This has been a strange season in some ways. The games that I thought, and I’m sure many would agree, to be bankers turned into surprise defeats; Newcastle and West Brom at home for instance. On the other hand, the Gunners have pulled of some inspiring victories in tough games where only the most optimistic of supporters would have expected a win; Barcelona at home and City away are two good examples.
So please forgive my consternation when this thought popped into my head – “The Carling Cup final should be a comfortable win!” I don’t think I can explain this to anyone who hasn’t experienced it on their own but feeling nervous because you’re confident can be a really crazy state to be in.
One thought led to another and finally I arrived at the question that has been ignored by many – What if Arsenal don’t win the Carling Cup?
Not a pleasant thought I know but one that has passed through many fans’ minds, no?
Arsenal have been projected as overwhelming favourites for this game and even the Misery Brigade seem to have taken this title for granted. A cynic would say it’s all set up for one giant humpty-dumptyesque fall.
But we all know Cup ties can be a difficult beast to conquer at the best of times. Throw in a pantomime villain like Dean into the picture and the real odds for success do look different from the peanuts that the bookmakers are offering.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage the believers or predicting a loss. I’m just wondering what if.
Personally speaking, I don’t really mind whether Arsenal get silverware or not. That will never be the priority in my way of thinking. As long as the players give everything I’ll happily take the result. Well not exactly gleefully, for if the ref steals if from Arsenal and hands it over to Birmingham it would be very hard to take, but what I mean is that I’d not blame the Gunners for not winning silverware.
Arsene had similar thoughts.
In football, when you lose you have to accept defeat. But what is important when you go into a Final is that you give absolutely everything.
You do not want to go into a Final with fear that if you lose it will be dramatic. What you want is to go into the final and give everything to win it and that is how we approach the game.
For a man of Wenger’s abilities and experience these words make a lot of sense and I agree with that approach to the game wholeheartedly. But will the players be able to show the same level of maturity, especially when sections of the fans and almost the entire media will turn on them in the event of a failure?
Ideally we would want to see a positive result leading to a turbo charged run-in. Winning the final will certainly provide that. There is not much to think in such a case. It’d be a positive emotional drive that will carry the players onwards and upwards.
In contrast, one would need incredible mental resilience to counter the negativity in case of an adverse result. The team would still have to move forward but it will have to be against the direction of the emotional pull.
The mental strength of the fans will also be tested. If people can actually criticize the team after such a hard fought win over Stoke I shudder at the thought of the mindless reactions a loss will evoke.
Of course, the best way for the players to respond will be to go out and perform in the next game. The atmosphere for that will be negatively charged but the Gunners will just have to see it as an additional challenge.
So far this season I have been incensed by some performances and results but on the whole I’m really proud of the way this squad has performed. If the players feel the same way they’ll be able to overcome any negativity surrounding a loss.
I could go on for a while but I don’t want to dampen the mood any further. These were just some thoughts I had as my confidence made me anxious. Here’s hoping this is all just in my mind and will not turn into reality.