Against Norwich and West Brom.
Norwich, who have won one game in six, and West Brom, who will be booking their holidays now that Roy Hodgson is upping sticks and is heading off to drink from the poisoned chalice that is the England job.
If, after the debacle at Old Trafford, someone had offered you the opportunity to play Norwich and West Brom in order to guarantee third place, you would have left them with a stump hanging off their shoulder. Yet, with that very prospect now staring us in the face, instead of being thankful of just having a chance to salvage something from an average season, we’re now vomiting on our shirts from utter nervousness and sheer terror.
This is what Arsenal does to us. In public, we’re always defending our club, no matter what the charge. If anyone questions that Arsenal are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, we just scoff and deign ourselves unable to stoop to such a level. But when we’re alone and left to contemplate the vague possibility of not coming up with two piddly wins against Norwich and West Brom, then it doesn’t take very long before we’re standing in a puddle.
It was only a few years ago that you could have kept those thoughts private with relative ease as well. But today, in this internet age when just about every thought anyone has is now available online on a number of platforms, the days of being nervous alone have gone. Now, everyone knows that everyone else is imagining the same apocalyptical thoughts as they are. As a result, all you can hear from fans before the game is an echo of fear, with people saying that they wish it hadn’t come down to this.
Not me. This is exactly the spot I want us in. Here’s why……
There aren’t many opportunities during a season that you get to see whether the team that’s playing is good enough. We’ve had a couple this season and we’ve seen mixed results. The win at Udinese was a good sign. So was the win at Chelsea. The league games versus Man United………not so much. The game in Milan……….ugh. So any chance to properly gauge whether the team has truly improved has to be seized upon. And the next two games are the perfect time and place to do just that, thanks to the stakes involved and the pressure that comes with that.
We can all agree that the upcoming summer will be an important one in terms of transfers, both incoming and outgoing. So any information that can lend itself to helping us determine who to keep and who to keep to curb, is hugely valuable. We need to know whether this team is capable of playing in high-pressure circumstances or not. I know that every time someone mentions the fact that we haven’t won a trophy in seven years, it gets met by a cacophony of groans, but, you know, we haven’t won a trophy in seven years. That needs rectifying, right?
So, the next two games shouldn’t be met with fear and apprehension, we should use them as a litmus test. If we can win those two games and clinch third place, then I’ll be pretty happy with where we stand, what with Jack and Podolski to come in next season. If, and I’m typing this with all my fingers crossed to avoid jinxing it so apologies for any spelling errors, if we screw up, then we need to consider more drastic measures to fix the problem. Today isn’t the day to discuss what those measures could be, but they should be implemented if we screw this up.
That’s why I’m looking forward to these games instead of fearing them, as they will answer a lot of questions that we have about them. Do we need to add to this core of players, or, to borrow a phrase from American sports, do we need to blow everything up and start again? I would much rather know that we stink and need to change things, than not know. And the only way to find this out is by seeing how this team responds when the need to perform is at its highest. Great teams win when they have to, not when they want to. Can this team be great? Well, we’ll soon find out, won’t we.
So don’t be afraid of any bad scenarios that might arise from the next two games, as the only bad thing that we can do in the summer is nothing at all. That would be more disastrous than any last-minute Grant Holt winner or potential farewell parties for Hodgson. All the next two games can do is answer the questions we’ve asked this season, and can we ask for any more than that?
All I know is, I’m looking forward to finding out what those answers are, because I have a good feeling that they’ll be worth seeing. But just to make sure I’ll be feeling good about them, I’ll be drinking as well. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one.
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