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The Comfortability Of Pessimism

Dear Arsenal, 

On May 8th, 1971, you won the FA cup, and in doing so secured The Double. I was born at the end of the following month. The victory that day came in extra time via Eddie Kelly in the 101st minute and Charlie George in the 111th. While you'd go on to win the FA Cup in 78-79, 1971's league victory would be your last until 1989, the year that I graduated high school. In the years that followed things got brighter. You won the league again in 90-91, 97-98, and 01-02. And then, in 2003-2004, you did the impossible by going undefeated for an entire season, a feat no other team had accomplished since Preston North End in 1889. 

With the exception of millennials, most Arsenal supporters are born pessimists. Falling short is something that's engrained in us. It seeps into your life like an undetected poison, slowly killing you for decades without you knowing. There was a time when coming up short was the norm - ever prophesied by supporters at the beginning of each season. "We've got a decent squad this year" rang the mantra, "but if anyone can blow it they can"

Like it or not, that's what being an Arsenal supporter is - the constant embrace of pessimism only to eventually see it come to fruition. While you've won the FA Cup three times since 03-04, you've failed to win the league since. That's 12 years if you include this season. But in retrospect that record isn't all that shocking. 1971 to 1989 was a drought of 18 years - a period of suffering so long that Nick Hornby had to write a novel about it just to make sense of his entire existence.

Since the advent of the Premier League in 1992, only six teams have won it in its 23 year existence - Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Blackburn, and Leicester. Not even Liverpool, who prior to its creation were English football's most storied team, have succeeded in doing it. Of those six teams, three are now among the wealthiest in football - Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City - all of whom have smashed club transfer records over the last five years. 

Having said that, you have too. 

You're also responsible for some firsts, not all of them positives. You were the first team in English football history to field a squad without a single Englishman in the lineup. You're also responsible for blowing open the floodgates of foreign acquisitions, something that has not only led to an unquestioned precedent in the English game, but a significant decline in domestic youth development. Who wants "Danny Smith" from Cheadle when you can get some super star from "place name of country here"?

Yes, the game should be diverse, I believe in that whole heartedly, but not at the expense of youth who will never see their due because developing them isn't aligned with the immediate ambition of acquiring players worth £80m in an attempt to churn out an immediately dominant side.

The funny thing is that last season Leicester proved the panic math wrong. And yet, despite that, teams like Manchester United went out last summer and paid enormous sums for the likes of Paul Pogba, who has been of minimal service this campaign. Even more ironic is that despite Leicester's poor domestic showing this season, they're the only English team left in the Champions League. And while he has his detractors, let's not overlook the fact that Jamie Vardy was playing for Fleetwood before moving to Leicester. Prior to the Euros last summer you targeted him, an offer he eventually turned down.

By now it's easy for even the most casual supporter to see that things are caustic. Despite press releases to the contrary, Sanchez would rather be anywhere else, and trying to figure out what's going on in Ozil's head on a daily basis is like trying to tame a blind python. And then there are those that find themselves not getting the playing time they desire and are using that to convince themselves that it's time to move on.

It's here, my dearest Arsenal, that you should just walk the other direction. As things stand, Champions League bonuses are out the window. You've a war chest that is one day reportedly endless and the next not. And, to top it all off, a manager that, having been given 12 years to put something together, has failed to do so. He's ensured the economic viability of the club, true, but at what point does that thinking become such the norm that simply managing disappears? Wenger should absolutely be offered a position upstairs, but it's time for someone else to be yelling on the touch line. 

The reality is one that many do not want to hear. It's not time to plug a few holes in the hull, it's time to build a new ship - and that takes time. Longer than most are willing to wait, especially when tickets are the highest in the league. But it's a reality nonetheless. If Wenger goes, the arrival of a new manager will not transform this current side into a championship team over the summer. A great deal of the team has to go as well. Maybe not all at once, but piecemeal surely. 

And so my beloved Arsenal, calculated self destruction and reconstruction must be your lot. Or this chasing of tails will never end.

No matter, I'll still be here, bad or good. You’re too well long in the blood. 

Matthew Good is a third generation Arsenal supporter that was wooed to sleep as a child by tales of Eddie Hapgood and Herbert Chapman.