The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Gooner

I am in Manchester, a footballing city as there are so many here ‘up North’. I love cities with two clubs that match each other and divide them into  two: it brings great energy to these places. Over the decades it is usually one team that dominates but then the fans of the other team will get their gloating time too occasionally. And the longer the wait, the sweeter the taste of seasonal dominance will be.

The owner, M, of the B&B I am staying in is a Blue. I swapped to this place after I spoke to the self-celebrating owner of my previous B&B, who said the following when I asked him which team he supported: ‘the only team in Manchester of course’; I said I believe there are two; to which he said ‘the only team with history’; to which I said, so not the only Manchester team in the here and now then?

M goes to all the home games but also likes to go to the away games whenever his wife has been made soft enough to let him out to play. He speaks with such joy and energy about his team that it makes me jealous. His team are not doing much if any better than Arsenal this season but the fans float on a bubble of blue dominance over red in the city. Such a bearable lightness of being. After decades of being overpowered and humiliated, the Blues have the hottest trainer ticket in town and easily as much money as their sorry Red neighbours to buy whomever they fancy. What a brilliant twist of faith and source of continuous happiness for the blue side of Manchester. Us Gooners have dominated the dark side of North London for decades now, but it looks like we have gotten bored with it, as we take it for granted now (even though it looks like they finally will finish above us this time round).

Two of my colleagues on the project I am working on are Leeds supporters. They still have sweet memories of the good years at the start of the new millennium, but are also buoyed by the prospect of making the play-offs and maybe, just maybe, getting back into the premier league again. The hope that this brings makes them look forward to every game: the real source of happiness for a club football supporter. Another colleague supports Sheffield Wednesday. Her whole family supports the Owls and her brother flew over from the USA last year just to be at the play off final for a premier league ticket. They lost out of course, but this season they are in a good position to make it once more to the final, and then who knows… ‘Who knows’… ‘it could be us this time’…. that is all a football supporter needs to be excited again, to have hope and look forward to each and every game.

At Arsenal, we have so much. We win a lot more games than we lose, we often play very easy-on-the-eye football, we have won the FA cup a (joint) record time, always finish in the top four and play CL football, and a football stadium that becomes more and more a home the longer we play there.

Yet we are a deflated bunch of complainers, deprived of excitement and hope, it seems. Do we really have to fall deep first in order to enjoy our team playing football again? What is wrong with us?

By TotalArsenal

22 thoughts on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Gooner

  • T A

    That’s a great post and it does make you think deeply that things could be a whole lot worse.

    In the past in my opinion we have thrown away opportunities to win the league where we have fallen one or two players short. The season we persisted with Almunia in goal always springs to mind. Had Wenger gone out and got an experienced keeper (Schwarzer or Given maybe). I believe we would have won the league.

    A couple of seasons back when we were struggling in defensive midfield with Arteta and Flamini and were left exposed until Coquelin made his great comeback.

    This season however we seem to have a lot more issues and no obvious attempts to resolve them

    If you had asked most people at the beginning of this season about the squad. most people I believe were pretty satisfied. Maybe a top notch striker and I always felt we needed an inspiring captain. But by and large we spent a lot of money and were pretty well equipped.

    The reason I think many people are upset is it’s very difficult to work out where the problems lie.most people seem to think that it was the loss of Cazorla, but this seems to have spread through the team. This together with the contact issues, a manager who we don’t know will be around next season and a board of directors who don’t appear to give a toss is a recipe for disaster.

    So you are right it could be a lot worse especially in Yorkshire.

