The dust has settled on Death Cluster 1.
We have played Liverpool away in the league and at home in the Cup. We have entertained the reigning champions of England and of Europe.
A busy week or two, all in all.
When I wrote about our two Death Clusters in late January I said this: “Let’s look at Death Cluster 1: if we win or even draw at Liverpool then beat ManUre at our place (getting that particular Bale off our back at the same time) the confidence and togetherness in the squad – which is already excellent – will get even better.
“Then we have the 5th Round of the FA Cup… Then it’s Munich at home. If we avoid defeat in that game we will have come through Death Cluster 1 in great shape. Crucially, good performances and/or results against Liverpool, ManUre and Munich will put us in great shape to face Death Cluster 2.”
As is my wont I was overoptimistic about our prospects.
Far from “winning or even drawing” up at Anfield in the league, we didn’t even manage a defeat (by which I mean a regulation, acceptable defeat by one or two goals). Instead we had our posterior handed to us on a platter
Next up was Manchester Untied at THOF. In most circumstances we would have beaten this current ManUre team who have fallen faster than Felix Baumgartner*, but after the Liverpool debacle the emphasis was on not losing (as I advocated in a Post before the game). The 0-0 was frustrating for us supporters but made sense in context.
Then came ‘Pool in the FA Cup – a game in which we managed to dish out sweet revenge.
Against Bayern – well, we went toe to toe with them until the Szczesny sending off under a rule which is so monumentally stupid that even Michel Platini feels it’s wrong. After that we did well to keep it to 0-2.
If I just look at the results from DC1, it’s a pretty uninspiring picture (like most art since Claude Lorrain hung up his brushes a little before 1700). Played 4, won 1, drawn 1, lost 2. And yet…
In sport, as in life, context is all. The problem with DC1 is that we started so badly that subsequent results can only fairly be judged in light of the drubbing at Anfield. Were it not for Anfield, I’m sure we would have beaten the red Mancs. But after the Scouse hiding it became more important to NOT LOSE than to WIN when we entertained the Band of Moist.
In any case, we regrouped enough to beat the Scousers in the Cup and to start against Bayern as if we were the Champions of Europe, not them.
Strangely enough, I feel that we have exited DC1 in very good shape. Our thrashing of Sunderland on Saturday reinforces that belief.
The league game at Liverpool was a huge kick up the Arsenal and I believe our team has learnt from it. They will also have taken heart from the performance against Bayern, despite the result.
Next we have Stoke away (no pushover, but I completely expect us to come away with three points) then we start on Death Cluster 2:
Saturday March 8th: Everton (H) – FA Cup 6th Round.
Tuesday March 11th: Bayern Munich (A) – ECL
Sunday March 16th: Spuds (A) – EPL
Saturday March 22nd: Chelsea (A) – EPL
Saturday March 29th: Man City (H) – EPL
I’m no mystic, but I’m 100% confident about how these games will play out. The results will be as follows:
Everton – we win.
Bayern – we get knocked out (probably with a draw).
Spuds – we win.
Chavs – we win.
Man City – we draw.
And if I’m right, the title becomes ours to lose.
The one result I’m most sure of is the game at the home of the jumped-up, money-bags outfit in West London. In the run-up to that game we will hear a lot about how no Wenger team has ever beaten a Mourinho team; and about Chelsea’s amazing home record. Well my friends, jus lap it up and bite your tongue. This is one game we will not lose and will almost certainly win. You may doubt me now, but bookmark this page and revisit it after the Triumph at the Bridge.
So to summarise – Death Cluster 1 turned out not to be the tough, grinding test of our footballing abilities that seemed likely. Instead it became a test of our character. In the first game we played a Liverpool team for whom everything that could go right did go right (including opening the scoring with an offside goal). I watched the Scousers against Swansea yesterday and they were lucky to get a 4-3 win. Unlike in the game against us, most of their efforts on goal were inaccurate or gave the ‘keeper a decent chance. Against us, they just had one of those days where everything went right.
But the way we rebuilt our character after the Liverpool defeat was impressive and it leaves us in good stead for the remainder of the season.
There is something strange about this EPL season. No-one fancies us, but it appears that we fancy ourselves. And when it comes down to it, that’s the only thing that really matters.
I never though I’d catch myself saying this, but maybe Terry Mancini Hair Transplant is being a bit conservative about our prospects…
The Ghosts of the Thirties are Up and Jumping…