I’m willing to bet that everyone has said the phrase to a loved one at least once in the past: I love you but I don’t like you very much right now.
My mum used to say this to my brother and I when we were too young to realise that she essentially just meant we were being little s**ts.
It’s how I feel about Arsenal right about now.
First and foremost I love Arsenal. It’s become one of those unconditional loves that you feel for a family member or pet. They can do wrong but I’ll always be there, waving my metaphorical flag in the corner; patting them on the back and supporting them not matter what.
But something’s changed this season.
I used to get genuinely excited about matchdays. I’d wake up with that belly full of butterflies, pull on the shirt that I’d already prepared the evening before, and stick the pre-match build-up on until it was kick-off. I couldn’t eat – I was too excited.
When we scored, I would let out this bizarre scream, which was actually pretty embarrassing. It was somewhere between the noise a dog makes when you accidentally stand on its paw and a cat being strangled.
I’d jump up, wherever I was, fist pumping and grinning like a fool.
Then there were the tears. Andrey Arshavin’s goal against Barcelona when we won 2-1; the FA Cup final in 2014. Although crying over these achievements was understandable – beating Barca in the Champions League was huge and winning the FA Cup for the first time in a decade was imperative for the club.
Thierry Henry returning and scoring against Leeds in the League Cup. Cried like a baby at that one but I’m pretty sure 99% of Gooners who watched that did too.
But then there were the moments I cried for absolutely no reason.
When Thomas Vermaelen scored an equaliser against Fulham at the Emirates after he’s scored an own goal at the other end. Or, again, when Verm scored in the final minute of that game against Newcastle to put us 2-1 up. Unimportant but for some reason, Arsenal managed to drag any emotion I had swimming around in my soulless body to the forefront.
And then there was the anger. My goodness. If we lost, I couldn’t talk to anyone about football. I fell out with my own brother. I ignored social media for the entire week. I would have to go and physically sit in another room away from my partner at the time – also a Gooner – because just being with them reminded me of the fact that Arsenal, the true love of my life, had just lost a game of football.
How times have changed.
When Arsenal lost 5-1 against Bayern midweek, I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t even angry. I was disappointed but I hadn’t even allowed myself to seriously contemplate a win. I expected to be embarrassed.
I didn’t lose sleep over it or argue with my brother when he said how terrible that was. I didn’t have to distance myself from social media.
I was tired but mostly numb, which is the sense I get from most Gooners at the moment.
When Olivier Giroud scored a brace against Sunderland earlier in the season, winning us the match, I didn’t cry or jump around or punch the air. I smiled, sure; I was happy. But it wasn’t the unbridled joy that I used to experience before.
The thing is, I still love the team dearly. When we came back 3-3 against Bournemouth, I gave the air a little punch – I’m not completely dead inside. But it’s not as unadulterated as it was last season.
A lot of my apathy surrounding the team, I believe, is mirroring the players’. On Monday, Arsenal beat Sutton 2-0 and while I realise that beating a non-league team isn’t anything to rip your shirt off about, a little enthusiasm from the players would have been nice.
Instead, most of them looked tired and unsure, as they have done for most of the season, and I can’t help but blame the uncertainty that currently surrounds our club.
For 20 years, as much as people may mock us for it, we’ve always played in the Champions League, played pretty football and had Arsene Wenger as our manager. Now, it looks as if at least one of those isn’t going to be true next season and I don’t think I – or we – are used to it.
I’ve numbed myself to stop the anxiety I have over what the future holds.
So, what do I do?
I continue supporting the club I love. Much like a child who’s misbehaved or loved one who’s said something they shouldn’t, you don’t stop loving them because of a little – or big – hiccup. You keep supporting them and loving them because that’s all you know.
Long after Arsene Wenger has moved on and this current squad of players are just a memory, there will be two things left: Arsenal and the Arsenal fans.
I’m not going anywhere.