  • Retsub… Argentina vs Chile on at the moment and Alexis’ ankle looks fine…On a pitch which is falling apart (divots) with each minute that goes by… Of course, it’s much more difficult to change countries (as opposed to clubs)…

  • 17ht. Did you ever see the Colombian keeper (Higuita?) do the scorpion kick at Wembley? Sorry I am rubbish at posting links on an iPad. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on iTunes great entertainment

  • TA, That’s a very fine piece and I hope plenty of folks read it (and some comment upon it too)… Owners’ footballing attitudes aside, I hope you’re staying in the nicer B&B… 🙂

    Your basic point, that it’s looking forward to the football that is the important thing, is well taken. A good chunk of Gooners have lost touch with that, I fear. The question is why…

    The best answer is that it probably has to do with peoples’ “happiness set-point.” Some folks see the glass as half full, others as half empty. The team isn’t functioning well but the disappointed fans apportioning blame on the manager and his players only adds to the difficulties…

    Putting that to one side, however, we have to admit that the Wenger project (Arsene-L?…) is all about making the club into one of the biggest in the world–and doing it without voodoo economics. As such, you’ve got to respect the views of the ticket-buying public upon whose shoulders (or pockets) much of the load is carried. Simply put, high prices will make for a more demanding and restless crowd. I have to disagree about the atmosphere in the home stadium. It’s rarely full and always less than fully supportive. At best, it’s ready to be entertained, but it hasn’t morphed into anything close to resembling a fortress. If results go further south maybe there will be a turnover of ticket buyers and a younger generation (with lower expectations) will join the true “lifers” and things might improve…

    At least those Gooners are watching. I also suspect that there’s a huge group of world-wide (and local) “supporters” who hardly watch the football but want the good feelings that winning trophies (and individual matches) can bring–things they remember best from the early aughts.. With the internet, their voices are just as loud as those who plunk down the thousands of pounds each season and dutifully take their seats (and/or travel to the away matches). Plenty of them hardly know what the Arsenal-Spurs rivalry is all about. But who am I to throw stones? I live 6000 miles away from the stadium, and, In the decade + that I’ve been following the club, I’ve been to two matches and never a NLD…

    The local (and very impassioned or “hardcore”) base of support helps attract the worldwide audience. Still, if you’re consuming your football as a global brand, it’s very different–and with the (inverted) money pyramid there are plenty of folks who’ve abandoned their local clubs or chosen to support one of the big ones in addition to the one in their neighborhood or home-town. Nothing wrong with that either (IMO)… It’s just the way it is, I think and it makes being truly competitive for the two big trophies (league and CL titles) all important. Domestic cups are consolation prizes (just ask Louis van Gaal…), I fear Getting back to the CL (with a top 4 finish) is probably more important ..

    In the end, I think you’re right. Things could be much worse and it’s always better to be appreciative instead of angry and bitter. Wenger–and the global brand he built–however, makes for high expectations. To quote the man himself, “If you eat caviar every day, it’s difficult to return to sausages.” So, yes, we should appreciate a good sausage (as we can) but we also need to break the cycle of misery and have a little caviar–or at least get it back on the menu…

  • Fun game here, despite the pock-marked pitch, at least in the 2nd half… Alexis has already smashed a FK off the bar and now his strong run ends with a dive but the ref says it’s outside the box. Lots of pressure on the ref (diving) as the pen he gave to Argentina in the first half is the difference…

    This FK is over everything…and Alexis seems upset with himself…

  • We, both Gunners and Gooners alike, have to put our heads down and squeeze that result out.

    I still do not understand why Wenger sold Poldi. With him on the pitch he can provide that last burst of energy down the flanks or that powerful shot that we needed.

  • Thanks for the link 17ht I remember both the Escobar very well. I remember when the foottballer died it was very sad and gave an insight into the effect a football match can have.. The worst thing that happens when Arsenal lose in this household is the dog gets a kick (kidding)

    I have the pleasure of sharing the same name as someone on the FBII’s 10 most wanted. I once overnighted in an Arab prison because they thought they had arrested the bad guy. Not a pleasant experience.

  • Evening BKers. Spot on with your post TA. When people only view our game in terms of results over the short term then disappointment is never going to be far away. A longer term perspective and remembering why the follow a football team in the first place should be a mandatory act for every fan in the summer – a bit like a pre-season for each player; something to draw on to stay grounded over the course of what will be a long a variable course.

