Handbrake off required

So that week rolled past fast, complete with two excellent days off school. Thankyou banks, thankyou wedding – I could get used to these three-day weeks. I can’t believe they moaned about them in the 70s. OK, so there was crippling industrial strife, high inflation and not enough electricity to chuck about, but I could handle a bit of candelight here and there so long as someone remembered to keep the internet meter stocked with 20p pieces.

The last royal wedding on such a scale was of course in 1981, when Arsenal were at the start of a barren trophyless run of eight years. It included losses in the 1980 FA and Cup Winners’ Cup finals but zip else. History tells us nothing much happened until 1987 – a few changes of managers aside. How, in 30 years, will history measure the years between 2005 and [insert year when we next win a trophy]? Obviously, the stadium move, first ever European Cup final and change of ownership will feature in the memory banks. But will we wistfully recall the consistency of sitting at the top table, domestically and in Europe, year after year? Or will it just feel like XX barren years? Who knows, eh.

Anyway, a bit of a heavy one for a Sunday morning.

Wenger was his usual forthright self in his press conference. To be honest, you could pick apart a lot of what he said if you were in a cynical mood – which I usually am these days. I find it a bit frustrating listening to him at the moment but what else is he going to do ahead of a big game than stick up for his charges? It’s the right thing to do.

Three wins against Man Utd in the last 17 appearances does not make pretty reading. Today, Utd are in the midst of an impressive end-of-season run that neatly juxtaposes with our unimpressive fizzle-out.

Can we raise ourselves for this one? Form is against us and with them. Looking over our shoulder at the prospect of fourth place or worse should be motivation enough, you’d hope.

You never know with this team. Now that the title pressure has evaporated, we may pull off one of those handbrake off performances.

We’re certainly overdue one.

Either way, it’s always one of the best home games of the season to be at. The sun is out. The old routines kick in. Come on!

Motivation should come easy on Saturday

After Sunday’s volcanic eruption at Wigan, the dust has finally started to settle. It’s time to concentrate on the next three games. An attitude the antithesis to the one we saw at Wigan is expected, and let’s be honest, there are bags of reasons why Arsenal will come flying out the blocks. Here are just a few of them.

Motivation number one:
Now, everyone knows that against the top two teams this season we have come away with diddly squat, but thus far the same can also be said of the team currently lying in fifth, Man City, against whom we have lost twice, conceding seven goals in the process. Nobody in N5 wants a clean sweep for the Middle Eastlands moneybags.

Motivation number two:
The presence of a lanky, Football-Focus-interview-giving lackadaisical Togolese will certainly be all the motivation the fans need on Saturday to exercise their right to free speech, and I’m sure Robin van Persie will want to prove a thing or two having had his head stamped upon. Kolo Toure, once also of this parish, has suggested Adebayor needs to show “more intelligence” but you can’t switch the lights on if there’s no electricity.

Of course, the motivation goes both ways as we saw in our 4-2 defeat there in September. Adebayor was fired up to the nines and both Campbell and Silvestre will need to react accordingly.

Motivation number three:
Arsene Wenger himself. The ‘Wigan episode’ (as I have now filed it in my head) has looked bad on some of our players but it has looked much worse on Wenger. This week, he’s taken flak for Project Youth, for not spending, for not having the right squad balance, for being stubborn – and a whole lot of things besides.

He was spitting blood post-match at Wigan, accusing his players of a lack of cohesion and discipline, and for Wenger that constitutes as much of a public denouncement as you will ever see. The players will have had it both barrels.

How many of the usual player soundbites have we heard this week? There’s been something from Arshavin on the official site – some sponsored thing in conjunction with Nike – but other than that it’s been as quiet as a churchyard.

Suffice to say Wenger will be desperate to put things right. Yes, I know that the bigger picture is not about putting it right just this once – it’s about making sure it won’t happen again – but for the moment, it really is just about the next game.

Motivation number four:
It’s a mystery why the players seemed to think there was nothing to play for last week, but if they thought that then they will not think it now. As well as the obvious challenge from Man City themselves, and the in-form Spuds, we could still hit 80 points and that would be a decent achievement in its own right.

And in a World Cup year, the very last thing we need is to have to play a qualifying round in the Champions League in early August. Third would represent a season-on-season improvement but if our ill-timed late-season lull was to extend further and we were to end up fourth, it would leave a sour taste in the mouth over the summer.

No doubt there’ll be some injury news tomorrow – with Arshavin a possible returnee – and something more to be said from Le Boss.

Right, on we go.

There’s everything – well something – to play for!