Stone Cold Friday: Dear Santa…
’tis the season to be jolly, tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. So here’s Mr Bah-Humbug with his last weekly post before he gets absolutely rat-arsed and passes out for the rest of the festive period. Take it away, Darius…
As the festive season falls upon us, we wonder what Santa has in store for the Arsenal. For many of the ’Premiership Manager’ video game playing experts, the wish is that Wenger whips out the cheque book and buys some serious no-nonsense reinforcements. For the more level headed realists, the wish is that we cross the half way point of the season amongst the leading pack.
Regardless from which angle we see Arsenal’s form, all of us will be wishing that the festive season brings us a reprieve from the relentless injuries suffered. I’ve come to accept that injuries are pretty much here to stay, the expectation that you can go a whole 60+ match season without them is as unrealistic as expecting the Coyote to catch the Road Runner with his arsenal of ACME accessories.
Give or take the next 2 matches against Hull and Villa, the half season report card is not as bad as the losses and draws so far make it look like. I’ll be my ever optimistic self and suggest that the table doesn’t lie, and bagging anything around 38 out of the possible 54 points (minus the game in hand of course) at the half way point of the season is a good place to be given the challenges we have endured.
Despite our injuries, I subscribe to the notion that if Arsenal were ready to start the season with the current squad, then there’s absolutely no point in waxing lyrical about strength and depth if we’re not going to use the full extent of your resources. Solutions from outside, fuelled by the clamour of transfer window movement of big name players, is not necessarily the answer to our woes. We have to be open-minded about whether the solutions come from within or without.
Apart from the injuries, Santa wouldn’t go amiss if he dropped a letter from the fans about consistency to the boys at London Colney. There is no doubt about the players’ talent and technical superiority. Mental strength needs to come out shining. We have that mental fortitude, though it sometimes takes Wenger to blow a gasket for the team to show it. There’s been much talk about our physical presence, perhaps clouded by comparisons to Arsenal teams of yesteryear.
My sense is that those who still harp on about Arsenal not being as physical as the last two title winning sides need to move on and embrace what we have, for that’s what we have. Suggesting that Vermaelen, Song, Diaby, Bendtner, van Persie, or even Arshavin for that matter, can’t ‘take care of themselves’ is as misguided as suggesting that the only way to play football is to use brute force. Brains and not just brawn are part of the modern game and Arsenal is damn good at it.
Besides, it’s a serious compliment that for some teams, the only way they can play us is to try and kick us off the park. The media establishment and pundits will be right behind egging them on to show this uncouth brand of leg breaking, ankle crunching, blood spattering route one football as being good entertainment.
We are indeed privileged to be every football purist’s second favourite team because of the brand of sexy and scintillating football that we play. Just like a beautiful and sexy model revered by all and sundry for her breath-taking looks, elegance and stunning physique, we’re not going to wake up every day looking like a million bucks. There will be days that we’ll wake up feeling ugly and ordinary, and playing Wengerball will be a long stretch. For such days, the team will have to settle for consistency and professionalism as a bare minimum to grind through the match.
We don’t have the divine right to waltz into a game and win anything. It is games that force us to fight for a draw or a win, or defend a tight lead that will make the difference this season. During this marathon of the premier league season, at this point in time, mental strength is much more of a factor for success.
Application of this positive mindset goes hand in hand with the need to be consistent for it is through this that we gain confidence. Arsenal is a confidence team, and we thrive on the ability to impose our game on opponents. They know that if they let us play our game, it will be to their own detriment. When faced with the challenge of a team that come at us whichever way they see fit, it’s our mental fortitude that will win us the day.
As I’ve said several times over the last few months, this team is at the brink of success. What can be frustrating for some is that this team can also be inconsistent. Certain groups of fans need to manage their own expectations about the team. We are doing as well as can be expected by being in and around the leading pack. I acknowledge that there is room for improvement all round. The desire to improve is always a sign of quality.
That improvement is something that the boys in the team work on every day at London Colney but there is still one massive area for improvement away from the training ground. It is in this latter area that I can only wish that Santa brings more promise to us – that is to encourage Arsenal fans, particularly those in the stadium on match day, to show their support to this fantastic team. We all have a role to play in achieving success, match day fans in particular must show the players that they are behind them in good times and in bad times.
Merry Christmas to all of you and here’s looking forward to a good run on the other side of this season.