17 October 2005

West Brom 2-1 Arsenal

Another unhappy day for the Gunners.

As I mentioned previously, I didn't have the opportunity to see the game. I was tracking it online while doing other work. When I saw the goal ("Senderos 17") register, I relaxed a bit. Foolish me. In the end, tracking the game online probably dulled the pain, a bit, since I wasn't agonizing over every pass. But a loss is still a loss, and hurts no matter what.

Obviously it's been a rough patch for the Gunners. Arsenal are currently 8th, on 13 points, 14 behind Chelsea. And the method of this decline has been painful, too. Losing (twice!) to Chelsea brings one kind of pain. Losing to Boro and West Brom, and drawing with West Ham, is another kind of pain. Seeing all this after losing the talsimanic Viera only compounds the misery, through the inevitable 'what-ifs.' Chelsea appear on the path to making a mockery of our "Invincibles" season, only two years gone. And it rankles to be behind such teams as new boys Wigan, dour Bolton, and hated Spurs. Arsenal have never finished lower than 2nd in the league under Arsene Wenger; this year, that feels difficult.

But, let's take a step back. We're 5 points out of 2nd, with 30 games to play. Many of our current difficulties can be traced to a thin squad, international play, injuries, and fresh faces; these problems will sort themselves out over the season. And we're still in good shape for Champions' League play, touch wood, with a maximum start to our group. It's easy to grow accustomed to wins every weekend and perpetual domination of the table. Yet no team has a contractual right to that kind of success, and we must all expect a taste of adversity now and again.

I've truly only been an Arsenal supporter for five years or so. My love was cemented with the Double season of 01/02. In the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. And yet I ask myself, would I ever lose heart? I'm sure there are fans who are even now packing away their Arsenal jerseys. But that's not my way. There's nothing wrong with admitting that your team are disappointing you, and that you'd like to see something different from the players, the manager, the board. (The fans.) But in the end, you have to go into each match hoping for the best, pulling for your boys, and giving what you can to the effort. Otherwise, what's the point?

As for this year, I'm certainly not writing anything off yet. The team will stabilize as the young players get accustomed to their new responsibilites. Chelsea look troublingly good at the moment, but many teams have good runs for 8 or 10 games; keeping that up over 38 is a different thing altogether. I'm not ready to hand them any titles just yet. And it's much too premature to start worrying about Champions League play for 06/07 or other such malarkey. I may feel differently in March; who knows what we'll see. But even if we're out of Europe and mired mid-table, I'll still proudly wear my Redcurrant on Saturdays. Because, up or down, win or lose, I'm for Arsenal.

They will still make top 3 and qualify for Champs league again. Could do well in Europe as well, so everything to play for.
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