Hey! You! Yes, you Arsenal fans, I’m talking to you.
You are 5 points behind Manchester United, 3 behind Chelsea, and only 5 games to go. You’ve drawn a must-win game, at home, to Liverpool’s B-side. You will be up against it away to Liverpool next week. Worse, the champions have a game in hand and will play you at home, the stage of a humiliating 4-0 defeat earlier this year.
The season seems over. What do you do?
Are you going to give up and throw in the towel – cry like babies and start pointing fingers at referees, season-ending injuries, God and Wenger for the near-impossible situation you are in?
Or are you going to man up and get behind your team in every way possible?
Giving up is not an option
The choice is yours. You may not be able to change the league table between now and the end of the season, you might not even be able to change your league position, but you CAN determine how Arsenal’s season ends – with heads rolling and sunken pride or with heads held high in pride.
There is shame in losing, but what is most disgraceful is giving up before the battle is well and truly over. It’s not enough for the manager to say “we have a mathematical chance of winning” (as he did before the weekend) or cut a haggard figure after throwing away a chance to catch up with the league leaders. It’s not enough for Fabregas or Gallas to come out and rally the troops (the former is too young and the latter not respected enough to have any serious effect).
The only people who can really make a difference here are the fans – everyone going to watch Arsenal play week in and week out, starting from the Wednesday game at Anfield, at the Kop, at Arsenal’s most important game since May 17th 2006. Get behind your team and tell them, nay, show them that you believe in them. Sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to accomplish the impossible, sometimes that’s all you need to start believing again.
Despite what Arsene Wenger says, Arsenal had subconsciously given up the moment they let fatigue overcome desire earlier this year. They seem to be coasting along now, bodies bent and spirits broken. The body language tells you they’ve given up, and while you can’t do Wenger’s job (or the board’s job in giving him more money to spend), you can do your part in supporting your club and instilling that faith in those around you.
I’ll leave you with an example from the recent history of your more illustrious rivals.
Manchester United – doing the impossible, again and again
The scene is April 2006 and as Arsenal take solace in their Champions League campaign and Chelsea storm to a second consecutive title, Manchester United are by all accounts a complete mess. Ferguson hasn’t won the title for 3 years in a row, his longest barren run since he ended that 26-year run back in 92-93. The knives are sharpened and friends and foes are speculating about the end of the line for Sir Alex.
Ferguson will have nothing of it. In the face of untenable odds, the man faces the media, passionately arguing that Manchester United could win and showing his conviction that as long as he was there, United would fight for every single point even if they had lost the title and woe betide the player who refused to put himself on the line for United’s cause.
And then Ferguson leads his men to Stamford Bridge, where only the most optimistic of Manchester United fans were thinking of winning, and even then it was just a forlorn hope and not a serious idea.
I don’t need to tell you what happened next. Manchester United were thumped, effectively out of the title race and with nothing left to play for. And still Ferguson continued as before, hoping, believing. United were 2nd in the league table and the best-placed team in England to beat Chelsea (as they had thanks to a rare Darren Fletcher header in November 2005 to stop Chelsea’s unbeaten run).
Looking back, that win against Chelsea at Old Trafford and the belief it brought would have been lost in the Stamford Bridge hammering had it not been for Ferguson’s perseverance and the belief he instilled in his players that they could do the impossible.
After all, under Ferguson Manchester United had done the impossible once before…
Are you for or against Arsenal?
Am I suggesting that Arsenal do the impossible? Of course not – plus they’ve already done it when they went a whole season unbeaten. But when you compare Ferguson’s career – and his history of setting records and doing what no one had thought possible – it makes you wonder how much better Arsenal could be if they stood up and fought now as they have several times this season instead of folding like wimps.
What I’m asking of Arsenal fans is to believe that their team will win, and show that belief the next time you go watch Arsenal play this season. Your players will thank you, and reward you, with performances that you could only dream of.
Manchester United fans will know what I’m talking about – the Old Trafford faithful have been lucky to witness some amazing football in the last two seasons (or if you’re going to be nitpicky, in the last 2 decades).
So – Arsenal fans – what’s it going to be? Will you give up without a fight, or to quote Dylan Thomas, will you rage, rage against the dying of the light?