Hello Gooners, how do you feel?
Personally speaking, I feel a bit low these days: for the first time since I started supporting the team almost 15 years ago, I feel a strange distance between myself and the team and I’m no longer very excited when the kick-off time approaches.
Long seem gone the days I was looking forward to the next game, the days I was getting more and more anxious but also thrilled to see the team come out of the dressing room and play; these days, that anticipation has disappeared.
I still watch every game, though, but I set my expectations so low but I barely get angry after a bad performance or a bad result and I’m happy – just happy – when we win.
Perhaps it’s just the correct way to approach football, after all…
It doesn’t have any link with Alexis Sánchez antics, Arsène Wenger’s renewal, Mesut Özil’s performances or any other hate-fuelled debates all over newspapers and social platforms, it’s more in relation with the current state of the Arsenal Football Club and the obscure future lying ahead.
There’s a question that keeps popping in my head, for which I didn’t find the answer yet: what is the Arsenal, today?
Who are we, in English, European and world football?
We endured much more difficult times recently, we were constantly mocked-up for our manager’s frugal attitude, we were ridiculed for only aiming at a Champions League spot, our key men were constantly injured in the oddest ways, yet I never felt the way I feel today.
Despite knowing perfectly well that we had zero chance to win the league or any trophy, I was always looking forward to the next game because I knew the Club was going through difficult times – financially – and both the manager and the players were giving their best to keep the Club close to the élite.
I knew Almunia was a disaster waiting to happen and so were Senderos, Djourou, Éboué, Squillaci, Silvestre and many others but I kept the belief that we could always spring a surprise, here and there; I knew we were going to play some beautiful football and that Arsène Wenger was going to unleash the next hot property I could brag about with friends and colleagues.
I knew we were not going to win the League Cup against Chelsea but I felt over the moon when a very young Theo Walcott slotted the ball past Petr Čech; I thought we had zero chance against AC Milan after a disappointing 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium and I could barely contain my joy when Cesc Fábregas and Emmanuel Adebayor won us the tie in Milan and I honestly and whole-heartedly believed we could turn around the 0-4 suffered in Milan and record the greatest comeback ever (we would have, if van Persie hadn’t tried that ridiculous chip…).
Today, I can’t even imagine us knocking Bayern Munich out after the 5-1 loss in Germany, two weeks ago – my only hope was set on us not getting battered again. Even though according to Betstars, Gunners are afvored at 29/11.
It’s as sad as it comes and very underwhelming.
I expected the very Arsenalesque FA Cup win against Hull City to be the springboard to a new era of excitement, pride and possibly trophies but we didn’t move forward, since; we might even say we move backwards, actually: our manager spent over £ 200m in three years on new players, bringing in the quality, experience and international pedigree we were all dreaming of, when our signings were Chamakh, Chu-Young Park and Bischoff – yet we couldn’t really compete with our rivals.
Of course Arsène Wenger played a major part in this failure to get to the upper level but it would be too easy to put all the blame on him; the players have all been inconsistent, collecting anonymous performances and regularly failing both technically and mentally – no matter who the opponents were.
That feeling of déjà-vu is perhaps the most hurtful as we’ve come to a point where our own shortages are largely foreseen and appear as inevitable – not the failure itself, as defeat is part of football and any sport, you have to accept it and deal with it.
What I fear these days is the lack of desire and fighting spirit, that solidarity that often made the difference when things didn’t go as planned, in the past.
I don’t feel the pride anymore, I don’t see the common plan behind each team selection and team performance hence I’m worried each player is playing for himself, rather than the Club.
One true Arsenal legend once said: “Remember who you are, what you are and who you represent” and these words resonate terribly empty, today.
We’re no longer playing the most entertaining football in England.
We’re no longer signing the most exciting youngsters in Europe.
We’re no longer mastering the art of defending and countering.
We’re no longer the possession-football masters in the Premier League.
Who are we Gunners?
Who do you want to be, tomorrow?
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.