Time to let the Invincibles go
A combination of a proud history, a glorious recent past, a new 60,000 capacity stadium, and continuous top-four finishes, have raised our expectations to dizzying heights over the last few years. Having high expectations, rather than high hopes, is a recipe for unhappiness; and many fellow Gooners have fallen victim to the former rather than opting for the latter.
Arsenal football club has everything going for it, except fans’ patience. After seven years without silverware this is fully understandable; and yet patience, trust, and continuous belief are now required more than ever before.
Success is virtually always cyclical: it comes and it goes and then it comes again, etc. I guess the one exception to the rule are Manchester United, who under Ferguson, have subsequently weathered French and Portuguese storms to somehow keep winning things. It all remains to be seen whether they would have won as much, or even anything, in the last eight years, if Wenger had been able to keep his players and spent more money on quality signings; and Abramovic had chosen for stability and consistency, and had worked harder on somehow bridging his differences with the ‘Special One’. But let’s give credit where it is due.
I am proud of our past, and especially our glorious recent history; and it gives me enormous pleasure to think back about the great football we have played. The Mancs might have won more silverware, but the quality of our football, epitomised by the phenomenal achievement of the Invincibles, is what football fans – Gooners as well as non-Gooners – will still remember in twenty, fifty, maybe even a hundred years from now.
However, the past is the past for me, and I enjoy the here and now as much as anything; despite our football being nowhere near as good as before, during and even after the Invincibles era.
Among a significant number of fans there tends to be a need to compare our current performances and (lack of) achievements with those of the recent past; as long as Arsenal do not at least achieve the same in the here and now, they remain dissatisfied. This is exactly the high price that comes with becoming very successful during a sustained period: rather than appreciating and accepting its specialness, we tend to make it our new norm; our yardstick against which our future performances and successes will be measured. This comparison is very likely to lead to dissatisfaction, and in some cases, resentment and anger. You only have to surf certain corners of the Arsenal blogosphere to find the raw evidence for this.
Leaving the past for what it is, and not comparing the current performances of our team constantly against it, whilst realistically assessing our current position, will lead to more realistic expectations; and as a result more inner peace and enjoyment of our football. Easier said than done, but it is as simple as that!
I am also not going to tell you that the future will bring us silverware again: there are no guarantees. Saying that everything will be fine in a couple of years is equally as nonsensical as comparing the here and now constantly to the past.
Arsenal made the strategic decision to build a bigger stadium in order to compete better with MU and the European top teams in the future, but the arrival of oil money meant clubs could, from one day to the next, spend vast amounts of money without having to worry about the enormous losses and debt they were creating. The new reality bit our mighty team firmly in the arse: not only could we not afford to buy the sort of players Chelsea and MC were able to, they also successfully enticed our carefully developed players away.
There are plenty of reason to be positive about the future, as FFP should come to our rescue, but it all remains to be seen what will happen over the next few years: we should always expect the unexpected, which could be very positive as well as negative.
Arsenal are not going to win the league and we will most probably not win the CL, but we might have a slightly better chance to win the FA-cup. The key thing is, though, to look at the here and now and we have still four months of football to enjoy: every game matters and there is beauty to be discovered in each and every one of them.
Not everyone has realised yet that we have started a new journey this season: we are going through a full blown transition and slowly but steadily the building stones of Arsene’s latest attempt at Wengerball are becoming visible:
- A British core of very talented players with real passion for the club;
- The acquisition of predominantly Spanish and German quality, experienced players;
- The upwards push of talents coming through from our player development system;
- The removal of players who have not made the grade by either selling them or loaning them out till their contracts expire, or just letting them run out their contracts;
- All key players have been signed up on long term contracts now, which should enable us to hold on to players, at least in the next few years;
- More money available from now on, to both hold on to players better – by steadily and responsibly increasing their salaries if and when appropriate – and attract two or three quality players every season.
With these building blocks as the basis of the club’s strategy of making us competitive at the highest level again, these are exciting times; especially if you can refrain from constantly comparing our current performances with those of the Invincibles era, and you can see the progress the team is making.
We are on a journey and who knows where it will end. But isn’t it exciting we are moving forwards again, albeit slowly? Yes, there are likely to be further set-backs, as our transition is not yet completed, but Arsene now has the tools and funds to further improve the team, if and when required.
If you can let go of the past a bit, and manage to swap your high expectations with high hopes; and mainly look for the positive developments in our football and in our team, you might start enjoying our football a lot more.
Written by: Total Arsenal.