Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday November 3 2008
What is clear is that there is a lot of negativity surrounding Arsenal at the moment. I too have been a victim of and maybe even created some of that negativity. Certainly I don't think I've ever uttered stronger words against this team or this manager since 1996. Most of us accept that the manager made big mistakes this summer, I would like to think that the man himself accepts that now. However, there really is no point in being tautological about this now, everybody knows we're light in midfield and at the back. But like it or not, that's the way it is until January at least.
While it is worthwhile and necessary to pick the bones out of individual games (and I will continue to do so in my match reports), there is no use ruminating on the squad weaknesses any longer. Next week we face Manchester United, shorn of our baroque style of football, our confidence drained and now our playing staff decimated too. Really, we should be looking at this as a new start. I have seen dozens of posts over the last month imploring the manager to drop Adebayor, to drop van Persie, to drop Gallas, to give the likes of Bendtner and Vela a chance. Well now we are in a position where we have little choice, we've got what we've asked for. The players charged with taking the places of the aforementioned are not responsible for the 'predicament' that we are in and it's time to draw a line under the negativity, because they deserve our support.
I was angry and frustrated after Saturday, but never once did I feel like running down next to the tunnel to berate the players, nor did I feel the need to boo a player who was clearly injured. It struck me how childish and spoiled we have become, and none of us have been immune. Shortly after the final whistle on Saturday I received a text from my best friend who had travelled to watch Millwall pummelled 4-1 at Brighton. 'You think you've got it bad' it read. We now have four home games in a row, that's a total of 228,000 Arsenal fans who will pass throgh the turnstiles to watch us play in an eleven day period and it's up to us as supporters to respond just as much as it is up to the players. The likes of Bendtner and Vela will in all likelihood be thrown into the shark tank and it is up to us to be their buttress. We might not believe that they can do a job in such tough circumstances against opposition quite so illustrious, but that should not prevent us from urging them on, screaming our lungs out, yelling for every single decision no matter how tenuous. Let's leave the negativity at home, because if the players have been frustrating so far this year, so have the supporters. (In fact, the most enthusiastic support I have seen this season was in Kyiv, when around 160 or so of the 200 fans were Baltic and simply pleased to have the opportunity to watch us play).
Now we are thrusting some of our star studded youngsters into the fray, with the injury list as it is, the likes of Djourou, Wilshere and Gibbs are likely to be members of the eighteen man squad. Bendtner is a player who I believe is a defining moment away from being an excellent player for us. Think of Walcott's sixty yard run at Anfield in April and how he has grown as a player since, if Bendtner and/ or Vela can produce a significant moment against United, we could see not only our season turn, but the birth of a bona fide star. The knock on effect might just banish some complacency amongst certain squad members. If they don't and, as expected, we lose then what are you going to do? Support another club? Give up on football? Of course you're not, you know that if we lose to United, if we lose to Villa, if we lose 4th spot and end up in the UEFA Cup, you will still come back for more. You chose this team and you're stuck with them. Such is the skewed logic of the football fan, that I actually find that sense of imprisonment quite comforting in difficult times. No matter how bad it gets, I know I'll be at the next game. As much as I mock Spurs fans, I will give them this, they have had to watch utter tripe for close to a generation now, but they still get 36,000 through the door without fail every week, they still sell out every away allocation they are given. Is that delusion? Is that belief? Or is it obligation? I don't know, but it proves Amos' point in an article earlier today, no matter how bad it gets or how depressed we think we are, we love it and we know it.
Nobody expects us to garner any points from United, a lot have their doubts about beating Fenerbahce, many are already apprehensive about the 4th placed showdown with Villa. Thinking particularly of the United game, I am usually torn with nerves and apprehension, I am not on this occasion. Maybe that is indicative of low expectation (in fact, there is no maybe about it). But I almost feel as though we have little to lose. I am not asking for blind optimism or belief, it would be hypocritical of me to do so. But this is a testing time and as a club, that means we are being tested as fans as much as the players are being tested as characters. For both of us, four home games are the ideal place to show what we are made of. Everybody doubts us and if you have any kind of appreciation for the history of this football club, you'll know that's just the way we like it.LD.
Date:Monday November 3 2008
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