Rekindling the Arsenal Love Affair
On Friday, the 2022-2023 Premier League kicks off with Arsenal once again featuring in the seasonal kick off. Unlike last season when so much was unknown and felt unstable, this season starts with a feeling of positivity that hasn’t been felt in a long time.
For the last few years, starting with the summer of Cech (maybe a little bit earlier) each season kicks off was received with a feeling of realism that Arsenal just wasn’t there. It doesn’t mean people didn’t have hopes but in short order those hopes were dashed and dread took over.
There were many reasons for it. The inability to play the game the nouveau riche clubs had embarked upon, poor squad preparation, poor squad building, tactically getting left behind, take your pick any one of those reasons or all of them and more likely filled the head of many Arsenal supporters, even the more practical balanced ones.
For so long Arsenal just never seemed at the races and the priorities seemed messed up. It all culminated not only in Wenger’s departure but the departure of Ivan Gazidis and the organizational mess we were left in. The resulting response – throwing everything into the hands of a money-grubbing executive, willing to scratch the backs of his mates and a manager who while certainly capable, didn’t seem to fit.
Realization set in at the time of Emery’s sacking that Arsenal was on a long road to recovery. It was likely going to be painful, and it would likely result in a lot of frustration. To that end it didn’t disappoint.
Arteta and Edu shortly after their FA Cup win, likely misjudged the situation and thought the team was closer to returning to competition than it really was. They gambled and got it wrong. At least that is the way it looked form the outside.
They talked about a plan and a vision, and it was still hard for people to understand, especially as the results and turnover weren’t going to plan.
Then came last summer.
Summer of 2021 saw an earnest attempt to reignite the club to head on a positive trajectory. Players who no longer fit the profile of the type of player the club wanted were jettisoned in their place, younger, more promising talent was brought in.
The season was still chock full of frustrating moments. The start and close of the season were particularly frustrating but, in the middle, something else happened – people started to see the direction and vision that Edu and Arteta had, instead of talk, actual promise was shown on the pitch. It still wasn’t perfect and along the way we had some final fits of our poorly past show.
The fans however, for their part, especially the match going fans, once again found players they could latch on to. Players they could support because even through the frustrating moments, the players gave everything, and they connected to the fans along that way.
And through the season, a love affair was restarted.
That love affair has only seemingly grown. This past Saturday social media was full of stories of fathers taking children to their first Arsenal game. The stadium was sold out for an over-glorified friendly and as the season starts its beginning to look like we will once again see sold out seats at the Emirates.
That’s what been missing all those years of frustration after frustration. After others moved for players and got better and we seemingly faded. All we wanted was to love our club and the players who played for it. Our support never failed but as the club sank into poor season after poor season we shifted our priorities, for many Arsenal was an afterthought. You’d always watch but if something came up, perhaps you’d miss the game.
For me and for many that feeling was overcome, these players, it seemed got what it means to play for Arsenal. Yes, we want our team to win, but just as importantly we want players who care, players who want to give their all for Arsenal.
That was missing for too long but now, its back. Saka, Ramsdale, White, Rob Holding, Smith-Rowe, the 3 Gabis, Xhaka and more all show up week in and week out giving their all for the Arsenal. And that more than anything is rekindling the love affair with Arsenal.
There is still a road to travel. We’re closer to being the squad that can compete regularly. Injuries could cause hiccups and the nature of the Premier League today is nothing is guaranteed. Still even in spite of that, when you look at this current squad you are left with the impression of a team that is willing to give everything for the team, each other and for the fans.
I’ve been fortunate enough to consider myself friendly with all types of Arsenal supporters, I love them all, but I have a special place for the old timers. You know the ones, the ones who are still fuming about the direction of the canon.
I love these guys because many of them are the link back to the periods of Arsenal I just have no memory of because I hadn’t come to know them yet. Its important to know the history of the club you support, and these supporters are the link I need for that.
They are also some of the most critical of the club. When you know things are changing are when you see some of those the most ardent critics suddenly talk about their support for the team again. Talk about connecting to the players again.
Something special feels like its happening at Arsenal. I don’t know if that means anything on the pitch but it is nice, exciting, nerve wracking to once again look ahead to the season with hope and excitement for what lays ahead.
Its great to be in love with the Arsenal all over again.
Let’s let club photographer Stuart McFarlane speak for us all
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) August 3, 2022