It's a strange relationship being a fan of a sports team. We form an attachment with a group of individuals and the associated organization simply over the game they play. Their color of jersey or logo draws us in or even the city or region the team is based creates a bond between a fan and the collective group of fans themselves. We take on an identity through that bond. It becomes a part of ourselves, almost as natural as our actual personalities. Going about our day to day lives we may see a fellow fan wearing the jersey or paraphernalia that signifies them as a member of your group. You have never met that person, but suddenly they become a friend if you engage them in that topic. Your hatred of a rival is their hatred, a fellow hero player is their hero as well and for a fleeting moment you are kindred spirits often bringing a smile of fellowship between two strangers. Those who do not follow sports as closely as the fan do not understand this camaraderie. Music fans do not always agree on the same bands even if they share genres and the same goes for other media, art, video games etc. We form a tribe that gathers in stadiums and bars to watch our chosen logo or uniform shade of color take on another set of colors and logos. In the end a game is a game, but not to the fan. The team runs through our blood and it influences our thoughts and emotions. A win sees us jubilant, ready to take on the work week with the same fervor as our heroes while a loss sees us angry, dejected and miserable for a length of time, often until the win next. We Gooners are no different and this season has brought out the best and worst of us all even though the season is still young.
Over the past several weeks, Arsenal has made us run the gauntlet of emotion from joy to anger and back. Our tribe of Gooners after the Chelsea match was angry because we felt cheated over the way Mike Dean and Diego Costa stole what could have been a crucial 3 points from us. The vitriol was at the ref and Costa but less so at our players. We followed that up with a win away against our scumbag neighbors, Sp*rs. Jubilation as the unexpected performer, Flamini, sank the dagger in their hearts with two well taken goals. We moved on to a win against a tough Leicester City, in triumphant fashion with Alexis netting a hat trick and our other strikers notching goals as well. Gooners celebrated what has been our best game of the season so far. Then we hit the midweek match at home against Olympiakos where we gave up three goals in very Arsenal fashion. We shot ourselves in the foot at every occasion and lost. Two losses in a row in the Champions League and we sit bottom of our group.
Members of our tribe lash out in the only place where our voice will be heard: social media. It is not uncommon for the reaction after a loss to be poor. We carry our emotions on our sleeves when it comes to our love. Arsenal fans have high expectations. We are one of the most successful English clubs. Whether or not you are in his camp currently, you can't deny that we have experienced some of the best football under Arsene Wenger. With regards to Wenger, he often becomes the scapegoat of all our problems after a match. Certain sections of our tribe select him as the reason for our poor performance and others choose certain players or our injury list etc. We take to social media and parade our reasoning as the reason for the loss because we believe it. We get worked up and begin to point fingers at Wenger, or Giroud, or Ramsey. I am not innocent either. I have been prone to a angry rant about Ramsey this season and his poor play. I have also been vocal about Wenger's poor tactics and our lack of signings.
We live in the moment as fans and sometimes let the bigger picture slide out of focus as we zero in our crosshairs on our perceived victim. It can be hard not to do this. We want an answer as to why our club played so pitifully. Our selected scapegoat is bringing down our great club. While we have had two wonderful seasons of FA Cup success, the overall bare trophy cabinet over the last decade has been our hell. We were spoiled over the success in the early Wenger years which culminated in the still-incredible Invincibles season. Those years are long behind us and we have a very different but still talented squad. The length of time it took us to create this squad has been its own running joke as we saw player after player leave for success elsewhere. We want that success here. We have been subjected to other clubs buying the title, in the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United as we sit in fourth and say “next year is our year”. It hasn't happened. A decade has passed since our last Premier League title and we are anxious for that feeling again. What makes matters worse is we all can taste the success.
Winning back to back FA Cups is not an easy task. We have fought hard to do it and it looked like we were creating a squad that plays for each other and fans. We looked at a squad with immensely talented players like Ozil, Sanchez, Cazorla, and now Petr Cech this year. Our two young fringe players in Bellerin and Coquelin are established starters. These two represent in a lot of ways our optimism for the future. We have bought talent like the big club we are but have also given young players new life as exceptional players. Though nurturing, determination and splashing some cash we looked to building a title winning team but repeatedly losing by performing like a mediocre squad has left some of us wondering if it is enough.
Looking ahead to the coming fixtures, we may have to accept that the Champions League hunt is probably over. It is not impossible for us to make it through but we will have to win all of remaining fixtures and hope for some big scorelines. Two games in a row against Bayern Munich will not be easy especially with Lewandowski scoring at will lately. Despite this setback, we are still in the title hunt and have the League Cup and FA Cup to play for. Every team is beatable and United are no slouches but they aren't exactly the best team in the world and neither are City or Chelsea. Injuries as usual could remove us from the hunt if Coquelin or our defenders get hurt further. We are light in the striking position as well but after Leicester we have showed what kind game we can play and that our players can score goals again. The biggest fear for us cynical fans is the lack of a strong English presence in the Champions League may result in the removal of the fourth team and as such Wenger loses his fourth place trophy.
All we can hope for as fans is that we get our act together and quick. We have the players to win the title. No matter how badly we wanted a striker or a defensive midfielder in the summer, we can still win the league with this squad. The problem is consistency and health. We have been winning matches but our performances have ranged from brilliant to “how the hell did we manage that?”. We need the big players to perform and the defense to hold up. Our players have to want it more than the other team. Far too often have we strolled on the pitch expecting the opposition to stand aside as we score. There is a long way to go and while the Champions League outlook is bleak, we can still make a push to win our first league title in a long time.
Remember Gooners, we all love the Arsenal and we all have our opinions. Expressing them is healthy but remember just like politics and religion, you can talk until you lose your voice but you won't always change someone's mind but that doesn't mean we shouldn't openly discuss our thoughts on the team. Just try to always keep the big picture in focus. No matter how much X, Y or Z makes us mad, we are all still Gooners, ready to sing the players' name when they score or call the ref a wanker when he falls for a Diego Costa dive.
We live in the moment as fans and if we put the hurting on United, the Olympiakos loss begins to fade slightly in the rear view mirror and maybe the confidence will rise as we look to make the impossible happen in the Champions League. Anything can happen. Remember, Flamini scored two goals against Sp*rs.
Come on you Gunners