It’s the hope that kills you

hope

/hōp/

Noun

A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Verb

Want something to happen or be the case: “he’s hoping for compensation”; “I hope that the kids are OK”.

I think the definition of hope should really just be “it’s what kills you”. The last time we spoke was post our North London Derby defeat and, having fallen 7 points behind, I expressed the opinion that St.Totteringham’s Day 2013 was very unlikely to happen. But now there is hope. And hope is a bitch.

I also said that, in all likelihood, 5pur2 would need to drop points in 4 or 5 of their remaining 10 games, in order for us to finish above them. Since then they’ve played 2 and lost 2. We couldn’t have asked for much more.

Well, actually we could. And that was for us to win our games, to capitalise on every opportunity. If they give us an inch, we must take a yard. Due to Everton’s participation in the FA Cup, we’ve only had the chance to capitalise on one of those two defeats, and that’s exactly what we did with a great 2-0 win away to Swansea. So the gap that was 7 points is now 4. Our second chance to capitalise on their defeats will be Tuesday 16th April, when Everton finally get around to visiting us. Until then it remains a game in hand, and that’s all it is. It cannot be counted as 3 points; such thoughts will only result in our own downfall.

The performance at Swansea was encouraging. It may not have been as exciting as some may like, but it was efficient, it was effective, it was professional. For the second time in a week, we saw Arsenal play with a level of discipline and maturity that has been sadly lacking for large periods. Two away wins, both with clean sheets, is hugely encouraging, but is only a platform. Nine league games remain, some of them not easy, so this level of effort and concentration must remain until the final whistle blows at St James’ Park on Sunday 19th May.

I must be honest and say I wasn’t that disappointed with going out of the Champions League. I don’t believe we’re good enough to win it; we’ll always have a crazy moment or two, a crazy game or two, that will scupper our chances. As such, to progress until the latter stages only increases the likelihood of two things; fatigue and psychological damage. Instead, for the second year running, we have gone out to one of the big names of European football, having come so close, but yet so far. Whilst the players will feel the pain of defeat, they’ll also feel a sense of pride, and rightly so. Champions League elimination, in this manner, give’s us something to build on, a benchmark for the rest of the campaign. Similar circumstances last year worked wonders for us, and now we must hope for more of the same. The alternative, whether it came in the Allianz Arena or in a future round, would, in my opinion, have been a crushing defeat, like those to Birmingham and Barcelona in 2011. It would serve no purpose, other than to completely derail our end of season league form. So perhaps we should be thankful. For those who ask, “so what’s the point of being in it then?”, the answer is twofold. One, the financial impacts. The second, the hope that we can improve our squad and one day be genuine challengers for the big eared trophy. Without it we just become Liverpool.

5pur2 on the other hand continue their Europa League journey, which offers us three potential benefits. The first is that they could get tired, possibly leading to injuries. The second is that they could face a mentally crushing defeat, like we did in 2011. And thirdly, it means they have more league fixtures on a Sunday; if we can play and win on the Saturday it could add to the pressure on them when Sunday comes.

As such, the weeks that follow this international break could be crucial. Whilst we play Reading, West Brom, and Norwich, 5pur2 play Swansea, Everton, and Chelsea. And then we have our game in hand. It really could be a pivotal period. And given we play Man United shortly after, one of our most difficult remaining fixtures, we really could use all the morale boosting help we can get.

My hope is returning. My glass is perhaps not half full, but at least a third full, and that’s certainly more than a couple of games ago. There will, no doubt, be plenty more twists and turns to follow. It’s squeaky bum time. It’s the hope that will kill you. So make the most of this relaxing international break because when the real football returns on Saturday 30th March we’ll be into the home straight. No looking back Arsenal, just full steam ahead. Anything less just won’t suffice.

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