Tony asked me if I could think of writing a sort of review of the year article about Arsenal, perhaps in the spirit of prize giving (best goal, worst referee, most exciting match etc). After this week of disappointment (spoiler alert if you recorded the Everton and Manchester Airport games) I must say I’ve found it hard to be positive about anything to do with football.
It’s been a funny old year to date: we’ve voted to leave the most successful economic partnership the country has known since the end of Empire; America has elected a reality-show star as its next president; loads of famous people that were universally liked have died (and Katie Hopkins hasn’t); Bob Dylan won a Nobel prize; Leicester won the Premier League title; and Iceland knocked England out of the Euros.
The weather has been unbelievably mild right up to this week; London’s air is more polluted than it’s been since the 1950s and the killer smogs; BHS has gone bust (ok, not that much of a surprise); giraffes are officially threatened with extinction; and Liz Truss is the Lord Chancellor (following in the footsteps of Cardinal Wolsley, Sir Thomas More, and Lord Shaftesbury).
Until the week that’s just passed Arsenal were having a pretty good year. We secured 2nd in the league after Sp*rs collapsed at Newcastle (surely a contender for ‘match of the season not involving Arsenal’)*. This season an inept defending performance saw us lose to Liverpool!!! but then go unbeaten until the toffees away.
We topped our CL group (albeit a bit fortunately given PSG’s demise) and we earned a ‘surprise’ fixture with Bayern. Until November Özil has been pretty amazing, Alexis has been outstanding and Theo has been, well Theo. Losing Santi Cazorla has been a killer in my opinion; he makes things tick. Losing Mustafi has also been serious; less so Ramsey who has yet to shine this season (I’m sure he will). We don’t miss Jack but I expect the fans do; and I miss the BFG (a lot) for all his lack of pace.
Over Christmas and New Year we have several winnable fixtures (WBA, Palace at home, Bournemouth and Preston away) so I’m hoping we can pick up some more momentum. With one game to go this weekend (LFC vs EFC) as I write this we are 4th in the table (where we belong!) just 2 points behind City in second and on par with Klopps’s lot. It is very far from a disaster but worryingly far from first place where Chavski look pretty nailed on at the moment.
A lot can change in a short space of time though – this week taught us that if nothing else. And this is a funny old year on top of a funny old season 2015/16. Looking at social media last night you would think that we’d been beaten 6-0 at OT again, or that this was late April and the title race was over. There were calls for Özil to be sold and the inevitable predications that we will win nothing while Wenger stays in charge.
So in this year of surprises and shocks I’d like to place football exactly where it belongs, as a hobby that brings pleasure to millions. If nothing else take the time to count your blessings that you support a big club with great players and a fantastic stadium. And if you find yourself wanting to vent your frustrations at how awful [insert player’s name here] is, or wishing the board would sack the manager and magic us a genius from wherever, then stop.
It’s a hobby, a pastime, a passion. In the real world people are dying.
In November 50 players and staff from Chapecoense Real were killed in a plane crash. Since war broke out in Syria somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people have died (that’s 8 Emirates stadium’s full). There has been a 30% rise in terrorist-related killings in 2016 with daily murders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
So my prize for 2016 goes to perspective, something we all need a lot more of.
* along with The Iceland/England fixture