18 September 2014

Take heart, Gooners. It's always darkest before the dawn.

On Tuesday, we encountered a perfect storm, some of whose qualities we created. We fought hard against a league-rival on Saturday, unable or unwilling to rotate ahead of Tuesday's clash. Our reward? A trip to Germany to face a side that rarely, if ever, loses at home and that plays a style that would give us fits on the best of days. By Klopp's own admission, in his own words, "it was a really great performance from my team. Our pressing was perfection....the counter-pressing situations in the midfield were perfect....it was near perfection....[it was] the best job in the world." If a 2-0 win earns that many superlatives, well, we should be flattered, all the more so if, by most accounts, we played so poorly as to make comparisons as to make us seem like Tottenham in disguise.

The forces were arrayed against us. A tough trip to a stadium where it is well-nigh impossible to win, playing in front of some of the most-rabid, enthusiastic, and creative fans in all of Europe, against a squad that probably felt even more put-upon and ravaged than we feel. Yes, we went in without Giroud and Debuchy and Walcott, but this is a squad that lost Lewandowski and Götze to the same league-rival in successive seasons. Imagine losing both van Persie and Fàbregas to Man U or Chelsea. Would you wallow in self-pity or rally around revenge? I choose the latter.

Further, Dortmund have suffered a slew of injuries in the last few weeks that seems positively Arsenalian, losing Gundogan, Reus, Kich, Hummels, and Sahin, to name just a few. Even their own prodigal son, Shinji Kagawa, was not fully fit. Instead of indulging in pointless navel-gazing, however, they went out on Tuesday and played with pride and passion, essential qualities that we've sorely lacked in recent seasons. We've adopted a hangdog, defeatist mindset, all too ready to embrace the latest setback as further evidence of our prolonged, postponed, decline. At times like this, I like to look around and see who I'm surrounded by. I won't resort to hoary cliches about how much water is in the glass or what color a cloud's lining is.

We've taken it on the chin, but it took a "perfect" performance from Dortmund—no slouches are they—to pull it off. We can retreat to our corner and resort to petty recriminations, but where, really, will that get us? We have the squad that we have, and that won't change until January at the earliest. Do we really want to go the way of our noisome neighbors to the north, firing managers hither and yon until the cockerels come home? Yes, we're off to a less-than-inspiring start. We should have done better in the transfer-market. It might have been preferable for certain players to not get injured or to return from injury more quickly. We could whinge and whine all we want, and for what?

Where's the fight in that? Where's the spirit, the self-respect, the spit and gristle? It can't always be caviar and chardonnay, lads. There will be times, like now, when we have to dig deep and see what we're made of. Now, I know that none of the current squad are reading this, so it's not as if I'm isssuing a rallying call that they'll heed. Still, a part of loving this club does include loving this squad. It's who and what we have. These boys and men, for better or for worse, are who we're watching for the better part of the next eight months. Some 60,361 of us get to see this in person each week, while uncountable legions around the world have to settle for any manner of pubs, cable tv, dodgy internet streams, and who knows what else to satisfy our cravings.

None of us will take the field on Saturday or on any other weekend hence, but we are all, at some level, an extension of this club and, at some level, its fortunes do rise and fall with our own feelings. For one, I wear religiously my first-ever Arsenal kit on each match-day in hopes that it will magically transmute my own passion and fervor into the XI that take to the pitch. My fervid imagination and abortive dreams transfer to Wilshere, to Ramsey, to Rosický—each of whom I was always a pale and pathetic imitation—in hopes that they'll make good on the fantasies I entertain, the dreams of glory I hope to enjoy vicariously while believing, foolishly, that some small part of their achievements is fed by my passion.

Logically, it makes less than no sense. How can I, a random Gooner who has never come closer than a stone's through to the stadium, have any impact at all on the squad's performance? Don't talk to me of logic. This is a matter of faith. I believe that I have some kind of impact on this club's performance, and, as such, I want to propel it to glory. Maybe I even play some infinitesimal role in achieving it.

This is not a defense, nor is it a criticism, of Arsène. He's just a man, as are any of those who wear the kit and sweat or bleed through it. For as much as we may disagree about how to get to our destination, we're all in this together.

Right. We have another match to prepare for. We have wounds to lick, it's true, but we also have scores to settle. What'll be, Gooners?