Wither Arsenal?

This has been a grim week for Arsenal supporters.  Up 2-0 at the half of the first North London Derby of the Premiership season, the Gunners capitulated to the Spuds, 2-3.  Then a few nights later, a somewhat revamped squad turned in an anemic performance, losing 2-o to Portuguese side, SC Braga, putting their chances of moving beyond the group stage of the Champions League in some doubt.

Better pundits or bloggers than I have floated their theories in recent days about why a team with so much talent, guided by a brilliant manager, has the consistency of a schizophrenic. What Gooner doesn’t have his/her opinion, theories, recommendations.  Much of what I’ve read has been typical knee-jerk stuff ala Wenger must go, or Bendtner, Clichy, Denilson, or (insert Arsenal player here) is rubbish, but none of it is much of a salve in the wound.

Adding insult to injury is the worrisome realization that our hated rivals are making more noise than we’re used to hearing.  Beating us at home for the first time in 17 years and then qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League before we have, is more salt in our wounds.

So what is it we as Gooners are supposed to do?  Blessed by a club that has finished in the top four of the Premiership and qualified for the Champions League every year under Arsene Wenger, there is still an immense frustration building amongst us as we seem to have settled into a role as perennial also-rans.

Paul, the preeminent (OK, the only)  West Ham supporter at Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub, recently said to me, I’m West Ham mate, I expect nothing and I get nothing. The honest statement of a pragmatic realist? Or the acceptance of a fatalist used to coping with loss? Regardless, a potent reminder of how many clubs are dying of thirst for the water we drink regularly.

These are that times separates the casual fan from the the Gooner that bleeds red and white.  I’ve not been an Arsenal supporter long enough to remember LBW (Life Before Wenger), but I know in my heart this is not a flirtation, some immature dalliance easily forgotten or washed away by pints.

Thus, we have no choice but to be grateful for what we have and steel ourselves for what lies ahead.  And hope our Gunners can deliver a good old-fashioned shellacking at Aston Villa this weekend.

As someone once said, yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose.


We few, we happy few

Short of winning silverware, the defining moments in an Arsenal season are the matches against Tottenham.  We can finish second, third, or even fourth, yet still hold our heads reasonably high, as long as we finish above Spurs, and even higher, if we have beaten them in all encounters that season.

The importance of this rivalry is ingrained in every Arsenal supporter, and American Gooners are no exception.  Amongst stateside supporters, the dedication of those residing on the West Coast is possibly the most tested of all.

Because London authorities wish to limit extra-curricular activities amongst rival supporters, North London Derbys always feature an early-afternoon kick-off.  Thus with the 8-hour time difference, those of us in the Pacific time zone are faced with the prospect of a pre-dawn pub gathering, if we wish to watch the match live with our Gooner compatriots.

This weekend, the Bay Area Gooners will meet at Maggie McGarry’s Irish Pub at an ungodly 4:45AM to watch the match between Arsenal and the Spuds.  It is an hour that will separate the weak-willed from those who bleed the red and white of Arsenal.

The temptation to DVR the match and watch at a more civilized hour will be great, as will the desire to watch alone from a reclining position on one’s own couch.  I know of what I speak.  She Who Must Be Obeyed gifted me with the full necessary satellite package to watch all televised Arsenal matches, in the hope that I might in fact, watch more of them at home.

But this is not really an acceptable choice.  If you cannot experience the Derby in person, then it really deserves to be watched amongst a throng of other loyal supporters.

Let this serve as a challenge to all who call themselves Gooners here locally.  I don’t care what state of wakefulness you turn up in or if you’re still in your robe and slippers, but if you really want to define yourself as more than simply a casual observer, more than someone who shows up once the sun has risen, and be recognized as a true Gooner, I expect to see you at the pub this weekend!