It is difficult being an Arsenal fan. After a string of good games, and unexpected heroics having beat our North London rivals, we finally find ourselves at our usual, fourth. No, wait … fifth. However, the loss to United further establishes that I am, in fact, supporting the fourth/fifth/sixth best team in the league? No. Not by the least.
There are these late night, 50-game long sessions of FIFA I remember playing with my friends. Losing consistently for an arduous 7 game stretch, I usually find myself in sore need of mental strength and stamina to not throw the controller at the television and quit. What usually came to my aid in these tedious occasions, were the stats at the end of the game. I remember taking solace at having more possession, twice as many shots on target and twice as many shots on goal. By some twist of fate, my friend’s goalkeeper had saved an unnatural number of shots. I played better than him, but because the world is unfair, the game was designed poorly, and he was lucky, he had won.
At the end of the first half, United seemed to have rather convincingly put the game to rest. At least that was the analysis of my girlfriend at half-time, who had incidentally decided to catch the latter half of this “man.. we are getting thrashed” sort of game. Despite the 0-2 lead, I couldn’t help but prophesise confidently at the start of the second half that Arsenal were indeed not getting thrashed. And that they were going to win it. With 75-25 possession, 15-4 shots on target, 33-8 shots on goal, 11-65 clearances, 12-1 corner counts, on almost every account Arsenal was the better team. They played beautiful football. They created gorgeous chances, and crafted impeccable plays inspiring “woots” of joy.
Yes, in the end Arsenal lost 1-3 at home, but United’s star was not Lingard with two goals, but De Gea with 14 saves. Arsenal were attack-minded, where every vestigial defensive player, center-back Mustafi, defensive midfielder Xhaka and finally the left-back Kolasinac were subbed out for Iwobi, Welbeck and Giroud, against the mighty United! This … this was sexy football! A dynamic team, swapping from three at the back to four just in the first half. After a Pogba red card, ditching a further left-back and committing even more men forward. It was not senseless; it was positive; and it was beautiful.
I myself, just on this website, have been critical of Wenger, and the Arsenal management, and the lack of money put into the team to improve the squad, to fight with City, Chelsea and United. But despite the poor management, with the squad that Arsenal have, I am proud of the brand of football that they exhibit when they play like this. Maybe it is not as much about the result, as it is about getting the fans going: the volume at the Emirates to see our best against one of the league’s best. Despite the result, I still think I support the best team in the league. And I guess that’s what it means to be a fan.
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