For Arsenal FC, Why Every Game Matters...

Ah, February 5th, 2011... What a day in Arsenal’s storied history. It is not a day in which Arsenal achieved something great or eluded utmost embarrassment. In fact, it’s one of those off days in which your favorite team just wasn’t clicking. One in which, Arsenal fans hurriedly turned off their TV’s, filled with boiling disgust, trying to forget what they had just witnessed. It was as if all of their hearts had been wrenched out over a grueling ninety-minute period.

What started off as delightful day for Arsenal fans, 2 points out of the lead for the title, dissipated faster than it had started. Arsenal had a 4-0 lead through 26 minutes of the game against a fiesty Newcastle side. It was the dream start to the game—the perfect continuation of what was resulting in a championship run for Arsenal—in a season that was exceeding expectations. And with less than 13 games left to go in the 2011 season, this was it. Go big or go home!

Arsenal would lose midfielder Abou Diaby to a red card in the 50th minute of the game. His temperament would best his discipline, blatantly knocking Joey Barton to the ground and then Nolan shortly thereafter, leaving the referee no choice but to send him off. A man down, Arsenal’s desperate defending would concede four late goals: two from the penalty spot because of overly aggressive Koscielny, another from a Clichy error, and the last, a powerful blast from Tiote after an blotched Arsenal clearance attempt. In the end, the game finished as a 4-4 draw. Having watched one of the most improbable comeback in sports, Arsenal fans would return to their weekend activities with only a bitter taste in their mouth, not knowing what dire consequences this game would have to their dear Arsenal.

As any avid Arsenal fan knows, this would become the defining moment for the team today. Woah, how it did! This is all hypothetically speaking of course, but say…Arsenal had won that game. They would’ve gone into their final 13 games of the season, 2 points behind league leading Manchester United, in high spirits having ripped apart a talented Newcastle squad. Over the course of the next 13 games, Arsenal would have scorched through their relatively easy remaining schedule; lifting the Premier League Title after having won 10 of their last 13 to pass a skidding Manchester United.

With one trophy, 8 year Arsenal veteran and team captain, Cesc Fabregas would decide to return to Highbury again next year, aspiring to win more trophies for the starved Gunner fans. By staying, Cesc Fabregas would also have enticed Samir Nasri, Arsenal’s new break out star, to stay as well. The culmination of these two elite stars and Robin Van Persie’s league leading 37 goals during the 2012 campaign would have sent Arsenal skyrocketing. Eventually, achieving a sweep of all the trophies (Champions League Trophy, FA Cup Title, Carling Cup, and the Premier League Championship). By season’s end, this Arsenal team would be receiving comparisons to the “invincible” team of the 2003 campaign that had some of soccer’s greats on it like Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira. Some would have ventured even further, arguing that this may have been the greatest Arsenal team ever. Following the 2012 campaign, seeing his club’s recent success, Robin Van Persie would sign a contract extension with Mr. Gazidis and return to feature for Arsenal in the next campaign.

But that was not to be. Instead, Arsenal's men appeared to be on wobbly knees, and so they were. Burdened by their heavily questioning faithful and the scrutiny of the critics, Arsenal's inconsistent, young, undisciplined defensive unit would collapse under its own weight. It showed in almost every game. The team would go through long stretches of perfect defensive showings to suddenly, almost as if lulled to sleep, having a momentary slip up that would cost them a goal. Arsenal was throwing away three points by giving up sloppy goals. A lot of the time, Arsenal would even have to claw its way back into matches just to earn a draw. This was not a trait that a "big club" should be demonstrating, but that didn't stop Arsenal. Arsenal would go on to lose 3 and draw 6 of the next 13 games, dropping the side down in the league standings for a fourth place finish.

That summer Fabregas would leave for his beloved Barcelona, where he was raised in their youth academy alongside Pique and Messi. Appreciative of all his efforts, Arsenal fans would send him homebound to Barcelona with a standing ovation. As Arsenal begrudgingly separated paths with Fabregas, it discovered Samir Nasri was also on his way out to Manchester City in pursuit of “winning trophies.” In what has become more or less a ubiquitous trend of Arsenal, a testament to their poor luck, Robin Van Persie has left Arsenal for its hated enemy, Manchester United.

To make matters worse, Arsenal can’t seem to catch a fortunate spell. Always rattled with injuries, players departing, and lack luster performances when needed least, Arsenal will have to wait till October for the return of starters: Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, and Bacary Sagna. It will start the season thin in the midfield, shaky in the back, and most importantly—stuck in their perpetual third place grind. Again, it is behind the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United.

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