It’s been three full months since the day I wrote a breaking news blog that Arsenal’s planned matchup against Manchester City had been cancelled, but their weekend game against Brighton would still be played. Almost, three full months since Arsenal announced Mikel Arteta had tested positive for COVID-19, cancelling their game against Brighton and shaking many within the footballing world. Coronavirus was here, but for how long?
With only one week until Arsenal take the field, I had to go back and look at exactly what has happened during this time and reflect on the changing outlook I, and many fans, have had in the last 90 days. A person could almost see the changing, morphing, adapting feelings that were discussed as it slowly became more evident that football would be gone for a while.
The day after Mikel tested positive, I wrote A Distracted Time with a Shrouded Future an early attempt at discussing what this all means. Null and void? Complete as is? The questions from fans and committees started immediately and no one really knew any answers. Quickly fans, writers, and Tweeters fell into a place where news was slow, matches didn’t exist, and the outside world had seeped its way into the footballing world.
Even as I sat down to write this, I completely forgot that the Euros were supposed to be played this summer and starting this week. They have been pushed to 2021, for now of course. Any stories the news, media, or blogs had in their hopper – posted. Everyone was adjusting to a new life, a life inside, a life locked down. As it became more evident that the season would not return within a few weeks and that we may not get sports at all until fall, we experienced life without the football structures.
There was no schedule of Saturday and Sunday matches, post-match opinions, interviews with managers, mid-week games, repeat. It was a feeling of being adrift and using our time in different ways. There is little doubt that some will carry this through. That rigid football schedules will cease to be abided by. That what temporarily “filled the void”, now occupies the space. It’s healthy and normal and something clubs will have to contend with when matches return in a week. No fans, changes to rules, and an interrupted season has changed the content that now competes with Netflix, Hulu, and every other streaming company in existence. Will people tune in?
The world rejoiced when Bundesliga returned. People sided themselves with new teams they had never followed. They tweeted and followed games as though the teams were their own, but it wasn’t the same. The passion wasn’t there, the attachment wasn’t there, and for me, after one game, I was content to not watch. I don’t think that attitude will exist when my precious Arsenal return to the field. When the team I have true, emotional attachment too is competing once again. But certainly, there will be many who don’t return to the game or don’t return as strongly.
We will know more in one week. Seven days. The countdown is on and by all accounts there is little that will stand in the Premier League’s way. What will is all feel like?
We know there won’t be a crowd, we know there may be crowd noises piped into broadcasts, but will it be the same Arsenal lineup? The one that has earned Mikel 16 points in the new year, tied for 2nd most with his old mentor Pep Guardiola. We saw some intriguing points during their friendly against Charlton Athletic that have heightened the intrigue. We have heard the transfer rumor mill in will swing during this suspension that suggests some potential future changes, so will Arteta and Arsenal give us a late surge and season salvation, or will we see a lot of youngsters get time to prepare for the upcoming team overhaul.
One week. Set your clocks.