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Enjoy the Journey by Tempering Expectations.

Friday the 13th  felt different, and I hadn’t expected it to quite so much. I should have known better as I’d been aware that in the hunt for transfer news I was starting to refresh Twitter far too often over the past couple of weeks. But I wasn’t prepared to feel quite so jittery nervous all day, especially as it’s been a long long time since I’d battled match-day nerves of my own. I always felt it would be a tricky opener: newly promoted side buzzing, small stadium, the Arsenal worryingly lukewarm during pre-season. As one of my old coaches used to say when disaster loomed: ‘it’s got all the makings’. And so it proved with a disappointingly anodyne performance leading to a feeble 2 nil defeat. It wasn’t quite reach for the service revolver time, but I certainly made too much use of the whisky that night, and woke the next day saddened and wretched and not at all sure I wanted to carry on putting myself through all of this. What after all is the point of supporting a club that are not exactly down the road from me and which seem guaranteed these days to cause me pain?

Due to a long-standing promise to take my son to watch Reading’s first home game of the season I didn’t have long to stew in my juice, and it was fun to set off for a 3pm Saturday Kick off. I enjoyed walking down to the station, catching the train and then the bus to the stadium: it pleased me in some kind of atavistic way to see more and more home shirts mass at each stage of the journey, and all the more so for it being the first match anybody had been to for well over a year. There was real excitement in the air, and as we gathered outside the ground in front of the big screen showing Man U demolish Leeds, the time-honoured triplet of banter, beer and burgers seemed to announce that all was well in the world again. I wondered how many there had Reading as their first side, and for how many Reading were just their little bit on the side. And I wondered whether there would be any Preston North End fans, and if there were, how much it would have cost them to make their way to what used to be the Madejski but is now the Select Cars Stadium. And on that theme of cost I liked the fact that for me and my boy the travel and the tickets cost under £50. Would it be better after all to follow a local side again, as I used to back in the 70s, or does the proliferation of TV coverage and media interest now force the Premiership on us all?

It wasn’t a bad game at all, Reading scraping home 2-1 after missing a couple of easy chances that should have seen them home and hosed just after the interval. And yes, there must have been two or three hundred down from Lancashire, who supported magnificently throughout the game and who took, or seemed to take, the defeat with philosophical good humour. And that in turn made me think of what the coming season holds for all fans, and especially those who go to such lengths to follow their team. In a game of winners and losers what’s in it for the losers, and what defines loss? After all, and unless Olympic High Jump is your thing, only one side is going to win the Premier League, only one side going to win the cup. There are smaller prizes of course: Champions League places, Europa League, Promotion etc, but that still leaves an awful lot of sides and an awful lot of fans out in the cold and far from the podium. In August most fans are asked to consider what would make a successful season for our club: I wonder how many end up with their hopes rewarded? Precious few I think.

Certainly judging by the increasingly toxic social media storms that follow any defeat most supporters seem to be in a state of perpetual anger. I can only speak with any authority about the Arsenal (which is magnificently toxic at the moment) but I guess it is the same for most clubs, and especially so for those who have offered their allegiance to teams where the expectation is to win, and to win with style. If, Faustus like, you sell your soul to the devil then of course it’s hard to accept mediocrity and disappointment, and I wonder how many of the Arsenal fans who moan the loudest only began supporting the club when Thierry and Denis were in their pomp? What will Chelsea supporters feel like if they don’t go on to win the title this year, or Man Utd, or City, all of whom have bought shiny new toys. And what of Liverpool, with VVD no doubt ‘just like a new signing’? They are not all going to win, and writing that list and thinking of Spurs and Leicester too makes me realise that 5th or 6th place is probably the maximum that any fan could possibly hope for from Arsenal this year, and that even that is going to take quite some doing.

So what am I signing up for right now? Disappointment, despair and disillusion? Well probably yes, and obviously a classic case of the triumph of hope over experience, but there might be some good moments, some unexpected glories that are made all the better for their rarity. And, like those Preston fans I shall resolve to enjoy the journey, and take some refuge in being on board a bus full of fellow travellers who if they’ve any sense will secretly enjoy lapsing back into the old-fashioned supporter’s mindset of knowing deep down that their side is no better than they deserve – but that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.

Now, about those new signings….

Tim​Head @foreverheady

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62 comments on “Enjoy the Journey by Tempering Expectations.

