Oops. Two weeks have zipped past with nary a word. There are mitigating factors, though. Straight after the Blackburn game I took a wrong turn in Chipping Barnet and ended up 6,000 miles away, and as luck wouldn’t have it, it was the middle of the day when we played Bayern and I was in a meeting. I now have an increased admiration for any global lunatics who follow the Arsenal before breakfast, after the pubs have closed or in the middle of the night. They are, to a man or woman, quite crackers.
The Bayern game went as I feared it might, leaving us with no eggs and no baskets, unless you call fourth place a basket, or indeed an egg. Either way it leaves our genuine trophy chances pretty much fried. They were never going to be an over-easy opponent, I suppose, and my guess is that Podolski’s poached – or was it scrambled – effort will not be enough.
A few days later I made a half-hearted attempt to watch the Villa game at breakfast, found a stream, lost a stream, refreshed Twitter with abandon, got cross with buffering. Honestly, following football is a complicated business these days. In the mid eighties (warning: old man’s wistfuI reminiscences incoming) I remember very well coming down to breakfast and opening up the paper to find the score of a match from the night before. If you were really lucky and the game had finished before the copy deadline you might get a small match report. Occasionally there was nothing at all. How would I then find the score? I have asked myself this question many times. I imagine I wrote a letter to Don Howe. Or went to the library. Or phoned someone. The eighties were rubbish for football.
So despite being punched from rope to rope in the cups, we find ourselves on a five-match unbeaten run in the league. There are unbeaten runs and there are unbeaten runs, and I would place this more as an unbeaten saunter. Nevertheless, it’s the kernel of some league form.
Form and confidence – something that has ebbed and flowed throughout this peculiarly fitful season.
It’s hard to disagree with those who argue that tomorrow’s NLD (the Twitters is a wonderful tool but I do resent the way it has forced acronyms into our everyday speech. NB52, ITK, NLD, AVB, JW10 – it doesn’t make me lol at all. In fact the only acronym I like is WWWWW. And anyway that’s not even an acronym. It’s just five Ws in a row. OK, shut up now, man).
I wouldn’t say that losing it rules us out of the holy grail, but our friends from N17 already have form and momentum, and if they win tomorrow they might reasonably be envisaging the hula girls and pina coladas and find themselves humming the Uefa ‘Pyjamas’ theme tune. At this stage of the season, a run of form is priceless. If we lose, we are back to a form square one.
We need to start the game well, play with a real intensity throughout, and take it from there. Another of our lacklustre opening 45s will be hard to bear.
It feels like I finish most of my pre-game posts these days with the words ‘I have no idea what to expect’. Well I think it will be helter-skelter and blood-and-thunder. I’d say that’s a given. But beyond that – who knows.