After back-to-back wins over Sheffield United and Slavia Prague – both in some style – a few of the dark clouds that been hanging over north London drifted away.
The lamentable loss to Liverpool and a last-minute equaliser for Slavia in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final had left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans and questions about the direction of the club and the future of the manager bubbled to the surface.
The pressure was ratcheted all the way up to 90.
A week later, and having breathed a collective sigh of relief, perhaps we can be a little more objective about the fundamental question of the season; what does success look like?
Clearly, being dumped out by a poor Slavia side and spending the remainder of our league season languishing in 10th would have been a record-breakingly bad return by any measure. However, with a semi-final to come and a run of more favourable fixtures to end the league season, what can we reasonably claim to be a good campaign?
For some, only victory in the Europa League (and the return to the Champions League it brings) will do and, after such a long time away from Europe’s top table, I understand that desire. Given all that we know and all that we have seen this season, though, is that a fair divider between good and bad?
Would defeat in the final and an eighth-place finish represent progress? Would a fortuitous win in the final and 10th place represent real improvement? What about fifth place and defeat in the semi-final?
In truth, it’s difficult to measure genuine progress objectively. Sure, if we manage more points in the league than last season and make it further in the Europa League, there is no denying that represents progress but what if it is just a round further and one or two points more?
Perhaps success is different in the eyes of every fan. There are those who will settle for no less than silverware while others will look at a more holistic picture – improved players, more goals scored, better scouting etc.
All we can really hope for is that the players produce the sorts of performances that best reflect what their capable of as consistently as they can. There will be more disappointments, there will be more triumphs, that’s football. In the end, we can only really start to pull apart this season and measure its start and end points when the final ball is kicked.
Have we taken a step forward or a step back? Let’s wait and see.