Hello. I don’t know about you but, for me, even the prospect of a mildly groinally knacked Robin van Persie being picked for Holland’s meaningless friendly isn’t quite enough to douse the fires lit by the final hour of the North London derby on Sunday. At least, not yet. Although that’s only because I can’t quite believe that an injured player, however mild the injury is, would really be risked by a national team boss. Even if the injured player is probably the hottest striker on the planet right now. But the thought of losing Robin before our trip to Anfield is one I will not countenance now; we all know what the alternatives are.
Instead, I’m going to return to Sunday. Yes, I am. Not just because it was probably my favourite ever Arsenal match, not just because we came through a ridiculously difficult opening 35 minutes to record probably our most comprehensive victory at the Grove at the expense of our neighbours. Well, okay, it’s partly that, but we’re not so small time that I’m gonna spend all week going on about us beating a team I’ve spent all my adult life expecting us to beat. No, I want to touch on something my good buddy, Asa Joseph said as we celebrated in the Tolly on Sunday afternoon.
What Asa said was that he thought that the fans had played a massive part in the way Arsenal turned the deby around. Actually, he went further than that. He said that he thought the turnaround had been entirely down to the fans. I don’t know about that, I think the 11 guys on the pitch were monumental and so you have to give them a large amount of credit.
But, what was so brilliant about Sunday was that an unusually up for it crowd, particularly for a Sunday 1.30 match, wasn’t dissuaded by Tottenham’s lucky goal that came so early on. We’ve all been at the Arsenal when Arsenal have conceded an early goal, sometimes they’ve even scored one themselves, and the stadium becomes less bear pit and more Paddington bear. But on Sunday, perhaps because of the situation the players were in, perhaps because of the opposition, the players didn’t give in- despite that early setback. And we stayed with the players, except for Theo, useless Theo*, and created that bear pit. Obviously, it helped that we could see that the guys were trying, and largely outplaying Spurs. The ridiculous award, and subsequent conversion, of the penalty could really have dampened the mood though. I guess it did, for about five minutes. But that was all the time it took for the players to respond with that Sagna header. And how many goals might they have scored before that one?
And from then on, the Arsenal were a snowball rolling down a mountain, the crowd feeding off the players, the players feeding off the crowd, the crowd feeding off the goals, until the wanky Tottenham Hotspur were devoured in a maelstrom of energy. Obviously, it can’t be like that every week- we’d all die of heart attacks if our football was like Sunday 38 times a season. But I reckon the players are far more likely to get out there and play like their very lives are on the line if they know we are right behind them. I’ve written articles in the past, imploring match going fans to actually support the team rather than behaving as though their mere presence is a favour to the players.
And, yeah, I know that the price of tickets make it difficult to swallow when you’re watching Theo Walcott continually miscontrolling passes, or Rosicky buzzing around like a fly, to very little effect other than being as irritating as a fly. However, once you get in the ground, you’ve paid your money, isn’t it better to try and get behind the team and enjoy yourself rather than sitting there sulking because we’re not 3-0 up after twenty minutes?
Sunday, in front of a basically full house, with the only fans that left early devastated Spurs fans (and one very premature Gooner apparently), showed… well, it showed a couple of things actually. One is that a football stadium can actually be a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon or evening- something I think most of us had forgotten over the last year. The second thing, more importantly, is that we can make the difference, we do make a difference. We’ve all read the manager and whoever his captains have been down the years talk about the difference we as fans can make- they’re not just platitudes for the programme.
With 12 matches to go, 36 points to play for, much as we can talk- as the Arseblogger has this morning- about the players treating every team they play against as Bacary Sagna’s “enemy”, I think it’s the time we took that to heart ourselves. Let’s make our home a bear pit.
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