An interesting thing occurs when Arsenal play well and the wins keep coming one after another: a lot of the hate and vitriol begins to disappear and smiles accompany the optimism in all of us gooners. Yesterday I sat down at my computer to write this and I found myself at a loss for words. Unsure of what to write, I began to rattle my brain for ideas and talking points and I wasn't coming up with anything. Eventually the thought came to me: everything is ok,. A top four place is within our grasp, we play a semi-final in the FA Cup and we look like a solid squad. Everything is fine.
Not to say that I am complacent, I just have a slight calm in my nerves that I haven't felt when watching this team play over the last several years, or even earlier this season. How many times have we watched a match similar to the one against Burley last weekend only to have the script tell a different ending. We have watched us concede a soft goal to see the opposition tie the game then in the dying minutes we gift them another goal off a set piece or penalty. A winning position turned on its head and we were left trying to figure out just what happened.
Not this time. Against Burnley, while it wasn't the most interesting match, we never looked like we would give up the lead. Burnley had a couple of chances throughout the match but most of the time it was a thorough, methodical defensive display. We started well and that early pressure gave us the goal we needed to win. Now I would be lying if I said that initially I wasn't nervous, but I was. The fear of giving up a stupid goal fills us all with dread but that fear is slowly withering away. My confidence grew to the point where I felt it was a boring match. Our squad was dealing with everything Burnley could muster and our attack didn't need to exert itself trying to find an equalizer or a late winner. It was a comfortable performance, one that we should expect when facing such opposition.
With that calm, assured performance last weekend, it should put us in a good mindset this weekend. I know the cliches of mental strength, taking it one game at a time etc are usually said by Wenger and the squad but as long as we don't underestimate Reading and the remaining teams we face this season we will have built a great foundation for next season. I know we still have to face Chelsea and Manchester United this season and those are generally not matches that we have performed well in recent memory. Despite this I have remained confident that this is the season that we will put the doubt to bed. Twice this season we dealt blows to Manchester clubs and we took most of the wind out of Liverpool's sails as well with that thrashing two weeks ago.
I want that monkey removed from our back and thrown back at Chelsea. Hopefully that monkey is Donkey Kong and he ties Mourinho to a post and throws barrels nonstop at him. The media loves mentioning Wenger's record against Mourinho led Chelsea teams and it less than flattering. Chelsea are not the invincible side that Talksport would like everyone to think they are. That goal last week against QPR was a lucky break and I do feel it handed them the title but they are beatable. We have the confidence and the run of form to do it, just like the Manchester clubs. Like before our defense will need to be up for the task and our productive forwards will need to be ready to capitalize on any chance. From head to Coquelin we will need to want that match more than them. I am looking forward to it with that same calm I mentioned earlier. We walk into the match still as underdogs and that is a good thing. Chelsea has the title and they won't need to risk more than they have to. Of course, Mourinho loves to throw backhanded comments about Wenger and Arsenal, especially when we lose so it is time for us to win and instead of gloating, we walk on, finish the season and stick it to them next year.
It is nice to be optimistic about our squad for once instead of griping about how we need this or that. Sure we have a few holes in the squad that need to be plugged with a quality player or two but if there is one thing this season has told us is that never discredit anything. If you would have told me at the start of the season that Coquelin would be indispensable, Bellerin would be challenging Debuchy for the top right back spot, Monreal would play better than Gibbs, Giroud having a high finishing rate, and Welbeck would score the goal that knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup, I would have fixed your tinfoil hat and fashioned a straitjacket for you as I loaded you on the Hannibal Lecter hand truck. Anything can happen in this sport, be it good or bad, and right now it is looking good for the Gunners. A few more matches are left in the season and we can look ahead to the future, but first we must take on Reading in the FA Cup at Wembley in a semi-final match. One win sees us in the final defending our cup against either Villa or Liverpool (hopefully Villa).
So lets smile and sing songs of the Arsenal as they take on Reading, Chelsea, Manchester United and the rest of the clubs we have to face in this final run of the season. I will be watching intently at both FA Cup matches this weekend and maybe the football gods will smile upon us as we win and Liverpool lose or maybe not. Maybe it would be better for them to win and we can beat them again in the final.
Whatever happens, I remain confident and optimistic.
Come on you Gunners.