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If Arsenal Win the League, It’s Not Their Fault
It’s been so long I’d almost forgot what it was like to be in a title race. I had forgotten about the constant gnawing in the back of my mind, the whispered prayers to the football gods while walking down the street, the feeling in the pit of your stomach like you swallowed an alarm clock. And all that is in-between fixtures. Watching Arsenal during the early and middle months of the season is a nerve-wracking experience for me as it is. But when each match means so much, as it does now, the matches alone become so mentally exhausting.
Knockout round fixtures in the Champions League and FA Cup are always the hardest to watch for me because our fate is so close yet so unknown. And now, with the shape of the title run-in and a Quarterfinal tie with Barcelona, this aspect is magnified. Arsene has the players understanding that every fixture from here on out is essentially a cup match and the supporters understand it too. I expect that by the end of the season, I will need two months to recover as well.
But enough about me. Let’s move on… I’m sure you guys have heard or read some pundit or other talking about how if Arsenal win the league, it’s only because of what Chelsea or United will have done and not due to the Arsenal at all. In an interview, John Terry said that he was shocked by Arsenal’s title challenge:
All of a sudden Arsenal have come from nowhere again. Ourselves and United have slipped up when we shouldn’t have done. When we beat them in November we were 11 points clear and I wrote them off. But fair play to them, they have had a few players out with injury and have a fairly young side. But they’re difficult to play against when the lower teams go to the Emirates. It is such a big pitch and the way they play, it’s difficult for the lower teams to deal with them.
First of all, we didn’t “come from nowhere.” We’ve always been there. If anything, Chelsea left for nowhere. But, like the media, Terry is already trying to minimize Arsenal’s title credentials by saying that Arsenal are only where they are because of what Chelsea and United have done. He’ just picking up the pundit line and it’s absolute rubbish. The fact is that Arsenal have been the most consistent side overall this season. Yes, we’ve lost to the big 4 but unlike Chelsea and United, we haven’t hit a run of 3 or 4 matches or more where we’ve totally lost the plot.
Terry also tried to say that the Emirates pitch has something to do with our league place, rather than what we do on it. The fact is that Arsenal have only one point less than Chelsea in away matches this season, but with an away game-in-hand. We’ve been top of the Away table for much of the season. This team has learned how to get results on the road, not just at home. It’s just another attempt at minimizing what Arsenal have done by offering “excuses” for Arsenal’s position in the title race.
Without any midweek matches, there wasn’t a whole lot of news but there are some encouraging things going on behind the scenes. Robin van Persie’s return continues to get closer as Wenger said he needs another “two to three weeks maximum” to regain his match-level fitness. Wenger was also keen to begin managing expectations ahead of time. I don’t think any of us expect Robin to walk back in and average a goal and an assist every two matches like he did before his injury. But just his presence alone should help lift the side a little bit and if he can help out on the pitch then that’s a bonus at this point.
In other news, the club’s appeal of Vermaelen’s sending-off was denied and the match ban upheld. This ruling essentially means that the League believes that you don’t even need to have possession of the ball to have a “clear goalscoring opportunity.” Ridiculously laughable or pathetically stupid… you decide. I would expect Wenger to start Song in place of Vermaelen at Birmingham tomorrow. Contract talks with Gallas and everyone else are being put on hold until after the season by order of Arsene Wenger.
So it is on to St. Andrews without Vermaelen and then Barcelona on Wednesday evening. This is crunch time for the Arsenal over the next 3-4 weeks and it is going to be very hard on my nerves.