Let’s do it for Danny.

Just imagine tonight’s twitter TL. If we’re winning : Anxiety, send in the defenders, send in fresh legs, protect the lead, edge of seat stuff around 70 mins, squeaky bum around 80 mins and a near heart attack till the final whistle. If we’re losing : Swear words, Wenger Out, Told you so, blame ref/coach/players/summer/board. Either way you look at it you’re not gonna be smiling till the clock runs down. Its gonna be nervy and tense. We are The Arsenal and this is how we run things currently.

We are where we are. Some by our own doing and some by fate. With injuries, poor chemistry, defence related issues and tactics hitting us one after the other and sometimes all at once, our confidence has taken a rather heavy beating this time around. Losing 3 goal leads and calling for Arsene’s replacement, all in early November is something we had not imagined after that glorious day in May.

If we could affect our past as in Interstellar and relive the summer, may be there were ways to improve current situation. May be we could have gone for more names and avoided some injuries. It would have meant a better present day scenario perhaps. But better by how much? Would we have won some of the Top 4 games? I am not so sure. Because its not a question of ability alone. Had it been left to ability and chance alone, our stats against Chelsea should be better than what Swansea’s look against ours.

You are all familiar with our record against Jose’s Chelsea. And this is our recent record against United :

I could paste more stats against top 4, or our CL record. But I guess we all know that thoroughly, and have a very good idea how we have fared in the last decade. Why has that happened is not down to just quality. Mentality has had a big hand to play. We can’t see off some tight games. We always seem to resign and rationalise with ‘played quite decently‘ against top 4 despite the familiar loss. Lee Dixon and Adams have repeated in Media about our style and mentality issues. Evra went a step further and called us a team of boys who would never win. We won the FA, but in the mentality aspect of things Evra is winning that argument. Year after year.

4 years ago our excuse was that we are way too young and AW admitted that lack of experience at this level of the game could prove costly sometimes and cost you at crucial junctures of the competition, and we’ve witnessed exactly that few more times. Today that is not a valid argument as the average team age has risen from 22 to 26 almost. We are not the youngest, not even top 5. Spurs are younger. We added Mertesacker, Arteta, Giroud and other names who brought experience with them. That experience has not translated into maturity and mental strength as much as we expected. We witness familiar scenes with new names, just like before. We see some fight from Arteta and Jack, and barring that we are all way too polite. Clearly age and (winning) mentality are not directly proportional. Our boys have seen many a battles and yet are not as battle hardened as you’d like them to be.

The sample size over the years (of players) is too large to blame it on individuals. Arsene’s approach and principles are perhaps too sophisticated for us to do the dirty work sometimes and grind out a result when we’re desperate. Some blame it on the lack of dialogue and feedback. Arsene likes his players to play their natural game, and offers some feedback post game which many don’t find enough. I mean you have to be some kinda genius to self assess your performance during the game and make corrections for the next time automatically. Not everyone is as intelligent as AW, nor are they tuned to viewing the game as an outsider. Add to that the cold demeanour of an Alpha Male (read about Alpha Male here) and you have very little room for a frank exchange.  We already know that we don’t specifically prepare for opponents and you’d rarely ever find AW screaming instructions at the top of his voice during games. I would wager Bould’s left ear has heard more truths and swear words than the entire squad in recent times. Mertesacker recently compared the ways of his club manager and country’s and said Arsenal are missing ‘something’. I think we know what he means.

It’s always a mixed bag with any choice we make, and we’ve to live with ours till 2016 at least. We could resign to the stats from the past or we could look for a new inspiration somewhere. Suggestions on twitter range from putting a run together (somehow) to wishing for a few kind men with a whistle. I say, we need to find a new inspiration, a new reason to inspire us. May be it could be one single reason, may be one every week.

This week, should there be a reason for the entire squad to unite and give their 200% it should not be to prove a point to the fading star of the past or the wrong choices he made. Rather it should be for our new star to prove to him that he is now home, and his choices were the right ones.

