Correct, Arsenal aren’t going to catch Chelsea to become champions this year. The Southwest London stranglehold on the title is sickening, and doubly so since it’s been achieved with a genuinely inspirational manager, and a far less offensive first team than normal. We can’t entirely write them off as a punch of cheating pricks this time.
In Europe we flopped another Big Boss Battle, failing once again to find out what the level beyond the Last 16 is like. We were crushed by Munich, and for many fans it was the final straw. Our own big boss is under more fire than ever before in his twenty year reign.
And it sort of feels like the season hasn’t really got going. Typified by Mesut Özil oscillating in and out of form. Typified by Aaron Ramsey, phenomenal for Wales in the summer and a phantom since. Typified by Granit Xhaka’s indifference to actually getting himself out on the park. Typified by Santi Cazorla, more legend than real life footballer these days. It’s a stretch to sense momentum when our wins mostly come with late scrambles, and big wins are few and far between.
But … but … there’s at least fifteen games left to go, you know. The times they are deflating, but I still can’t wait to see what we can do. I even wake up on the optimistic side of the bed occasionally. In the eye of the ‘Arsepocalypse’ storm, it’s essential to remind oneself to literally be a supporter. We can’t be cheerless. We should try to stay motivated and alert to what’s happening on the pitch. To keep the team in check and on track.
In that spirit, here’s six things keeping me energised for the rest of this season …
The ‘champions’ coming to town
Isn’t it always thrilling when the reigning champions come to play?! We’re bored of same old Arsenal, always wobbling, so it’ll be nice to finally see what a real team looks like. Plus, a chance to watch the Players’ Player and Writers’ Footballer of the year!! What a treat, those two must be far better, fitter, and harder than any of the lot we’ve got. Um …
In reality, when the Foxes turn up at our place (date TBC) we’re going to be welcoming the weakest champions for eighty years. But recent games against them have been eventful and end-to-end, and I’m excited to see Alexis let loose on Huth and Morgan, who look perpetually tortured these days. Having dismissed Uncle Claudio, there is also no longer a single reason remaining why we should not give this Leicester team absolute shit from the stands. I’m especially looking forward to the reception for that racist up front, the one who had the temerity to turn down the Arsenal (thank god!)
Danny Welbeck, fit
If you’re feeling despondent, just take a minute to gaze upon dat guy Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck. His gentle swagger. His elastic, unavoidable athleticism. That balance. OK, I’m feeling better already. It’s ironic that the fittest specimen in our squad (on physical appearances anyway) is one of the most injury prone. The sad truth is that we haven’t witnessed Danny fully in his flow since April 2015. I’m impatient. I hope he is now given game-time to complete the comeback and re-discover the real Welbeck.
As is always said, he’s never been a prolific goalscorer (although I believe it is in him). For Arsenal, though, he’s clocked up a number of important goals. He also leads the way with those rarest and most special ones, the instantly unforgettable, iconic, I-Was-There goals. He has a couple (United away ‘15, Leicester home ‘16). In comparison, by my calculation, Alexis only has one (Villa), Giroud one (Palace), Özil one (Ludogorets). Perhaps Ramsey equals Welbeck with two of them too (Hull, Galatasaray).
If this difficult season is going to have a memorable conclusion, it might just come about with another Welbz classic.
The trophy has lost a lot of shine for many, but some of my highest and lowest moments following the Arsenal have come with FA Cup ties. I’m desperate for us to win it again and, let’s be real, we’re more or less in the Semi’s. Which means at least one good day out at that terrible national stadium of ours. The purity of knockout football can be useful for focussing the brain, especially when it feels like we’re destined to meet Spurs at some stage of the tournament. If that doesn’t get you going then it’s probably all over …
Finishing above Spurs
Arsene Wenger has never, ever finished below Tottenham. It’s quite incredible really, and one of the things I’m most grateful to him for. Let’s sit back and enjoy the inevitable, inexplicable point of the season where we put them in their place for the 22nd time in a row. The ‘Pochettino project’? Not yet good enough to win a trophy or remove the red from North London.
In fact, if he also finishes above ‘superstar’ rivals Klopp, Guardiola, and Mourinho, I’ll raise an ample toast to Arsene.
My personal preference would be for Le Boss to sign a final one-year extension, whilst simultaneously putting in place plans for the succession. Bring in a Director of Football, for example, or identify our next manager and gradually work him into the club culture. I know most people disagree, and want total change as soon as summer arrives. What everyone must agree on is that the uncertainty is unhealthy. As results unfold in the coming weeks, and we get closer to May, the clearer our situation will become. That’s something to be thankful for. Resolution on the future of the manager, whichever way it falls, will bring fresh footballing hope. It always does. That’s just how it is as a fan.
Player milestones / Personal demons
I don’t just go to the Emirates to see us roll-over the opposition and compete for trophies. We all crave success, but there is still a lot to enjoy in a mediocre season. It’s in the strange or sublime moments that occur. It’s in the speculation and piss-taking shared with friends and family you sit with. It’s in the personal investment you have with certain players’ stories. Don’t pretend you weren’t all on tenterhooks waiting to see if Theo could get his coffee machine before Christmas.
I’m sure you have your own trivial things that you enjoy keeping an eye on during a game. Here’s a couple of mine at the moment:
- Will Cech ever save a penalty ffs?
- Can Coquelin get on the scoresheet? Or is he cursed forever to be the head cheerleader for Arsenal goals, never the scorer?
- Xhaka’s bound to get another red card … but can he at least make it for something good this time?!
When will we see Per again?
- Some supporters think Iwobi is overrated. That’s obviously laughable, but I’m waiting on one dominant performance this season to prove it.
- What can possibly make Alexis happy? Will he break a smile if he finishes as the league’s top scorer?
- Yaya Sanogo-watch … always.