Arsenal fans need to have true belief as much as Arteta and the players

Looking back and looking forward, our job as fans is to tell the right story of OUR club.

A modern mega football club such as Arsenal is so much more than just a squad of players, it is a vast infrastructure of elements, a plethora of teams of people working within the organisation as well as those working outside and in relation to it, PLUS millions of fans all over the world. Evidently, for all to be in good order then the players must do their job – play football well.

And then everyone else employed by the club from top to bottom must also do their jobs. Well, we too as fans have an obligation to do our job properly – when led by the performances of our team last season, we showed just how good we can be as supporters in our stadium.

Being a fan, however, is not just shouting and singing on matchday, it is also about the way you feel and talk about your football club on a daily basis. We all contribute to the collective atmosphere and psychology surrounding the club we support. The quality of the football played dictates much about the state of things, but the whole feeling surrounding the club is in large part OUR responsibility.

For some years now there has been a mismatch between the expectation that our team compete for all the top trophies available and the reality of under par performances and a lack of clear direction. Uncertainty has hurt the team and the atmosphere at the Emirates has suffered too – until very recently few fans would argue that the eleven men on the pitch were up to the standards expected, but the crucial “twelfth man” that some clubs benefit from, no matter what the circumstances, was also missing.

We needed to be convinced and my goodness did our boys convince us, producing thrilling performances on a regular basis. The Emirates woke up, stood up and roared as one. The giant that has been sleeping since the move from Highbury back in 2006 has finally reared its fearsome head. Our job as fans is to make sure that this state of affairs continues, that the excellent positive atmosphere surrounding our massive club persists from now and on into the distant future.

For this to happen, every little helps – everyone must chip in. As such, those of us who pretend to be writers on the subject of Arsenal must also attempt to do what we do best – write well. For writers, words should matter. They do matter. We need to find the right words to understand and put into context what we have just lived through, and it is important that we do it well so that we know how to then interpret what will come next season.

Concerning our experience of the season just gone by – any Arsenal fan could not help but feel disappointed at the finale. Our team led the league for the great majority of the campaign only to be overtaken at the end as they ran out of steam. Some fans went as far as accusing the manager and players of “bottling it”, of not having the nerve to get over the line and hold off the challenge from Man City.

Others still went even further, claiming that such a collapse was indicative of an inevitable flaw in head coach Arteta’s character, and that we would not be able to take the next necessary steps to becoming a successful club in this new era under his leadership. While those fans that remained on a more positive bent wished to lay emphasis on the excellent and unexpected progress of the team, not one could honestly say they did not feel a little let down by the manner in which the scintillating football our lads were playing fizzled out into a series of scrappy performances, watched more with hope than confidence that we would get a result.

Whatever one’s position, it has become all too easily acceptable for Arsenal fans to describe 22/23 as a “disappointing season”. This appears to me as a bad case of idle talk, of writer’s and fan’s laziness but also lack of perspective. The season was far from disappointing, it was absolutely thrilling, but didn’t end how we would have hoped given the standards set in the first half of the campaign. To get a clearer perspective and avoid such misguided talk, we need to understand what the sentiments and forces are behind such utterances. That is why I don’t think the worst accusations should be fully accepted nor entirely rejected, but thoughtfully analysed.

Did we “bottle it”? Various factors played into our team losing momentum towards the final crucial stages: fatigue, most likely, yes; injuries, certainly; lack of squad depth, true, mentality, yes, that too. However one wants to describe it, we were mentally lacking (players and fans) when it came to jumping the final hurdle and we must find the necessary solutions to ensure that it does not happen again.

Anyone who knows anything about sport knows that physical attributes will only get you so far and that one requires, in addition, great reserves of mental strength to succeed at the highest level. In individual sports that is difficult enough, you need to work terribly hard to be the best in body and mind. In team sports, however, it is an entirely different phenomenon for there is a whole complex group psychology that must be taken care of. As a leader, setting out to define the mentality of the group and uphold morale, requires energy, intelligence, invention, tenacity, charisma, discipline, determination, a fine understanding of each player’s mental state, and a great many other traits only those that have taken teams to great heights will fully understand.