Yes it is professional football and morality is weighed in pounds per hour, but you cannot ignore the pain of separation young Danny, had to endure because his alma mater showed more faith in a couple of 30 year old popular strikers. One can only imagine Danny’s hardwork and quality to come through ranks and lead the line at a club like Utd at such a young age. This current year he is the best performer at Euro qualifiers at this stage with 5 goals already to his name. But that should not be news to us. We’ve seen his commitment from day 1 at The Arsenal. He along with Sanchez are our new untiring engines in attack. Never giving up. Always trying to get a foot in, always an eye on the ball, always ready to help in defending. His numbers might have dried up a bit (at the club) recently, but the desire is as pronounced as the throbbing vein on his temple.

It will not be the first time that teams come together to support a team mate for whatever the reason. Injury, cancer, unfair ban or any other unifying thought which can bind them together. It is the acknowledgement of the bond among mates.

Support

 

Its not always about the 3 points or a mere number which might or might not have a relevance in the long run, sometimes its just about making a point. Sometimes its just about showing the love. Sometimes its just about baring the teeth.

If there ever was a spring board we needed, a break we needed to catch, it is this. Beating Utd should do a lot of good to our confidence. And a whole lot of good to Danny’s too. If I could steal Wenger’s mic before the game I would say “Today is the day we start rewriting this season, today is the day when we start becoming unpredictable. Today is the day we shed the heavy cloak of yesterday’s mistakes. Today we run harder, we run as one. Let’s do it for the fans in the stands. Let’s do it for Danny!“.

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#COYG!

 

PS: Top Banter for me when AW starts YS instead🙂

 

 

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Bring on the hangovers!

Expectations from 2014-15

Last few seasons we’ve shown the fight and led the table for many weeks, but deep down we all knew we were banged on for 3rd or 4th again. Just a few seasons ago there was real daylight between league leaders and us. A lot better than mid table. But way off the top. Always a few players short. Always a star missing to inspire.

This time though, much has changed. Deadwood has all been shipped out. Weaker links have been exchanged for more reliable performers. e.g. Callum Chambers is just 19, yet everyone sees what a massive signing he would be for us. We’ve wrapped deals early and there has been some time for players to introduce themselves to each other despite the WC. Sanchez and Campbell add some genuine trickery and firepower to our attack. Sanogo who I personally am not convinced about at all, seems rather confident. And 4 goals to open your account can’t be a bad thing. Could we do with another CF, I think we could. But AW knows best. Perhaps goals would be shared across even if OG hits a rough patch. Could we do with a DM? I think we could. But perhaps the deal is taking longer, or availability is an issue. Till then its MA8 and Flamini. Not the strongest in PL. Not the worst either.

Overall the squad is stronger and with that I fancy us nicking a few more points in top 6 battles which we were rather poor at, last year. Besides that we should see some dropped points recovered just owing to a better squad depth and Shad Forsyth. It might not result directly in points, but we know this was definitely a reason why we lost few points last year. Add to this ‘that winning feeling’ and I think we could be on to something.

Realistically speaking am I expecting us to win the PL and CL. I am not certain we will, but our attempt will be a lot more convincing. Our fight might continue till the last leg and then who knows when luck favors the brave, anything can happen. We are in the mix certainly as curtains are raised tomorrow.

On paper we look the 3rd best squad to me and that’s where I expect we’d finish. Anything above that is a bonus. Any other silverware is a bonus welcome but I am happy as long as The Arsenal are really in the mix. I’ll take that. More than that we’ll know on match days.

What I’d like to see this year:
1. More points against top 6.
2. Quicker movement. More incisive in the final 3rd.
3. Plan B. We have men in the squad for it now.
4. I want AW to give it back to media and other managers, like a rich spoilt man.
5. Return of one touch football. We have more talent in the squad now and one-touch can make its return to our style if TR7 can stay fit, and if Jack can get on the ball more often. These 2 gents are my best hope for one touch football. And I’d like to see a lot of it.

I honestly do not care for winning the league or any other trophy. I just want us to be fearsome with the way we play. Like we used to. I want our street credit back. I want some battles to be won before the game started. I want managers to say “But we were playing against The Arsenal… this was expected” I want us to be cocky. I want us to be Stringer Bell. I want us to be Tony Soprano.

Bearded Ramsey is coming for you. Run motherfuckers, run!

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Freddie scores again as Puma conquers Indian hearts.

