With Thierry Henry having left for Barcelona, and Arsene Wenger’s long-term future at the club uncertain, I had a good think about what made me decide to support Arsenal in the first place, and where I would go from here.
Prior to the 2003-2004 season, I had watched some English Premier League games on TV but felt there were simply too many Manchester United fans in this country. The Tan clan dinner table was full of Man U fans, talking only about Man U news. I decided that Man U certainly didn’t need the support of an extra person, and looked for another respectable rival who would be a close challenger, to make things more exciting. It’s something like voting for the opposition to keep the incumbents in check. Of course, the alternative club had to be exciting to watch as well.
Before the 2003 season begun, I made my decision to support Arsenal FC. I didn’t know as much about their players, mainly because the media focused more on Man U, but I gradually picked up my knowledge on them. I did not base my support on whether Arsenal would win anything, but it was a bonus when they did, and without losing a single game! The next year, they won the FA Cup, beating Man U. They often played the most beautiful football, making it more an art than just a function.
Then Chelski money came in and overturned the scheme of things. But money alone can’t buy loyalty, just as it won’t necessarily help you retain the EPL title. Ironically, Frank Lampard may agree. To be paid less than two superstar duds must have grated on him.
Many years ago, I recall watching TV host Darryl David talking about his longtime support for Everton, even though they weren’t always doing that well. I know another long-time Everton supporter, PN, who has supported his team with or without Wayne Rooney. And prior to Liverpool winning the Champions League this decade, I knew many long-suffering Liverpool fans who remembered the glory days. They supported Liverpool throughout their lives, not just renewing their affiliations only after the club won the Champions League. I give them my respect for that. Because I value the quality of loyalty, regardless of team – and even for a cause that seems lost.
That lost cause for me right now is the prospect of winning anything of consequence this coming season, and without Thierry Henry (who was too injured to do much this season). My wild hope is that the young Guns pick themselves up and continue where he left off. By finishing 4th, we barely qualified for Champions League for the last two seasons and will certainly be seen as the dark horses again. Hopefully, lower expectations will ease the pressure off the team.
Certainly, Barcelona is turning into another Real Madrid with its own growing collection of Galacticos. It will be an exciting team to watch. Perhaps if I divided my club loyalties by country, Barca would be my Spanish choice. It would be lovely to watch Ronaldhino, Henry, Messi, Eto and Lampard all on the attack. But if I had to pick just one club in the whole world right now, it would still be Arsenal.