On November 3rd, Arsenal faced Manchester United at Old Trafford. It was the day before Halloween, and while Arsenal fans were hoping for a treat in the form of a damn good thrashing of the Red Devils, their hopes were dashed in the form of a man who had tricked them over the summer.
And when they face Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, the goal he scored against Arsenal will still be fresh in a fan’s memory.
Robin van Persie left Arsenal under highly acrimonious circumstances, and memories of him in a red and white shirt will forever be tarnished for Gooners throughout the world.
A couple weeks after the season had begun, Arsene Wenger said’we’ve already recruited to replace him’ when asked if he’d planned to replace the Dutchman. In came Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, three players who would share the responsibility of goalscoring alongside Arsenal’s other attackers.
The Dutchman scored a career-best 37 goals last season. Arsenal had lost their talisman and captain, but gained three world-class signings. Scoring goals would not be a problem, then. Three clean sheets and a scalp against Liverpool at Anfield boded well.
Fast forward three months and – more significantly – one international break later and Arsenal are mired in seventh place. Arsenal have sixteen points, eleven less than league leaders Manchester United.
Ever since Arsenal’s first teamers returned from their previous international break, they have struggled for form and consistency. The confidence they displayed earlier this season has been replaced by a lack of willingness to work. Twice in that period, Arsenal have thrown away two-goal leads when the games were theirs for the taking.
‘What am I getting at?’ you might ask, and you are well within your rights to do so.
How many clubs in the modern era have managed to build a brand new stadium and still manage to deliver top-flight football in England and Europe week in week out? Unfortunately, the club that has a Tube station on the London Underground named after it has some of the most fickle fans.
Thomas Vermaelen has been booed this season because he has had a few sub-par performances. Has he not been excellent in previous seasons at the Emirates? Is it so impossible to give him some time to get used to captaincy in the world’s best league?
Mikel Arteta was heckled by sixty thousand plus supporters when his penalty was saved by Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Where had all the appreciation for his stellar work and leadership that he’d shown over the past season gone?
‘It is better to get relegated and come back and win’ is what a Manchester United fan told me over an Arsenal-centric discussion. Yes, United were relegated in the 1970s after the departure of their Holy Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. They bounced back almost instantly, but those times were different to the ones we currently live in.
Have Arsenal fans grown used to sky-high expectations because of what the Invincibles achieved?
I have always been a firm believer in the presence of a higher power, and I am also of the opinion that success comes in cycles. As Gary Neville said, footballers are grains of sand on the beach. Sure, Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in eight years, but eight years is not that long a time if you consider Arsenal have been around for 125 years.
I know how you feel, Gooners, and it is for this reason that I ask you all to persevere. Where were Chelsea before the arrival of Roman Abramovich? Sir Alex Ferguson was on the verge of losing his job in his first five years at Manchester United, having failed to win a trophy in that time. Surely you know of City’s flirtations with relegation before the Arabs stamped their mark in Manchester.
Those few years where Wenger won a plethora of trophies is only a taste of what is to come. He’s always looked at the bigger picture, and sometimes, fans don’t take a step back to see it.
The Emirates is an investment for the next sixty years. Arsenal are also slated to agree commercial deals that are set to increase the amount of funding they will receive. The Adidas kit deal which will kick in in 2014 is one such example.
Arsenal realise a profit, yes, but a majority of that goes towards repaying a stadium debt of a little more than £320 million. Wembley cost more than a billion pounds of taxpayer money. That only goes to show the efficiency of Arsenal Football Club.
Arsenal’s oldest supporter is a hundred years old. He’s been supporting them since he was seven. He’s seen what clubs have gone through, and if he can believe, so can the current generation of Gooners.
Keep the faith Gooners, for Arsenal’s time will come.