I’ve been putting off writing this review of Arsenal’s 2019 because, well, it was rubbish, wasn’t it? You remember, you were there.
I wasn’t helped by Arsenal being unable to register a win over the Christmas period (although I feel we will start 2020 with a bang by smashing United on Wednesday night).
But the more I started to think about not bothering, the more something kept poking my brain.
2019 was a year of goodbyes, and many of those needed to be marked.
The biggest goodbye for the majority of you reading this was most likely to Unai Emery and that was a happy one. It was one we all wanted for most of the season and, when it finally came with Arsenal on a negative goal difference in the Premier League, it was a relief.
It feels like that might be the only sense of that we’ve had all year.
Away from the pitch but still close to Arsenal, I know a good few of you reading this will be thinking about Goonerholic when the clock strikes midnight and we usher in another year by raising a glass in a way he did so often.
When I started this site some 12-and-a-half years ago, Dave had already been going with his for two. It was a much smaller community back then and bonds were formed between many that still exist today, a lot in the real world with weddings taking place and relationships and friendships forged all over the planet because of those first few years in the Arsenal Twitter community.
There were many who knew Dave better than I did and even more less fortunate than me who never got to share a few drinks with him, but he was a man about whom you genuinely couldn’t find a single person to say a bad word about. Quite the opposite.
Mention ‘Holic’s name and a smile would often cross the person’s face, not usually quite as big as the one Dave used to greet you with, whether he’d known you 30 minutes or 30 years, but he was the type of person who had that affect. He made you smile just by thinking of him.
As the world of Twitter descended into the cesspit it’s become, Dave never let it change him. He had a unique way of disarming and reassuring that brought people together. He was, in many ways, the anti-AFTV.
As summer broke in Northern Ireland this year, my cousin, approaching her 41st birthday climbed Slieve Donard, the highest peak in the country and posed for photos with her husband, kids, and friends. She’d been feeling a bit fluy but it was nothing to stop her joining the rest of the gang up that (very small) mountain.
By August, there was no denying something was wrong and by the end of the month she was told it was cancer. Terminal, but treatable. She had time.
The doctors were wrong.
Within three-and-a-half weeks she was gone and my family was in pieces. There aren’t many of us, and as my mum only has one brother, all us cousins grew up pretty close. On Christmas morning, I’d just arrived at my mum’s after visiting my cousin’s grave, then her husband, two kids, mum, dad and brothers, when I got the message about Dave.
All that is to say that I have not been full of any Christmas cheer this season and felt no reason to depress myself further by looking back over a footballing 12 months most of us would rather forget and which, ultimately, seems completely insignificant in light of what I’ve just written.
But it is about Arsenal that most of you come here to read and it seems somewhat fitting that we head into 2020, a number so closely associated with seeing clearly, with a new head coach in place who seems to actually have a vision.
It’s a new day, a new month, a new year and a new decade. Perhaps this can be the new dawn we’ve all been waiting for.
Whatever it turns out to be, let’s also make it the year we were all a bit more Dave and a bit less AFTV.