Arsenal Circular 146
It was “drama” on Sunday. One of the most over-used media words had meaning and resonance during the last 30 minutes of Sunday’s matches. It went right and we celebrated but it could have gone wrong and given us long faces and grouchy moods. In life “you win some and you lose some”. Sometimes the ball squeezes into the goal and sometimes edges past the post for a goal kick. A deflection here, a miskick there. There are many links in the chain of football and when it goes well there is ecstasy and celebration and unrestrained smiles and joy. When it goes wrong there is recrimination, blame and angry words. We never know for sure how things will settle and it is part of the appeal of football that draws us closer and closer.
At 1-0 to AFC at Emirates and with THFC pulling one back at Newcastle we were wondering about 3rd place. Villa could equalise and THFC could score a second and out hopes would be dashed. It was tense. We were on a knife edge. Any yet we had been close to achieving the unimaginable – second place if we scored more at the Emirates and Spurs conceded instead of scoring. It could go one way – it could go the other.
As it happened we came out on top. We started scoring and THFC started conceding. Worry yielded to smiles and celebration. Spurs had stumbled and we had re-discovered our scoring skills and THFC failed again to finish ahead of us. Some will say “it’s irrelevant” and that is true – up to a point. As Wenger said in his post match interview the target was to win the League and not end up higher than THFC. North London rivalry is a private battle. The League matters most. But having fallen short in the League our spirit (we the fans) would have dropped if Sunday had turned out the wrong way. We left the ground in a happy mood. We had pipped our closest rivals and ended up ahead of Man C, Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool. We had recovered some pride.
But this was still our season to win the title so frustration remains. We fell short. We ended up 10 points behind the champions. By our own standards the season finished with lack of performance and lack of achievement. No kidding ourselves. No self deception. No pretending. We should have been champions and we are runners up by a big margin. That said and with all the controversies during the season – Wenger In/Wenger Out – briefly stilled it was still a great Arsenal moment when the crowd learned that at Newcastle they were winning 3-1, 4-1 and 5-1 as we went from 1-0 to 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0. Enjoy the occasion – enjoy the moment. They are pure football ecstasy. Total celebration. Happiness abounds. The last 20 minutes of Sunday was one of those great Arsenal moments.
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It’s about balance – reconciling failure and success. Taking all the football variables – our shortcomings, Leicester’s achievements, Manchester’s fumblings, our nine match unbeaten run – we fell short. Wenger’s critics make strong points. We were found wanting – whether it is injuries or lack of character or failure to buy-in the necessary talent or managerial stubbornness or Wenger’s ageing process – it was our failure.
OK so be it. It happened. You pays your money and you makes your choice. For some it is the final flop. For others it will be “next season”. There are some definite. Wenger stays. The Board stays. We try again. No Mourinho or Koeman or Simeone. Decisions will be made before we start again in August. There will be departures and there will be arrivals. Some of the youth players will get their chances. The old arguments will be resurrected – the old loyalties will be tested. We might succeed. We might fail.
Some will be apoplectic. Some will be reassured. One thing is clear – it remains great to be an Arsenal supporter. We have the Stadium. We have the balance sheet. We have stability. Yes we have internal discord. Some will go on strike and not attend. Wenger will continue to incite loyalty and anger – not necessarily in equal measure and for me and for others it was good to hear “There’s only one Arsene Wenger” ring around the Emirates on Sunday.
Hostilities will be suspended. Now we have cricket and Sri Lana and Pakistan and Root; and the European Championships and The Open and Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix. Our batteries will be re-charged and we will return in August with the same passion and commitment. AFC for ever.
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