My August 21st post covering the aftershocks of our season-opening defeat against Aston Villa has really been haunting me.
I spent the off-season forcing myself (and attempting to convince others) to stay positive. Even after months of remembering that we finished the 2012/13 season with such a great record, survived a summer where we kept all our key players and got rid of the chaff, and generally remained quite stable while the other top clubs experienced change and turmoil, I decided to call for Wenger's head after our stumble out of the gates.
Even after rebounding from that initial defeat to a 3-0 win at Fenerbahçe, my faith in his management of the team and the organization had reached a breaking point. I was convinced at the time that we needed a change.
But then this happened:
And this happened:
W - W - W - W - W - W - W - W - W - W
And this happened:
1) Arsenal 15
2) Liverpool 13
3) T*tt*nh*m 13
4) Everton 12
5) Chelsea 11
6) Southampton 11
7) Man City 10
8) Hull 10
9) Aston Villa 9
10) West Brom 8
11) Cardiff 8
12) Man Utd 7
13) Swansea 7
14) Norwich 7
15) Stoke 7
16) Newcastle 7
17) West Ham 5
18) Fulham 4
19) Crystal Palace 3
20) Sunderland 1
What a difference a few weeks can make, eh? I don't think I'm alone in wanting to douse my torch, pack away my pitchfork, repent my previously held rage, and revel in this newly-rediscovered attractive, fluid football. We are utterly dismantling and demoralizing the opposition. Just watch the September Goals of the Month and marvel at the peanut butter and chocolate combination of individual brilliance and team dynamics in our build up to scoring. Have a peek again at the first 15 minutes of our match against Napoli and witness the evisceration of last season's Serie A runners up. This is a side playing with a bravado and imperiousness that hypnotizes. They seem confident that a positive result is never in doubt, even with key players like Santi injured. That's infectious.
Thinking more about it now, the root of it all for me was the pressurized frustration that came with Arsenal Holdings plc seeming for a years to come before Arsenal Football Club. It felt like the decisions being made on and off the pitch were not to benefit the team on the field but instead were focused on the team in the boardroom. Great players were sold to affect the club's bottom line. Our transfers in were rather austere and frugal in comparison. The club seemed to be focused on the balance sheet and not on entertaining the supporters. It hurts when the veil gets pulled back to reveal that football is a business and that we the supporters are walking wallets and that maybe the people pulling the strings don't have our best interests at heart.
And maybe that hasn't really changed, but at least after so many barren and destitute years the dominoes have fallen into place, the club is demonstrating some ambition again, and supporters feel like we are getting returns on the investment of our time, energy, and money. Even the most unrealistic of us don't think Arsenal can win the league every year, but the perennial race to fourth place was getting tiresome. We are actually in the mix again and it's uplifting. Isn't it funny that we're doing it with players who a lot of us thought weren't "good enough"? How many of you wanted to cut bait on Ramsey, for instance?
The tired media and blog narrative of Arsenal constantly being injured, losing their best players, missing out on big transfers, and consistently falling short is improving vastly, too. Just to give one example, World Soccer Talk ran four positive Arsenal pieces in the span of three days. That's not a knock on WST; they're going to run stories that get pageviews and right now talking positively about the Gunners is bringing the clicks in. The Arsenal are title contenders again.
If you're paying attention, all I'm really talking about is the Hokey Pokey. I put my rage in Wenger, I take my rage out, we write snarky things about Arsenal, we write positive things about Arsenal, we think our players aren't good enough, we think are players are the best in the league. Supporters' moods are fickle. If I've learned anything from this it's that I should probably not snap to judgements on the back of a single negative result. Maybe he needed a little bit nudge to take the handbrake off, but Wenger has been good to our club and has us in excellent shape so far this season. We should be good to him, too.
Make sure you come out to Local 616 (weather permitting) this Sunday; we'll be taking preorders for Charsenal t-shirts!
$12 per shirt, adult sizes small through 3XL available. We are only taking preorders in person for now, so no shipping options just yet.
On another note, you might notice that this blog doesn't get frequent updates. I write when inspiration hits and time allows, and sometimes that means there are weeks in between posts. I also don't tend to focus on stats, tactics or match reports, preferring to deal with the emotional and practical sides of following Arsenal from Charleston (with many conjunctions, commas, and parentheticals thrown in for good measure).
If you would like to contribute to this blog, use the email form at the top of the page or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter to send along a writing sample or two. We would love to be able to showcase many perspectives from Charleston Gooners. Word.