Bangaloreans greet Freddie Ljungberg as he arrives at Bangalore International Airport for the exclusive India launch of the new PUMA Arsenal kit

The world loves Freddie. His antics. His tattoos. And his goals. In fact what’s there to not love about him. His mischievous smile and his shiny pate. Everything about him has been celebrated world over and thanks to Puma it was now India’s chance to get to touch an Invincible in flesh and blood.

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Aug 12, 2014. The launch of #StrongerTogether by Puma in Bangalore, India. A grand event which immediately lifted the Indian Arsenal fan base to a sense of ecstasy and delirium. Gooners converged from all corners of India to be a part of this festivity. In fact Puma organised a specially branded bus for fans from Mumbai to travel all the way to Bangalore (its about a 1000 km long journey) and let me tell you first hand that the Mumbai contingent did not exhibit a cent of tiredness when it was their turn to scream and chant for Freddie and The Arsenal.

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Puma left no stone unturned to impress the fans. There was media buzz and mini events before this mega event. They booked the poshest spot in the city to host this event. Roped in an Invincible. Created a  beautiful maze of Arsenal History and Memorabilia called  #AFCTunnelOfTime and then invited gooners from everywhere. Throw in light & sound, on-building projections, open bar, fun and games and it was a night that gooners have been proudly showing off to all rivals.

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Never has a brand cared this much for fans (in India). Never has there been an effort so grand to win the gooner hearts. Never have I felt this special as an Arsenal fan in India. It is almost like a beautiful dream that you pinch yourself about later. Did that really happen? Yes it did. Ask all rival fans who accidentally walked by the venue and were heckled off by the singing gooners. I almost felt bad for them. Like we had a rich dad and they… snap! how times change huh!?

The day began early for Freddie Ljungberg who landed rather early in Bangalore and then in a few hours was a part of a Google Hangout with a few lucky gooners. I was lucky enough to be representing Gunners Town and be invited to the hangout. Loved the ease with which he answered all questions and he in turn loved my hair. Then I could make him smile by reminding him about when a streaker grabbed him in 2005. We asked him questions about AW, one touch football and his time at the Arsenal. To each question he had a well reasoned and proper reply e.g. “Well yes winning is important, but it is important to play the Arsenal way which is attractive and efficient“. Spoken like a proper gunner. Like someone who is Arsenal ‘through and through’😉

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Unfortunately the hangout was cut short due to technical difficulties and I could not ask him about his time with Geordie Armstrong when he first arrived at Arsenal. Well… some other time I guess. During the day time he spent time with local football teams and junior footballers who showed him a skill or two and they in turn got a few tips from the legend himself.

In the evening it was time for the big celebration. 100s of gooners were invited to UB City where Puma had planned a kickass show which floored all present. Paul Masefield flew in specially to host the evening and had a tough time speaking 3 sentences at a time without gooners chanting. It was annoying and amazing at the same time. And I must hand it to Paul who handled the situation extremely delicately.

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Paul then introduced Puma and Freddie to the fans. They both spoke for a few minutes and answered questions by fans. A time when you realise what ATID means. “Well I wanted us to sign Sanchez after his 2010 display, but I am glad we finally got him” And then he spoke of how he had the option to go to other clubs similar to Arsenal but he chose not to. Because… you get it why right? Something RVP would not understand.

Arsenal legend, footballer Freddie Ljungberg in a tete-a-tete with Rajiv Mehta, MD PUMA India at the official PUMA Arsenal Kit launch in India

He spoke intelligently and warmly of all at The Arsenal. Specially Arsene Wenger. And then he said something beautiful which will resonate with all gooners. “When we played together, we were all equals, there was a great bond with each other, and we loved playing together, which is why most of my team mates are still my friends” . He said many more beautiful things which were all met with thunderous applause each time. Like when he mentioned his favorite Dennis Berghkamp. Or when he spoke of Arsenal’s future with the younger players like Jack Wilshere.

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TOT-1

 

Freddie was a beautiful voice this day, and it could be Pires next or even Henry someday. But the storyteller was clearly Puma. And India is not the only place where this has happened. It started over the Thames of course but the riot of Arsenal colors has exploded world over with this new partnership. Puma has made more fans in such a short time than anyone imagined they could.

