they hadn’t promised otherwise I would have no grounds to complain, would I?
It is no different with football. If you buy a ticket to the match and lose half a days pay and spend thirty quid on petrol getting to the game, all that ticket entitles you to is to see a football match. Not to see a good one, not to see a side composed in line with your personal fancy and certainly not to see a victory. You pay to rent a seat for a couple of hours inside a stadium where a match will take place and that is all you can actually expect for your hard earned.
Do you have the right to moan and grumble if the team was shit and the match dull? Certainly you do. You can also moan that your mum never cut the crust off your sandwiches and that it rained when you went to Bognor for that week back in the long hot summer of seventy six. You can complain about anything you want to but if you choose to do it repeatedly and noisily and publicly and to the detriment of the atmosphere in the ground you will almost certainly make it harder for the team you support to win.
If you really, really don’t like the style of play and are really and truly dissatisfied with the results achieved by the team, I’m going to let you into a secret. You don’t actually have to go to the game at all. If the Burning Hell start sounding like the Lighthouse Family I’ll stop listening to them eventually. Not straight away. I really love the band and would of course give them a chance to mend their ways but I don’t think I’d bother spoiling the gig for the musicians and those who were enjoying it just because it wasn’t my cup of tea. After all that would make me a special kind of arse wouldn’t it?
Today’s opponents have lost three of their last six and only scored one goal in those six matches. They’ve also only conceded five and so while they appear to carry little threat in attack their are not exactly porous at the back. If we come at them in the same way we did against Hull we should be fine. Should be. I don’t take any side visiting the Emirates lightly so don’t read that as over confidence. I simply believe that when we cut loose and play with freedom and élan, we are good enough to beat anybody.
Some thought we started badly in the replay on Tuesday and while it is true we played with more verve, more dash and danger once we’d scored, I thought we were simply cautious, feeling our way into the game and not taking chances. Once we had the opposition on the back foot we went in for the kill. It was a similar story against Spurs in our last league game and had the pressure born fruit before half time when they were on the ropes I’m sure we’d have seen a different outcome.
Today is a chance for the manager and the players to get us to Wembley yet again, if only for a semi final. A chance for someone to be add their name to a long list of Arsenal FA Cup stars and a chance for the supporters to get more for their money than just a seat in the stands. Fortunately the overwhelming majority understand that and I’m sure will give their all to help carry the team. If you have the great good fortune to be at the match I hope you are in good voice. After all, as Shotta said, this could end up being a very good weekend indeed.