  1. full time AFC win 4-2

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  2. “Aman, if he was so good and available, why do you imagine that none of the bigger and wealthier teams throughout Europe have not yet been in for him?”

    jjgsol,
    Because there are a lot of footballers on the planet and a lot depends on what agent represents you. N’golo Kante & Mahrez a great examples of players that went under the radar untilLeicester City took a chance on them. They went on to win the league.

    Under the right conditions, good players will blossom. This is part of what made AW great. 70% of the young players he was grooming have gone on to excel beyond belief.
    Graham Potter’s management has been good for Bissouma.

    Also, look through the squads of all the “bigger/wealthier teams” and you realize they already have great players in CM. Couple that with the effect of the pandemic and its clear there are limits.

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  3. If Edu & MA are able to bring in 1 or 2 more and move out 5 of the 8 players left on our transfer list, they’d deserve an A+.

    Ainsley seems to me to be the most retainable of the 8…
    Runarsson, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Torreira, Willian, Nelson, Nketiah (+/- Elneny).

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  4. Odegaard and Ramsdale signed on the same day, bringing it to five signings so far this summer, and 11 permanent signings under Arteta, not forgetting loan signings, Odegaard, Cedric and Mari all were on loan first before full time deals signed, Ceballos and Ryan loan signings done too. So I think its well past time people stopped saying KSE not backing the manager.
    its laughable that some mongs have arranged a protest against KSE for before our game on Sunday. Attention seeking twats

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  5. aman I think Lacazette might need to be moved along too as he is now into the last ten months of his contract.

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  6. I see Aaron Ramsdale gave a nice little interview about his name, he is called after his Granfather, Ron, who died on the day Aaron’s mum found out she was pregnant, Ron was from Birmingham and they had a habit of saying Our Ron, so that led to Aaron.

    Ramsdale’s Grandfather’s ashes are brought to all games, or at least all newly visited grounds, a sort of tour of the 92, by Aaron’s father and they were brought to our new Goalkeepers contract signing today.

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  7. lots of rumors that Fenerbache want to sign Kolasinac, but on a free transfer, but AFC want £4M for him, and that the player is in talks with the club about a contract termination.

    Many reports that Arsenal are willing to sell Nketiah, but on the injury latest released by the club yesterday they say he will not be back in training till next month, so any one signing him will be taking a player out injured.

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  8. great article thank you. It has become an obsession of sorts to find a place of shared understanding about the club but mostly – though i don’t want to drown criticism as that is the fruit of change – there has been something unkind and mean spirited about what i see all over – not just social media ( that’s a given) but also media at large.

    How do these fantastic players and coaching staff work under these conditions? There has to be a point where we all have take stock of the motive for all of this. I as well had trepidation for this game or the same reasons. Could they go 0-3? possible. Is it the end of the World? Clearly no. And yet a different context is needed for this team. Ben White had a bad game? Really. Is that what the media said or what I saw? Was Lenoweak on the second goal – the first one actually yes, as it went in short side that was his responsibility yet they blame White???? Was he suppose to go in with clattering tackle inside the box ? I didn’t realize you could hold onto GK now -or is he suppose to fall down? Was it important? Its the second goal. Was there any apologies from people now that they know 3 started had Covid? Does it matter? Or does the hate supersede the logic?

    These are tough days and though I’m not a massive fan of ownership that is outside of our control. But how we act and what we say, our disappointment and our solidarity will define our club. These things worry me about the club I have loved since 1978 when i watched them lose, yes lose, to very good Ipswich side in the Fa cup.

    Anyway keep writing and speaking up wit a level headed approach!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Chris I find it interesting that you support AFC from losing the 78 cup final cos it was losing the 68 league cup final that got me into AFC, and when the lost the 69 one too that was me hooked, and it always makes me laugh when I hear fans say they want their Arsenal back, when for nearly all of them that means only the title winning Arsenal sides, as Bergkamp might put it, do you support Arsenal or just a successful Arsenal