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What’s happened overnight, is that our former kit brand partner’s memory has been washed away in one giant and sudden sweep. It’s all Puma now. They have shown their hand. There is respect and attention from Puma to Arsenal. And it will certainly win fans’ loyalties. In big markets like Asia where piracy is rife, this affection for Puma will make a few more think about buying a knock-off jersey. Or if they wanted anything new and Puma makes it, it is now much more likely to be bought by a gooner. Fans can see a reflection of Arsenal in the leaping cat. They’e done it right. They’ve done it the Arsenal way. In essence #StrongerTogether is not very far from Victoria Concordia Crescit, and that tells me its going to be special.

 

#UTA

 

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#AFCTunnelOfTime

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Exciting times are here. Its all cheer and joy in all things Arsenal right now. The FA trophy, the smart summer business and now the dominant victory over league winners Manchester City. It almost sounds like a dream. And we don’t want to be woken up. Long may this party continue. Hic!

To add shine to this wonderful feeling is the new brand partnership with Puma. After the spectacular kit launch event in London, Puma are leaving no stone unturned to win hearts globally. Just yesterday at the Community Shield screening at the Puma Social Club (Lounge & Bar in Bangalore)  I was asked “How the experience could be made better. Are you ok standing, or you’d like seating for fans? Do you guys stand all 90 minutes? How can we invite more gooners? What will make this screening more fun? ” Clearly some people are doing their homework right. They are making a new start and they want to do it the right way. (The Arsenal way? ;p )

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Arsenal till I dye- Freddie Ljungberg shows his true colours-br---br-Picture- Reuters

And if all this was not enough to feel special as gooners among all football fans, Puma has invited fans to an exciting on ground event where Arsenal Legend Freddie Ljungberg will unveil the AFC Tunnel of Time for fans and others who might be interested. It is a unique way to pen a new chapter in Puma and Arsenal’s relationship. I’m excited to see what Puma have planned for tomorrow (Aug 12 at UB City) , and how the history has been portrayed through that tunnel. The fanboyism has started to kick in, in anticipation of being in the same room as Freddie Ljungberg.

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For those keen on attending the event, keep an eye on #AFCTunnelOfTime hashtag and you could still find a way to meet Freddie! Had you been there at PSC yesterday you could have grabbed invites or goodies from Puma.

PS: Is my clock running slow?

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Yellow Submarine.

As a gooner there are some things you want to do. Once, then again and then forever. Like Tollington / Gunners Pub pre-post game. Or going to an away game. Specially if it involves a boat!!

Thanks to my darling gooner buddy Kal (@goonerkal) I got on to this away boyz boat. This was one of ‘the’ experiences I dreamed off. Being on a boat to Fulham, so when Kal asked me and Christian, “should I get you guys tickets”,  I quickly exchanged my ifs & buts with an air ticket to London.

Realised a little later that the reporting is at bloody 8.00 am in the morning. Beer gargle etc, and other jokes followed. The other downer was that Kal had to miss the trip for some reason. And so I looked forward to meeting other gooners on the boat. Ricky and Peter. And met a few more luckily.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking and not bore you with words. And I do not know many people by name here. So please tag or RT this post to them to find themselves, if you identify them.

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Yes it almost looked b/w at 8.00 am. We were a few minutes early and it was still drizzling.

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That’s my pal Shami. First beer at 8.15. Never had alcohol this early in my life!

B67A1342Went upstairs in a bit to find that the foot stamping and singing had begun. We moved.

B67A1343And its Aaaaaarseeenaalll!! Arsenal FC !!! We’re by far the greatest …

B67A1348team… the world has ever seen….

B67A1351And its Aaaaaarsenalllll!….B67A1346

B67A1365And there were no Tottnum points in the gap… there were no Tottenum points in the gap…

B67A1367 Red Army!

B67A1369Red Armyyyy!

B67A1384Thiery Henry… Theiry Henry…. Thiery Henry … Thiery Henry… tra lala lala tra lala lala

B67A1389 B67A1373 B67A1395It was a great band. I don’t know their names but they kept the crowd jumping.

B67A1399 B67A1405 B67A1390That’s a good combination too!B67A1412Walcott Wasn’t being missed. But Theoo Theooo Theoooo did not really fit the mood on the boat.

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Red Armyyyy! B67A1430

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You wont find shit. you won’t find shit. (To the fisherman on the shore)B67A1421Gooner from Brazil in yellow, bought me a beer.

B67A1431Nut case! (Look closer! (Adult content warning!))

