Welcome relief, this Barking Cup.
Wenger will no doubt be hoping that tonight, if not the end of our seasonus horribilus, or even the beginning of the end of it, will at least be the end of the beginning.
(Sincere apologies to Mr Churchill for that).
The boss and the players might say otherwise, but the primary function of the rest of this season is to finish fourth or higher in the league. A first season in Emirates Grove without Champions League football might not upset some Gooners, but it’ll certainly upset the bank manager, who as we know will be wanting to know how Arsenal plan to repay its debt, the interest alone of which next year is reported to be £19m.
It might be upsetting to watch our fall from grace this season, but the history books will gloss it over, especially given the hugely ambitious nature of our move, if we come back stronger next season.
There are plenty of big clubs out there who are desperate to build a new ground or seriously redevelop theirs – Spuds and Liverpool in particular – and who are in the earlier stages of the process of finding out just how difficult it is to do it. Come next season, they will certainly cast covetous glances at our new home.
So let’s not underestimate the effect our move might have, on ‘business’ and in prestige. It’s an absolutely incredible achievement.
We’ve been spoiled for so long that the current travails seem worse than they are, especially if you look at the bigger picture. But Wenger and the board need to make sure it’s just a blip, and nothing more.
So it goes without saying that we can’t afford to lose our spine – Henry and Cole in particular – in the summer. Some say both departures are a done deal already, but I suspect both players will be sensible and wait and see.
Starting tonight, we need to marry some of the fight we showed against the Russians with some midfield grit and some goalmouth chances, and that needs to carry on over the Christmas period too. With all due respect to our three festive league opponents, we need nine points in the bag before the visit of Our Chums In The North© on 3rd January.