Arsenal 1st Team
Arsenal Football Club
75 Drayton Park
LONDON N5 1BU
Dear Fellow Gooner,
I write to you as one minor member of the worldwide legion of Arsenal supporters whom you represent week-after-week on the football fields of England and Europe. You may be aware, according to the most recent research (2011), there were 113 million Arsenal fans worldwide, the fourth highest number for any football club on earth. Six years later those numbers could easily have doubled. In other words you are carrying the hopes and dreams of nearly 200 million people worldwide. I am certain you would agree it is an awesome responsibility.
But this letter is not to burden you with the weight of fan expectation. We know there is a minority who expect you will win every match, day-in, day-out. The majority of us know such results are unrealistic. While you may try to win every game, we know that Arsenal Football Club is competing against wealthier clubs with just as many if not more fantastic players, whom they can acquire by paying much larger transfer fees and wages. There are times when results go against us because our best players are unavailable due to injury. Sometimes, as in the real world, there are days when despite doing your best as a professional, events do not favor the team, whether due to human error on our part or by the officials. As the boss correctly says, (and he is hardly ever wrong) it takes enormous “mental strength” to consistently compete at the top-level as every Arsenal 1st team has done for the past 20 years.
So now that we are midway the 2016-17 season, what are the realistic expectations of you the 1st team? Arsenal is lying in 5th place in the league, 8 points behind the leader, Chelsea, who just completed a 13-game win streak. In the last 20 years of the premier league, no team with a 13-game streak has failed to win the title. In the last 13 years of the premier league, the league winner has either been 1st or 2nd at the half-way point. Surely Arsenal stands no chance?
But records were meant to be broken. In 2013-14, Liverpool was the first team to go on an 11-game unbeaten streak and fail to win the title. Last year, Leicester was the first team in the history of the English top-flight to go from last place to being champions in 13 months. In January 2016 BREXIT was dead and buried in the polls, so was Donald Trump months later. In one year, contrary to conventional thinking, despite the “expert” pundits in the mainstream media , the army of negative nellies on twitter and social media, the underdog made the impossible possible.
Why can’t this Arsenal 1st Team make history? It is not as if it wasn’t done before. In the history of the premier league Arsenal is the only club who have come from as far back as 6th place midway the season to grab title and win the FA cup as well, Arsene Wenger’s first ever double. According to this source it was a season:
“…one which few would have dared dream about, particularly during the dark months of November and December when a midseason slump led to rumours of dressing room disharmony and a seemingly unbridgeable gap to league leaders Manchester United.”
Haven’t you the 1st Team have mid-season slump last December with back-to-back losses to Everton and Manchester City followed by a draw with Bournemouth?
That 97/98 Arsenal team did not recover their mojo until February 1998 after the legendary in-house meeting. According to Arseweb:
“…. the team and Wenger had a “thrash it out” meeting during which Adams demanded that the defence receive more protection from the midfield. The response from the central midfield pairing of Vieira and Petit was magnificent, and aided by better on and off field communication due to the Frenchmen’s improving English, Arsenal embarked on an unbeaten run which would eventually carry them all the way to the league title.”
This 1st team already had a 14-game unbeaten run between August and November. Surely if the weaknesses evident at Bournemouth and Preston North End , are “thrashed-out”, couldn’t this team sustain another run and put the current league leaders under serious pressure?
As we lesser mortals, who have no hope of ever being professional footballers, can attest, it is easy to wallow in doubt and fear, after a string of bad results. Frankly for this Arsenal 1st team, there is no reason to be fearful. This is the deepest and best squad the professor has put together since the barren years while paying for the new stadium. According to transfermkt over the past five years AFC has spent £210.70m to gradually improve the squad.
You the Arsenal 1st Team may be missing Santi Cazorla, the technical leader, but in return you can welcome Aaron Ramsey who is the beating heart of the British core, the player who Arsene Wenger most trust to do what is necessary for the team to win. In 97-98, midway the season the club lost to suspension, the magical Dennis Berkgamp, and after his return took a while to find its groove. Similarly this 1st team is about to welcome back from illness a future midfield legend by way of Mesut Özil, a player who earlier this week demonstrated in no uncertain fashion his commitment to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. In 97/98, it was not because the players in the squad were the best in the premier league; Alex Manninger was certainly not. Seemingly more critical, as one looks back, they had the commitment and mental strength.
Will you, the Arsenal 1st team, seize the spirit of 97-98 and make the impossible possible. To paraphrase the words of the great bard, Shakespeare:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our Gooner dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
@Shotta_Gooner, The Contrarian