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We won the league…. at the shit hole…B67A1450

We won the league at Shite Hart lane….B67A1447We won the League! At Shite Hart Lane!

We won the leagueeee at the shithole! We won the league at shite hart lane!

B67A1443Ricky checking for team news perhaps!

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If you Hate Tottnum sit down! If you hate Tottnum sit down!

B67A1466What do you think of Shit!? …. Tottnum

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And its Arsenalllll!!!

B67A1471Who are ya Who are ya!

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This man had a massive Berghkamp Tattoo on his forearm.  B67A1486And then there were 4 Tottnum points in the gap. (in the gap) There were 4 Tottnum points in the gap. (in the gap) ……
And the boys from The Arsenal Shot one down…. and the boys from the Arsenal shot one down…

B67A1494…there were no tottnum buys in the gap! (my fav chant – but about 6 mins long. I love it)

B67A1496Off the boat. Won’t stop singing though. Not at the Pier.

B67A1499Not at the Bridge.

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Not in the tunnel.B67A1506Not even at the Underground station.

B67A1509Not even when you reach.

B67A1512Just won’t stop singing!

And then it rained cats & dogs and were huddled into a km long penguin march all huddled up, looking down. Of course the camera was kept away. It re-emerged after some one decided to put use to the flare they had brought along.

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And what a sweet result to this game as well. Made it all, all the more special.
Would I do it again?
Wouldn’t you?

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Conspiracy Theories

Thinking-Man

Well we are in some kinda soup. Aren’t we? So I am just guessing the recipe today.

A. Silent Stan has spoken: The clearout this summer is a clear evidence of it. Its not possible that AW who thought all the departing players were worthy of game time last year changed his mind all of a sudden this summer, about all of them. Its very clear that someone perhaps other than AW (probably a consultant SK hired) sat down with AW and crossed all names. Those are gone. At all costs. A bit mercilessly too. Not very Wengerish I’d say.

So the same gent probably also sat down with AW and wrote down areas we need to strengthen and prospects intended. I believe we are working on this list. A CF & a DM is a certainty (its official that we bid). We could get more (a CB perhaps) but I suspect those deals have been postponed for just before the window closes. When the market is the most ripe.

B. Little Bit Deluded : Perhaps it is still believed by some that playing for the Arsenal is a sure shot way to attract players. We offer Champion’s League football after all. And then there is Arsene Wenger. Which player in the world would not want to play for Arsene huh? Well we found out a few this year. Who looked like almost signed up, decided to go elsewhere. The regular trick didn’t work. (This may take little bit longer to realise and by then it will be too late. Again!)

C. Arsene’s last hand: A part of me feels this could be Arsene’s last year here. But he would want to make a statement certainly before he goes. For ages we’ve cited paucity of funds as the reason for our make-do finishes. But this year there is a rumoured war chest. Excuses have gone out of the window then? Well anyone who can do a 2+2 will say that we might need 2-3 transfer windows to inject real quality and perhaps will be ready at the top most level in 2 years. But media will certainly ask AW questions at the end of this season. Some fans would too. “What did you do Arsene? What did you do when you finally had money to throw?” it will be a tough question to answer because the average intelligence of masses isn’t 140+  Certainly Arsene has thought of that day & that question. And so he could go either of the 2 ways.
A. Stick to his guns, add a couple of players. Not spend all 70 and try to get the best result from it all. State lack of talent in the market as reason for inactivity, and then back to a ‘poor Arsene’ wave towards 2nd half of the season, and a gritty finish. Leave on a moral high.
B. Go out with a bang. Spend all. Still finish 4th. Laugh with a giant Fuck You ‘Told you so’ look on face. Retire and finally write that book.

Either way. We all look like we’re sitting on a pot. Constipated.

 

PS: Predictions for this season.

1. Barely finish 4th again.
2. No trophies.
3. Will look to sell a key player (or 2) end of the year.
4. Arsene quits.

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Why are we here?

I raised 2 questions a few posts back, so here is the answer to the 2nd.

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Why am I here?

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If you’ve not asked this question yourself, your friends and media over the years must have ensured that you did consider it. No, not the option. Just the question.

Think what its like to be champions (again). How green the grass smells on the other side. Also when its freshly cut. And then those times when you look at Swansea passing the ball around, like a puppy looks at treats.

