Why I enjoyed this season much more than the previous few

Morning all from a Blog HQ that is wall to wall with books.

We had a nice evening in Dublin last night, thanks to everyone for coming along and it was a pleasure to see you. We were in the Mercantile until about 8.30 when we had to vacate the room because there was a gig on and loads of band members standing around thinking ‘Who the hell are all these people?’

I resisted the rock and roll urge and went for a burger. For those of you waiting for books that have been ordered via the website, can I please ask your patience? It’s been flying off the online shelves and as we don’t have a team of slave workers here (now that Blogette has gone and moved to Dubai), it’s just me and Mrs Blogs trying to pack, pick, label, frank and post, and it’s kinda slow going. We’re going to keep on it but it might take us some days to get through everything – we’ll be sending them in batches and hope to have them all on the way to you by Monday. Thanks.

So, things might be quiet in terms of the site but then there’s not much going on anyway. That is the beautiful consequence of winning the FA Cup. I don’t need to ask you to imagine the firestorm that would have erupted had we not won it, and debate would still be raging about the best way to kill everyone, Lord of the Flies style. As it is Gunnersaurus is a car driving hero. A dinosaur, in a car! It’s like football in the groin in its hilarity.

Everyone I spoke to last night was just happy. I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to the latest Arse2Mouse podcast, but I’m told it’s a glee-some threesome of them skipping gayly through the meadows of a trophy-winning triumph and dammit that’s the way it should be. We can all moan and groan at times, but the need to simply enjoy the good moments should overpower the rest of it.

You know, when we started the Arsecast Extra one of the questions we were asked in the early weeks was ‘Would you take 4th place and the FA Cup?’, and my answer was no. That was because we were top of the table at the time and I genuinely thought we could do better than that. At that point it would have seemed like something of a consolation prize.

Yet now, after that’s what we finished with, it doesn’t seem anything like that. Of course I have regrets and frustration that our title challenge fell apart the way it did – who wouldn’t? But being at Wembley and being in North London for the celebrations that Saturday night, it’s impossible not to feel like this season has been a successful one. Not just in terms of actually winning something tangible – an actual, rather than fictitious trophy – but that we’ve finally managed to create an actual platform to go forward.

The Emirates stadium can begin to feel like real home rather than just a lovely place to play football. It’s now got a new addition to the trophy winning siding and the most indelible memories of the place aren’t associated with moments that went wrong or passed us by. The players know what it’s like to be winners, some for the first time in their careers. For them it’s hopefully the first of many, for others the last of their Arsenal careers, but I think it’s obvious how much pressure it takes off them in general.

And despite the way the league season went, I think I’ve enjoyed this season much more than the last two. Of course I enjoyed the fact we came from behind to pip Sp*rs to the Champions League post. I minded the gap along with the rest of you, and on a very primal level there’s something special and hilarious about beating them, of all people. But beyond that I found it difficult to take much pleasure in what we did.

You think back to that dreadful August and how a club like Arsenal had allowed itself to be in a position where we were spanked 8-2 at Old Trafford, fielding kids who would never make it because our squad and the way we managed it was appalling. The following year we were the very model of inconsistency, never able to win more than 5 games in a row in any competition, and prison-fisted out of both cups by Bradford and Blackburn.

A back to basics approach after a confidence boosting 2-0 win in Munich saw us relentlessly pursue and overtake Sp*rs (haha), but if anyone says those games were in any way enjoyable they’re mad. Or the greatest masochists of all time. There were a series of 1 goal leads, often hanging on, reliant on last ditch defending or the goalkeeper to keep us in it. Even when 2-0 up at West Brom and cruising (by our own standards) Mertesacker got sent off and they missed about 50 chances in the last 10 minutes.

I remember a game when I think Jenkinson got sent off (Sunderland away), Aaron Ramsey played at right back for half an hour, and heroics from Sagna at centre-half ensured we took three points. I give huge credit to the players for having the character to dig those games out, but the spectacle and the experience during most of those games was unpleasant.

Yet this time around we were top of the league for ages. The football was better. The results were better. You could see how we were actually making progress as a team, but while that was halted by injury – something we have to look at and do better with – and our record in those big away games was little short of pitiful, I would still take being top and hoping we can hang on over playing desperate catch-up any day of the week.

In the end only seven points separated top and fourth (is that a record, stattos?), so it’s much easier to see how investment in the squad can turn us into a team that can realistically fight for the title next time around. I know it’s pointless playing what-ifs, but I do believe that if we’d had Ramsey, Walcott and Ozil fit for the duration we’d have been a lot closer to doing it this time. By all means tell me how they played their part in those big defeats and I’m not saying they’d have changed much there, but in general I think we’d have had more points from other games and that would have pushed us closer.

Sometimes it’s hard to express why exactly you feel the way you do. I just know that this campaign has been one I’ve taken more pleasure from than the last two or three put together. I enjoyed my team being top of the table; I enjoyed the bitterness that engendered; I enjoyed no-mark, nicking a living themselves, halfwits writing off players like Ozil; I enjoyed Ramsey and other players making genuine progress, players like Mertesacker who get the club and the fans, and the fact that the squad itself is one that has been shorn, more or less, of the most divisive characters.

It’s a group of players you can get behind without the ones that spark the arguments about their quality or character. Yes, we can improve, we have to improve, but what we have right now is pretty good when it comes right down to it. And most of all I enjoyed winning and sharing that with all of you on this site whether that experience was virtual or otherwise.

I think we can do better next time around, and I hope that the winning feeling isn’t lost on those making the decisions this summer. They should want to experience again that as much as anyone, and what we do in these coming months ought to reflect that. Do the maximum to bring it back and nobody will have any complaints.

Anyway, that might be just me, but then that’s what this blog is. Thank you for sticking with me again throughout 2013-14, it wasn’t always easy, but we got there in the end.

Finally, we’ll be recording the very last Arsecast of the season this evening. As is custom it’ll be a round-table effort and we’ll look back on everything that happened, how we did it, and I might even have a glass of wine or two in the process. That’ll be available for you tomorrow as usual.

Now, time to climb book mountain.


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