Time For Some Perspective

Being a football fan is really difficult.

Those that follow the most successful teams are rarely satisfied as their team must win every game and every trophy in order for them to achieve satisfaction. Then again, the fans that cheer on the others just want their team to be as successful as those above. No-one is happy.

This seems to be especially true of Arsenal supporters at the moment and I for one am struggling to understand why.

I haven’t written anything on this site for a while though, so let me begin by trying to sum up last season. In a word, I think I’d plump for “anticlimax”. I’m sure there are many who would have me hung, drawn and quartered for the failure to use a more emotive word such as “DISASTER” or “CATASTROPHE” (the capital letters being a key aspect of the delivery of the sentiment) but I’m afraid that “anticlimax” (lower case) is the furthest I’m going to go.

Humans have infeasibly short memory spans. The fact that regular polls of the “Best Song Ever Made” type always include a few of the current top 10 seems to back this up and the way people seem to feel about their football club seems to be almost entirely down to whatever has happened most recently. In order to study this further, we shall have a look at two examples from last season – Liverpool and Arsenal.

Liverpool’s season began in the most embarrassing fashion possible. For months, they were in genuine, serious danger of being relegated. Losses to Blackpool and Wolves (amongst many others) in the League and a home defeat to Northampton caused fury amongst the Liverpool fans and cost Roy Hodgson his job. By the time the season had ended however, the fans were wearing smiles as wide as the River Mersey and talking excitedly of the next season under the guiding hand of King Kenny.

Arsenal managed to put themselves in contention for all four trophies at one stage but an end-of-season collapse left them with nothing. The complete opposite to Liverpool’s season. Not quite.

Liverpool’s supporters have probably enjoyed their summer, basking in the glory of finishing 6th against all the odds and looking forward to their Messiah’s first full season at the helm. Arsenal’s have been left with the sour taste of another trophyless season, some awful defeats away to Bolton and Stoke and an embarrassment at home to Villa. Add to that the imminent departure of our best player and it feels like the world is about to end.

And yet overall, our season was much more successful than theirs. We didn’t lose to anyone from a lower division. We didn’t lose to Wolves or Blackpool. We reached the quarter-final of one domestic cup and the final of the other. We only lost to the Best Team In The World by a single goal over two legs and defeated them at home. We finished 4th and qualified for the Champions League.

You might argue that every team has different expectations but I would suggest that this time last year, the fans of both of these clubs would have had similar hopes. The only difference is that they enjoyed the end of their season whereas we only enjoyed the beginning and the middle.

Since then, the prevailing feeling of us Arsenal fans seems to be restricted to one unified view. We must buy as many players as we can get our hands on, they must all be at or near the peak of their careers and they must be paid whatever it takes to make them play for us. Then, and only then, will we achieve our aims. Not only that, but if we do manage to do that then we will definitely win every single football match we play and the world shall feel our fiery wrath. Or something like that.

Of course, the trouble with these sentiments is that not only is it totally impractical and insane but every single other team in the known universe feels exactly the same way! Even the fans of Manchester United are probably worrying about why they’ve spent so much on Ashley Young when Barcelona (the only team that were better than them in Europe last season) have Messi and Iniesta. As I said, no-one is happy.

Apart from me. Well, OK, I wouldn’t say I’m happy about losing the Carling Cup final in such embarrassing fashion. I’m certainly not over the moon about throwing away any chance of winning the league despite beating both Chelsea and United. And I’m not whooping for joy at the thought of Nasri and Fabregas leaving the club. But it’s July. There are still 6 weeks to go before the season starts and even then, every team in the league will have 0 points with 38 games to play. By that time, some teams will have spent more money than we’ll all see in our lifetimes on players who turn out to be useless and some will have done some shrewd deals. By that time, we might have done either.

We’re all in the same boat and, whilst we probably won’t win the league you never know. Fabregas leaving (assuming it happens) will be a blow because he’s such a great player but does anyone remember someone called Henry who used to play for us? A lot of people made a lot of fuss about the decision to let him go but you know what, we survived and for my money, were a better team the year after he left than we were during his final season at the club. Life moves on, we always knew Cesc was going to leave so let’s just see what happens.

It is hardly likely that the club are going to let it all go to rot and not at least try and replace him as well as strengthening the squad. So what is the problem with us fans waiting to see what happens, enjoying the (rather sporadic) sunshine and all trying to calm the hell down? It’s not long before we all have to start fretting every week about our football team for a whole 9 months so let’s just relax and enjoy life while we still can.