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  10. Haha…what does that say about us? I remember “boring boring Arsenal” some fans perhaps don’t. The cold fact is, that this team has NEVER been relegated from the top flight – something any good Arsenal fan will point out – even at our worst we are always more competitive than at least …well…12 other teams…
    Whether this is the basis of the negativity that is played out before us or not is , to me, unknown. But there is a clear bias in media that can’t be denied and with other clubs. The sad truth is we are now part of that. We are no longer taking the high road but (some) are taking a very low one. I just listened to the podcast about the Sheffield game. Pretty good criticism actually and observing something you see is a lot different than making things so personal it defies any sense of logic and becomes an undermining current. I can only imagine the groans – but we are going to see this get played out for Arteta. But the judgement can’t come from a pre-season and 1 game. IT will be the 10 game mark. WE know they are playing league champions and Champions League champions run by deep pockets and sketchy owners. That is not Arsenal’s business model – we still have eh sketchy owner I suppose but too bad, so sad. Doesn’t matter , its outside of our control. To think it is , is downright delusional. But what is on the cards, what we do have control over, is how we react to the men and boys who play for the side. So, one can say White shouldn’t play, it was too soon. An observation I agree with. But to get on the social media and completely dismiss the young man? Say he isn’t worth the money? That he is was “poor”? That with no Lace or Auba the that would have not have made a difference? Is Arteta trodding out excuses the same way the media is jumping on his every word? Arteta is doing EXACTLY what he is hired to do and in a way that he understands it. That will not change based on the firs 3 games. Iimagine if they won the next 2 games? My God I would love to see that. Sigh.
    I wasn’t born until the late sixties so my firs game watched was as a 10 year old. I was fascinated. I support Arsenal as I see people on this site do. Its a welcome addition. I was losing hope

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  11. Arteta: There’s no doubting Xhaka’s importance
    By
    @AAllenSport –
    August 20, 2021
    4

    Mikel Arteta says Granit Xhaka’s development in the last two seasons and the midfielder’s experience were key factors in the decision to keep him this summer despite interest from AS Roma.

    The Serie A side are understood to have agreed personal terms with the Switzerland international prior to the European Championships but, ultimately, failed to make an offer that came anywhere near the Gunners’ valuation of the midfielder.

    Since then, it’s been reported that Arsenal have triggered a clause in Xhaka’s existing contract to keep him until 2024 with an option to extend it for another 12 months.

    “We never wanted to let him go,” said Arteta. “We explained to him the role he’d have in the team, how important he was and how far he’s come in the last two seasons and the fact he’s come through some difficult moments and how he has reacted and what he has achieved, not just on the field but around the football club and in the dressing room.

    “We believe that he’s a very important figure and players like that are what we need as well for all the young developing players that we have in the team.”

    Arteta admits that for those who only see Xhaka on the pitch, it’s hard to comprehend the former captain’s influence in and around the club.

    “It’s difficult because what happens inside, you don’t get to see much. Sometimes you’re just analysing a performance or the way a player is playing and whether you like him more or less. From our side there is no doubt about the importance of him in the team and the squad.”

    While Xhaka remains a constant, the squad as a whole has undergone significant surgery in recent months. The arrivals of Martin Odegaard, Ben White, Nuno Tavares, Sambi Lokonga and Aaron Ramsdale, all under the age of 24, speaks to a project with eyes on the future.

    “Together with the senior players that we have, we had to define a model that can be sustainable; short, medium and long-term,” said Arteta ahead of Sunday’s game with Chelsea.

    “We had to address a lot of issues that we had in our squad balance. We are doing that bringing in quality players in different stages and education of their careers but they can fit perfectly with what we are trying to do. And we will continue to do that.

    “Some with experience in the Premier League already, some they are coming from abroad with great education. As well, I think you can see the level that they have and the margin for improvement and development.”

    Arteta was also at pains to stress that Martin Odegaard’s arrival from Real Madrid – a £35 million deal completed on Friday – can only be a good thing for Emile Smith Rowe on whom so much expectation rests.

    “We want Emile to be in a better place to develop him,” said Arteta.

    “Having alternatives in that position, they are players that can perfectly fit together. They’ve shown that together last year. We cannot rely on one player.

    “We already lost a lot of creative players we cannot rely on one player to put everything on his shoulders. Emile has not played 50 games at that level yet in his career. We will need to protect him and for sure, we need other players who can do that.”

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  12. “ aman I think Lacazette might need to be moved along too as he is now into the last ten months of his contract.”

    Eduardo, like I’ve said before, I would extend Lacazette’s contract in a heartbeat. He is way too important a player for us, even more-so for the increased number of younger players we now have. He connects things offensively like no other. We won’t get value for him in this transfer market and are better off strengthening CM and adding more creativity to reduce his (& Auba’s) defensive duties. Remember AW built the team around Mesut (even Hector has suffered from Özil’s exit).

    Ødegaard and ESR is an acceptance of this fact.
    Add Bissouma + Aouar, and watch this team kill it.
    Laca has earned his respect and just needs to be extended.
    2 years with an optional year should do it.

    Oh and by the way, Xhaka the real captain of this team.
    I’d relieve Auba of the armband in a heartbeat.
    Forgive, forget, and stop wasting time.

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