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Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Positive anything is better than negative nothing.

Elbert Hubbard

One of the biggest thrills in the life of a footy fan is riding the great spin cycle of renewal. We wake up on the morning after a disappointing result and even as the bitterness of memory steals over us spoiling the taste of our Honey Nut Loops there is already a tiny kernel of hope germinating somewhere deep beneath the scorched, blackened soil of our desires. By day two only the armchair experts, masochists and the terminally depressed are still picking over the corpse of their shattered dreams and by day three we are nearly restored to health. How does this happen? It’s a simple but wonderful alchemy. I am already unable to remember how I felt as I watched us unravel against Man City and Liverpool last season and yet I cannot hear more than four bars of Pharrell Williams singing Happy without being instantly transported back to those wonderful days in May. Every emotion from the final itself to the players and fans united outside the Emirates on that Sunday of celebration is imprinted in my emotional scrapbook and ready for me to access any time that I please.

fa cup arsene

Women apparently report a similar phenomenon in relation to the pain of childbirth. I’ve heard them say that the extraordinary discomfort is immediately forgotten while the joy remains with them forever. Now I’m not suggesting that losing or winning an important football match can be compared to the moment a mother brings new life into the world. Admittedly I have only been a spectator at either event and both look messy and hard work. I know for a fact the human race would have died out a long time ago if it was left to me and the rest of the men to do any of the real work. As my friend Jon said to me when asked if women should take pain medication during labour “I needed gas and air to get through the conception so it seems only fair”. Well quite.

I wouldn’t be without the misery of Wednesday night. Not for all the tea in Whittards. Don’t get me wrong I derive no perverse pleasure from spending weeks counting down to such a big night only to be left feeling sick, angry and bitterly disappointed but I do recognise the importance of that pain. It is the certain knowledge of how rancorous is the taste of defeat that makes our victories so much sweeter. It is, in short, much more exciting walking a tightrope over a hundred foot deep canyon filled with pointy sticks than walking one six inches from the surface of a child’s paddling pool. Experience tells us what is at stake prior to kick off and that is what makes the weaker among our support go to pieces before a shot is even fired. You only need look at the gibbering reaction to the announcement of the team line up before each and every match to see this phenomenon in full swing. But to those of us fortunate enough to have achieved a great and unlikely age that same experience tells us that the next game or indeed the next season is just around the corner and we can once again tie our happiness back onto the rail tracks of fortune. Sometimes we get rescued before the train comes. Sometimes not.

I think that’s more than enough from my big book of vaguely football related metaphors. How about we do a bit of what I’ve been talking about and actually look forward to today’s game. Firstly, don’t forget this is an old fashioned traditional five past two Sunday afternoon kick off so if you’d planned to be home from your trip to B&Q by four you need to start back-pedalling sharpish. There will be lots of tedious predictable tripe about wanting to see a response or a reaction to what happened on Wednesday night. Plenty of people will be trotting out the usual clichés ignoring the fact that players are conditioned to put the last game behind them and focus on the match in front of them regardless of recent results. It is an essential tenet of their training. Arsène may throw such bones to the walking brain dead in the press corps but when fans repeat the baloney they’re usually just projecting their own emotions onto the players. That is what makes them assume we’ll go into battle against Everton with our knees knocking in fear of a repeat disaster. What tosh. Olivier Giroud knows he isn’t suddenly a poor striker just because he had one bad day at the office. Per knows that if we’re chasing the game then pushing up and closing down the opposition before they can instigate a counter has worked too many times to mention. Just because it failed once on Wednesday night won’t affect the way he plays the game.

Everton come to the Emirates languishing in fourteenth place in the current form table with Liverpool top and us second. A glance at thewaterlogged pitchir last six results shows they almost always draw at home and usually lose away from Goodison. However their most recent away win was one nil at Selhurst Park and we know all too well what sort of mental and physical strength that kind of result demands so they will be no pushovers. We know Martinez likes his teams to play proper football, retain possession and move it intelligently. We also know they aren’t afraid to stick the boot in when things aren’t going their way. Having said that my exclusive sources tell me that Tony Hibbert may be missing for the game this afternoon so they might not be as brutal as in previous matches. In conclusion, while we can expect a decent footballing contest and while Arsenal are without a scintilla of doubt the better team we cannot assume this will be a walk over.

