Stone Cold Friday: Downing Tools? Not An Option.
The Reverend Darius is in the pulpit. Get yourself comfortable for this week’s sermon…
So – the sound check is complete, and the fat lady is back in her dressing room seemingly waiting for the inevitable call to put Arsenal out of their misery and nail the title coffin shut for this campaign.
The obituaries are plastered all over town and the disgruntled have begun their post-mortem in earnest, even though the customer is still alive and has 15 points to play for. Enough is enough they say as they demand that Silent Stan dips into the KSE and Wal-Mart piggy bank and rescues Arsenal out of these dire straits.
“Bring me the head of Arséne Wenger” is the refrain from far and wide. That’s of course if you believe that those who are the loudest actually represent the views of all the Gooniverse.
But is the title race over? Hell no, is the emphatic answer. Whether Arsenal will win it is another question altogether. Not impossible, but more improbable. It won’t take a miracle; just a small matter of beating Bolton, United, Stoke, Villa and Fulham. Of course, this mad scenario would demand that United also draw 2 games including their tie with Chelsea, but crazier things have happened I tell you.
One Arsenal fan was complaining that the problem isn’t so much that we’re not likely to make the title. The problem was that each time United drop points, Arsenal conspires to shoot themselves in the foot by not taking advantage. The crazy “we’re in, we’re out” up and down was something he couldn’t cope with. I suppose it’s like a carrot dangled right in front of you just to be yanked off at every attempt to snatch at it.
The irony of this is that we’re the most consistent team this side of the season with a run of 15 unbeaten games. We also have the best away record in the league and those two combined, would ordinarily dictate that the title would come home. But we have also lost 13 points from winning positions, and conspired to drop at least 10 other points against teams we should have tonked. If you think of losing 23 points this way, it actually is criminal, and somewhat of a miracle that we’re still 6 points shy of the summit, still with a mathematical possibility to grab the bragging rights for the season.
Clearly, many have now given up hope and have embarked on the customary naval-gazing that helps us chew the fat over the summer months. The pessimistic ‘glass half empty’ dispositioned fans won’t even entertain the thought of Arsenal smuggling the EPL home by the skin of their teeth. In fact, most would rather we pack our bags and leave town now, heading straight for the reservation.
The more optimistic ‘glass half full’ type engage in all manner of mathematical configurations in their heads as to what would happen if United drop points here, and Chelsea drop points there and Arsenal blast through the remaining fixtures. They keep the hope alive amidst the doom and gloom in the Gooniverse, and they silently hope and pray for a miracle.
I prefer to be an opportunist, oblivious of whether the glass is half full or half empty. It’s a chance to quench my thirst and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. This despite my wife’s concern about the impact Arsenal has had on my physical and mental health over the last couple of months. I know this because my doctor started a conversation on Tuesday by saying “I hear watching Arsenal has become a health hazard”.
I tried to figure out why I was pretty sanguine about Wednesday’s game against Spurs, and I realised that it was simply because I had watched a damn good game of football. Probably one of the best games in the Premier league this season. In isolation, few people would have complained about the result on account of the entertainment value; but these are not ordinary times.
If losing 13 points from winning positions is criminal, what would even be more criminal, negligent and unacceptable is if we down our tools now and start thinking about next season.
As legend will have it “it’s definitely all up for grabs now”. Imagine if Michael Thomas had given up 22 years ago. We wouldn’t have Alan Hansen and Ray Houghton still seething about Arsenal and spewing the faecal matter that they continue to do about us all this time.
The point here is that the fat lady ain’t getting out of the dressing room until we unjam her door and she literally pushes her weight about to force herself onto the stage. We can also run interference and ambush the sound system; but either way, there’s 15 points up for grabs.
It’s clear that a section of supporters won’t be able to stomach such a nail biting finish and would rather we give up and just wait until we’re capable of winning the damn thing in February when Stan has bitch slapped Wenger into ‘splashing his cash’. Perhaps the only joy they’ll derive from this season is that Tottenham may not make the Champions league next year and they’ll be back to their traditional mediocrity.
Wenger was wrong in my view to attach such significance to the game against Spurs on Wednesday, calling it the ultimate test of character for this team. If that was the case, then the team failed – but surely, won’t the ultimate test of character be if this team pulls the mother of all rabbits out of the hat and smuggles the title to the Emirates?
We won’t know that if we stop now and that is why the remaining 5 games have to be taken as what they collectively are – a true test of character for this team.
One thing is for sure, we’re having the first ‘Helicopter Sunday’ on the last day of the season. We still have a say as to whether that helicopter lands at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the immaculate Emirates lawn with the EPL trophy.