Arsenal are going to win the league this season.
There. I said it. In my heart, I genuinely believe that Arsenal are going to win the Premier League this season. And no matter how outlandish this statement might seem to be right now, if you’re an Arsenal fan, you think Arsenal can win it too.
Don’t deny it.
You can put as many qualifiers in front of it as you like. You might think Arsenal needs a new striker, or a new central defender, or even a new manager. You might think that other clubs are better equipped to deal with the rigours of a long season. You might think that our tactics are outdated.
None of that matters. You think Arsenal are going to win the league this season. Why? For the same reason we watch Arsenal play every week.
We desperately want to believe that there will be a payoff for all the emotional suffering that we know lies ahead, and the only thing that will suffice is winning. The result is that we end up spending all summer convincing ourselves that what we have at the club might, just might, be enough.
How easy is it to wonder about how strong our attack would be if Aaron Ramsey continued his form from the Euros? Or if Alexis played up front with the same effectiveness as he does for Chile? Or if Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere can stay fit for a whole season? Or if all three of these happen simultaneously?
How easy is it to hope that playing four full-backs against teams like Liverpool and Leicester, teams who rely on speed and movement up front as opposed to brute size and strength, actually isn’t as bad an idea as we might fear?
How easy is it to hope that Arsene Wenger will prise a jewel out of another team and place it amongst his own? Or even more than one? #madness
The answer to all of the above, is that it’s too easy. Far, far too easy. In fact, it’s so easy, it triggers the same response that occurs when we see or feel anything that is too good to be true; fear. We don’t want to get our hopes up in case it doesn’t happen and we get disappointed.
It’s this fear that feeds all the angst and frustration that so many Arsenal fans have towards the club right now. They’re all scared of the feeling of being let-down, the feeling that your hopes didn’t come to fruition and that so much of your effort ended up being in vain.
All of this is why the few days before the season starts are the best times to be a football supporter. We feel every emotion that football can put us through, yet have no idea as to what lies ahead. We have everything we need to enjoy the rollercoaster that is being a football fan, but without the football.
That fear you’re feeling right now, of not winning the league again, of getting knocked out before the quarter-finals of the Champions League again, of perhaps finishing beneath Tottenham on the league table, all of that fear is justified.
It’s also wonderful.
If there was nothing to fear, then we wouldn’t give a damn about Arsenal. What would be the point of spending all that time and energy on something if there wasn’t something that we feared losing at the end of it? It’s the fear of losing that makes the feat of winning all that sweeter, because we know all too well how much the opposing team feared losing.
There is nothing better than having that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach just as a game starts. There is nothing better than having to watch a game through the gaps between your fingers because you’re too scared of what might happen next to see it in full.
Fear is what makes being a football fan great. It’s what makes sport great. That’s why there’s no point in trying to avoid it. Everything we love about being a football fan comes from being scared of what the future holds, so why try to limit how much you can be scared of?
Right now, if you’re an Arsenal fan telling other Arsenal fans that Arsenal won’t win the league this season, you’re only saying it because you don’t want to be let down at the end of the season, and you want to be able to tell people that you told us so. But honestly, where’s the fun in that? What’s the point of going through nine months of football if you’re trying to qualify the ending in such a way that lets you be happy with both winning or losing?
It’s like going into a casino, walking up to a roulette wheel, only to put £10 on black and £10 on red, then celebrating when it comes up black or red. Yes, you’ve ‘won’, but what exactly have you won? By hoping at the start of a season that we might win the league, I’m essentially putting £10 on the green 0 and praying to every deity I know that it comes up. Am I likely to win? Of course not, but it’s far more entertaining to watch that wheel spin when the stakes are bigger, and if I do win, I win BIG.
That’s what I hope to see from Arsenal every season. I want them to win big. I know it’s highly unlikely, but without putting the stakes up front first, I can’t truly celebrate it when it finally happens.
Arsenal are going to win the league this season. You can buy me a pint during the parade in May.