This week, Amazon Prime’s documentary following Arsenal, All or Nothing, concluded. And, much like Arsenal’s 2021/2022 season, the conclusion of it was unbearably painful.
I mean, sitting down and watching it felt like self-flagellation. Just punishing and torturing myself in the name of “Arsenal”, my one and only.
In the list of painful, defeating, hellishly tortuous ways to end a season, surely losing to Spurs 3-0 at their ground, then following it up with a pitiful performance against Newcastle has to be top of the list. I imagine Dante’s embodiment of hell actually leaves us a small tenth circle of hell beyond Treachery in which Arsenal fans are forced to relive that Spurs match on loop.
However, beyond the horribleness that was the final episode(s), the end of the series brings up the opportunity to reflect on takeaways. I don’t mean the surface level ones like, “Mikel was right/wrong about Auba”, “good for Cedric for standing up to Laca”, “Edu and Josh Kroenke really care”, “Pepe got no airtime”. Those are nice and have a place in discourse, but as the credits rolled, I — someone who feared the worst with this documentary — couldn’t help but sit back and feel proud and hurt by the finish, yet a fire within me to see the team take the field against Bournemouth this weekend.
It’s true, I feared the worst with this documentary. I feared in the end, despite the intent and sterilized PR nature of these shows, it would be wielded as a weapon — internally by fans and externally by rivals. What I did not expect as much of was the outpour of support that came with early episodes, with learning about players and families, and through that support came some real unity. Sure, there were people that felt starkly different about Mikel’s locker room antics and speeches, there always was going to be. And there were rivals that took their chance to get a few shots in and score points, there always will be.
But as the show clearly alluded to, as the season itself supplied, and the release of All of Nothing reinvigorated — we as Gooners are falling back in love with this club. Falling in behind this plan, supporting it now through thick and thin.
Which brings us to last weekend, Arsenal versus Leicester City. Just a few months after total collapse, a few months after Arsenal proved doubters right in convincing fashion, and a few months after fans and players alike had the next stages of the plan snatched out from under them, our home opener back at the Emirates.
We say, ‘new season, clean slate’ but we have to admit, that’s sometimes easier said than done. Still, the atmosphere was electric, the fans were singing in the sun, and one moment epitomized the changing feelings surrounding this team, manager, and club — and you know which it is.
In the 53rd minute, William Saliba made a necessary intervention on a ball to Jamie Vardy but put it into Arsenal’s net to make it 2-1. It was the first moment of this new season that would test us as fans. As the lead was cut in half, early in the second half, no one could blame fans for abandoning the ‘clean slate’ mentality in a fit of Mustafi-induced PTSD and ramping up the moan machine. Instead, a raucous sound of applause and support erupted around the stadium.
Yes, Saliba has his fans, and after years of wait Arsenal are all too ready to see him in the red and white. But it’s not as if this is a player that has 150 caps for us and everyone knows what he is capable of. He has two, and this was essentially the first time he has had a moment less than spectacular. Yet there wasn’t a moment of hesitation in the fans or fellow teammates in their attempts to pick him up and cheer him back to life.
As the crowd’s love rang out, and The Arsenal lined back up to kick off and go again, I was filled with a sense of hunger to get behind this team and see them to victory. To really see them thrive and fly. Less than three minutes later, they scored to regain a two goal lead.
Now, as I write this, I reflect on the last 12 months: a team that showed heart and progress to win back the fans, sadly coming short last season; a summer window that, so far, as brought in excellent talents that fit the plan and mold Arsenal fans want to see drive us forward; an All or Nothing documentary recapping the reignition of fan love; and the peak moment of seeing the culmination of this love — resounding support in the face of a moment of failure to overcome and win anyways.
Arsenal are two games in, with two wins, and head to Bournemouth. I have nothing but complete belief in them and find myself actually counting down the minutes until I see our boys take the field again. And THAT, on a Friday, is a good good feeling. Hope you’re feeling it too. Come on your Gunners!