Desire

Earlier this season, I questioned whether the players had enough desire to be taken seriously. Late equalizers away to AZ and West Ham were bad signs. Champions have to win those matches.

I couldn’t help but remain on alert, looking for convincing performances that signaled our arrival, our intent, our desire. We were still carrying the label of pretty passers without the steel or nous to close out matches. Frustrated, I could not counter the fact.

To make matters worse, inconsistency plagued us – losing to Sunderland away and then getting hammered by Chelsea at home. After that 3-0 defeat, Wenger was ridiculed for suggesting that not only would Chelsea drop points but that his side were not done. On the evidence provided by the successful run of seven wins and two draws over the next nine league matches – including a significant fight back against a good Everton side – the “experts” began to take notice. Even if it was with serious doubt, the media did their customary volte face when a team goes on a god run and began to suggest that maybe just maybe Arsenal could mount a serious title challenge.

Of course that all depended on how we’d perform in our next crucial run of games against Aston Villa, the current champions Man Utd, the then champions elect Chelsea, and a resurgent Liverpool. The league table would look significantly different if Arsenal could somehow take advantage of the teams above them dropping points. To fan, foe, and neutral, taking only four points from those four matches would signal the end of our title aspirations.

But wait, sore loser Wenger did predict that his rivals would drop points. Surely, he was just spouting his usual brand of deluded nonsense. Well, that is exactly what has happened. Everton and Manchester City have helped ensure that this season remains very interesting indeed.

We haven’t been a model of consistency since losing to Chelsea, but clearly now there is the chance that the schedule could favor us enough that the improbable could become possible. The usual cliché, ‘one game at a time’, is the current theme at The Emirates and will remain so until the numbers suggest we’ll have to wait yet another season before we can raise the EPL title. I am never one to give up, even when things look bleak. Victories over Liverpool and Sunderland reminded me that we are still a good side, regardless of some recent clownish performances and schoolboy errors. We’ll need to remain focused and fight until the end however, because let’s be clear, the remaining fixtures are not as easy as some might suggest.

Stoke City – the new Bolton – were up next. The fight back against a difficult side in very difficult circumstances last Saturday was just the tonic this team needs. Chelsea’s debacle at Stamford Bridge has helped make the improbable look even more possible. Football is a funny game.

I’m most impressed by the way the players have managed to maintain the belief that they can win the title. Being humbled by Chelsea and Utd would have broken the back of this side in past seasons. Be it pride, experience, or that desire which I questioned a few months ago, or all of the above, this group is intent on reversing the trend of frustration and disappointment. With the added incentive of fighting until the end in the name of injured teammate Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal have a very good chance to finally lift the league title for the first time in too damn long.

Keep the Faith.

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