I don’t think I have ever really known or understood what true love is, or for that matter what it really means. Love is a word used all too often, without true meaning or feeling. What I do believe, however, is that family help to provide an illustrative answer.
Family is family. For every moment they make you happy and proud there will be the moments where they make you mad or sad. But no matter which end of the spectrum you are at for that given moment in time, you love them. In the deepest and most purist sense of the word, you love them. You always have and you always will. Family is family.
At this moment in time Arsenal are making us mad and sad. In less than a week they have contrived to throw away two 2-0 leads, doing so with some rather unconvincing performances. Going into the Schalke game I, like many, would have taken a score draw. But would I have taken a score draw knowing it would be via the concession of a two goal lead? What frustrated me most about the game against Schalke is it had that air of inevitability. For all the good work and chances created by the Germans, it was once again our errors that led to the opposition’s goals. I hate to be critical of Arteta who has been 99.9% perfect 99.9% of the time since arriving at the club, but when you’re two goals up away from home, with half time just a matter of seconds away, surely the best option when collecting a cleared corner in your defensive third of the field is to give it a good hoof? The need to keep possession at all costs left Santi Cazorla receiving an Arteta pass with little or no room to manoeuvre, so when the mercurial Spaniard slipped and fell the ball was in the back of our net within seconds. I honestly believe if we’d reached half time at 0-2 we’d have gone on to win the game. That we went in at 1-2, with Schalke’s spirits lifted, meant you knew a second would eventually be coming. Our destiny is still in our own hands, however, so here’s to a win over Montpellier and progression to the knock out stages.
And so we returned to Premier League action with a home game against Fulham. I said before the game I had a horrible feeling about it. You know that feeling you sometimes get when you just know it’s going to be one of those games? I guess there were a few things contributing to the feeling (our poor form, individual errors, injuries…I could go on), but the primary factor was our energy sapping midweek efforts. So I was pleasantly surprised when we found ourselves, once again, with a two goal lead. The performance was far from exhilarating, and I’m sure many would argue Fulham were having the better of proceedings, but it was us who held the two goal lead. Giroud (our man of the match by a country mile) scored with a bullet header from a Walcott corner, before Podolski doubled our lead from an Arteta cut back.
Despite recent form, individual errors, injuries, and the endless list of other grumbles we could have right now, a two goal lead at home to a side like Fulham should have resulted in three much-needed points. Sadly Arsenal had other ideas. That Berbatov can score a header unmarked and unchallenged from within the six yard box is unforgivable. That Mannone couldn’t save a header such as that from Kacaniklic is pathetic (the sooner Szczesny is back in-goal the better). And that a player as reliable as Arteta can so carelessly give away the ball in our own area and then bundle over Ruiz trying to make amends is bewildering. From 2-0 up we found ourselves 2-3 down. What’s most concerning is that there probably wasn’t many who were surprised. But credit where it’s due Arsenal responded and responded quickly. Within a couple of minutes of going behind Giroud got his second goal of the game, from another great header, and we were back on level terms. With 20 minutes still on the clock it would have taken a brave man to bet there would be no more goals, but it would be a brave man with a few extra quid in his pocket this morning.
The final end to end 20 minutes produced no goals, but it should have. For the first time in a long time, if not the first time ever, we actually got a decision from Phil Dowd. How he came to the decision of handball and penalty is beyond me, but who are we to argue? When you’re in a tricky period, such as we are at this moment in time, you take what’s on offer. We don’t often get a helping hand from officials and certainly not penalties; this was our first at home (in the league) since April 2011. Personally I’d have liked my striker (with two goals already to his name) to grab the ball, place it on the spot, and smash it home to complete his hat-trick and to steal the three points. But that our vice-captain and dedicated penalty taker stepped up instead cannot be moaned at, even if Arteta’s disappointing afternoon was compounded when Schwarzer dived to his left to keep out his effort. Phil Dowd immediately blew for full-time and the look on Arteta’s face told you everything you needed to know. Our bumpy ride continues, with players heading off for the most meaningless of international friendlies, before returning for the small matter of the North London Derby next Saturday.
But Arsenal is Arsenal. Just like our family, for every occasion they have made us happy and proud (5 league titles, 5 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, a European Cup Winners Cup, and endless individual games of gallant victory or brave defeat in my lifetime alone) there will be the moments where they make us mad and sad. But no matter which end of the spectrum we are at for this given moment in time, we love them. In the deepest and most purist sense of the word, we love you Arsenal, we do. I always have and I always will because Arsenal is Arsenal.