LLWLLDWL. Our Premier League form reads like a dumpster fire of large letters. If form was a pulse, our club was flatlining. We had just been schooled by a big, fat walrus. This was only made worse by said walrus telling the world how easy it was for his Palace side to beat us in his post match interview. 3-0 to Crystal effing Palace! Oh, and did I mention what was at the start of this run of ineptitude? Two 5-1 defeats to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
We were in a right state and I, for one, wondered if the manager would make it to the end of the season. A new contract was completely out of the question. Like Theoden in Lord of the Rings, our king was near death. He was playing such a predictable style and the players weren’t doing him any favors. His pressers were an exercise in defiance. His usual erudite answers became nails for his coffin. He even physically seemed resigned to wish for a quick demise.
Middlesbrough away. I awaited the team sheet but not with any real fervor. I figured it would be the same setup we have employed for several seasons with the same characters. I was ready to be bored by the predictability of it all. Wait…WTF is this? I blinked and did several double takes. This was 3 at the back! Arsenal twitter did a collective “are you serious?!”. Insert whatever personal meme you like but no one saw this coming. None of us knew what the end result would be but this match would NOT be humdrum. An actual sense of excitement was infused to the fanbase.
We won that match but it was far from convincing. But the thing I noticed most was how excited and alive again the players were. They appeared to actually enjoy their football again. Change can be a massive motivation when the same old, same old is getting you nowhere. Whether it was desperation or pure genius, Arsene pulled a rabbit out of his proverbial magic hat. The man whose formation tactics had all the spontaneity of a bus schedule had flipped the script, as it were. He had come down from the mountain a different man.
Starting from ‘boro away we then won 8 out of 9, most of them fairly convincingly. This included beating Man City in a FA Cup semi final at Wembley 2-1. This was no fluke either. We were good value for that win. We typically go on late runs over the last decade but this seemed different. The entire squad felt refreshed. They were working hard but had smiles on their faces.
But, in the end, we had dug ourselves a hole 1 point too deep and missed out on being in the top 4. Our European football next season will be in places most of us will have to google. Arsene will have to fall on his sword. Almost all of us figured it had to happen. Yes, we still had the FA Cup final against the Premier League champions which would or could be a mountain too high. Oh and by the way, we finished below that cesspool of maggot excrement for the first time in Arsene’s career. He was for all intents and purposes a dead man walking.
Cup final Saturday. We’re all putting our expectations at the relegation level of our hope table but looking forward to a day out at a beautiful stadium on, what turned out to be, a beautiful, albeit hot, day. Setting the bar low protects us from being hurt but it also leaves plenty of room for amazing surprise. From the off, we looked up for this. Chelsea looked shellshocked. Within 5 minutes we were in the lead. The goal was controversial but we were definitely good for it. The blues eventually grew into the match but I never felt scared that we were going to lose even after the master of the dark arts Lord Costa equalized. This lack of fear was rewarded 22 seconds later when Ramsey headed in the winner. We were FA Cup champions for an incredible 3rd time in 4 years.
Trophies are the ultimate atmosphere changer. They are the sudden cool breeze on a hot, muggy day. No matter how you felt before the match, this win changed everything. This will revive our king. Most will now understand the new contract and even those against it will have a couple months to get over it. Mr. Wenger, who we all thought was long past his glory days, may now have a late summer in the sun. Maybe the formation change will breathe new life into a man long bereft of new ideas. This summer will be very, very interesting. Will we get the players we need and let Arsene really go for it? Will his swan song be an aria culminating in a title? None of us know at the moment but the king is alive again.I was more than ready to eulogize him but…
The king is dead. Long live the king.