Date:Friday February 18 2011
'It wasn`t just us. It was the fans as well. The fans were unbelievable. The fans really got into it again. So thank you very much for that.' So said Robin van Persie immediately after the game.
Such has the weight of expectation at Arsenal become over the last decade and more that being cast as firm underdogs isn't that frequent an experience. Even when facing peers such as ManU or Chelsea we might expect a decent performance even if not a result. It's rare that we can go into a game fearing not just the result but that our performance may also be totally eclipsed by our opponents yet that was the position we were placed in as fans against 'the best team in the world' as many have described Barcelona.
It's a situation that seems to bring the best out of supporters though. The challenge to defy the odds concentrates the passions wonderfully. There is perhaps a feeling that the team shouldn't need encouragement or maybe not as much against teams that we might consider weaker or at least not that much stronger than ourselves.
'We felt we were playing with 12 men so thanks for that.' Robin continued in his post match interview. With Barca in their compellingly strongest passing periods of the game Gooner fans Ole'd vociferously any half decent passing passage we managed to put together in response ourselves. Its effect, along with the general air of win, lose or draw we're still celebrating this team, was acknowledged by Wenger in his post match interview. 'When we suffered sometimes tonight the fans were very positive and behind the team and played an exceptional part in it as well'
Logically of course if 12 men can help us get a result against Barcelona we should get even better results against lesser sides but as supporters we must feel the need isn't there to the same degree. It's not a phenomenon, if it can even be described as such, only among our supporters. I doubt that the Ipswich supporters get behind their team when playing championship opposition to the same degree they did during their win against us at Portman Road this season. Once you reach a level of performance expectation if those expectation levels aren't challenged then a more cosy acceptance that the team is only doing what is expected of them seems to moderate the need for encouragement.
So to experience an atmosphere as charged as the other nights perhaps it is necessary never to be the best there is. Relatively speaking the bigger the team we are the less there is to celebrate. There is an almost primal instinct or urge to defy odds apparently stacked against us that brings about these evenings. Great night though wasn't it.
Date:Friday February 18 2011
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