I hate losing to the Spuds.
Obviously I don’t like losing to anyone: not Chavs or Dippers; not Surrey Mancs or Northern Oilers; not Orcs or jumped-up Yorkshire giant killers.
But a Spud defeat always brings a special hurt in a tender place, like trying to straddle a fence and landing hard on your gentleman’s under-chassis.
However, Sunday’s loss was a curious one in that, since the dust settled, it seems to have become all things to all men (and women).
If you believed before the game that we were a mediocre team in terminal decline, there was nothing in that result and performance to change your mind.
Likewise if you felt we were a superior team and squad to the Spuds, you could point to the fact that we were the better team for most of the game and only lost through making a couple of silly mistakes.
If you thought we were a team with great creativity but no defensive nous: the performance proved your case.
If you felt that we had never adequately replaced Brave Sir Robin and, therefore, did not have the finishing power to win tight games: Bingo!
In fact supporters from just about every shade of opinion (and we have more shades than a Roy Orbison lookalike convention) could find something from the match to back up their prejudices.
And boy have we been happy to share those prejudices. The more immature among us call them FACTS, with capital letters and write about them at great length in the digital equivalent of green ink. The more considered, recognise them as opinions and present them accordingly.
I have read them all and, frankly, I feel like I’ve been on the receiving end of a barrage – like standing near the corner flag when Emmanuel Adebayor is taking shooting practice at the goal.
And I have come to the conclusion that the latest North London Derby tells us precisely nothing about where we are now as a team and what the future holds.
The only certainty is that we started the day with the possibility of being just one point behind the reprobates, but we ended it seven points adrift of them and with the task of qualifying for next year’s Champion’s League much, much harder.
Their win on Sunday is not a shift in power in North London. Even if they finish ahead of us this season (leaving poor old St T to rotate in his sepulchre) it will not constitute a shift in power. Let’s remember that last May the all-knowing scribes of Fleet Street declared that a permanent shift in power was under way in Manchester.
Sunday was just a close game that we narrowly lost.
Across the season we have played the Spuds twice, won one, lost one and scored six to their three. Over both games we were the better team for, I would say, 140 out of 180 minutes (although that includes a fair chunk of the first game where they were down to ten men).
Arsenal have been underachieving this year. It has made people angry and angry people look for scapegoats.
Our scapegoats range from the Head Goat himself, Mr A Wenger, to Per Mertesacker (too slow); Thomas Vermaelen (too error-prone); Laurent Koscielny (too own-goaly); Wojciech Szczesny (too Almunia-ish); Gervinho (too run-in-a-straight-line-ish); Olivier Giroud (too unHenry-ish) and so on.
Personally I blame Vic Akers and his tight shorts, which must surely distract even the most focused of our players.
Whether or not we get top four, it’s fair to say it will have been a particularly poor year, with embarrassing cup exits and a failure to challenge in the league.
But I don’t conclude from that that our players are rubbish or that Arsene is a busted flush. I conclude, simply, that we are having a bad year and that we can put it right next year.
Part of the reason it’s a bad year is because we had another lot of new arrivals, lost our star player (again) and you can’t expect all those new players to form an instant rapport and pick up a new system without hitches.
There have been games this season that I have enjoyed much, much less than Sunday’s defeat. Away games like Norwich, where we didn’t turn up, didn’t fight and didn’t register an attempt on goal in 90 minutes.
At least at the Swamp we fought and tried hard, even if our game was a bit off.
Some of our shortcomings are apparent (we really need a world class striker) and I expect them to be put right in the summer.
For now let’s get on and, as GiE said yesterday, try and win every game we have left and show the critics what we can do.
Sunday, after all, was just another game.