I’ve quit smoking. It was December 31st and peer pressure was in full swing. The air was full of promises set to be broken the day after. Diets. Lifestyle choices. Vows to shun alcohol and embrace a holistic approach. All these promises are far easier to utter when lubricated with lashings of cider and wine. Hence one girl promising to abstain from dairy and “ any meat with a face “.

I knew I needed to give up the demon weed. For quite some time. From coughing up clods of my own lungs in the morning, to being unable to sprint up a single flight of stairs – nature has a fantastically vivid manner of grabbing your attention.

So I joined in with the New Years Eve frivolities. Despite being the designated driver. IFour days later, here we are. I haven’t had a cigarette in all that time. Yay, go me.

The longest I had previously given up for is twelve hours. So, this is a feat of superhuman strength on my part. I didn’t expect to kick the habit for longer than it takes to lose my temper. Seeing as this occurs with more regularity than a Jose Mourinho arrogance soundbite, I wasn’t expecting much.

Yet, here we are. I could quite literally tear my own arm off for a smoke but I’m still standing and still own 100% of my liberty.

It is quite easily one of the hardest things I’ve managed to give up. It isn’t a patch on the most difficult though. It is dwarfed by the shadow the hardest thing I’ve tried to abstain from.

I cannot give up on believing our team is capable of challenging.

Please, before you all choke on your laughter and deride my sensibilities, at least hear a crazy man out.

I happen to think that our squad is the worst we have had in Wenger’s tenure.  Genuine world class talent absolutely drizzled with mediocre gap-fillers. For every Koscielny, we have a Monreal. Kos, Ozil, Theo, Sanchez, Santi, Ramsey, Jack and Debuchy are the exceptions to the overall grade of player we possess. Aside from the players I just listed, every other player possesses a clinical ability to turn a game with a horrendous error. They have a tremendous amount of talent but consistently give us average performances.

Not to mention the tactical ignorance of our Dear Chief. For every decision to bring on a player that changes the game, we have three or four instances where he could have prevented a burnt out husk of a player being injured or on the opposite side of the spectrum, no changes at all until the horse has not only bolted but  set up a nice holiday home and changed its name, face and acquired a new family.

So, we have tactical failings, a squad that is studded with genuine talent but filled with average performances. Not exactly a fare to have you running amok to the bookies to put a bet on our wonderful team to obtain glory is it?

Despite these rips in our hull, I still think we are capable of a title tilt. We have shown ( this season has been a rare one for positives though ) that if we click, our famous attacking play can still overwhelm our opponents.

We need a run of luck with injuries, a chance to field our strongest team for longer than three minutes and we need to acquire the ability to adapt our style for the more agricultural encounters.

We currently reside on the outskirts of title glory, having upped sticks and moved yet further away from the top spot. Yet last season we all know how long we stayed in the penthouse suite. In the summer we improved our attack and kept our best players. Surely a recipe for success? Not quite.

Until we reinforce our defence and we shore up the large gap in our centre, we will always be ever-susceptible to breaching goals. During Wenger’s golden spell, it didn’t matter if our tactics didn’t change, the opponents defence would eventually relent as the skill and talent that was on display was probably the best in the League. We cannot rely on that anymore.

If we could name Theo, Ozil and Alexis in the same line-up for a prolonged stretch of games – which would in turn be conducive for building chemistry – then there isn’t a defence in the League that would withstand that array of attacking potency. If they did, we change tack and throw on the brutal Giroud and the effervescent Welbeck. We would have an answer to even the most cunning posers.

This is why I still retain hope that everything hasn’t turned to garbage. That we still possess the makings of a great team. That we can still yield hope even under the most fierce duress.

I have given up smoking for nearly four days. If a Scotsman addicted to unhealthy pursuits and a passion for cigarettes can manage this, then I’m sure a talented bunch of primadonnas can get their act together for a few months. #UTA

By @JokmanAFC

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