After two of the worst weeks of Wenger’s reign, everything went quiet. A cup weekend saw some good games but only a passing interest, Adebayor’s extra game ban was met with a knowing shrug, and even the news that Henry would miss the rest of the season wasn’t met with the usual devastation. After all, he probably needed the break anyway, and there was never a point in rushing him back for the season end.
But apathy is a dangerous thing. If it engulfs the squad, the run-in could be extremely disappointing, and there’s only so much a summer break can do to instill belief in these players that next season they could be seriously challenging for the major honours. On the other hand, a strong finish to the season will end it on a positive note, and with injuries clearing up, the mood would be far more optimistic.
For individual players, there is much at stake. A few have come in for (at times harsh) criticism over the last few weeks, and ending the same season in the same vein would lead to that criticism lasting the entire summer. Baptista has a couple of months left of his loan spell, and with his and Reyes’ futures unclear a few good performances would certainly help. Aliadiere will continue to get more games under his belt than at any other time in his Arsenal career, and needs to make the most of them, while Hleb can prove the doubters wrong by switching from the infuriating to the sublime, a transition he has the ability to make.
Make no mistake about it, the run-in is tricky. The trip to Villa Park on Wednesday is probably the easiest of the six away games remaining, with Everton, Liverpool, Newcastle, Tottenham and Portsmouth the other five. With Chelsea also coming to the Emirates, there are very few games you could hang your hat on as a certain three points. Liverpool may have played two games more, but third place is going to have to be earned.
Wednesday would be an excellent time to start. Creative control and a cutting edge would quickly lift the malaise. An apathetic draw could spell a long run-in.