The flip side to the ‘globalisation of communication’ has meant that Arsenal have evolved from being a local club in England that Londoners felt belonged to them. With the advent of Twitter and Facebook and sponsorship and corporates and branding and all that, Arsenal now belong to anyone in the world, not just a small part of Europe.
Arsenal being a global phenomenon means the number of opinions become higher, different and more varied. And in some ways, that may take away some of the foundations and traditions that was previously associated to the football club. Take me, for instance. Regular readers know that I’ve shamelessly held a greater hatred for Chelsea than for Tottenham Hotspur. I’ve hated the way they mint their money, the style of football they adopted in the 2000s, and the way Jose Mourinho got under the club’s skin. For a Londoner to feel like that is perhaps, unthinkable, but for someone like me, for whom the geography of the clubs is not a factor in liking or disliking it, it may be more understandable.
It goes against the identity and ethos of Arsenal Football Club to only hold a lukewarm grudge against ‘the local rivals’, or the ‘enemy down the street’, and regard Chelsea as the real Captain Hook. Some may feel that this is a sorry example of global football threatening to erode the culture of what this club was built on. But if yesterday was proof or anything, it was that football going global can birth newer cultures.
To watch Arsenal not just defeat, but dominate the Premier League champions in a game where the players and the manager were really up against it, will forever be one of those moments I’ll look back in fond memory. In a day and age where everything is analyzed, and hence, every good thing can be tainted, the manner in which Arsenal won the FA Cup felt impossible to downplay, disregard or ruin in any way.
These were the league champions, who’ve had the better part of two weeks to stretch their legs and get in the right headspace for the Cup final, while we were scrambling hither and tither for a drop of Champions League football. They ought to have been mentally and physically better than us on the day. They should have shut us out and exploited our makeshift 3-5-2. They ought to have done the Double at our expense.
Yet, they didn’t. Yet, amidst all the uncertainty and abuse toward the board, the manager (and indeed, some of the players), we were fantastic. We turned up for a big, big game, we did the crest proud, and boy did we make some memories.
David Ospina’s save against Diego Costa at the death was something I’d tell my grandkids about. Chelsea’s equalizer, despite being 10-men, gave them just that little bit of hope which was all the funnier to kill when Aaron Ramsey turned their smiles upside down in a minute.
It is exactly memories like these why winning competitions like the FA Cup made its name. I know to many people it’s “only the FA Cup”, a competition that has lost its sheen in their eyes, myself included. I know the FA Cup is no barometer of a club’s progress, it would be ridiculous to think otherwise, but it certainly helps remind you why you love football in the first place.
For those who felt that their happiness of winning the third FA Cup in four years was somewhat tainted by Wenger, well, get this, Arsene was probably staying already. The way he has talked about “preparations for next season” in recent weeks, and the fact that the club are still not linked with any manager to replace him tells you all you need to know. Even if Arsenal lost 5-0 to Chelsea yesterday, I would have bet good money on the Frenchman staying. I’m not saying it’s a foregone conclusion, I’m not saying I’m 100% sure Wenger is going to be Arsenal manager after May 31. 80%, maybe, but the point stands that yesterday’s result would likely not have been a factor in the club’s decision-making process anyway.
And look, I know that Wenger’s arrogance, his incompetence to win the Premier League and the Champions League, and his perceived cowardice in constantly deflecting issues that matter in the press conferences has always frustrated us, and will frustrate us if he chooses to stay for more years. But in a way, the longevity of these annoyances have led us to draw extreme conclusions, something for which I was guilty of myself, for a substantial period of time.
We forget that while Wenger is not good enough anymore, he hardly is the worst manager in the world. His record at Wembley Stadium is so phenomenal it almost appears anomalous. The points tally he has generated over the years – while never good enough to lift titles – is a respectable achievement in itself. Of course I want Wenger to leave, but I sure hope he does it at the right time, so that history looks back on him kinder.
For now, let’s sit back and enjoy the FA Cup, and wait for the drama to unfold.
We won the Cup!
-Santi [Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz ]