I tried to warn us. Southampton may be bottom of the league, but they’re a bogey team at the worst of times. When we went down 0-2 and again 1-3, too many of us gave in, threw in the towel, resorted to the old loser mentality of the last decade or so when fourth place and an occasional FA Cup were enough to sustain us. Thin gruel, that, and it’s understandable to a degree that such a mentality is hard to shake. Old habits die hard, but this is one that we have to put to the sword and fast. Too many of us left the stadium early. Too many of us started tweeting out absolute bollocks. Too many of us don’t get what it means to support this club.
Imagine some wacky, New Age folderol. Imagine that whatever energies you emit transmit themselves to the players on the pitch. Every grumble, every tweet, every epithet infects our players, sapping them of strength and sowing seeds of doubt. Think of it as the modern-day Chinese water torture whereby each single, solitary drip seems to have little to no effect, but the unceasing, relentless, remorseless drip…drip…drip… drip slowly drives the victim mad. It’s not just the dripping itself; it’s the anticipation of the next drip and the belief that the dripping will never, ever stop. If you found yourself tweeting or muttering or shouting about how it’s all over at any point before the full-time whistle, you may be guilty of having been one of those drips.
Don’t be a drip.
I’m not saying we should be handing out participation trophies or green ribbons and slapping players on the back, saying “I’m proud of you, buddy.” No. There are serious and pertinent questions to be asked if various players and of Arteta for numerous decisions. However, none of them read this blog (to my knowledge. Bukayo, if you’re here, please consider tweeting this out). Instead, I’m reaching to my dozen(s) of loyal readers and their friends and family members.
Imagine again that wacky, New Age folderol, only this time, each tweet or shout or epithet sends positive energy, confidence, inspiration, and more to our players. “Hook it directly to my veins,” you can hear them exclaim. Imagine it’s you whose vibing helps Trossard’s shot clip in under the bar instead of over it; that Vieira puts his boots through his chance rather than dinking it; that Hooper awards any of the three or four penalty shouts we had. Imagine that feeling, knowing that you infused any one of our players with that extra ounce of juju, that extra dash of determination, whatever it is that our boys need when they need us most.
With twenty minutes to play, fans were leaving early. Fans—who presumably spent a few quid on their tickets—left early. Whatever is happening on Twitter, our players don’t see that. They can see fans leaving. Look, at one level, I get it. It was getting late; the match didn’t end until after 10pm, and Saturday isn’t a day off for everyone. I’ll admit, it wasn’t looking good with three minutes left. Those of you who brought small children or who had to clock in on Saturday morning, you get a pass.
The rest of you, screw your courage to the sticking spot. Roll up your shirt sleeves. Put your noses to the grinding stone. Yell and shout and chant; bay and scream and caterwaul; stomp your feet and clap your hands and raise your voices to the heavens. It was too quiet for too long today. Arteta called for the Emirates to be electric, and it was, at times—in response to events. Those of us who get to attend matches have to think more about causing or at least inspiring events.
Over the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of hand-wringing as we’ve dropped points away. Have we bottled it? Were we overconfident? Do we miss Saliba? One other factor we haven’t discussed, because it didn’t really apply to the draws to West Ham or Liverpool, is how our fans respond to conceding goals. Throughout this season, one of the hallmarks and highlights has been how fierce, how vociferous, how vengeful our response has been to going behind. Make no mistake. How we as fans, especially those in the stands, respond to setbacks affects the players. They feed off of us. They draw energy from us.
I know that the last three results have been disappointing. They’ve done a lot of damage to the players’ confidence and to our chances at winning the Prem. Re-read those last six words. We have a chance at winning the Prem. We still have a chance. No one was ever going to hand it to us, least of all Man City. All of us, then, not just those who get to attend matches, have to take a long, deep breath (do that now; don’t just read it). Take a long, deep breath. Close your eyes. Tilt your head back. Clench your fists. Thrust your chest forward. Put every last ounce of energy into shouting “GOONERRRRRRRRRRRRS!!!”
Just make sure your wife isn’t holding a skittish cat when you do. I speak from experience.
There is still a title to win. Get busy supporting, or get busy complaining.