I have a confession to make. Early warning, it’s not always one that goes over well with fellow fans.
I am a calm Arsenal viewer. I watch every game. I watch them intently. But historically, if you were to watch with me, you would be hard pressed to find many emotional outbursts. I think about a lot of things inside my head, tweet about a fair few of them, my eyes are narrowed and brow furrowed — according to my girlfriend who seems to spend more time watching me than the game, IF she’s caught watching at all. I’ll let out a scoff or groan of frustration at mental lapses and technical failures, or a laugh in the days of Mustafi where it felt like one had to laugh to maintain any semblance of sanity. And when Arsenal score there is cheers and excitement, of course. I’m not devoid of emotion. But very few games have me ill with nerves, or see me pacing around the room, even last season’s north London derby with top four on the line.
This season, something has changed. I stood in my living room, unable to sit, with arms crossed and a scowl as we were struggled to get a foothold in the second half versus Palace, and let out a triumphant shout of relief when Saka’s cross ended up in the back of the net. And Saturday, I found myself glued to TV, not thinking about tweets or blogs or tactics, but absorbed with a driven fire to get a result. Pacing the room, standing on tiptoes, talking to the players — but, like, to myself — pleading on bended knee for a breakthrough moment. And when Gabriel’s scramble turned into redemption, I couldn’t help but take a lap of exaltation around the home and fill the air with emphatic fuck-word after fuck-word.
This team has transformed me. Changed me. Maybe it was the hellish, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” failure of last season, combined with a project and likable players I firmly believe in, but I want to see this side succeed so badly.
Cue horrible Pep impression: So badly. So so badly.
I’ve always wanted every Arsenal team to succeed, duh, that’s a given. But few teams have produced an involuntary, emotional response like the current side, especially when playing a team like Fulham.
Big moments and games? Yes, absolutely. The FA Cup Final win was definitely a day of exhilaration. Welbeck’s goal versus Leicester, of course, earned a scream to disrupt the surrounding country mile. A handful more in the last decade, but never in the fourth game of the thirty-eight match campaign.
Yet when the evening wound down, I was energized, overjoyed, and filled with a real sense of pride. A true sense of success. As if I had put the ball into the back of the net myself through force of willpower. I laughed outwardly in the face of stupid pundits trying to tell the world I — we — were making too much of this result. Like a zealot, I have no care for what anyone outside the Arsenal bubble thinks or feels about the trajectory in which this team is headed.
We know what it meant. We know the questions that result helped answer. And let me tell you, Mikel knows too. Why was it so special?
Because great teams overcome.
“I’m even happier than last week, I think the performance was top,” Arteta said after the match. “I think from the start to finish we went for it, we had periods where we had complete control and dominance of the game and created many chances, many shots and many arrivals in the final third, but it wasn’t happening. It was just a matter of time and being patient and not making a mistake.
“We did make a mistake, but then the best thing I think is the way the team reacted and Gabi reacted against adversity to overcome the situation. Obviously, when you have the character and support that we have in the stadium, that’s easy to do.”
The ability to consistently overcome adversity is, without a doubt, a mark of a great team. What makes going ‘invincible’ so impressive and difficult to repeat? It takes a team that never lets an opposition side get the better of them. And across a nine month and thirty-eight match season, there will be a lot of days where a side is off the pace. Sure they try to say the Arsenal Invincibles had a lot of draws, as if that takes away the specialness. That is overcoming your bad days. That’s staring down your opponent, knowing things aren’t clicking that day, and forcing yourself to compete with heart until the whistle blows and getting the job done.
This year’s defending champions Manchester City? Back to back weeks of overcoming adversity. Another major two-goal comeback, this time to get all three points against Crystal Palace. That’s where Arsenal want to be, right?
Last year, Arsenal overcame a deficit and won one game. One. Against Wolverhampton Wolves. In fact, this weekend was the first time since 2013 that Arsenal have won after conceding the first goal in a Premier League match in the second half.
It’s a stone that has been hurled at this young side. “They need to be level or in the lead, otherwise they lose”. And it was true. That’s the mark of a young team, a growing team, and an average one at best. Great teams overcome adversity. They find a way. I repeat, great teams overcome.
Life is good around the Arsenal camp right now. Things will get tougher. Seeing this team overcome early hurdles. Seeing them already overcome adversity the same amount of times as they did the previous season. Seeing them get punched and punch back to keep their flawless beginning to the season. That’s the stuff you inject into yourself to feel this team is growing day by day and to believe this side could be starting to edge towards “the real deal”. That result was nervy, but at the end of the day, its the same 3 points that Liverpool got for dominating Bournemouth 9-0, and come the end of the year, those three points may make a hell of a difference.
And THAT’S why fans unquestionably have the right to “overdo” the celebrations. As if that’s even a thing… fucking Richard Keys.
Enjoy your Monday. Quick turnaround to Aston Villa midweek. In the meantime, check out the blogs about my Standouts and Worries from this weekend’s match.
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