So here we are again: the time of the season that every single ‘pundit’ does their predictions on who is finishing where in the league. Who will be crowned victorious? Who will suffer the agony of relegation? Who will scrape into Europe’s – nay, the world’s – premier club competition by finishing third and fourth? And who will have to contend with a season of meaningless Thursday evening fixtures as managers use their ‘squads’ to their fullest capabilities by finding the youngest players on their books and giving them an outing.
So it comes to pass that Arsenal fans read the Premier League predictors and explode into red-faced angry individuals more resembling an army drill sergeant with a rowdy mob of ill-disciplined recruits on his hands than anything else. And with the recent exodus of an attacking player the harbingers on doom are once again plotting our demise.
The predictors all say Arsenal will fall like the Roman Empire, with Arsene playing the role of an ignorant Caesar unable to understand where it all went wrong. They’ll mock him, they’ll deride his signings and they’ll scoff at yet another star player leaving the club that has not been replaced by another one of the same ilk.
They’ll even say that Le Boss has been here before. That time and time again the Arsenal board have let their best players move on to bigger and better things. And in some cases perhaps they have. But if you look at the number of success stories that have exited stage left and managed to make an astounding career after life at The Arsenal, you could probably just use your fingers to work it out. Because it’s an interesting paradigm: Arsene Wenger let’s all of these players go year after year, let’s these centurions of the club vamoose to what feels like sunnier climes, yet Arsenal still remains. But not only do Arsenal remain, they always seem to sustain. Champions League football has been an ever-present. Despite losing all of these giants of football the balance does not tip. It has wavered I’ll grant you that, no more so than last season, but the spirit, the team, the fans and the club have always redressed.
I am not saying that we as Arsenal fans should be accepting of the continuity that has become the mainstay of our club. To make such an assertion would demonstrate a blatant disregard for the clubs recently formed motto of ‘Forward’. And I’m not saying that we should shrug our shoulders in a typically Gallic fashion when another high-profile name – bought to the club for a minimal fee and sold on for a king’s ransom – leaves. What I am saying is that we as a collective, unified in our support of The Arsenal, should take what is written about the club from certain corner of the red top gutter press with a pinch of the old ‘Maldon Sea’ stuff.
The media will always be the media. They have a job to do and that is to get as many papers sold, click-throughs clicked, and advertisers kept happy advertising. They will always review the league position as determined by the coinage in a clubs piggy bank rather than their personnel. But let’s just all know better. Let’s know that we needed to spread the goalscoring burden last season, which has been addressed by the signing of two international footballers, one of which was top goalscorer in his native land. Let’s appreciate that we’ve missed a creative influence in the midfield in 2011/12 brought about by the departure of Cesc and long-term injury of Wilshire, and sought to remove the issue by signing another international that has the benefit of lifting both the World and Euro Cups, and we will hopefully see the end of a difficult spell on the sidelines for Jack. Let us also begin to appreciate what a full pre season with no large-scale deadline day moves will do for the squad, who are now one more year experienced in playing together. Yes, I know we’re not at deadline day yet, but the spine of the side is in place, so just the occasional tweak will suffice. And finally, let’s remember that we have some really good young players like The Ox, Coquelin and Jenkinson, who are all one more year experienced.
So go ahead, you media savages, say what you will about the falling empire in North London. But just remember, sometimes, the Empire Strikes Back.