Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! People show their love for their loved ones everywhere today and, albeit a clichéd theme, I’d just like to take this opportunity to revisit our common love for the Arsenal and the need to show it. Because now is the time.
Surely you don’t need any motivation from me or anyone. But I’m saying it anyway. If we need to be reminded of the need to take a positive attitude and strong belief into the next game against you-know-who, let’s consider a couple of things:
Some of us may see it as an opportunity for revenge from last year’s humbling, okay. But from my perspective, we lost the tie to a superior side perhaps as much as to injuries to our key players and our own fear or sense of inferiority, some of which due to the everpresent and omnipresent hype around them. It’s fair to say that Barcelona have improved this season, but so have we. To say we’re considerably better off now is no exaggeration: Robin van Persie is on fire, Cesc is great as usual, Jack has been awesome, Theo showing some football brain, Arshavin trying hard and coming out of a slump in form and – I’m whispering it quietly – we have Johan Djourou instead of Mikael Silvestre in central defence. Except the Verminator and possibly Nasri, we have an unusually fantastic group of fit and capable players available to Arsene Wenger this time around.
The universally hailed Best Team in the World? have been vastly dominant in La Liga this season but significantly less so in Europe. Barcelona only won one of their three away group games this season and three of their past nine trips in the Champions League.
With some causes for optimism can I ask all the lucky, excited and perhaps nervous match-going Gooners a favour: please make our home advantage count. Sing your lungs out, applaud till your hands hurt (without gloves in the cold to make the sound), whatever you do, make our players feel that they’re right at HOME and we’re all behind them.
Against Barcelona, please feel free to boo, intimidate, humiliate, I don’t care how, but go for it Gooners! As much as we see them as the toughest opponents in the competition, they’re facing the team that they’d wanted to avoid most before the draw as well. Scare them by making your most horrible noise against them and/or against any, God forbid, injustice in refereeing decisions, etc. They’re beautiful to watch but let’s do our job!
Again, in case further motivation is needed:
Bigger than the CL exit last year, for me what I really hate them for – in fact it turned me from an admirer to a hater of that club, despite still admiring their footballing brilliance – is the way they have been treating Arsenal with a complete lack of class, respect and decency. The constant tapping-up with other players over the years doesn’t need to be repeated here. Personally what they did with Cesc last summer was more infuriating for me as a Gooner than being dumped out of the competition in those circumstances. If it takes a vivid image to remember how they treated us after the World Cup and bring out your deepest emotion for our beloved club when its pride was hurt, its dignity undermined, just have a look at the 115-page Cesc thread or watch this video again or, quite simply, say this magic acronym, aka the Shortest Source of Irritation for All Gooners: ‘DNA’. (I hear you go ‘Arghhhh…!’ I really do.)
Use our pride as motivation? Great. But if we have to use our anger and hurt pride to spur ourselves on, so be it. So Gooners, I’m sure you don’t need to be asked to do this: please do use your collective voice to back our team and make the home support count! I’m sure we’re all for doing ourselves justice even if the result may not always go our way. But it’s more than CL qualification that is at stake – I don’t think it’s an overstatement when I say this – it’s our pride.
All the media outlets are building up the game big time. But it’s not hype that we need, it’s, quite simply, love. So let’s show it.