When, for example, we achieve the sort of rapturous recovery as the one witnessed in Athens in midweek, and instead of wallowing in such a wonderfully memorable night of Champions League football, and instead of teasing all those devastated Spurs fans, who were fully expecting us to accompany them into the Europa League, we have to put up with the perennial sound of our insufferably spoiled “supporters” bemoaning Le Gaffer on the radio phone-ins.
I mean just how great a result do the Gunners need to achieve to silence such niggardly whingers, and instead leave everyone enthusing about the actual game for once?
No matter on which side of the Wenger rift one rests, last Wednesday night certainly wasn’t the time to be returning to this pointless debate, especially moments after Arsène had just pulled off perhaps the greatest among an illustrious litany of great escapes.
Sure, in retrospect, when compared with some of the many magical European nights that we’ve been privileged to savour, over the course of Arsène’s tenure (eg. beating Real Madrid in the Bernabeu), on the face of it this trouncing of the Greek champs might seem like fairly small potatoes.
Nevertheless, I’d be a liar if I said that I was confident going into this match. When we vanquished Dynamo Zagreb in such fine style, I came away from this game wishing that I’d had the foresight to book the trip to Athens. Fearing missing out on what might well prove to be a very special occasion, I was straight on the laptop, to see whether I could still pick up a cheap flight.
However, when both Alexis and Cazorla subsequently joined the remorseless ranks of our walking wounded, I was almost relieved that I’d resisted the temptation to hit the “confirm” button for a two-day trip to Greece.
So it was that I found myself tuning into the TV coverage last Wednesday night, more nervous than I can recall being about a match for many a moon. Not only was I dreading the likelihood of having to write off all hope of a Premier League title challenge — due to the detrimental impact of the Thursday/Sunday schedule that seems to put the kibosh on all clubs involved in the Europa League — but also the inevitable deflation of mood in the camp.
But instead of returning to the domestic fray encumbered by the customary depressing hangover, of the sort that saw Man U choking on the admirable Cherries, we travelled up to Birmingham emboldened by the positive “can do” vibes that result from such a severely depleted squad doing the business, by way of a man- of-the-match display from Joel Campbell, our fourth-choice wide-man.
Like the premature “top of the league” chants ringing out after only 10 minutes at Villa Park, I’m loath to tempt fate by opening my big gob too soon. Yet while Mourinho’s mob are in such disarray and with the incomprehensible sight of quite such a mediocre United somehow managing to remain in the frame, there’s no escaping the sense that the evanescent mayfly of destiny might have finally fluttered back to London N5.
A typically low-tempo, early KO against Remi Garde’s relegation fodder was just what the doctor ordered, by way of a three-point remedy for the Gunners’ fatigued, lactic-acid filled legs, with the home side gift-wrapping this result by their failure to turn up before the break. Garde has to be wondering just what sort of injury he’s inflicted on his former boss, for Wenger to wreak his revenge by recommending him to take up the positively doomed poisoned chalice at Villa Park!
With the Gunners fast acquiring the sort of arrogant, lazy swagger of a side that’s far too sure of our own impregnability, we would have been undone by more competent opposition. Yet while it took until the end of the first half for Ramsey to emboss this victory with a second goal, with Villa already shorn of all confidence, this game was pretty much over as a contest from the moment Hutton conceded such an early penalty.
Even the award of a spot-kick the very first time we ventured forward, had the whiff of the sort of good fortune associated with a team that’s discovered trophy fever. Now if an understrength Arsenal can stretch our luck to triumph over Man City next time out, I might struggle to contain ever more optimistic flights of fantasy.