Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Morning all.

Some dust has settled after Wednesday night. As I said on the Arsecast Extra yesterday, my main feeling is one of slight concern for what lies ahead rather than the result against City. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t painful, of course it was, but this was always one of the possibilities when I thought about how the game would go.

What I’ll say is we all have our own ways of dealing with something like this. Some will be sanguine, looking to compartmentalise. Some people will be angry. Some people will just switch off from anything Arsenal for the next few days, poking their heads out again as we get closer to Tuesday and our next game. There are myriad reactions, myriad ways to cope, and each one is as valid as any other. I don’t believe in policing other people’s emotions, whatever you need to do, go for it.

That’s why this blog has been so invaluable to me down the years. Sometimes I don’t really know what I think, and sitting down to write about it allows me to form thoughts in a more rounded way. Ideas emerge via my coffee-fueled brain to my fingertips, out onto the screen in front of me, and then out into the world. A bit like now where I’m still trying to process how emphatic that was.

Would it have been different if we’d played them earlier in the season like we were supposed to? Maybe it would. Maybe we’d have had our strongest squad back then, and given a better account of ourselves. We were in good form, just one league defeat at that point, but the perception City were in a wobble doesn’t really stack up. They lost away at Liverpool a few days before that initial game, which had since been rescheduled because of a fixture shutdown due to the death of the queen, so maybe we’d have faced a City side determined to react. One which might have halted our own pre-World Cup momentum.

Ifs and buts. Hypotheticals. The lifeblood of the football fan. We will never know. All we can know is that we had a big game the other night, and got ruthlessly turned over. Lewis has some interesting thoughts on that in a new tactics column, by the way. I think Mikel Arteta has demonstrated an ability to learn and take difficult experiences into his coaching arsenal, and I suspect strongly this will be one of those games from which he learns a lot.

But now what? Whatever you think about the odds of City dropping sufficient points to let us back into it, the reality is that can only happen if we respond properly. The team cannot feel sorry for themselves – of if they do, they need to turn that sorrow into serious motivation. When you looked at these fixtures on paper, the triumvirate of City away, Chelsea, then Newcastle away looked like the trickiest part of our run in. I think that’s still true, the big problem is that we made West Ham away and Southampton at home so difficult for ourselves.

I think I’m much better able to deal with the sense of regret that comes with a paddling by City, because they can do that to anyone on their day, than I am with how we let points slip in those games. Every football fan has moments that haunt them, periods in a season where you say ‘If only’, and I feel like those are the games that will live with me much longer than Wednesday night. Which isn’t to wallow in the past, but this is where my brain is at.

Then, I think of Homer Simpson when his wife discovers he’s done something wrong and his response is ‘Quit living in the past, Marge’. There’s nothing we can do to change that now, and all we can do is get going again, take as many points as possible from the remaining five games and hope that something miraculous happens elsewhere. City’s Lasagne weekend. Pep overthinks everything so nothing works. The Premier League turning 115 charges into disciplinary action. Something. Anything.

Lost in the sadness of Wednesday is the fact that we’ve qualified for the Champions League again, for the first time since 2016. This would have been one of our pre-season goals. If you’d asked people if that would be good progress, I think many would have said yes, so that’s a good thing. Obviously though, what constitutes a ‘successful’ changes as the campaign goes on, expectations shift, and the team raised the bar in that regard. It will raise the bar for next season too, because if we come close and don’t do it this time around, the aim next time has to be to do one better. Why shouldn’t it be?

City are the toughest opponent in Premier League history. I loved the Arsenal v Man Utd rivalry back in the day, the halcyon days of Wenger v Ferguson and all the rest were amazing. Probably the best and most ‘pure’ rivalry, if you can call it that, I can remember. Now the landscape has changed, sands have shifted, and for all City’s brilliance in organisation with the best manager in football, we all understand there’s something more to it. Some will say it’s sour grapes to even mention if after we got beaten, but why shouldn’t their financial strength – the bottomless pit of nation state money funneled around in ways that make it difficult to see what’s what – be a consistent part of their story? It’s as much a part of it as Guardiola’s creepy, relentless genius.

But even if the games against them didn’t go our way, we’ve demonstrated it’s possible to keep pace. Our job is to do it again, and do it again, until maybe we wear them down. Maybe we are perfect one year, and maybe we turn them over and make the pendulum shift our way at a decisive point in the title race. I get that it’s tough right now, the pain of losing football matches is directly proportional to the importance of the game, and it’s been some time since we’ve had to play one of this magnitude.

Did I enjoy Wednesday? Of course not. Did I enjoy the fact Arsenal were at that level again? Absolutely. Because that’s where we’ve all wanted us to be for years. All the debates, discussions, arguments, suffering, end-of-era, start-of-new-era, ooops that era isn’t very good let’s start another one, it’s all been for this. Painful as it is right now, it’s far better than the indifference of mid-table.

And this is where we have to stay, and fight to stay, and improve to stay, because we are The Arsenal.

For some extra reading this morning, Tim’s column touches on the next steps for Mikel Arteta and this club.

Finally for this morning, I pledged that we would donate every penny of our Patreon income in April to the Arsenal Foundation fundraiser we’ve been part of with our friends from the ArsenalVision Podcast.

Those subscriptions, plus contributions from James, Andrew Allen, and myself, mean we’ve made a donation of €50,000 to that fundraiser.

The total is now well over £414,000. Thanks to everyone who gave, and just know your subscription this month is going to a really great cause. Even in difficult times, the Arsenal community is so generous, and the Arseblog part of that has always been incredible.

From me and all the crew here, and the guys at ArsenalVision, thanks so much. There’s still a few days left in April, so if you can contribute, the link to do so is here: https://www.justgiving.com/page/arsenalvision

Andrew ❤️

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