There’s little time for further analysis for Emery and his charges, with a potentially decisive game against Sporting Lisbon on the horizon in just over 60 hours time, that could have a further bearing on how we line up in future Europa League games.
I suspect we’ll be getting a bit of team news filtering through today, but whoever plays and however Emery decides to line up against the Portuguese, one things for sure is that the Emirates crowd will be behind them and it’ll be a better place to play at than it has been for a long time.
The love has always been there but it’s felt like the ‘like’ had slowly been eroded in recent years. Opposition fans scoffed at the lack of desire to make noise, of the in-fighting, of the empty seats that had started to permeate through the ground and ultimately filtered the malaise to the players at the end of last season.
But what I’ve heard from many people in recent weeks is that the atmosphere in the ground has been steadily improving. Arsène Wenger used to say that the relationship between fans and players is a symbiotic one, but that the players had to ultimately do their bit first because they had to show the fans what they were turning up for. I kind of understand what he used to say and I think that relationship is steadily improving under Emery.
Indeed, I’m sure I’ve even heard some of the players and Emery talk about the improving nature of the relationship even compared to the beginning of the season. I think – although happy to be corrected as I can’t find a link – that Bernd Leno has even said recently that at the beginning of the season there were nervous noises from the home crowd when we weren’t winning at halftime with some of the results, but on Saturday evening under the floodlights even after Milner had put Liverpool one up, there were audible cheers from the home fans to push the team on.
It feels like the slightest blip isn’t going to turn us all mutinous any more. Agendas have in the main been wiped away and everyone is keen to ensure that we do our bit to show the players that there is an understanding of this being the beginning of a journey. As Unai puts it – the start of the process.
And the more we hear from the manager and the players that the kind of positivity we saw despite being behind has a positive impact, the more u think we’ll see us as a collective fan base in the ground react. What helps with that is that we know this Arsenal team has the mental fortitude to overcome difficulties and this seasons second half displays are showing that the players are up for the fight.
And that’s all a lot of us have wanted for a few years now. We know we’re not at Liverpool and City’s level just yet; for one thing we don’t have an owner syphoning cash into snide little sub sections of our bank account to get around FFP (shock horror, who’d have thought that about City???). But we do know that with the players we have we should be able to mount a serious challenge to get back in to the top four provided the players are up for the fight.
They look up for it. It feels like they’re up for it. And as a result the fans will back them and the Emirates as a whole is up for it.
And long may that feeling continue. Our home ground has historically hardly been a ’12th man’ over the years but if we as a fan base and the players start to show the unity that Unai and the club want, it feels like we could get there.
Up the Arsenal.