Hanging in there | Arseblog … an Arsenal blog

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The point against Southampton was, hopefully, an important one, even though it doesn’t feel like it. How could it?

I’m still feeling down after that performance, those mistakes, that level of sloppiness. And it’s worse because it’s mostly uncharacteristic. Which seems an obvious thing to say because if a team was routinely doing stuff like that it wouldn’t be top of the table. Which is where we are. Which sort of feels absurd in a way, because the gut-punch of losing to … see … subconsciously that’s what it feels like and I just typed it out … drawing with Southampton makes you feel like you should look at the table and see a big gap between those relentless bastards on top and us below.

But it’s not the case. Maybe it will be in a few weeks time, but it’s not now. And as I think about Wednesday and what lies beyond that, and as one part of my brain tells me we might just have made life too difficult for ourselves to do what we all want us to, there’s still another part that has to have hope.

Is this not what a title race is all about? Do I want to make peace with what feels like the inevitable right now, or hang on in there just in case something else happens? I’m definitely hanging. All the old cliches are going around in my head about how you never know what can happen in football and anyone can beat anyone and all that. It’s true, but perhaps less true than it used to be due to the machine-like quality of Man City. The ChatGPT of football.

They have all their players fit. Quel surprise. They have good doctors, I guess. They have the best, deepest squad in European football. They know how to close out a season, because they’ve done it time and time again. Plucky little Man City with just their 150 financial charges or whatever it is. As much as we have made our own mistakes, this is also who we’re fighting against, and I can’t lose sight of that.

In trying to find things that give me a glimmer of hope, I remember a game against them some years back when they got a red card in the 4th minute or something. Maybe Samir Nasri, before he switched sides, scored a couple of goals that day. Something like that could happen again. Maybe Rodri, or Stones, or even Ederson, who comes crashing out of his area into Gabriel Jesus or Trossard or Martinelli, and it’s 10 man City for 87 minutes. It’d still be difficult but I’d like it.

I’m conjuring up scenarios to give my churning stomach some peace. Maybe the performance of a lifetime. Maybe the scabbiest win anyone has ever seen where we get pummeled but somehow keep them at bay and then Saka grabs a late winner like Marc Overmars at Old Trafford and some bloke goes mental in the stands and becomes famous because he’s got mad curly hair but also because last month he went to a dentist in eastern-Europe and got a set of choppers that shine bright like a diamond, putting Jurgen Klopp and Brendan Rodgers to shame.

Mickey Molar, as he will forever be known in his local.

Maybe the idea that we’ve been through some bad periods before is something to consider. My friend Tone sent me a WhatsApp yesterday, saying, “We still have the ability to get three bad results in a row, but we’ve turned them into draws instead of losses. It’s progress, I guess, but it’s been really painful the last couple of weeks.”

Yes, it has been painful, but I’ve never wanted anything to be more true in my entire life apart from when I heard we were going to sign Charlie Nicholas and I prayed for weeks and then it happened. I promised to go to mass every Sunday if he came to us. He did. I didn’t go to mass. I’m sorry Charlie, it was me, not the champagne lifestyle and the ladies and the London nightlife that saw things work out the way they did at Arsenal. My bad.

What if, as difficult as it sounds, three draws rather than three losses is progress of a kind? During his time here, Arteta has had some sticky times, and often when it looks like we’re on the precipice of something really bad, we find a way to lean back the other way. It feels a bit like this is one of those, albeit drastically different in context to some of the others, so maybe that experience will be useful.

But the thing I tell myself most often is that last season ended badly but we could see the progress throughout the campaign. This season has been better, we’ve all seen greater progress. They said last season was our only chance for the top four, which turned out to be untrue. I don’t think this is our only chance at a title. We used the pain of last season as motivation for this one. We can do the same if it doesn’t work out this time around. Sometimes you have to come close to really understand what you need to do to go the distance.

It could be that I’m just trying to make myself feel better, but I also believe it. I reckon I’m going to spend the rest of this weekend, and every waking second between now and Wednesday night, lurching between FFS and OOOOOH MAYBE!

What tells you something about this season is that the draw with Southampton meant it was St Totteringham’s Day, when it’s impossible for them to finish above us, and normally it’s a bit of a laugh and all the rest. It hasn’t happened for years. It happened yesterday and I forgot, and then when I thought about it, it was underwhelming because, frankly, we have bigger fish to fry than those poxy tiddlers down the road.

Which makes me feel a bit better. And also gets my stomach churning again so I think I’m going to have some Basque cheesecake for breakfast because why the hell not?

We will have an Arsecast Extra for you later today. We’re recording around 2pm, keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

We should have the podcast for you around lunchtime. Until then.

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