It's time to face a few facts..........
1) It is a massive possibility that we will not make it to the Champions League in our first season at the Emirates stadium.
2) Tottenham may finish above, thus bringing a torrent of abuse till May 2007.
3) We are not the team we were 2 years ago.
4) Our weakness lies in midfield.
Now if we face these facts in full, accept what is coming to us and, in Arsenal style, show some class about things, then the rest of the season won't seem so bad.
In response to the facts I've posed here.........
1) We are 4 points behind 4th place (no need to tell you who occupies that position) with West Ham level on points and Bolton 2 points behind and 2 games in hand, this is going to be a titanic struggle and with our penultimate game at Highbury the North London derby, this one could go down to the wire. With 33 points left to play for, the Gunners will probably need around 27 of those to be in contention for the Champions League spot. A tall order.
However, should we not make it, would it be all that disastrous? If Peter Hill-Wood is to be believed, we have the financial resources to be able to cope without Champions League football, so that shouldn't be a problem. A year in the Uefa cup could allow Wenger to give the young players further experience, because make no mistake, we may be playing badly now, but we have a better crop of young players than ANY other team in the world. It would be a humbling experience, one which will teach players and fans alike that we do not have the divine right to win a trophy every year or have an automatic place in Europe's premier competition. We as fans have been spoilt over the Wenger years and as such have become complaisant, maybe a year in the doghouse would make us appreciate what we have a whole lot more and we in return would get off our arses and sing until we could sing no more.
2) As painful as it is, and as much as we don't want to admit it, Spurs are a vastly improved side more than capable of keeping the 4th spot for the rest of the season. However, before you Gooners start topping yourselves or you Tiny Tots come here giving it the Big ‘Un, being vastly improved and being better than Arsenal are two completely different things. At this moment in time we are experiencing our worse season under Arsene Wenger, a crisis of confidence is an understatement, and for Tottenham this season is their best league (I say league because all Spurs did in the cups this year was make us laugh) for 20 years, yes 20 years, and the difference between the teams??........that's right 4 measly points. Speaks volumes, no?
3) In our unbeatable season we didn't walk, we swaggered, we didn't run we glided, we didn't just score goals, we embarrassed teams into submission, other clubs, big clubs, feared us, dreaded the day we came to their gaff because they knew they were on a hiding to nothing. This season, we can barely look other teams in the eye, they look forward to our visit because they know they have us beat before a ball is kicked, and, lets face it, defeating Arsenal is still a rather large notch on the belt.
4) Now comes the main subject of my little rant, our midfield.
Here lies the crux of our problem, the thorn in our side, the main reason we are all feeling pretty low right now. If you look at the other area's of the pitch, little or no blame can be placed. Goalkeepers - Jens has been the best stopper in the league this season and even Almunia has played extremely well in the cup competitions. Defenders - ok so some of our defenders have made some blunders this year, but the injuries we have suffered this season have been unprecedented, at times we've had almost a full team of defenders on the sidelines or away for months on international duties, and these defenders are some of the best in the world. Strikers - Henry, even though he looks as though he wants to leave, has still being banging them in, and given more service from the middle men would have had a hatful more. Robin van Persie has been one of the shining lights of the season, the way he has come to the fore, grabbed his game by the scruff of the neck and made himself a first team regular is testament to how far he has come since his sending off at Southampton. Who ever we talk about, they would have benefited so much more from a midfield who had confidence coming forward, decisiveness, presence of mind and commitment in the challenge.
Our experienced midfielders have become anonymous, Freddie, Bobby and Bert haven't put in a performance together once this season, come to think of it, it's been a rarity for any of them to play well at all. They seem to think a place in the team is automatic, and that they don't need to work for it. Please boys, do not insult the hardworking fans who pay the earth to come to the home of football by not sweating blood for the cause, running and working until you feel you lungs will burst, you may be the ones with the talent but we pay your wages, without our support you wouldn't be in the extremely privileged position your are in right now.
The young guys are doing ok, Cesc, Reyes and even Hleb to some extent at least are running themselves into the ground in order to try and get some sort of result, but we can't expect our players in their early 20's to carry the team............or can we??
If we take into account the first 3 issues of this article, Wenger could pull this off. If, starting from now, we forget about league positions this year and throw our young guns in at the deep end, our young players have more than enough talent to battle to the end of the season and win plenty of the remaining games and gain the experience to give us a good run in the UEFA next season and propel us back to Champions League status.
Just look at the young players we have, Eboue, Toure, Djourou, Cole, Clichy, Hleb, Reyes, Vela, Diaby, Muamba, Van Persie, Adebayor, Walcott, Lupoli, Bendtner............this list of the cream of world youth football is endless.
If we can all, through gritted teeth, smile and ignore the taunts from our gloating neighbours, if we can laugh at them sitting in their false position oblivious what will be coming to get them in one or two seasons, we will be ok.
If we accept that we are no longer in the top two teams in the country, it will make it so much easier on us all, and will make victory so much sweeter when it comes back home.
We are no longer the team that fills other clubs with dread, but make no bones about it, we will be back, wielding some of the most powerful weapons in football, and we will regain our crown.