How many false dawns can there be before you begin to believe that the sun won’t rise?
At Arsenal, it’s hard to count. But it seems that yet again reality has failed to align with the future that we’d expected. However, I’m not sure if it’s even expectation anymore. Hope, would be a better word. With Arsenal, we hope that the future will be brighter. We hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
But in the end, that’s all it is: hope. Because the reality is never as good as the future promised at the Emirates. And even the present is starting to look a lot bleaker than the past.
Francis Jeffers, Jermaine Pennant, Jeremie Allidiere, Justin Hoyte, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela. All were once reasons to believe that tomorrow will be better. When Manchester United were winning tittles. When Chelsea were winning titles. And when the titles were going to Manchester again.
Arsenal’s future remained bright. Perhaps, even brighter than all the others.
‘You just wait until the stadium is built. You just wait until Financial Fairplay comes into force. You just wait until Benik Afobe scores 20 goals a season. You just wait until Sir Alex Ferguson is gone.’
And so we waited. And in darkness we remain.
Today, it’s the turn of Gedion Zalalem and Serge Gnabry to carry the torch for hope. To be that shining beacon. To be the reason to believe. But hope is no longer enough for Arsenal.
‘We’ve had our hope. It’s overrated. Now let’s have some glory.’
Arsenal fans have long satisfied themselves on just the idea of something good alone. But the difference between this idea and reality this season has been so stark as to leave it shattered.
6-3 to Man City. 5-1 to Liverpool. 6-0 to Chelsea. The idea of Serge Gnabry terrorising defences in 3 years time is no longer sufficient. One cannot sustain themselves on hope for the future alone when the present so consistently diverges from it.
After all, it’s the present that counts. The idea of future is just the best guess at how things might turn out. It’s intangible. It doesn’t mean anything. You can’t judge a club on how their future looks. You can only make judgments on the past.
And the past has been a disappointment. In every one of the last 8 years there was reason to believe that the next one would be better. And every year reality has made fools of us.
Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie – they all left.
Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, Julian Draxler – they never came.
Reality has been at odds with expectations for so long so to leave us bereft of hope, of expectations, of promise. All except Arsene Wenger.
Wenger believes in his players. It’s part of what has made him such a successful manager. Arsenal have been able to play attractive football because Wenger has given them the confidence to do so. And instilling this belief can go along way to making it self-fulfilling.
But the players can only believe for so long when reality consistently suggests different. Arsene Wenger talked of nerves being at fault for Arsenal’s heavy away defeats in the Premier League this season. But it’s no surprise the players were nervous. They had been sent out to play in an open style that had already proved itself unsuccessful with nothing more than hope that this time things would be different.
But there was no logical reason to believe that it would be. And it wasn’t.
Arsene Wenger may be the last man at the Emirates to stand by this belief. To be able to convince himself that tomorrow will be better than today. To still be able to hope.
But at Arsenal, the sun never rises quite as brightly tomorrow. And today we are left to wonder whether it will ever rise at all.