Hi. How are you…?
I mean I hope you’re okay.
Me? I feel a bit weird.
Not the “we’ve just been hammered by a super club and weren’t we supposed to become one of those?” type of weird…although you know, we were supposed to be able to compete. Nor is it the “wow, this is a bit of deja-vu; betcha we win the second-leg 3-0 but still go out in the last 16 of the Champions League…again” type weird.
No the weird I’m feeling today is a bit of a mourning, achey, near-hollow weird. And I’ve not felt like this before with Arsenal. In fact I’ve not felt it at all since 1996. That year I felt this similar sort of feeling when England were knocked out of the European Championship. And, I suppose oddly, that year Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury.
So this feeling then.
I only feel it when I think about Arsenal, and I’m not sure what to do with it. I mean, I’ve spent a good few years now detaching the impact of Arsenal losses and dismal displays from my actual life. And it’s worked a treat: When we win that’s good (obviously), and when we win well I layer that buoyancy upon my mood. Because revel? Yes please. Yet when we lose I habitually feel disappointed for a little bit, disconnect from it and get on with my day.
I love football and I love Arsenal, but it isn’t my whole life. I appreciate that’s a personal view – I’m no longer a season ticket holder an don’t travel overseas – but I decided years ago that generating extreme emotional turmoil from football on a regular basis probably wasn’t great for me. So there we are, each to their own.
Except: last night. That 5-1 loss felt like a fresh, sharp, serious pain. One laced in a gloom that couldn’t easily be tuned out, and one that needs serious attention. It hurt more than Henry, Cesc or van Persie leaving. It hurt more than the 2011 8-2 loss at Old Trafford.
It hurt so deeply I could instantly recall the grief I used to feel at a cup exit or a heavy loss. At the dashing of expectation. At England’s defeat in 1996, when nothing felt like it could be the same after for England or the football-focused world of a 12 year-old.
That 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich? It hurt cumulatively.
What that might mean for Arsenal, for Arsene Wenger, or even for this team in the next fixture I’ve no idea. Whether Arsene felt the weight of that loss in a more acute way than any other…I’ve no idea. And whether we’ll be saying goodbye to him come the end of the season I’ve no idea.
Making predictions one way or the other seems fruitless. But to me it felt like one heavy defeat too far. One negative mark too many against the legacy of Wenger’s Arsenal. One brittle capitulation too spectacular for my optimism towards the rest of this season.
What comes next? I’ve no idea. Something has to change, it seems. To feel like I felt 21 years is an odd thing. But I don’t know what that means or where we’re going.
I do, though, feel unbelievably sad.