    I’ve really enjoyed the reflections of those who’ve been following the Arsenal for many decades through the last post. My memory is rubbish sadly. But I remember the long dark days of us buying rubbish players (Willie Young will remain forever one low point for me), selling off some of our best (Brady and Stapleton) and buying rather over the hill types (Mariner and super-Mac – though he was fun for a while at least!). The Graham days were fantastic, a team built on a core of local lads who had steel, but also a strong spirit and sense of fun. I sat next to one of these through a couple of years of my school days (one Perry Groves – who was no gooner then by the way!). But their football wasn’t the most exciting; not compared to Wengerball anyway, not by a mile.

    Wenger has brought us real peaks of football that will probably stay as the very pinnacle for most of us who have been privileged to live through them. Will we ever see another team with the collective flair and quality of the invincible? Its nice to hope so, but doesn’t feel very probable to me. And that’s the rub. If that’s the benchmark for Wenger to be assessed against every season, then he’s just going to fail and keep failing. I don’t believe that his project is all about money and financial clout for the club. He is a purist about the style of football that he wants his team to play. Which is why we have so much technical quality and pace. But we badly miss the steel that the Graham sides brought.

    Part of the sense of excitement and anticipation with football comes from the sense of a project in development and things coming together. We have missed that in recent years. Despite investing in a stable squad of young players, we have not seen the blossoming of talent that we expected. And now we can see our neighbours flourishing in the way that we would have expected, albeit with a less expensively assembled squad. Its bloody galling! To get the excitement back we either need to play with flair or to have a sense of progression within the squad. The gloom this season has been because we have seen neither, if anything the squad seems to have lost collective confidence despite the big investments of last summer. That’s pretty depressing isn’t it.

    Other teams have new managers or new squads, or both. And most have been through recent lows, such that improvement is to be celebrated. We haven’t had any of those bounce factors. I’m not arguing for change for its own sake. But I recognise that the very stability and consistency that Wenger has built in the club may be a cause for half hearted support. To come 4th every year for the next 20 years would be an amazing feat… but it certainly wouldn’t be inspiring for a fan. We need something fresh for the coming season, something to bring flair to the team’s play or to provide hope for success in the future. We need the inspiration for dreams again which is ultimately at the heart of every fan and their connection with their team.

  • Very well written AB. You have managed to write down pretty much the way I feel about the team in a far better way than I could have written.

    Super Mac what a player he was and if he hadn’t had Dodgy knees would have been a far greater success. Didn’t he cost£333,333.33.

  • The grass on the other hill always looks greener. This is the beginning and the end of our story. A fiction that can assume so much reality. Since steadying the quake from the Emirate move barely 3 yrs old now, the club has been faced with that most difficult task of the final heave to the very summit. We, the fans, are unbelivably impatient with that exercise. Despite having come a long way, we seem bent on tearing everything down in this last stride to the target because of some inevitable blips that we should reasonably have factored in. I have gone through the whole cycle of emotions and am now largely convinced that the correct thing to do is to give the Board and Wenger our vote of confidence. Arsene please sign dat ting.

  • P E whilst you will still find a large number of supporters who will stand behind Wenger. I doubt you will find more than very few who back the board. The board are somewhat anonymous and I stand to be corrected here, but Kroenke sees it as a business, not a football club that is cherished by millions of supporters worldwide. Love him or hate him Abramovich does appear to attend the majority of Chelsea matches.

    Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see Wenger sign a two year contract and go out in style. I don’t think he is doing himself or the club any favours by delaying the process.

    Whilst time does fly by, the move to the Emirates was over 10 years ago

  • Thanks for your fine comments guys. The key thing is indeed to bring back some excitement, which could be the replacement of Arsene, OR investment in players and new style of football. Maybe finishing outside the top four would give us something to aim at again next season, as winning the title is only becoming harder and harder for all teams now, and seems to depend a lot on luck with keeping your key players fit as much as possible throughout the season. No European football seems a big factor in this, and maybe Arsene should aim to lose games as to finish eighth or so.