The moment Kosc got slapped on his head when on his knees staring at the pitch. The moment Babel dived for the penalty. I’m sure everyone has a personal favorite here. Or may be just when heckled continuously by friends or Utd/Che/Barca fans on forums.

Do we enjoy pain? Like Nick Hornby wrote “The natural state of a football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score” . True. On the pitch, and off the pitch. During football season and during transfer season. True True True. Then I wonder is he talking about all football fans or just Arsenal? Sounds so much on the money for me. Can’t imagine if my Utd mate feels the same way. But if you look at it closely even the Barca fan is worried about tomorrow, even a Utd fan is unhappy with transfers.

Though parts of it are true, bonds borne of pain & suffering are deeper one could argue and are harder to shake off. While pain is inevitable for most (fans), there are some individuals who go looking for it. Its an addiction for a few. Sadism sometimes trumps Schaudenfreude. Think about it.

But that’s not why we are here, Or why we’re still here, Or why we’re all here.

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We are here because of own choice. Irrespective of how it started, whether your dad was a gooner, or all you friends were, or you live in North London, or you just disliked the idea of Utd Frat boys, or you saw DB10 play. Whatever your reason, it was you who made this choice originally, and when you wore the metaphorical Jersey and kissed the badge, you made a permanent pact with the badge. The badge has become you and the colors of the Jersey reflect their hue on your thoughts. It might sound funny but your DNA did in fact mutate and Arsenal became a permanent part of you. The idea has taken permanence as it amalgamated with your own identity over time. Arsenal’s defeat is your defeat, Arsenal’s victory your own too. This banner makes sense for any club. And its true for most. We come first and then the others.

Arsenal is now a part of you. No not like as a middle finger which can be cut-off, but more like the blood which flows through your veins. You are Arsenal. Arsenal is you. Its not something you can throw away or change. Its permanent and thus switching loyalties is impossible. Gooners for life is not just an awesome line on a poster, its the truth. You could never wear a Utd , Spurs’ ‘pool Jersey in your life even if you wanted to. You can’t run away from yourself , can you?

My Arsenal is NOT your Arsenal.

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We are not responsible for what we have come to be” said the protagonist in a movie recently, (Stoker – A master piece by Tony Scott, must watch!)

That line makes total sense doesn’t it, in our context too. We’ve been through a lot together, seen ups & downs. We are almost all in agreement with which clubs we can’t stand and which clubs we respect. We’re exposed to to the same principles and ideologies. The ‘being-a-better-man’ school of thought championed by Arsene Wenger. A shining example of what world football should be. And we imbibe those principles in our daily lives too perhaps. I know some do.

But that’s only half the story isn’t it? While we have much in common, we all disagree on so many fronts too. On which players to buy, what is right time to go ape-shit on TL, which ex-player is a four letter word, what joke is appropriate about Bale, whether Cesc is welcome back, and whether Suarez is welcome at all.

We all disagree on most of those issues. And more than being right or wrong its about who you are, where you’re coming from and what your own personal values are, in life.

E.g. Some get the business logic and how its all about commerce, while some choose to stay cross over Cesc’s departure. Some accept that the club needs a big time push in quality while others can’t stop supporting Denilson.

Its not really as easy as slicing gooners as pessimists / optimists / realists etc. Or romantic / classic. Or left brained or right brained.  (or the famous acronym labelling).

Some people demand more, some trust blindly, some are far more patient. Some are aggressive and some are so calm you might feel they’ve no passion in them.

Besides the values they’re ingrained with they also are in their own personal stage in life – a caring mother, a promising doctor, a struggling DJ, a ‘popular’ bouncer, a veteran soldier, a stressed nurse, a cancer patient, a divorcee banker, or a simple cab driver.

All these fans (people) and thousands more such cannot agree on many things, because they have different views about money, ethics, emotion, planning, trust, patience etc. You can of course insist in every situation that you are right and your way is the right way, but it would be wonderful to accommodate another view which comes from another approach/background may be.

I say screw those who think you are wrong. Screw those who love to preach. Screw those who bully you into buying their view. Your Arsenal is you, and no one can take that away from you. Enjoy it as you please. Arsenal is a way of life, and through this journey, I hope we meet each other at some junction. Hopefully with a smile on our faces.

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