This column begins with a simple question.

Do you want to see Arsenal win every game they play?

The obvious answer is of course, yes, no matter where, when, who, or indeed why we are playing. Is hope blinding us in the face of reality when we say that? Absolutely. No Arsenal fan expects to win every trophy available over a significant period of time, it’s just not reasonable to do so. But we hope that they try to, that they’ll give it a go, just like we would if given a chance.

But imagine, for instance, that it happened. Imagine that Arsenal embark on a ten year long winning streak, sweeping the footballing world aside and filling its trophy cabinet with more silver than Robin van Persie’s hairline. Ten years of continuous, uninterrupted, glorious winning. It sounds extremely tempting, but there is only one word that could accurately describe football after such a run:


Think about how you’d feel if you knew with absolute, unimpeachable certainty that Arsenal would win their next game. There’d be no hope. No fear. No concern. No worries. Just winning.

How incredibly dull would that be?!

For the first year or two it’d be great, only because the fear of losing would still be fresh in our minds. But then we’d win again, and again, and again, and again. Slowly but surely, that fear would fade until it disappeared completely. If you disagree, ask yourself this: Would you pay to go to a sporting event that you already knew the result of? Pick any sport you want, all that has to stay the same is that the person or team that is overwhelmingly expected to win, wins. No shocks, no upsets. 

Are you going? I’m not. What would be the point?

It wouldn’t be long before crowds started staying away from the Emirates, not in protest at what they were paying to see, but in apathy. £100 to watch a football match is extortionate as it is, but at least you get the wild emotional swings that comes from watching the game. Take that away, and what are you left with? Very little.

That’s why the response to Chelsea’s ultra defensive tactics on Sunday was so visceral. It wasn’t in protest at how Jose Mourinho had set up his team, or indeed why he did it. It was the fact that he decided that not losing was more important than winning that made all non-Blues fans upset.

In terms of only winning competitions, what he did was entirely justified. In not losing at the Emirates, he just about guaranteed that Chelsea would win the title, which in turn will only enhance his reputation and pay. He did what his job description asked him to do.

But in doing so, he took the risk out of the game. He made sure that he couldn’t lose, and not winning was a price worth paying to do so. He denied everyone watching the game an opportunity to worry about the result, because the result at the start of the game was good enough for him. 

Yet that same result is the one thing that fans don’t want to see: 0-0. It doesn’t really matter what happens during the game, as long as something happens. 

It’s a cruel paradox that football puts fans into; we don’t want our team to be afraid of losing and try to win every game they play, but at the same time we want to be petrified of losing. It’s like being on a roller coaster, you spend the whole time screaming and hoping that it ends soon because it’s going too fast, yet the last thing you want to happen is for the ride to end. 

We want that feeling of pure elation that only comes from having to go through utter despair and desolation to reach it. You can’t have one without the other, and we’re more than willing to go through years of the latter for even a brief whiff of the former.

That’s why we put so many obstacles in front of us in the pursuit of winning, we want our winning to be justified. Winning by itself isn’t good enough, we have to do it in a certain style and within a budget that doesn’t make victory inevitable, all so that after we win, the gloating is that much more sweeter. We don’t just want to beat everyone, we want our victories to be better than their ones

What Mourinho did at the Emirates took all of that away. Arsenal fans weren’t upset at the result, it was because of the inevitability of it. This was a chance for Chelsea to show that on top of winning the league, they could to any ground in the country and win. The fact that they refused that opportunity was what drew such a backlash. 

Chelsea decided that merely winning was enough. The ends justify the means. The league table never lies. Etc, etc. But by trying to reduce football to being merely a mathematical exercise, all they accomplished was to show how much more there is to football than just winning. 

So the column will end as it began, with a simple question;

Do you really want to see Arsenal win every game they play?

Isn’t it amazing that there’s only one answer to that question, and that the answer is no. 

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Gooner and below-average blogger who writes what he thinks, but sometimes doesn't think as he writes. Very occasionally makes a sensible point. Can be found on Twitter rambling away under the username @bradley08. May contain nuts.