I'm gonna try not to say too much about tonight. You don't need me to tell you how massive this particular North London Derby is; they are scrapping for points to try and make the promised land of Champions League football once more, Arsenal are looking for three points to hold off Chelsea's late charge for second place. Further, Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Newcastle last night has offered Arsenal yet another chance to claw back some ground in this season's title race. Incredibly, the team that threw away a 98th minute lead on Sunday still have a chance of winning the title. Yessir, this is massive.
I guess it would be more massive if we actually believed that the Arsenal players actually had what it takes to win the six remaining fixtures, including this one, that would see us give United a hell of a scare. In fact, I would so far as to say that, if we did win all six, we would claim the league title because I do believe United will drop more points than just at our place. It doesn't seem likely and there's a growing belief that, even if it happened, we would be the most undeserving champions of all time. But none of that matters now, what matters is what is ahead of us; six matches, six cup finals. I have never felt as negative about an Arsène Wenger squad of players as I do now, but you have to concede that, for everything that Arsène has got wrong this season, he has also got a fair bit right too. Otherwise, we wouldn't be where we are. So let's, for one more day, put aside our differences and unite behind the team. The day we can't put a united front on in the face of the pretenders from up the road, is a sad day indeed.
And speaking of them, they've had a year of taking the mick out of us. All their Christmases came at once in 2010, a Danny Rose wonder strike and a (hopefully) once in a lifetime performance from Gomes did for us last April. Last November doesn't really need to be gone into again, but suffice to say it was one of the worst experiences I have had inside a football stadium; a seventeen year old home record turned to dust. We owe them, we owe them big time. The good thing about tonight is that we will be playing against a team that thinks it can beat us by coming at us- and why not? Recently they have. So, I don't expect us to be playing against a team that is going to sit back and defend with everyone but the freak behind the ball. Not unless they score the first goal anyway.
And that is a scenario that doesn't really bear thinking about. Though, bearing in mind the recent history of this fixture, of our team, it's not like we can get too comfortable if we go two, or three or four, up, is it? I hope that, following the return of Djourou, the return of Sagna will bring some defensive stability and basic intelligence to the backline. Cesc Fabregas spoke yesterday of the pressure that is put on his shoulders as the leader of this side (some took his interview as a stick to beat him with, I just think he is speaking honestly) and, guess what? There's more to come tonight because, like it or not, it is Cesc that we are all looking to the run our show.
On that note, I find it odd that Cesc's "do you win things or not?" comments have been interpreted so negatively, he's only saying what everyone else is saying. And I don't believe the situation is any less frustrating for him than for us because he comes from Barcelona. I think this supremely talented footballer wants to win things- should he be criticised for that? Le Grove has, this morning, touched on the irony of the "poster boy" for the youth project becoming disillusioned with it and I have long wondered whether Cesc was a victim of his own success in the first team. Was it Cesc's remarkable adaptation to life in the first team that persuaded Arsène that he could compete at the top level with a team of "yoots"? Ok, I know it was partly financially motivated too, but the success of Fabregas must have given him real hope that the likes of Denilson, Clichy et al would mature successfully.
Ironically, when Cesc lines up at the Lane tonight, he will do so across from a man who voiced similar complaints about the Arsenal team in 2008 in the aftermath of a 4-4 draw with Spurs. People called Gallas a whiner but I backed his right to say what he said then, as I back Cesc now. I'll back him even further if he can inspire the team he leads into showing William Gallas that he was wrong about the Arsenal.
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