The main event
Most people seem to feel the same strange way about tonight’s match against Bayern Munich. Last year, we were nothing more than small hobbly kittens caught in very bright headlights, which is largely how we played. Out of the FA Cup and god knows where in the league, I seem to remember it got worse before it got better – but nonetheless we were most definitely not a point off the top going into the home leg. Have we ever been a point off the top since the day this trophy drought began? Probably, but who can be bothered to remember when.
Now though, things are better. They did not seem better this time last week when, fresh off a Scouse pounding, we failed to get very much at all out of a game against the worst Man United side to have ever been. It’ll never cease to amaze me how quickly the boat gets turned upside down.
The Liverpool showing was shameful, but it was quite incredible to see and feel how fast we all were to lose hope of us doing anything of note this season. And then after Liverpool Pt. II, how completely the mood shifted back the other way. I don’t seem to remember it having been quite so higgledy piggledy last season, but maybe it was? In fairness there weren’t really any good days last season, so maybe it was always just absolutely dreadful or only a bit dreadful, which gives a far smaller selection of mood possibilities than this year’s range.
So anyway, back to our feelings. Games like tonight are the best part of football for me. Yes cold nights watching scrappy football are lovely (no they’re not, they’re shit, stop lying to yourself), but nothing really compares to the Champions League. While I fully understand we’re in no shape to win it, and that it shouldn’t be our priority, it’s still one of my favourite parts of Arsenal. The stadium looks beautiful at night and I love the laaaaaasaaaaaaagnaaaaaaaa song. Also, when I’m out running and I’m starting to tire a bit, it’s not the FA Cup final I imagine winning in my head, or even a last minute goal against Norwich to give us the title (though both would be so beautiful please god please god please god). No. It’s a Carl Jenkinson winner in the third minute of injury time against Real Madrid. Hey, don’t bother dreaming if you won’t commit to doing it properly.
So while the Germans steamroll their way into town today, people seem to be mostly excited at seeing us play to Europe again. I’m not really scared of losing because, you know, been there done that and all that jazz, but I’m very excited to see how we play. We may get twatted and be really upset about it but again, you know, been there done that and all that jazz as well.
It’s quite a different prospect, but I can’t remember the last time I felt gloomier going into a match than I did before Liverpool on Sunday. I was certain we were knackered. But then Fabianski had a stormer and it turned out Yaya Sanogo actually still is at Arsenal! And what a performance from him as well. It was of course understandable supporters were a little wary ahead of kick off. Our one main very out of form striker had spent the final few hours before kick off preparing for the game about as helpfully as had the Palace game a few weeks previous, and he is our ONLY HOPE. Well actually it turns out he isn’t, and if he wants to carry on playing silly buggers with chatty birds, he can just sit that scantily clad arse of his down on that bench a little bit longer while he sorts out his wrecked head.
See, this perfectly embodies the flip-flopping of sentiment towards Arsenal this season. Everything is super now, but come this time next week it could easily be in the toilet once more. We’re loving Sanogo and Fabianski and the injuries just don’t seem to matter… until we get smashed tonight then lose to Sunderland at the weekend.
It’s been said a number of times this season that the current team seem to have a bit more about them than in previous years and the abomination of a showing at Anfield doesn’t change that. In some ways I don’t want it to end. There seems to be so much hope and promise this year that I’ll be sad when this run of fixtures is over. It’s too exciting to go back to being reliably useless. I’ve got used to being relieved to the point of collapse by May, just seconds away from the season ending in disaster. Had it ended in disaster last year, we wouldn’t be looking forward to tonight at all.
Tonight is a scary prospect, but it’s also the result of all that hard work last year (the catalyst for which, oddly enough, was a Bayern Munich game). All being well, the result of all our hard work this season will come to fruition a little earlier than just next year’s group stage. I like living in this era of hope and possibilities and I don’t want it to ever end.
Enjoy the game and if you’re going, get there early! And if you’re not, get there early in spirit anyway.