The last year, or more precisely, 2011 was probably the most challenging year to be an Arsenal fan that I can remember. It was like groundhog day of seasons 2003, 2008 and 2010 all over again. As home draws to Blackburn, Sunderland and Liverpool played out, it was like being stuck in a déjà-vu timezone. The media were lapping it up, celebrating in a self-congratulatory ‘We told you’d win nothing’ manner.
The League was there for the taking and we blew it(again), coupled with the Carling Cup final loss and other embarrassments like the 4-4 at Newcastle. Then to compound our unmitigated misery, we experienced the most drawn out, depressing summer of transfer inactivity whilst being abundantly aware our 2 best players were leaving.
Even the most die-hard of optimistic fans can’t pretend they were blind to what was happening. It was a shambles and the worst state I can remember the club being in (perhaps other than the Stewart Houston season of 94).
Fans were annoyed, angry and just plain apathetic. Towards the board, the players, and for the first time, some were questioning whether Arsene had taken us as far as he could. It was during these days that I had to exercise self-introspection. Season ticket prices had just gone up, and it had got to the stage where I had to ask, do I really enjoy going to football anymore? Can I really let myself get taken in for another rollercoaster ride, only to experience crushing disappointment at the end. I was frequently reminded of that old quote which is particularly resonant to Gooners: ‘The despair I can take. It’s the hope that kills you’.
For those of us that live and breathe Arsenal, that take every defeat personally, and have to work day in day out with fans of ‘that lot’, it was a trying time. I attend every game with my brother, and during a pre-match pint at the Highbury Barn before the Udinese game, he said “You know, regardless of other’s success, there’s no-one else I’d rather support than The Arsenal, no-one else has the experiences we do. No-one else has the uniqueness we have, let’s face it, without Arsenal this would be one boring league.” And he was right.
No-one else has had that ‘Anfield 89’ moment, no-one else had a captain that bled red & white who won league titles in 3 different decades. They’ve never had anyone with the transformative class of Dennis. They haven’t had to see the press slag them off year after year because of a perceived Frenchness, and then be proved wrong, year after year.
They haven’t gone a full decade without losing to their local, and massively deluded neighbours, and they certainly have never had the best player this league has ever seen in Thierry. They never won the league at Old Trafford, and they didn’t win the league at Shite Hart Lane(twice). They weren’t the first English club to win at the Bernabeu or the San Siro. And they were never invincible. There is just something unique about The Arsenal. And while we don’t have the most success, our successes are the most special.
When I first came across this website, I was thinking of a unique memory or moment to write about, but honestly, as my brother said about our ‘experiences’ as fans, we’ve just had so many. So in a year which was more challenging than any I can remember, and with some fans questioning their commitment to the cause, I’d like to remind people (including myself) of the above moments and how special our club truly is, and no other club will ever match us in that. Up The Arsenal.