At least, that’s what most of us said back in August, even before the three-loss start to the season. Happy if we struggle to sixth. There are too many better squads than ours.
Well, now we have a chance of making fourth, and can’t finish lower than sixth. So will we now be satisfied with fifth (probable) or sixth (possible, but unlikely)? Of course not. It will be called a failure, forgetting what we expected at the beginning. Come on, all you online supporters, give Arteta’s boys a break. They’ve done really well. I can conceive they have even exceeded Arteta’s expectations.
I am astounded at the negativity that still prevails in parts of the blogosphere towards Mikel. I have thought from the outset that he is a truly impressive person, with an astonishing football brain. When there was muttering of an early sacking, I wrote on here that you could forget it – KSE had committed to the long haul, seduced by Arteta’s long-term vision. I have so enjoyed that plan. First he set about making us harder to beat, which meant that for a while we were impossible to watch, so turgid was the football, as he tried to get square pegs to defend round holes. He set out to bring referees more on board, with limited success, but you can see from watching his interactions with the officials that he’s determined to remain positive with them. He has worked tirelessly to bring the supporters onside, and it has been a great success. You only have to listen to both home and away supporters’ vociferous and relentless involvement.
He has steadily shifted out players not committed to his vision, and brought in youthful, energetic replacements. Step by step, the squad is being rebuilt, and the style of play evolving. We have a raft of players just starting their careers, who should only get better, and with every game, should deepen their mutual understanding. We have one or two gaps to fill with astute signings (another area where Edu/Arteta show their mettle). We have an outrageously talented group of Academy players striving to join the seniors.
If you don’t subscribe to this being the most exciting time to be an Arsenal fan for absolutely years, what is the matter with you?
Oh, and on the subject of excitement, please leave Nuno Tavares alone. I love him. You don’t know from one minute to the next whether he’s going to block a shot or drift out of position; give the ball away in midfield with no cover behind him, or hurtle past six perplexed defenders before unleashing a shot into Row Z, or possibly even the net; cross threateningly, or to no-one in particular. Re-watching the last two games, I actually think he did more good things defensively than bad. And he’s so much fun!