Some people laughingly say this blog isn’t positive enough. Nonsense. An utterly ridiculous notion. But just in case it’s true I’ve got a guest to write this post previewing exactly why Arsenal will beat Man U.
Over to Bryan Thomson, aka @PlutoSA
You, dear reader, are embarking on a journey this fine morn/afternoon/eve. A journey guided by me. Phil has been kind enough to allow me to sully his canvas with my brand of positive verbosity. So, armed with nothing but a blind optimism I can write something worth reading and a penchant for meandering, come with me.
Oh to be a Gunner.
It’s November, but how lovely and warm are we all feeling right now within the cockles of our hearts? Given the starts we’ve made to seasons past, one would be forgiven for a little optimism even before the Deadline Day signing of our shiny new boggle-eyed mastermind. We hadn’t sold any of the players that had begun to prove their mettle, quality and fight in the second half of the season, we had (on paper at least) a very decent-looking set of opening fixtures, and we were being linked with the kind of players we’d become accustomed to selling. We had all of this, coupled with some very well-orchestrated PR from the Arsenal Marketing Team, Ivan, Wenger and co.
There was, however, a collective intake of breaths at our opening day defeat to Villa, due in no small part to the level of prior collective optimism. How could we all have been so blind? How could we all have been so silly? Had we not learnt the lessons that we’d been taught these past few seasons? We were Arsenal supporters. We weren’t supposed to have all the nice things. That was for other clubs. Clubs filled with money. Clubs filled with marketing teams. Clubs filled with the Coles, Van Persies and Nasris of this world. We screamed and shouted and ranted and raved and resigned ourselves to the fact that although we had thought it would be different this time around, it wouldn’t. Although we thought we would spend some f***ing money, we wouldn’t. We had our new Yaya, we were going to “buy” Flamini and we were going to go out there, guns blazing, and get ourselves fourth position. Because that was what we did.
Fast-forward to where we are ten games into the season, and I find myself trying to identify what’s changed. What was the moment that made it all click? Could it be the addition of our midfield maestro? It can’t have been. We signed him back in 2008. Could it have been the coming of age of the Handsome Frenchman MK2? Nope. I distinctly remember that same self-less play in the dying months of last season. Defence maybe? Nope. No changes there. Then it’s been our stellar new signing. But he hasn’t been our standout performer, surely? Then surely it must be because the board finally listened and got rid of that useless idiot Weng….. Oh. Nope. Not that one either.
Could it be that we’re just supporting the same team we had at the beginning of the year? (Plus one sexy German genius, of course, and one ferocious Frenchie.) There hasn’t been a huge change in the personnel. There hasn’t been a huge change in the playing style. There hasn’t been any quantifiable difference apart from one truly vital ingredient.
This is a team over-flowing in belief. The players believe in their own ability, and they believe in the ability of one another. They believe that when running full tilt on goal, the ball is going to be played in for them from the lumbering striker’s reverse pass not once, but twice. They believe that they have the time and space to re-adjust and wait for the perfect time to hit that ball from outside of the box on the outside of their boot. They believe they can make that tackle, and if need be their defensive compatriot will be there to mop up the mess. They believe that they’re good enough, together, to produce a goal that will make every watching fan gasp in the appreciation thereof. They believe they are too good to take the Carling Cup seriously and that they are good enough to play with Mesut-Effing-Ozil.
And why wouldn’t they believe it? They lost against 12 men on opening day, and haven’t lost a league game since. They were five points clear at the top of the table ten games in. That’s more than half of the league participants we’ve already played and come up trumps on. We’ve got the most un-selfish striker in the league, and the highest scoring collective and individual midfield(er) in the league. We’ve got a defence that’s just learnt to keep a clean sheet, and managed to learn how to do it against the toughest opponents we’ve faced this season.
The belief this team is feeling right now has seen them through against the fabled strike force of SaS (Sloppy and Slobber) and was blatantly evident against Dortmund. I mean, they went to the Westfalenstadion, the toughest away stadium in Europe by all accounts, and not only believed that they could defend and keep a clean sheet, but managed to nick a goal too, all within the last week.
I’m starting to believe that the trust these players are showing in one another is going to be the difference. The fire that’s forged that spirit over the run-in for the last two seasons is a fire that’s hardened them against the fact that not a single pundit believes they can do it. It’s hardened them against the criticisms of their own fans. It’s made them strong enough to ignore our idiotic boos and our visceral screams that they were not good enough for our beloved Arsenal. It’s made them strong enough to carry one another through individually poor performances to a hard-earned team win. Sports bookmaker www.bwin.com currently see United as favourites but for the first time in many years it is not by a long way. This is a great credit to how strong we look this year.
We sit now in eager anticipation of a game against the defending champions, Manchester United. Just think about that for a second. When was the last time we were on the road to the home of the defending Champions of the Premier League and thought, “Well why the hell not?” The belief that these 25-plus guys are feeling right now is so visceral, and so deeply entrenched in their performances, that we’re feeding off it ourselves. It’s no accident that the one game in which it wasn’t evident (the CoCup (TM) against Chelsea) the fans felt that they had nothing to feed off. How many of us are now looking for Ramsey and paying more attention to the spaces he’s getting himself into? How many of us would hold our breath in anticipation if we saw him lining up a shot from the half-way line at this point? Are we more shocked when Mertesacker extends that lanky leg of his to nick an impossible ball off a dribbling striker, or if he fails to do so?
Do we believe that it’s us or the Dutch Skunk and co that should hope for a point at their home ground?
They believe, and they are strong. It’s made me strong enough to believe too.
Follow Bryan on Twitter: @PlutoSA
Follow me on Twitter: @AngryOfN5