After a fairly late and possibly undeserved Laurent Koscielny goal gave Arsenal all three points on Saturday, nothing was going to ruin my evening.
Arsenal didn’t play well on Saturday, and struggled to break Newcastle United down. A positive start died out without any dangerous chances and we needed an almost scrappy set-piece goal to break the deadlock. Our best player was probably Petr Čech, but a win is a win is a win.
The three points kept us top of the Premier League, we’d won a surprisingly tough and tight match against Newcastle United, and there was absolutely nothing to be annoyed by. So, I sat down to watch Manchester City take on Watford and hoped for the Hornets to produce something.
But that’s the problem with supporting a team in the title race. Over the past decade – most of the time – Arsenal’s results have more or less been enough to determine my mood for the entire weekend. Not now, and Watford managed to encourage my hopes before conspiring to deflate my mood all between full-time at the Emirates Stadium and the final whistle at Vicarage Road just a couple of hours later.
Hosting our biggest title rivals (Leicester City, with all due respect, won’t be within a few points of the summit come May), Watford definitely had it in them to produce a good performance and take something from the game. Liverpool were humbled at Vicarage Road a few weeks back, Spurs only managed to win there last Monday thanks to a last minute goal against ten men, and Manuel Pellegrini’s side hadn’t won away from home since September.
So, naturally, Manchester City came from behind to beat Watford. Despite an Arsenal win, Saturday felt a little emptier than I had hoped. Ben Watson’s corner, headed in by Aleksandar Kolarov, led to a brief cheer in my house, on my Twitter timeline and, I’m sure, in north London pubs. Goals from Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero, however, were met by a grunt of disappointment.
I’m not trying to complain after our win, but we would have gone six points clear of the Citizens had Watford held out for the last 20 minutes, or five had the Hornets managed to win the point that still had after 80 minutes. Instead we are ‘only’ three points clear of a team with Agüero, Touré, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and more.
Like most football fans, I greet goals scored against teams I dislike with a laugh, sometimes even a reserved cheer. Whenever Spurs, Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool concede, go behind, or lose it brings a smile to my face. Those results are the ones that give light to weekends when Arsenal disappoint, or even more joy when Arsenal win their match.
But this is different. I don’t feel any sort of animosity towards City, but the next few months will have me looking at their upcoming fixtures almost as much as our own. Goals they concede will be celebrated like an Arsenal goal because, essentially, that’s what they are. It’s all well and good saying we should focus on ourselves, and the players largely should, but that’s not realistic. We won’t win every game, we won’t keep everyone fit and we won’t always look like the favourites: yesterday was a perfect example of that, just as games against West Brom and Norwich were back in November. The more points City drop, the better the chance of Arsenal winning the Premier League. Their fixtures matter now.
Being in the title race makes everything mean that bit more, thanks to the enormous nature of what’s at stake. There are more chances for ruined moods and weekends, but huge capacity for celebration. It’s not just schadenfreude at this point; Manchester City’s results directly affect Arsenal’s season and we need them to drop as many points as possible.
Until May, I’ll be supporting two Premier League sides and it’ll inevitably lead to more heartbreak and annoyance, not that I’m complaining. It’s exciting to be involved again, it’s been far too long. Come on you Gunners…and whoever City are up against.