Post by: Victor Aliu @LerayGunn
The month of February often symbolizes love for most around the world. The act of giving and exchanging gifts is a norm especially with couples celebrating the Patron Saint of Love St. Valentine. Truly, it is a month to commemorate good memories of happy times. However, for me it brings negative pictures I would prefer to Shift+Delete.
Let me share my story: The date is February 2008. Arsenal are top of the table by Five points. It has been a beautiful team performance with the great Pele quoted as saying “Arsenal are my favourite team right now and I think they are the best performing team in the Premier League.“ (November 2007)
This is not much of a surprise as a new team has emerged under Wenger four years after the class of The Invincibles. The Chemistry depicts strong atomic bonding exemplified by the 3 key midfielders (Rosicky, Hleb and Nasri) having a bet on who scores the most number of goals for that season.
So on this fateful day, it seemed to be a routine win until that mechanic named Martin Taylor (cannot be a footballer) hacked into Eduardo da Silva’s leg. The images that we will prefer to remember is that of an inconsolable William Gallas crashing into the advertising boards over a last minute penalty conceded by Gael Clichy. Three successive draws at home to Aston Villa, away to Wigan Athletic and then to Middlesbrough all before our customary defeat at Stamford Bridge. This pushed Arsenal into third place one point behind Chelsea Six points behind the eventual winners Manchester United.
The new Generation (after the exit of the iconic Thierry Henry) never recovered from this one match, most of the players leaving the club. In fact, only Theo Walcott has remained at this club of all the players and substitutes used (though Flamini did return recently). Title hopes for that season and subsequent ones forever dashed in February 2008.
Oh I forgot to mention that we lost by 4 unreplied goals to Manchester United the same month in the prestigious FA Cup. A long list of February meltdowns would include FEBRUARY losses in the finals of the Carling Cup to Chelsea in 2007 and Birmingham to 2011 (happy that I can feign a memory loss on how this one happened) and customary exits in the Champions league Second round stages in the same month.
The psychological impact led Arsene Wenger to deny in February 2014 that the team usually collapse over the period on the back of a 5-1 defeat to Liverpool. Ironically, this did not stop the team losing to Bayern Munich a few days later on the way to crashing out of the Champions league following a trend of FA Cup and UCL exits in the same month the previous two seasons.
Forgive me then if I am not expecting any roses this February as I would be thinking of the games ahead. The goalless draw with Southampton despite the flurry of chances created puts things into perspective. Games away to the stubborn Bournemouth, the high-flying Leicester as well as the “minnows” Barcelona ending with a visit to Old Trafford where we last won in the league in 2006 will sure bring about lots of nerves. There may be a strong case though with this new team having recruited in the past few years experienced players in the mould of Ozil, Alexis and Cech; the trio having being proven winners in their previous clubs before arriving here.
The signs have been positive with the team winning four out of the six games played in February last year and going on to get the highest tally of points in the calendar year. Is, this team is ready to Face February’s fears…
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