It’s difficult to remain upbeat after that shambles…
A month ago, I wrote a post titled Happy Days (https://ateameffort.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/happy-days/) where I concluded that life was ‘looking rosy for Arsenal supporters’. Just over a week later, a narrow defeat to Tottenham Hotspur signalled the end of any lingering title hopes that I might have had. However, the team responded well and went on to secure two hard-fought victories in the league. In between the Leicester and Crystal Palace wins, we also overcame the potential banana skin of Middlesbrough and booked our place in the Quarter Final of the FA Cup. Once again, there was much to be optimistic about. 3rd in the League, still fighting to defend our cup and a very winnable Champions League Round of 16 tie on the horizon.
If only I knew what would happen on Wednesday 25th February 2015, perhaps I would have been less excited a few weeks ago (plus I could’ve gone to see Stewart Lee at my local theatre). Losing 3-1 at home is never acceptable but it was made even worse by the fact we were playing AS Monaco Don’t get me wrong, a team who wins their group and only concedes once in six games is anything but poor. However, they were much more preferable to being paired with the European heavyweights such as Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. We had a really good chance of progressing past the first knockout round but unfortunately, we blew it with a horrendous display.
There is basically no chance of progression because the away goals rule means Arsenal have to score three without reply in the South of France to go through, which seems highly unlikely as we didn’t score until the 90th minute and didn’t look dangerous prior to that. Yes, Olivier Giroud didn’t have his shooting boots on but we never truly threatened if I’m being honest. When we finally did score with a lovely goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, we should’ve shut up shop and took the 2-1 defeat. Instead, just like in 2013 against Bayern Munich, we naively tried to get an equalizer, got caught on the break and made the job in the return leg nigh on impossible.
The performance on Wednesday night was so limp and uninspiring that I’m now incredibly nervous about our trip to Old Trafford next week and think the FA Cup will slip out of our grasps, for this year anyway. I’m also worried about our upcoming league matches against Everton and QPR. We cannot afford to let teams such as Tottenham and Liverpool back in the race for the Top 4.
By Glen Shorey
Deep down, I knew that Arsenal stood no realistic chance of winning the Premier League this season even before the painful defeat in the North London Derby last weekend. The frustrating draws to inferior teams (Tottenham being one of them) earlier in the campaign put pay to our title hopes months ago. However, I enjoy being optimistic so was clinging on desperately to the belief that anything is possible and we would somehow end up as Champions come May. My bubble soon burst when results didn’t go our way and I had to finally admit that the dream was over for another season.
Losing to Spurs hurts because they are a small club but it has only happened eight times in my life (out of a possible 49) so it’s not a feeling I’m used to. It’s more discomfort than heart wrenching pain. I don’t want to sound soft but I kind of feel sorry for them. They’ve had very little to celebrate since 1961 so it’s understandable that when they do occasionally beat Arsenal, a DVD is released along with an open top bus parade. Saturday’s win was crucial when it comes to Champions League qualification as well as Tottenham’s one and only aim of usurping the Gunners as kings of North London.
Or so everyone thought…
Just like my belief that Arsenal could win the league, the celebrations down at White Hart Lane were cut short a few days later. It wasn’t the most convincing display against Leicester but the most important thing (especially after a defeat to Spurs) is the three points and that’s what we got. Hence why I was confused as to why most fans were leaving in a despondent mood. Another reason to be joyful was that Tottenham lost and normality was restored. At the end of the night, we sat two points above our nearest and dearest with vastly superior Goal Difference.
The Spurs defeat was, as I predicted whenever someone tried to taunt me on Saturday, completely insignificant following Tuesday’s Premier League fixtures.
By Glen Shorey
Enjoying myself at the moment…
In all probability, Arsenal will not win the Premier League this season. That is not a shocking piece of news. However, I refuse to give up on the title race especially with our overall performances of late. It has not just been the five consecutive wins that have impressed me; the defensive displays during that mini streak have been nothing short of magnificent with four of the matches resulting in clean sheets. When you look at our upcoming fixtures, there is no foreseeable reason why our winning run should end but it surely will because that is football.
Even if we do have a ridiculous end to the campaign and somehow manage to win all of our final 15 games, we would still be reliant on the teams above us dropping points. However, that’s not unthinkable. We’re only 6 points off Man City who have got tricky away fixtures ahead. Also, they’ve dropped five points in their last two matches so it can change very quickly. Then we have Chelsea who are a further 5 points clear of the Champions but have already surrendered a commanding lead earlier in the season so are not fallible. Plus we have Chelsea at home in April so hopefully that will be pivotal.
I’m just excited about this Arsenal team of late and think they have got the makings of a Championship winning side but it probably is too late to have a crack at the title this season. The work rate of all the players has been second to none and even the creative types such as Santi Cazorla are getting stuck in. Francis Coquelin was again immense on Sunday and is providing that much needed cover for our Centre Back’s. The finishing has been top notch too with great goals from Olivier Giroud, Mesut Özil, Theo Walcott and Hector Bellerin as well as a penalty that somehow snuck in. Roll on the North London Derby.
My prediction is that by this time next week, I will be regretting this post and will have to concede that 3rd is the highest Arsenal fans can hope for but until the inevitable happens, why not? I realise I’m setting myself up for a nasty fall and it is the hope that kills but if I did not believe in the slightest, what would be the point of going to games?
By Glen Shorey