...And rather poor timing for the launch of a blog that is supposed to celebrate the brand of pure football that has become the trademark of this club under Arsene Wenger's watch.
So far, this season has been markedly different that the three that preceded it - against all well-publicized pre-season odds, the team started by winning convincingly while playing exhilarating football. Most importantly however, in a few key games (such as Chelsea at the Emirates and Everton at Goodison Park) the team produced results at a time when their football wasn't at its absolute most fluent.
Fast forward to the second League game of the year. What could have (and should have) been one of the easier home wins of the season turned into the kind of slip that leaves you pondering over the validity of the "winning with kids" adage... Devoid of ideas, and, on this occasion, the desire and focus to overcome surprisingly worthy adversaries, our well-rested first-teamers relied more on the mystique of the Emirates ground than on their own ability and sharpness to garner the requisite three points. A few short days earlier, we had escaped with an improbable and wholly undeserved draw in the Carling Cup semifinal against the Spurs. On this occasion, the Emirates magic was just not there.
There is never a good time for this kind of result - however, one can argue that the timing for this one could have not been worse.
First off, the proverbial "confidence blow". After an uninspired performance against the Spurs by the "second string" squad, the first team was supposed to restore much-needed confidence ahead of the second leg at White Hart Lane - all they needed was a solid performance against an opponent of (arguably) lesser quality.
Secondly, the result comes at a time when pundits are already pondering over how much the absence of the African Cup of Nations players is going to affect our league title bid.
Finally, for the first time since mid-November, there is no mid-week game to provide any kind of a "bounce back effect" and help put this ugly week behind all of us. Every day between now and Saturday, we are left wondering how the team will respond to slipping to second place at a time when the pundits du jour are running out of praise for United's resilience and strength...
...It's going to be one long week, that's for sure...