Put yourself in the position of a footballer, trudging off the field after a poor performance, both individually and collectively. You know you should have done better, you know the media are going to have a field day in the morning, that the fans are going to debate your right to a place in the team, and worst of all, that you’ve let your manager down – the man who signed you, nurtured you, and gave you an opportunity on the big stage.
How would you react? There is only one right way – to knuckle down, and hope that the following week you get a chance to prove everyone wrong and your manager, who has believed in you, right. You want to be the player who picks up the ‘most improved’ gong at season end (patented: Alex Song), but more importantly, you want to be part of a winning team.
The last thing you need is the axe. You may deserve it, but if you just had a chance to put things right…
That is the situation facing a couple of our players this week. While there were some decent performers against United, there were some who simply weren’t good enough on the day. Worse, there were a couple whose work rate was not up to the accepted standard. Don’t think for a moment that they haven’t been told – despite his reputation as a calm man who doesn’t scream and shout in the dressing room, Wenger isn’t afraid to dish out a private rebuke.
After any poor performance, there are always calls for changes, but with Diaby and Bendtner still short of fitness, the only realistic tweak is a recall for Ramsey. However, Wenger prefers Denilson in tight games, primarily for his positional sense and tackling ability. Both traits went AWOL last weekend, but he is likely to be given the chance to make amends.
There will be no excuses for anyone failing to leave their heart and soul on the pitch today. Not only do they have a point to prove, but they have a manager’s faith to repay, supporters to please, and most importantly of all, a league to challenge for. It is crunch time – we may win, we may lose, but a lack of application will not be acceptable.
As I said yesterday, the bookies have written us off, so if you’re an optimist like me, the odds are ridiculously appealing. It is when our backs are against the wall that this team shines, as we did in the corresponding fixture last season, coming away with the points after a 2-1 win. Sportingbet are still offering 14/1 on that scoreline being repeated, and 9/1 on Cesc opening the scoring, two bets I’ve snappedtheir hands off for. And one quite neat thing about Sportingbet – if anyone gets sent off, you get your money back.
I cannot shake the feeling that we’re about to see something very special this afternoon. I am genuinely looking forward to it. The players are rested, motivated and angry.
Come on you reds.