We’ve said this before in blogs and on the podcast. As Arsenal fans, we need to understand, success isn’t the divine right of any club and there are a host of big names that reached the pinnacle in their history only to fall into decline. Blackburn, Nottingham Forest and Leeds were once at the top of the heap, but it’s been decades since they had the taste of success.
It’s not just about money, players or the right manager, there’s something that you can’t identify or quantify and perhaps, that’s the biggest problem of all. Liverpool and Manchester City were peripheral figures for years, but a combination of investment, smart recruitment and spiritual reinvigoration has seen them rise to become champions but the road is long.
Arsenal fans know that feeling all too well, after the Invincibles season (2003/04), it all started to slip away as Arsenal did everything wrong at just about every level. Season after season saw the club position itself for failure and look less likely to regain its previous successes.
Worse still was the lack of performances as they continued to lose ground with the leading pack as the club that set the standards in a new era fell by the wayside. Fans had to suffer the odd thrashing, the inevitable struggles that befall a failing giant as star players headed for the exit door in their droves.
It was an uncomfortable experience, a truly heartbreaking and painful period that also saw the end of Arsene Wenger, who was unable to turn the tide. Match days were a fearful affair and usually, the season was concluded by December as all the same flaws became apparent.
During those dark days, Arsenal were a laughing stock with results and recruitment and during this time, their dreaded rivals gradually leapfrogged the Gunners to a higher position in the league. The misery of the Arsenal fans was complete, but that was then.
Mikel Arteta’s appointment was met with scepticism and the media, who love a crisis at Arsenal, rubbed their hands together at the prospect of another chapter of failure. The Spaniard had issues which we’ve covered in great detail on and off the field, with Covid, perhaps, being the biggest enemy which deprived Arsenal and players of its life force – the fans.
Yet, over the last two years, Arteta and Edu have managed to turn adversity into a positive. The pair managed to hatch a plan that would reinvigorate the club, one which would come in the form of its fresh and exciting recruitment policy.
Arsenal were no longer a stepping stone for a player as they stumbled toward retirement, they now had the renewed energy of youth and potential. Suddenly, supporting Arsenal was exciting again and as the performances collectively and individually started to improve, the club and the fans came together in a way that I hadn’t seen in a long time.
The atmosphere home and away made the hairs on your neck stand up, there were smiles, joy and optimism, even though the journey isn’t over and the job is incomplete. The unfortunate loss to City was evidence, if it were needed, that Arsenal could compete at the highest level domestically in the coming years but consistency remains key.
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Arsenal have a new group of heroes most of whom haven’t seen facial hair and are barely out of higher education. Some are homegrown, others have been unearthed like diamonds from the four corners of the earth to form a team that demands support and respect. You can’t predict what lies in wait for this team, but at least everyone is inside the bus as it moves forward.
However, some things never change with the Kroenke’s still bottom of the food chain and unlikely to taste redemption anytime soon, but at least Josh Kroenke can attend matches without having to endure the disapproving looks, taunts or requests to leave the club.
That’s an entirely different conversation but for now, in the uneasy peace, Arsenal fans are enjoying the present whilst not concerning themselves too much about the future. That in itself is a minor miracle.
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