As you might expect, given my line of work and what I do, random Arsenal thoughts pop into my head on a regular basis. Very often, I will wake up in the morning and the first thing that I think of is the opening line for the blog – particularly when it’s a big day. By that I mean an important win, or even a difficult loss.
After the Man Utd win on Sunday, I was foostering around watching post-game stuff like I’m sure pretty much everyone else did. I looked up commentary that I might be able to remix for the Arsecast Extra intro. I re-watched the final few minutes, because when you’re doing a live blog and putting the finishing touches to a match report at the same time, you don’t really get to soak it all in as it’s happening.
The soaking. Soakity-soak. The thing is, whatever happens in a game, there’s always a bit of focus on this bit. If you lose and only some of the players take a moment to acknowledge the fans, there can be a bit of push-back. When you win though, you feel like you want to be part of the celebrations. If you’re in the stadium you stay there to watch the players, to enjoy those minutes of communion with the other fans. If you’re at home, you’re watching to see the interactions.
After United there were lovely moments. Gabriel Jesus pitch-side to give props to Eddie Nketiah, the man who has taken his place since he got injured. Mohamed Elneny, who wasn’t even in the squad, having a big hug with Arteta then giving us a big ‘EEEDIIIIEE!!” as the two-goal striker made his way to the dressing room. The manager’s face when embracing Aaron Ramsdale, who will know he should have done better before United’s second. Miguel Molina entering the coaching staff’s post-game celebratory huddle with a massive “VAMOOOOOOOSSSS!”.
Anyway, my point is, as all this was going along, that quote from Fever Pitch (the movie, I think – not the book), just popped into my head, as if my head was Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the thought was Eddie Nketiah.
“See, after a while it all gets mixed up together in your head and you can’t remember whether life is shit because Arsenal are shit, or the other way around.”
I guess that’s a feeling many people can identify with, not least when you’ve come through some lean, difficult and at times traumatic years supporting this club. But if that can be true, so too can the opposite, right?
And I realise this is maybe giving too much weight to football, because at the end of the day it’s a weird thing that we invest so much in which is completely out of our control. That’s the beauty of it, but we never really do it for anything else in our lives. You don’t turn up at a taxi rank, jump in a cab and say ask to be taken to any number of potential destinations – then strap yourself in because the driver could make it a pleasant journey or one where he smashes into the central reservation, rear-ends a half dozen cars, before driving off a cliff.
However, I don’t think you need to do any kind of significant research to suggest that the mood of a football fan is often directly correlated to the most recent result. Winning = happiness. Not winning = unhappiness, to varying degrees. It’s simplistic, I know, but it is no less true because of that.
The difficulties and realities of day to day life, the things we all have to contend with, aren’t really made that much easier or better by football. But when it’s a big part of your life, as it is for so many of you reading this, I think it’s so important to let yourself enjoy the good moments when they come. I do think part of the ‘It’s good, but …’ mindset is self-preservation, because we know it can get better. A lot better. There’s nothing like a title win. Everyone’s favourite bus type is ‘open top’, and yes, there is a long way to go.
Except what you feel at the end of an exhilarating 90 minutes isn’t nothing either. It might end up being a small part of a wider celebration, but it’s also something to be enjoyed in its own right. Why does anyone celebrate a goal in the opening minute, for example? There are still 89 minutes to go, and by the end that early strike might be utterly meaningless. It doesn’t stop the scorer and his teammates though.
Football is about lots of things, but essentially it’s a game where a lot of stuff doesn’t happen for quite a long time, and then there’s a moment. And another one. And another one, good or bad. But those are the things that define the game.
The wins over United and in the derby in recent weeks are moments in a season which has a lot of promise. Our taxi driver is taking the scenic route (in a nice way, not the – rip you off because you don’t know the city – way), the car is purring, the windows are down and the air is warm. Who knows what lies ahead though. Roadworks? A traffic jam? A detour? Godzilla? You can’t rule anything out in football.
Sit back, enjoy the ride, and let’s take it as it comes.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, the bonus Arsecast with Ian Wright is, as you would expect, well worth your time. Check it out below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Wrighty’s House on all audio platforms now, or via https://www.theringer.com/wrightys-house.