There is a lot to cheer about, Arsenal

There's plenty to be thankful for: Improved vision for Arsene Wenger, and lots of free dates in the diary now the Gunners are out of both the FA Cup and Champions League.

In times of great trauma, the football family pulls together. And no team has undergone more trauma in the past two weeks than Arsenal.
Shocked by Birmingham City in the Carling Cup, outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League, and snuffed out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, it is time to offer Arsenal the warm hand of our friendship - and not the chilly smirk of Schadenfreude.
And so, to my Gooner friends, I offer the following reasons to be cheerful.
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More
. Manchester City set up derby clash with United for ideal FA Cup semi-final
. Stoke City overcome hiccup to beat West Ham to rare FA Cup semi-final spot
. Wembley has always been kind to me, says Bolton's Coyle

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. The manager's eyesight is improving.
There were grave concerns for Arsene Wenger's vision in recent years, after he failed to see a number of controversial incidents which coincidentally involved his players cheating.
Thankfully, he appeared to enjoy a crystal-clear view of Robin van Persie's actions at Camp Nou on Tuesday, which enabled him to give a detailed analysis of the referee's performance. Phew. Cancel that cataract operation.
. Nobody calls you boring any more. "Boring, boring Arsenal!" they used to cry, as your workmanlike team ground out another 1-0 victory en route to winning the league (yawn!) or occasionally the league and FA Cup (double yawn!).
Well, not any more. "What verve!" we gasp, "What style, what va-va-voom!" as your boys cruise effortlessly to third or fourth in the league, or the quarter-finals of a cup.
. Nobody calls you quiet, either. "Highbury Library" was the cruel nickname coined to mock the moon-like atmosphere at your former home.
Nor was your new place much better, despite ongoing attempts at "Arsenalisation" (new pictures, curtains, scatter cushions etc). Nowadays, the roar of 60,000 grown men weeping must be quite deafening.
. Your club continues to use the phrase "Arsenalisation" with a straight face.
. Cesc Fabregas has promised to Skype you every day when he joins Barcelona this summer.
. Ashley Cole remains public enemy No 1. Remember that pretty decent left-back you hate because he defected to Chelsea to play the sort of boring, winning football you guys stand against?
Well, no one else likes him either. I have no idea why. Other than insulting England fans, breaking the heart of our national treasure and shooting a work experience kid, he seems like a decent guy.
. Picking up silverware can be inconvenient. At the Carling Cup final, for example, you managed to leave Wembley a full 30 minutes before the Birmingham fans, thus missing the worst of the traffic.
Also, just imagine the things you can do now that key dates in your diary have become free. On May 28, for example, you can enjoy the final day of the Chelsea Flower Show when you might otherwise have been stuck watching the Champions League final.
. You can still win the Premier League! Placed just three points behind the leaders Manchester United, with a game in hand, the race is wide open.
All you have to do is hope that your players remain injury-free (it would be awful to lose, say, a key defender like Johan Djourou to something serious like a dislocated shoulder) and mentally focused under a calm and non-rattled manager.
As long as the team reminds you of a purring Rolls-Royce, and not one of those clown cars where the doors fall off and the engine suddenly explodes, you will be absolutely fine.
Ah. Now I see the problem. Oh well, at least you are guaranteed one day when cheering crowds line the streets of London. It is the Royal Wedding on April 29.
Pendleton just a little too honest
Professional athletes should avoid thinking too much about what they do for a living.
This warning is unnecessary for most of them, whose synapses appear to function on a fairly basic level: "Me be strong. Make win. Buy shiny stones."
Occasionally, however, a rogue unit will insist on using its grey matter. Victoria Pendleton, the British sprint cyclist, is a rogue unit.
Describing her sport as "ridiculous", she admits that watching it on television makes her "laugh out loud".
"I'm just riding around in circles for entertainment value on a wooden track with no brakes," she said last week.
"You're not actually going anywhere, you're just ending up in the same place."
It is a dangerous word, "just". Attach it to any job description and it has the power to belittle it.
Doctors? They are just extending the lives of people who will inevitably die at some point.
Train drivers? They just move a few people from A to B, then move a few back to A.
Hairdressers? Oh! It'll just grow back.
The key phrase in Pendleton's scathing appraisal is "entertainment value".
Her job is to entertain, to thrill, to inspire. To prove what incredible feats the human body can achieve when it is not bogged down in tiresome tasks like driving trains, cutting hair or curing the sick.
Her job is to make us whoop with delight when her slight frame generates enough power to elude the muscle-bound freaks hailing from Russia and Australia.
Her job is to distract for every sports-mad butcher, baker and candlestick-maker from the innate pointlessness of life.
We are all going around in circles, Victoria.
We all end up in the same place that we started. It is the fun we have along the way that counts.
Then again, why listen to me? I am just a bloke who watches sport and writes down words about it.

sports@thenational.ae

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