    Or maybe we should just not do that and fight for every point till the end.

  • retsub,

    What we know about the Board is all conjured up in imaginations , the ingredients mostly collected from media propaganda. Also the business side of modern top flight sporting concerns have become critical for sustainable success on the field. The problem is that a lot of fans have refused to change with the times all to their frustrations.

    Again the pain of the Emirate move only eased substantially from about 3 yrs ago when we not only broke the back of the loan but also started renegotiating our commercial deals.

    We need to give ourselves a little bit more space.

  • The main problem is, we don’t have a football to enjoy. Arsenal don’t play a football that would justify losing the title challenge every year. Our football is getting worse and worse ever since Cesc had betrayed Arsene and his team-mates. We struggle to create enough chances, we are easy to beat (literally) on the pitch and the gap between richer clubs and us seems to be bigger than the one between us and the poorer clubs.

    Arsene used to find gems. Now he is the champion in “I-almost-got-him-first”-category (see: Mbappe, Griezmann, now even Xabi Alonso rubbed more salt into the wound by claiming Arsenal fell only three million pounds short to get him from Liverpool…).

    Even world-class players like Özil now struggle to reach their A game under Arsene. There was a time when they played their best football under Arsene (Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, Van Persie, Nasri, Fabregas).

    In a way, both sets of fans – WOBs and AKBs – judge Arsene on the basis of his past. WOBs want him to go because we used to play great football and win trophies and AKBs want him to stay because…well, we used to play great football and win trophies.

    We all fight over a man and a style of play that haven’t been there for years.

  • P E you make a fair point. Unfortunately in my opinion, the over emphasis on the business side of the game will eventually kill off the game. If all the big names are purely chasing money, the number of teams capable of success will continue to diminish. Take Manchester City as an example. City I am sure we’re purchased to promote tourism in Abu Dhabi as opposed to Dubai and also promote Etihad as opposed to Emirates (also Dubai). Although purchased and funded by an Abu Dhabi financial institution, they will br the ‘project’ of one of the many sons of Sheikh Zayed. If they decide they no longer want to lose money they could well pull out at any time, although no doubt there would be any number of Chinese investors willing to step in.

    Then you enter the realms of what happened at Cardiff , where the Bluebirds became the red whatever’s.

    The long term goal has to be supporter power. T A can we start a collection page?

  • Four times I’ve tried to post a comment and it doesn’t go through Total.
    Is it going straight into spam for some reason?
    I tried to post it just now, yesterday and the day before.

  • But that went through, Retsub has said he has the same problem, it’s weird…

  • Cheers Retsub, sometimes my old brain cells do me proud and recall the most obscure Arsenal facts and stats. It what I did last week that I can’t remember…

    Yeah, I was at that Fair Cup S/F in 1970, Charlie George was majestic that evening as we won.
    That Ajax team was a great great side…

    I got into London yesterday around 3pm, a mate told me all about Westminster when I was chatting to him (hands free) on the A13 as I was driving in…
    It was good to see everyone going about their business and the police were excellent.
    Funnily enough Retsub, their didn’t seem to be as many Uber touts about as their has been recently. I wonder if this had anything to do with the high police presence and not wanting to produce their moody documentation?
    Doesn’t say a lot about TfL and their laughable attempts to control the taxi fiasco that is London at this time. Sorry to go on fellas…

    Strangely enough Retsub, Colin Pates, who spent most of his career at Chelsea as you know, praised the way that Arsenal looked after him when he retired and commented that Chelsea did pretty much bugger all for him. Just saying.

    84, Colin Pates was a decent squad player, a bit like Gabriel is now, not in style but in his status in the squad…

  • And there she blows, strange…

    Sorry it’s a couple of days out of date…

  • Thanks for letting me understand the players back then Kev.

    I read the French match review and it seems they are putting proper crosses for Ollie to lap it up with 2 goals. We have Bells and Monreal and Gibbs to put the high balls in but somehow they seemed to like grounders better.

    Oh well…

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