There were times this season when Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal players were under serious pressure from the fans and the media, and you could tell by their interviews and body language that they were not happy. The Frenchman lost his rag a few times with reporters, whereas he had always previously conducted himself with calmness and dignity in the face of pressure.
There is still plenty of pressure on the Gunners. Having crashed out of the FA and Capital One cups to lower league opposition, along with another first leg disaster seeing us exit Europe, the need to finish the season in the top four is more important than ever. Ever since the defeat by Tottenham and the build up to the second leg against Bayern Munich, however, the mood in the camp seems more relaxed.
Wenger has made some tough decisions, benching the captain Thomas Vermaelen and the regular keeper Wojciech Szczesny, but he is just getting on with it, and that confidence and attitude has been transmitted to the players. Even Gervinho is playing with the shackles off and proving plenty of people wrong, including myself, in the process.
Wenger could even bring himself to joke about the referee’s appalling decision not to award a penalty for Taylor almost cutting Giroud in half. The manager’s tongue in cheek remark was also poking fun at his own previous reaction to officials.
“I though it was a penalty, but the referee did not,” remarked the boss. “And I have learned from my long experience that the referee is always right.”
The ability to perform under pressure is vital at the top level of any sport, and the fact that Arsenal are doing that now is the reason the bookmakers have slashed the odds of us finishing in the top four. In fact, after Chelsea’s loss, it now looks like third place is ours for the taking again.