Arsenal Fans Have Never Had It So Good Under Wenger: The Delicious Pain Of Being Spanked
OH, happy days, Arsenal fans. Who would have believed that as early as September the emotions would be high. Nothing beats a thrashing – and Arsenal are getting a darned good one. Disappointingly, defeat to Blackburn Rovers will not earn the Gunners travelling support a refund, as it did when the Londoners were spanked at Manchester United. The benchmark has been set: you need to lose by six to get your money back; and Blackburn, even with two Arsenal own goals, were never up to it.
Nonetheless, the pall of gloom hanging over Arsenal is delicious. Against Blackburn, Arsenal looked good. They were on the cusp of a return to might. But an off-side goal and those two owns goals helped conjure defeat from routine victory against Blackburn, who going into the game were bottom of the table. This was pain with a kink. Arsenal fans were being salved with honeyed words and unguents when the nipple clamps went on.
Years and years of finishing third or fourth in the Premier League before a good but failed Champions’ League run had led to boredom. Visiting fans to the Emirates mocked the library atmosphere. And then the Gunners began to feel hurt. The fans love it. How they sang at Old Trafford as United ran amuck. This was great. “Hit me,” they begged. Harder! Harder! Harder! Rooney, a man versed in vice, obliged. It was wonderful. Arsenal fans who have supported the Gunners only under Wenger’s seasons of thick and thicker delights now got to rejoice in the kind of suffering that the real fans crave – failure marking them out as the authentic face of the club’s support.
When Arsenal won the league title under George Graham in 1989 (and, yes I was there on that hymned Liverpool night), it was as unexpected as it was magnificent. When Arsenal won the Littlewoods Cup in 1987 – the moment Nick Hornby calls The Catharsis in his book Fever Pitch – the fans went berserk. And yes, I was there. And when Arsenal lost 8-2 at Manchester United it was memorable. But I was not there. I would love to have been, though, because losing 8-2 is as much of an “I was there moment” as winning the title with virtually the last kick of the season. 5-2. 6-2. 7-2. No. We want 8. Spare us no pain.
All football fans know that nothing lasts forever. The true fans know that the thrill and memories that bind are to be found in extremes…