Another weekend sails off into the sunset, with another working week tap, tap, tapping at our doors. But what. A. Weekend. In footballing terms anyway. As an Arsenal fan, you as well as I got our domestic league utopia this weekend. If you are similar to I, a victory for Arsenal is obviously the first priority in terms of making it a happy footballing weekend. It’s your bread and butter. It’s the sponge part of the cake if you will. But in order to get one of those multi-tiered cakes with coloured icing and perhaps some edible characters on top, you need to have your rivals dropping points as well. This weekend we got a four-tiered layered cake with coloured icing and a massive edible Arsenal cannon on top.
We beat a Champions League contending rival (Liverpool).
Our closest Champions League rivals slipped up away from home (Chelsea).
Our geographically closest rivals slipped up at home (Spuds).
An outsider for Champions League contention slipped up in their local derby (Newcastle).
With all of the above happening it really couldn’t have been a better weekend and the fact that we are now looking up at Spurs in third space (4pts), as well as looking down at Chelski in fifth (3pts), I am hoping that it can build not only the physical momentum that we want in terms of picking up points, but also the psychological momentum as well. I read on Twitter last night that there is a big difference between looking up and chasing and looking down and being chased. I think we’ve fallen foul of that in the past and our own mental fragility that the team has shown by collapses in seasons past can be transferred to our local rivals this season. I also think that this Arsenal team, more than any other, is susceptible to bouts of some form of footballing depression. We get into ruts that appear to spiral us further and further down the rabbit hole and as last years end of season collapse showed, we can’t always rely on ourselves to get us out of it.
So perhaps more than anything the fact that we have a target in front of us (finish third in the league) despite being effectively out of all competitions is a good thing. In a way, the fact that we suffered such a drubbing against Milan could be seen as a positive. The players now have nothing to lose on Tuesday. A defeat will be greeted with “oh well, we knew we were practically out anyway” and a victory that puts us through will be seen as some form of miracle and put the teams confidence to an all time high. Had there been just one goal in it and we’d fall foul to a last gasp Milan winner tomorrow night, think how confidence sapping this might have been?
As it stands the damage to confidence from the first leg has been done. And we paid for it through FA Cup defeat to Sunderland. We readdressed the confidence levels with a morale boosting victory over Spurs and followed up on Saturday with, had we been a Stoke, Fulham or Aston Villa, the media would have called ‘gritty’ performance against the scousers. We need to continue that league form next Monday against Newcastle and then hope Everton do us two favours within about 10 days: turn up and play Spurs off the park, then don’t turn up when we line up against them after the FA Cup weekend a week later.
In terms of the rest of the Arsenal related news, there will be no doubt be some stuff trickling through during the course of today regarding the squad for tomorrow night, with one man in particular wanting to be available despite leaving the field on a stretcher on Saturday: Mikel Arteta. He spoke of the incident which saw Jordan Henderson getting away with on-field assault and revealed he actually can’t remember much after the initial impact. I think Arseblogger said it in his blog that it was a pretty disgusting action by the Liverpool player, and possibly it was also equally as disgusting that Sky thought it a ‘nice touch’ that he patted Arteta as he left the field on the stretcher. Henderson knew what he was doing and he didn’t care. It didn’t even get shown on Match of the Day, which pretty much sums up the media thoughts on the matter.
We’ll also probably find out a bit more on the Verminator, who took a few knocks against Liverpool but looked to come through ok. Unfortunately for us, he has a national team coach in the Raymond Domenach model, who doesn’t see why he shouldn’t have played Vermaelen. I don’t think Wenger is annoyed with the fact he played, more that he played 90 minutes. And for the Belgian coach to say he was forced into the action because another player was sent off is pretty ridiculous for me. What, have you only got two central defenders in your whole national team squad? Of course not. He could have bought off Vermaelen but he chose not too.
Anyway, that’s enough for me. Enjoy your slice of football utopia cake. I hear it goes down well with a glass of ‘gloating’ Chablis.