Before I go, let me explain the flurry of quotations at the beginning of this article. Football, it seems to me, is all about choices and that goes for us as well as the manager and players. We can’t choose the visceral reaction we experience in defeat nor the explosion of joy when Aaron scores the winner in a cup final but we all choose how we respond to those emotions. Anyone who goes into the rest of the season assuming we will lose in Monaco, fail to hold onto third place or progress past Man United in the FA cup is choosing to make those assumptions. No one knows the future. If I choose to believe we can succeed then that is my right so to do and if you choose not to then that is your right, but don’t pretend it isn’t a conscious choice you are making. None of the harbingers of doom have any divine prerogative to claim to live in the real world nor should they paint positive supporters as fantasists. They are making a choice, they are choosing despair and choosing to wallow in it. If I were one of them I’d have to ask myself why? Why assume the worst when you can just as easily assume the best? Why look at a game like the one we just endured and ignore anything the players did well and only focus on what the opposition did better or on where we tried but failed? Why get angry and sarcastic with fellow fans who continue to hope and support the team no matter what? Why send triumphant messages to me on Twitter when the opposition scores? Choice. Behave like that by all means but don’t pretend you are not choosing to do so. Once you accept that then you must accept that you can choose not to behave in such a craven, weak and despicable way.

Bob Wilson told us what makes a proper football fan. The people I think of when I listen to Pharrell Williams are the ones who have shared the laughter, smiles and tears with me over the years and never wavered. The ones who chose courage, who chose to stay firm, above all the ones who chose to support.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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113 comments on “Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

  1. The high court press is definitely a thing with Monaco.

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  2. I wouldn’t give a tupppenny fuck for Mancini’s comments.
    Never have and never will.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Podolski is still an Arsenal player, so as Arsenal fans we should be interested in how he is doing at Inter, that he is not doing well should be of concern to us, but hey if you prefer to pretend all is good and his loan spell is going swimmingly that is your right, but I have no idea why you feel the need to have a go at me for pointing out he had a game to forget today

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  4. Can’t we all be happy after a significant win today. Just wondering.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 0-0 in Monaco,
    The most obvious reason for the score line us that PSG have been very wasteful rather than any super defending abilities from the home team.
    Kondogbia vs Luiz in the middle of the pitch has been a godawful one sided duel.

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  6. Sorry to have been AWOL today. Early KO and a busy day. But what a wonderful blog from Stew, and relevant anytime. How you respond to a loss, and what you notice and comment on after a win, is a choice.

    I saw a professional performance today, producing the required result. Well done to the boys. And bless Coquelin’s heart (and his nose). That ball to the face made me want to cry…I don’t know how he didn’t pass out. A warrior among warriors.

    Roll on QPR. And here’s hoping for pictures of Aaron in training this week. Fingers crossed.

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  7. Eduardo, if you’ll permit me to offer a suggestion. I don’t think it’s the pointing out that Podolski, or any of our other players, had a bad game. Others here do that as well. But when I read your comments, sometimes it reads like there’s an eagerness to write players off, to replace them, to bench them. As opposed to trying to encourage them. It’s quite possible you don’t mean it to sound that way. Many of your other comments lead me to believe that you don’t, actually. But, if I’m honest, sometimes your stuff makes me see red. And not in a good, Arsenal way. It may just be that your style doesn’t hit me the right way is all.

    I subscribe to the “if you can’t say anything nice…” philosophy, but I don’t expect everyone to be like me. I’m really not opposed to criticism of players, even if I don’t choose it. I just like for it to have, or at least seem to have, some positive aspect to it.

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  8. Joel Cambell had an excellent game against Real Madrid. He kept Marcelo quiet, which took one of RM’s most powerful attacking weapons away from them. On the offensive front, young Joel delivered some really nice passes and was pivotal in anything Villarreal did going forward. I can’t wait to see him come back and play our open style.

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  9. Finally i found the inner strength to ignore stewards and what the ticket says and was manouvreing through empty seats in the lower north bank..ahh yes..suuuuuuper supe rtom.suuuuuuper super tom. Yes ozil is stealth weapon, its what i told myself last year when i realised he is NOT a playmaker in the conventional sense. but lets be honest …weve played too..assist is when you do the work and provide the tap in or put your teammate through one on one. But ignore him. He is the one that has to reward manager and fans. Not the other way round. Lets speak of hector bellerin. Mmhmmmmm proper proper footballer. He dribbles he is fast he can cross he wants to help forward . Love him. Also Interesting to see which of the two ninja centre backs becomes the ‘leader’…theyr both kamikazees hehehe

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  10. Oh so the chavs won the intercontine…oh sorry the coca..no…the carl…shit the capital thats right..the capital cup…wow…media was so happy for him also… bless

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  11. Monday morning and the match review has just been posted !!

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  12. Inner strength…the Gooner within…empty seats in the north bank…*sighs*

    Yup. If I didn’t have work one of those empty seats would’ve been slung my way (no charge DK! ‘Cept for luv and friendship). But my abstinence was not in vain.

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  13. Steww

    I’ve struggled to find a way to thank you for your amazing, beautiful writing, for two days. I feel like I’m saying the same thing each time.

    I’m reluctant to admit that within a few seconds of reading your first paragraph, I’d bolted to youtube in order to listen to PW’s “Happy”, and after 3 straight listens I allowed myself to read another sentence or two, before dwelling yet again on your beautiful prose.

    I don’t want to bore you, so Thank You will have to suffice.Ta, Steww.

    Liked by 1 person

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