When I wrote my blog on Tuesday evening, I didn’t mention one of the side effects of our victory late on Monday night. Which was that I went to bed unable to sleep. I went to bed, absolutely buzzing and unable to control my excitement at our latest thrilling win. Jo reckons that I do this quite often- as if I purposely lie in bed keeping myself awake so I can go downstairs and watch Babestation once she’s asleep. Of course, staying up till all hours dragging myself across the front room is infinitely more preferable to getting a decent night’s sleep in preparation for the horrors of a working day. Of course it is…
Er, digression much? Sorry. Anyway, one of the reasons I think I couldn’t sleep was the excitement not just at the manner of the win, but what went on around it. I remember quite vividly, as we all do I guess, how Martin Keown led a yellow and blue insurrection at Old Trafford in the autumn of 2003 following Ruud van Divealot’s last minute penalty miss. I remember calling my granddad immediately afterwards, thrilled with the sight of an Arsenal team standing up for itself once more and I remember his disgust at a failure to behave the Arsenal way. We saw things differently then, we still do. But, for me, that little episode demonstrated that this Arsenal team was together. Even then, just a few weeks into the season, I felt sure we were bound for glory- although I could never have dreamed just how we were to acheive it.
Why am I reliving this? Well, because; a) it’s pleasurable to me to do so and; b) because in Robin van Persie’s taunting of Tim Krul and the crowd’s reaction to it, I see a parallel between 2003 and now. This Arsenal team have been pilloried, at times rightly so; they have played without full backs for two months, without the man most expected to replace Fabregas at the hub all season. Yet, having endured the worst start to a season most of us can remember, they’re still here. They stand in 4th place, one point behind the greatest Tottenham team since 1961 (apparently) and three points in front of the Champions League winners, Chelsea. Wait- what do you mean Chelsea didn’t win the competition last night?
Ok, cheap shot. And I couldn’t care less about what Chelsea do in this competition. Providing they don’t win it of course.
What has also become apparent is that, aside from drastically tilting the balance between the north London clubs, last month’s epic 5-2 win, has got a previously disaffected Arsenal crowd back on the players side. And, if you ask me, we’re much stronger for it. How the crowd stayed with the team as chance after chance came and went on Monday, how they did so the week before even as realisation was dawning that the improbable 4th goal would most likely prove impossible. And it all came from that Spurs game as crowd and team came together on a tide of energy to blow away the north London pretenders. Perhaps, stretching the point slightly, it came from Thierry Henry’s last minute winner at Sunderland, engendering a belief that all things are possible.
Speaking of Thierry, it occurs to me that, if this season is reminiscent of anything recent, it is the 2005/06 season when Thierry had an absolutely blistering second half of the season to lead us out of the post Vieira gloom and ensure we finish above Spurs.
It’s probably stating the obvious to say that the crowd will stay with the players only as long as they see the effort being put in and this is where Robin van Persie comes in. Last night, I got involved in a minor Twitter debate over van Persie and his “arrogant, odious attitude”. Not my opinion- hence the quotation marks. For me, I could listen to Robin speak for hours, I think he comes as intelligent, passionate and he obviously loves Arsenal Football Club. We have all heard Bob Wilson say that Arsene told him earlier this season the team spirit at the club is the best it’s been for years. Everyone outside of Arsenal can hate Robin if they want to, I don’t care. I probably wouldn’t like this genius very much if he played for someone else. But he doesn’t.
The question I ask myself is, would we have comeback from 2-0 down at home to Spurs with an unhappy, fulfilling his contractual obligation type player- carefully mentioning no names- leading the team? I think the answer is no. Would we have beaten Chelsea in the circumstances we did earlier in the season? Again, I think the answer is no. Would we have come from behind to win four games in a row, three of them in the last minute? I think you know the answer to that one. It’s not my intention to bag Cesc Fabregas- he was a wonderful player, but I’m not sure he was anyone’s idea of a skipper, least of all Fabregas himself Particularly as he wanted to go home for at least a year and a half of his two and a half year reign as skipper.
No, my point is that with a skipper as engaged as van Persie clearly is, with a squad getting as close to a clean bill of health as the Arsenal are ever likely to be, I think things are looking up. All season we have heard talk of corners being turned, only to find that that turn has led to the kind of cul-de-sac last seen in Inception. I think that, finally, we’ve all emerged from the long shadow cast by the end of the Fabregas reign and can look forward to strolling down the road, bathed in the light of a van Persie wonderland. Probably listening to Rudie Can’t Fail*.
*I don’t mean Ruud van Divealot here. Obviously.
Tim Krul, apparently, started reading this blog 5 hours ago. He’s still on the first sentence.