A year ago this time, I remember asking people if they think winning the FA Cup and remaining in the top four would be an achievement and represent progression (this was a few weeks after Blackburn had knocked us out the cup) and I was met with nearly every single person telling me that it would represent a good season.
Fast forward a year, when it could become a reality and the same people have forgotten their thoughts from the previous year.
Let’s be honest – the last week has been pretty horrid and the memory of being in that away end at Stamford Bridge will stay with me for a while. What was supposed to be a special day celebrating 1000 games of our most successful manager turned into nightmare!
Our record / performances in big games away from home must change and it must change quickly. I think we can right off the City game because we did score three and had two disallowed but the performances at Anfield and the Bridge were unacceptable. Tactically, we were naïve and our work rate wasn’t up to the standard we expect and we couldn’t play to our strengths which is to keep the ball and build from the back.
I think after a few bad results, it is easy to forget the early part of the season and by that I mean the way we beat Liverpool at home and went five points clear at the top or winning in Dortmund and our impressive run in the FA Cup by beating three of the top seven…..
…Or the development of players like our centre backs or Aaron Ramsey and Chamberlain and the big signing of Mesut Ozil which showed Arsenal are moving forward in terms of competing for the big players with the rest of world football.
The last few seasons, we have been totally out of any title race and battling for fourth by November but this season it was extended until March but more importantly, we progressed in the FA Cup and are now favourites with Wigan and Hull / Sheffield United standing in the way of Arsenal winning their first piece of silverware for several seasons.
I still maintain that the majority of supporters would have taken the deal of 4th and the FA Cup at the start of the season if offered. Winning just one piece of silverware may open the flood gates for future successes and could start some sort of a winning mentality.
The title dream was fantastic and I enjoyed the journey from August till March but the priority is (and maybe always has been) 4th and the FA Cup – and that is still very much on.
4th is no guarantee and we can even write off Saturday’s game with City and still get to where we want to be. Our season really is in the final straight with six league games left and two potential cup games and we must build some momentum like we have done the previous few seasons when we have gone on a run.
For me, we have all to play for.