Half-time and 1-0 down at home to West Ham yesterday, I was preparing myself to turn my back on it all. I wasn’t burning with anger, no, I was philosophical, perhaps even with an eye on relief and a burden being removed.
Carrying on with hope after a defeat to a team we hadn’t lost to since 2006 (I believe) would have been too much to bear. Not because of the seasoned dismay, but through an already established bitterness over that World Cup. Before that appalling tournament’s regrettable existence, Arsenal were top of the League, just one unfortunate defeat to Man U away and a draw at Southampton the only games they hadn’t won. Manchester City, sponsored by Abu Dhabi, were five points behind, even with the addition of robot Haaland and his 100 goals in 20 games, or whatever it is. Smart money, as always, is with the best squad coming through in the end, but Arteta has got us hoping, dreaming, deluding. The team has improved drastically, the self-belief and style is convincing, the boys are young but mature. Gabriel Jesus has added a vital mix of ability, experience and winning mentality, filling that void up front and taking the team to a higher level.
The disruption to momentum was always a worry, and then last week, when I told my mate Charles that I couldn’t get tickets to Brentford at home in February, I learned that Jesus picked up an injury at that World Cup, meaning he’ll miss, at best, 3 months of the season.
So at half-time of West Ham, I would see how the second half would go, find out if the possession of the first half could be turned into something tangible, ie, goals. If they didn’t, well, I would be more than happy to turn to the books I got at Christmas and carry on reading through the season and all the seasons after, perhaps occasionally looking up when something exciting happened. How fitting would it be, in this season of a World Cup in Qatar, that the tournament helps Man City win another league title. What a fairy story! They already had Messi and Mbappe in the Final from Paris St Germain, sponsored by Abu Dhabi.
As it was, The Arsenal swept West Ham aside in the second half, as if the East End boys were an irrelevance. Saka, Martinelli and then Eddie Nketiah, in for Jesus, scored the goals, two that came from making your own luck, the other, Nketiah’s, one that the watching Arsenal Wenger, in his first return since leaving in 2018, would have been proud of.
And so it’s Arsenal’s best ever start to a league season, seven ahead of Newcastle United, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, and eight over City, who play at Leeds on whatever day it is on 28th, and I live to hope another day.