The atmosphere at Arsenal had become heated, toxic; the Emirates far too treacherous for some in the Arsenal squad to perform to their maximum.
It was borne out of frustration and the stagnating nature of the club. With every positive came a negative, every mountain conquered, no matter how small, was then followed by something that seemed insurmountable. The repeated loss of club captains and obvious star players, which in turn led to the inability to adequately replace and move on. Arsene Wenger says he has a duty to please those in the stands at the Emirates, but for a long time that didn’t happen.
Arsenal are currently on a fantastic run of form, playing the best football since perhaps the last real challenge on the Premier League title in 2007-08. But it is owed to by the mood of the crowd as much as the hard work behind the scenes.
The signing of Mesut Ozil is arguably the catalyst. Too many have questioned whether Arsenal needed the German international, but that probably speaks of the culture of football in this country: short-sighted above all else without an appreciation for a team’s tactical setup. Ozil is the type and quality of player Arsenal need, not because they necessarily lacked a creative player, but because they needed to build on those that they already had in the squad.
Ozil’s arrival was also needed in order to lift the mood around the club off the pitch. It wasn’t too long ago that hope was scarce and the desire to go the Emirates didn’t stretch much further than just being able to see one of England and Europe’s leading stadiums. Ozil, and the quality of player that he is, offers belief and excitement, one that can often be transformed into an attitude of invincibility – and no that’s not a hint that this team are comparable to the 2003-04 league champions.
Arsenal’s good performances and the attitude of the fans go hand-in-hand. The ambition of the club, in the form of their new £42 million signing, has signalled an end to the dead end cycle of the past. The league season often seemed to be a formality; top four would most likely be attained, but fans have ambitions beyond that, for something tangible and importantly memorable. You don’t go and buy a £42 million player from Real Madrid if you’re just looking to finish fourth again, and fans can see that.
Of course, there are going to be dips along the way, but the venom won’t be present. This isn’t an overnight job, transforming a team with clear deficiencies last term into champions 12 months later, although arguably the important pieces starting taking place two years ago: Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, then Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud; it was just harder to see back then.
But as long as fans can see that there is ambition from the club, the inevitable losses will be far more accepted. Even the best have to accept defeat on occasion and Arsenal are not above the Barcelonas, Manchester Uniteds and Bayern Munichs. It’s part of the game, but progression is clear.
One swoop in the market has been enough to change the attitude around the club when the leading public figures were unable to do so with their declarations of intent. In sport, more often than not you need action, and thus far Arsenal have provided.
Have Arsenal fans played their part in the team’s good form?
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