I didn’t want to write a piece in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Bolton for fear of being overly reactionary. In the heat of the moment, it felt like the true end of the season, and in some ways the end of an era, since some of this squad are likely to be replaced in the summer. With Chelsea in form and winning again at the weekend, it even looks as if second is unlikely, and the United-Chelsea top two duopoly will continue, despite how far we were once ahead of them.
I was almost ready to break the habit of a lifetime and kick off the end of season reviews and deep analysis articles, but I slept on it, read around a few blogs and decided against it. The first brilliant piece I came across was written by the ever measured Goonerholic, who pleaded for rational debate and constructive suggestions, rather than the flurry of abuse that has become all too commonplace. That applies no matter how you feel about the current position, squad or manager – hurling insults at the players on Twitter isn’t going to help anyone, and neither is commenting on a blog that fifteen players should be sold. Equally, blind faith and refusal to accept that problems exist is counterproductive when they quite clearly do.
But what stuck most from that article was the notion that the season is far from over. And he’s right – it is so tempting to cut the cord, to declare it done, but whether you’re looking up or down it isn’t over. On the positive side, second is still very much within reach – Chelsea are three points ahead of us but have a tough run in – Spurs this weekend, followed by a trip to Old Trafford, then Newcastle before finishing up away to Everton. Not easy, and if we get our act together we could at least salvage second (and the extra prize money that goes with it).
If you aren’t feeling as positive, then look behind and you’ll see Man City five points behind us with a game in hand. If we lose to United on Sunday, third place will be out of our hands, and with it automatic Champions League qualification. We could really do without those two extra games in August and the potential banana skin that comes with it.
Either way, there is still much to play for, so all things considered, I’m going to leave the in depth analysis until we’re done with the actual football. In a few weeks time we’ll be looking at a long summer without any meaningful games (sorry Pearce, I don’t count the Under 21 tournament), so there will be plenty of time. Besides, nothing can change, personnel wise, before then so it seems a moot discussion at this stage.
As for the planned protest for the day of the Villa game, I’m going to reserve judgement. I have sympathy for some of the points at stake, particularly pricing, but fear it will be hijacked both by fans and the media into an anti-Wenger stance, which, from what I can see, is not the crux. I don’t see it ending well, but I don’t want to claim that those involved have no right to speak their mind. They absolutely do.
That last point is a critical one for me. Recently Arsenal fans have become divided, with insults hurled from both sides. People have become less tolerant of opinions that differ from their own, borne out of the frustration that comes with our current situation. There has been, in fairness, overreaction on both sides of the divide, but what makes me mad is that there is a divide at all.
We are all Arsenal fans. We all want the best for the club. And frankly, we should be proud to be fans of a classy club, not one that would stoop as low as Real Madrid and Barcelona did last night. For all their trophies, for all their success, I would not swap. I can’t stand United, but in all honesty I hope they dish out a beating to whichever Spanish club dives and playacts their way into the final. They were both an utter disgrace.
Makes me glad to be a Gooner.