Usually I get over a big Arsenal defeat by spending the evening on football forums such as Goonersworld and 606 moaning about what went wrong. It may mean that I am unpopular on the football forums, but at least the Mrs finds me more bearable afterwards and I don’t spend the evening stomping around like a two year old who didn’t get the toy he wanted!
Usually, the next game, (or occasionally the one after that) Arsenal bounce back and put a run together. The last month though, has been different. An FA Cup defeat to Stoke could be put down to a weakened team and the fact that we had some big games coming up. I had a bit of a moan but wasn’t too bothered – we should be aiming higher than the FA Cup.
I thought the Villa match was the perfect way to put to bed the Cup exit and put pressure on Chelsea and Utd. It could have been a good way to warm up for the big games. Dropping points was a disappointment and again I had a bit of a moan, but so long as we put in good performances against Utd and Chelsea it was a good point and Villa had already taken points off the other big clubs.
Then came the United game, after two disappointing results surely the team would be up for this one, we’d come out all guns blazing, full of adrenaline, fight and passion? Instead I would describe the performance as lacklustre, we never really got going. It was as if we lacked motivation, we lacked the desire to get stuck in. As in the previous two games we seemed to think that if we kept passing the ball around then goals would come. They didn’t and once we conceded we ran out of ideas. This took not only an evening of moaning on Goonersworld to get over, but most of the next morning too.
By then I was really looking forward to the Chelsea game, Wenger would have given them a good telling off (Liverpool half time team talk style), he would have had a week to work in training on the recent issues, the team would be ready to fight back and get back in the title race. In the days of old Arsenal would have reacted to a defeat like the United one by scoring four or five goals in the next game. I genuinely expected us to get a result against Chelsea and be back in the title race. Instead the same old story of plenty of possession, no end product and a few moments of sloppy defending meant our title race was as good as over.
This again took a few rants to get over. Our chances of winning the title were as good as over, we hadn’t won in four games (losing three of them) and more than anything we hadn’t responded well to any of the defeats. It was as if the players didn’t believe in themselves and every point dropped just reinforced this lack of belief.
By the time of the Liverpool game our title race was over, the pressure was off. As always (despite being negative on forums) I expected us to win. With our recent run of results, just as in the last two games I expected us to come out all guns blazing. In the end we won one-nil, it was a battling performance, but nothing spectacular. A good result to go into the Champions League first leg on though.
With Chelsea dropping points, the title race is still within our grasp, although we are as likely to drop points as Utd or Chelsea and realistically it would take something special, even miraculous to win the league. But we had a relatively easy Champions League draw, confidence should have been high following the win against Liverpool and maybe our poor form domestically could be covered up by a run in the Champions League?
So last night I settled myself in front of the TV, with high expectations (you’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson by now) thinking “this is the game where we get our season back on track”. Eleven minutes in and I’m swearing at the TV already. Whilst I was delighted when Campbell scored the away goal, part of me knew that this performance wasn’t the reaction to recent defeats that it should have been. Then that free kick was given and scored in a ridiculous manner. To be honest I expected a reaction from us, I thought we’d go on and win!
In seasons gone by, Arsenal would have reacted to such a decision by showing togetherness. They would have fought, kicked, pressurised and in the face of adversity found a strength to come back. The likes of Adams, Vieira and co would have used the decision as a motivation – in the same way that Arshavin reacted to being fouled by a United player earlier in the season – by getting up, dusting himself down and scoring a screamer.
So I now find my team six points off the top of the Premiership Table and trailing 2-1 but with an away goal in the Champions League. Neither the Premiership or the Champions League are completely out of our grasp. The disappointment experienced in the last month, however, leads me to err on the side of caution. If I get my hopes up of a comeback in either competition then I am setting myself up for a disappointment.