Softened Pain

Wednesday 4th January 2017

At half time last night I went downstairs in the away end as I needed to use the facilities. I wasn’t particularly angry but I was definitely deflated and disappointed. But, a few of the game in, game out faces were there (more noticeable in a smaller away allocation) and many of them were smiling. Not because they were happy with what they had witnessed of course. But they had seen it all before. And a good day out with fellow Gooners, fellow believers, fellow winners and fellow sufferers is far more important than anything else.

We’ve heard about ‘the pain and the glory’ and most of us have witnessed both. League wins, cup wins, history being made etc etc. Walsall, Wrexham, York and the like make up the other side to that coin.

And I’d like to throw last night’s pie into that mix. The chicken variety was all they had left. And being a bit cold, a bit peckish and in bad need of something to take my mind off the first half I handed over the 3 or 4 quid that you are forced to part with if you require such refreshment.

Opening the Bournemouth FC packaging (quite obviously designed for a burger rather than a pie!) I was faced with a dark brown blob that was so burnt it was stuck to the side of the silver foil trough making my decision to purchase already looking like a poor one.

Fiddling with it like the first time any of us ever handled a Rubiks Cube, removing it from its longer than required home was proving rather difficult. Then my thumb pierced the surface and I experienced that ‘pain’ mentioned above. Walsall, Wrexham, York…..and a pie in Boscombe. Leaving my hand in the oven to cook along side it might have hurt less.

It didn’t help my mood and the likes of Hector watching players dancing round him, many of his colleagues going through the motions and even the likes of Alexis acting like a spoilt child who has been asked to play in a position different to his favourite, our hosts going three nil up was seriously spoiling what had been a pretty good day out. I very rarely pick on individuals as it could not be more of a team game but I have purposely used the above as an example when it could have been any one of the players out there for the following reason. Every team’s fans have their ‘favourites’. Players that almost seem beyond criticism. And at the other end of the spectrum there are the ‘scapegoats’. Those who whatever the situation get the brunt of the blame. In the first 70 minutes last night nobody deserved any credit. So players who rightly receive praise when it is due should take criticism on the chin when it is the other way round. We were poor in every department, failed to undertake the basics and lacked that desire and effort that we normally have in abundance.

And being 3 nil down was nobody else’s fault than our own. I appreciate players can be carrying bumps and bruises over this busy period but it is the same for both squads. The penalty was very soft but that happens so I have no particular gripe with the decision. Admittedly however, I have more of an issue with the incident that led to the 3rd goal and challenge the referee to advise what exactly was different with that to the one that led to the penalty.

A draw away at a relatively decent Bournemouth side is not a result of potential Champions. And having to come back from 3 nil down even less so. On that basis i’m not going to claim anything different.

But a game like that is difficult to conclude.

After 70 minutes we were dead and buried. Beaten comfortably. Our performance was at best poor, worst embarrassing, although I appreciate that is almost condescending to our hosts who are sitting in the top half of the league for a genuine reason. But instead of hanging in there on level terms or a goal behind, we were getting stuffed 3 nil on a night that could have gone down as one of the greatest in our hosts’ history.

People don’t remember that Bournemouth are in this country’s top flight on merit. I can’t help but feel if things had ended differently, when they looked back at their history people would have said, “do you remember that night in the Premier League when we spanked the mighty Arsenal?!”

And to be fair, with time running out, it hurt. Like all defeats. But up there with those that hurt that little bit more.

Then Alexis gambled, nodded home and we had a glimmer of hope. We poured forward and looked very dangerous from that moment on and as always in football it remains a mystery as to why we couldn’t have done that earlier in the game.

Lucas smashed home an absolute belter of a volley and the mood lifted that little bit higher. Realistically however, with time fast running out a defeat still looked on the cards. But if nothing else, this Arsenal side keeps going to the bitter end. Olly’s header grabbed us an unlikely equaliser and point from a seemingly impossible situation and that embarrassment and pain was considerably softened.

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware and agree with the whole ‘papering over the cracks’ opinion and I, like all of us, am disappointed we didn’t come away with the victory we all know we were extremely capable of securing. But I am definitely one of the those ‘glass is half full’ characters and always will be. So being 3 nil down and getting something from the game I will take the positives.

After our disappointing week prior to Christmas in the North West I looked at our next 6 league games with a view that we should aim for 16 – 18 points and see where we sit after that. Coming back from the dead last night just about keeps that alive.

The long trip to Preston comes next as we approach the first hurdle in our bid to continue our great club’s love affair with the world’s greatest cup competition.

Preston North End v Arsenal…..a hugely historical fixture and one that has ‘classic cup tie’ written all over it. I’m totally ok with that as long as come the final whistle I will be joining the 5 and half thousand odd travelling Gooners in celebrating our progress into the 4th round.

That however, will only be achieved buy showing our hosts the respect they deserve and not waiting 70 minutes to turn up!!

Come on you mighty Gunners!

Frank
@stubbsy70

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