This post marks the welcome end to my Christmas metaphor.
Santi and the lads brought WholeArsed fans a giant lump of coal for Christmas. I’m sure that our WholeChelsed and WholeLiverpooled and WholeManUed counterparts were quite delighted to watch us pull it out of our stocking. (This schadenfreude among fans is a phenomenon I’ll talk about more next week. You’ve already seen some fine examples from me.)
I mentioned that the preseason featured some defensive frailty and Arsenal were lucky not to have been exposed. Today, their luck ran out. Although NBCSN commentator Arlo White seemed to place full blame on newly-acquired possible Trojan horse Petr Cech, there was plenty of blame to go around. The first goal scored by West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate featured some dodgy defensive marking in addition to a bad goalkeeper decision. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had some truly wonderful moments in the match, was responsible for a giveaway that lead to the second goal, scored by Mauro Zarate who was nearly surrounded by four Arsenal defenders. A 0-2 loss at home against a team we should have beaten handily, a truly terrible start to the season.
There were some terrific moments in the game, but none of the moments that count. Except for West Ham, of course. Arsenal play was unconvincing in the final third and, overall, there were just too many mistakes.
That said, at halftime, I made myself write down a one-word description of how I felt heading into the second half with Arsenal down 0-1. I promised myself I would share it, no matter how silly I looked afterward. This is the word I wrote down: “Confident.”
Later in the game with 5 minutes to go in extra time and Arsene Wenger hugging his jacket like a toddler hugging a teddy bear, I was mentally in full fetal position and experiencing an infinitely different feeling.
This morning before the match I noticed that I had an email from West Ham. This harkens back to my joining the Hammers fan club two years ago. An Arsenal turncoat? No, after our trip to London in December 2012, I wanted to repeat attending a home game over Christmas 2013. However, I wanted to get in two home matches, which wasn’t possible based on the game schedule. I noticed that, in addition to one home match over the holidays, Arsenal had an away game at West Ham during that period. West Ham’s home ground Boleyn is also in London, so I contemplated masquerading as a West Ham fan. To buy tickets, you really did have to register on their site, and there were plenty of tickets to be had at the time I was looking. But generically speaking, it’s not acceptable to attend a game and sit in the West Ham section cheering for Arsenal. I distinctly remembered having to sign an agreement when I bought the Arsenal tickets in 2012 affirming that I was an Arsenal supporter and that I understood that “If it is deemed that you are supporting the opposition you will be refused entry or evicted from the stadium.” This is not because Arsenal’s feelings will be hurt if everyone doesn’t support them. It’s because it’s dangerous for everyone to mix fans together.
Over the next few weeks, while I thought about whether attending a West Ham v. Arsenal game at Boleyn Ground was feasible, I tried to watch Arsenal matches without showing emotion. I found I could quite easily not cheer when Arsenal scored. But what I couldn’t do is not emote when Arsenal made a mistake. My husband said that listening to me watch a game was like listening to someone getting punched in the gut. I had to ultimately conclude it wasn’t a good idea to try to fit in at Boleyn Ground.
It is my sense that today I was emitting more then the usual number of being-punched-in-the-gut noises.
If I’m smart, I’ll finally ask West Ham to stop sending me membership email. Ideally, before they send out this week’s jubilant match report.
It’s a long season. Sometimes it takes a bad loss to give you the right kick in the behind. I don’t want to freak out unnecessarily. But the facts remain. On Friday we were in first place. Ok, only because Arsenal starts with “A,” and the “r” in Arsenal puts us ahead of the “s” in Aston Villa. But we end today in last place.
Truly, I still feel confident. We got coal for Christmas, but with massive pressure and thousands of years, carbon becomes diamonds. The pressure just got dialed up massively. And it feels like we’ve already waited a thousand years.