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Going on a guilt-free Arsenal belief binge

I saw an article on F365 this morning – ‘The Danger Of The Positive Knee-Jerk’ - which, despite making reference to Hull and Everton, was mostly a straight, and slightly knee-jerk (ironically), response to Arsenal fans who had pissed them off by writing into the site saying “you said we were going to be shit and look at us now!”

Knee Jerk Reactions

The aim of the piece was to get Arsenal fans everyone to just hold their damn horses for one second and remember that despite this tide of optimism a humungous tsunami of familiar misery is probably forming and to therefore have a great time and smile and all that, but only a reasonable and measured amount commensurate with the likelihood of this happiness actually lasting.

The following passages sum up the general gist:

But who knows what horrors lie around the corner? History should teach Arsenal fans - all football fans, really - to be cautious rather than excessively and prematurely optimistic...

...The repetition that Arsenal are top of the Premier League, as if that simple statement means anything more than the square root of sod all after six games, is a case in point...

...There will presumably be a few Gooners out there who are now convinced this is the real Arsenal, that everything is cool again and who ignore their obvious flaws. Maybe they won't, but the likelihood is that these flaws will emerge at some point in the coming months, and the mood swings of fans will once again rival that of the crabbiest over-tired toddler.

Perhaps this is based on a straw man built from the loudest and smuggest that filter through to our collective consciousness, and nobody really is taking leave of perspective and their senses...but boy, those loud and smug fans are bloody loud and bloody smug. Just don't get carried away - in the long run, a positive knee-jerk could be as bad as a negative one.”

My response to the above is an equally petty (although slightly more handsome and well groomed) ‘fuck that’.

Without getting into the debate of whether or not we are getting carried away (this would suggest not) I find the notion of tempering my happiness, enthusiasm, hope, excitement or eccentric outbursts of manic joy for the sake of some potential future disappointment to be anathema to my entire understanding of football.

Football has caused me to walk 2 miles along a sea wall at a hurried pace with my girlfriend silently following 3 steps behind me as I raced to escape the house where I had seen us throw away a 1-goal lead against Man U. It’s had me storm from the pub, leaving my mates behind, to race back to my house to sit on a sofa in my flat with my girlfriend (again) and my flatmate for 3 hours looking at the ground while the other two made awkward conversation around me because we had just thrown away a 2-goal lead against Spurs. That’s not to mention seeing us lose every single final I’ve watched without a single success.

Horrors of footballThe horrors of football

I know full well about the ‘horrors’ of football (if they can even be classed as that).

But why, in the name of Francisco James Sebastian Henrique Yoshi Excelsior Merida, would I want to bring them up when we’re top of the league, flying in every competition, still improving and starting to play some of the most exciting and comprehensive football I’ve seen us play in years? As an Arsenal fan I’ve had more than my fair share of darkness and disappointment and now that things seem a whole lot better I want to have my equally unequal share of that too.

Responding to an 11 game winning streak and £42.5m world class signing by exercising ‘caution’ is a concept so alien to me that were I a member of the US Government it would be sitting in Area 51 being prodded by men in white coats pretending to understand what they were looking at. Football, for supporters, is all about enjoyment and belief and when those 2 things come along you need to grab them with both hands and hug them tight to your bosom for the very reason that the article says we should mitigate them - because they might not always be there.

Arsenal fans happy

They are precious commodities in football, and they don’t often last long, and if you think I’m going to waste this opportunity to smear them all over my brain then I think we are approaching the game from entirely different angles.

I don’t want to get carried away with Arsenal’s chances, I want to get roughly picked up and thrown to the horizon. I want to crowd surf the entire circumference of Emirates, be chucked onto a giant trampoline and bounced to the Sun. I want to express uncontainable levels of belief and I hope the team to do something similar, because if they don’t believe they can win the title or the Champion’s League then they won’t. It’s that simple.

My belief turns a Saturday afternoon at 3pm from an independent and potentially engaging display of technical ability and athleticism into a pivotal scene in a year-long (or even lifelong) drama, the outcome of which might be one of the purest joys I am yet to experience. But the less I believe we can win, the lower that potential joy is and subsequently the lower the joy that each individual victory brings.

Ozil with trophies at arsenalBelief when you are doing well is what football is about

If you’re cruising to a mid-table finish then victories will still make you happy, but at the top – where the stakes are higher – the emotions hinging upon each result can be intensely magnified. I want to draw the greatest possible happiness from every victory, even if it means suffering the greatest possible despair from every loss.

The article says that “history should teach Arsenal be cautious”, but if anything it’s taught me to get absolutely plastered on belief when I can, because that chance might not come around again for a long, long time. It’s a high-risk, high-reward, everything-on-the-line strategy – and for me that is exactly what football is about.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

William Benn

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