Arsenal Hits a Home Run
As if in readiness for the rest of the month Gooners are given this weekend off. There`ll be no St. Valentine`s Day massacre headlines, good or bad, involving us this year. But Monday the 16th heralds a run of 4 home games this month, over 12 days, in 3 different competitions that could go a long way to determining much of our fate this season. At the very least players and fans alike will be spared the dubious delights of away travel, devoid of early morning starts - plus the food and drink bars at the Emirates may enjoy a mini-boost to their economies. It's got to be a good month for some.
It was in February of last year that a season that had looked tantalisingly like bringing some silverware started to come undone. We went into the FA Cup match against ManU last year, also on the 16th, in a very different frame of mind to that which we will take into the replay against Cardiff this time around. With our title prospects last season looking promising and a challenging CL tie against AC Milan in front of us, the FA Cup was a sacrifice we could afford to make back then. Our performance on that day suggests that was pretty much the mentality of the players too. An attitude which received it`s inevitable reward.
We had gone into the ManU game in good form with 4 straight wins. In contrast our contest against Cardiff is heralded without a win in the last 4 outings and our title challenge already beyond us in any realistic sense. This time the FA Cup matters. The first leg of our CL encounter against Roma is sandwiched between two home PL games against Sunderland and Fulham respectively. The cup defeat to ManU precipitated a sequence of just one win in the following seven matches, albeit the win was the hugely impressive victory over Milan at the San Siro. Say it quietly but the next few games could just take us into March this time around with a different mindset.
As if to complete the mirror symmetry with last season, Eduardo, whose season was cruelly cut short in the game away to Birmingham in February, could find himself returning to the team in the same month. A successful outing for Croatia last night, along with the absence of Adebayor through injury, adds encouragement to that thought. While Eduardo was taken away from the team this time last year we reverse that experience with the anticipated introduction of new signing Arshavin. He is ineligible for the Cardiff match and also the CL encounter but should feature in at least one of the PL games.
The need to qualify for the CL next season will keep us focussed on winning as many PL games as we can but our only chance of silverware is in the cup competitions knowing that the outcome of knockout cup competitions can be influenced by many factors outside our control. Fortune plays more than a passing role in these contests. Decisions, the run of the ball, the luck of the draw, penalty shootouts a myriad of things can go wrong or right on the night. But the one factor we can try to influence ourselves is our attitude in these games.
Coming through this month with a series of wins under our belt could have a direct impact on the attitude we take into March. Diametrically opposite to the collective state of mind with which we embraced March of last year. It should also allow the return of Cesc and Walcott both with something to go for over the remaining months of the season.
We`ll need to hit this February`s home run as hard as we can in order to give us the momentum we need to take as much as we can out of the season. Once again, whisper it softly, but I sense an opportunity here. Let`s hope the players sense it too.
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