Though I have some familiarity with top-level sportsmen, I cannot claim to know the intricacies of what goes on at the highest levels of competition. Nevertheless, it is my conviction that Mikel Arteta does have what it takes to take his team to that rarefied strata.

Despite the criticism of many, Arteta has found the way to impose himself on this team and has given it, through his signings and his work day in day out, a distinct sense of character and cohesion. Even the harshest critics would be hard-pressed to deny that this current group has now a togetherness and group solidarity the likes of which few other teams can boast. This new forged steel character of the team surprised us and everyone else, and is strong evidence that all the right work has gone on behind the scene to make sure the players are at the best they can be mentally.

Nevertheless, when push came to shove there was still that certain ineffable something that was lacking. The very best champions and winning teams have that certain “je ne sais quoi” that means that they can see out games all the way until the end, even under the extreme pressure at toward the close of the season because they have the one thing that you cannot buy – belief. To believe that you are the best, that you can win, or even that you should or must win is the end result of a lot of hard work.

Back at the end of our time at Highbury we had that belief and we had the team to go with it, now it looks like we are well on our way to having the team and the belief is very almost there too.

The end of last season felt almost like those moments in a cartoon where the character runs off the edge of a cliff and keeps going, running on thin air until the moment when they finally look down and realise that there is nothing beneath them. So long as they believe they are still running on solid ground they keep going, it is only when they see nothing but thin air below that they lose faith and plummet to the ground. To continue the metaphor, we collectively as The Arsenal must no longer look down, fearing the fall, but rather get accustomed to flying. We are destined to fly like a mighty cannonball obliterating all opponents on the way.

The move to the Emirates all those years ago was designed to allow us to compete in the new era of mega clubs, now is the time when all the sweat, tears, disappointment and hardship finally pay off.

Arsenal fans, we are the key to making sure that our club gets back to the status it historically merits in this new era. Don’t talk about disappointment or get downtrodden for long, banish all talk of unavoidable “bottling” and failure -that is not our destiny!

Get behind the team and cheer, scream, sing and roar them on to INEVITABLE GREATNESS!!!!


Mr. Munday

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  1. Absolutely excellent article! The mighty cannon ball hurtling through the air destroying all in it’s path! Yes my brothers and sisters… YES!

  2. I’d be more convinced if we sign someone like Vlahovic or Osimhen, but maybe Havertz will do the job

  3. Beautifully written article, but you can’t tell people what to think. Some people, I think, like to turn their brains off and blindly support (not a criticism – it’s just a choice), whereas others will be more critical, for better or worse. People enjoy the game for different reasons, and have very different views – it’s a great thing imo.
    I also dislike the idea that belief in and of itself is so important. I do think the strength of the crowd is real and has an impact on the field, but it’s not because the fans have “belief”, it’s because they’re strongly behind their team. Not sure if I’m getting across the difference – I understand that the force of the crowd is typically stronger when the fans believe that we’re going to win the game, but i don’t agree with the notion that anyone can manifest the outcomes they want by simply believing it strongly – that seems childish to me.
    Anyway, I do agree with the bulk of the content of the article. Arteta has earned my support. Time will tell how far he can take us, but he’s done really well so far, and hopefully he can take it up another notch again next season.

    1. Think it’s the opposite TBH it’s far far easier to be blindly negative. The vast majority of critical voices would have seen the club relegated if they were actually listened to on signings and sales

      1. Listened to by arteta and edu? I don’t think they listen to fan opinions – rightly so.
        I think some/many people are more disposed to a negative mindset, but being blindly negative is a strange concept to me. It’s hard to be critical without putting some thought to the criticism, which makes it difficult (though not impossible, I’m sure) to do it blindly.
        Blind support is just going with the flow, whatever we’re told by arsenal – I see that as being easier because it comes from the authority, the official source.

  4. A very inspiring read, Mr. Munday. Thank you. And one I that had me thinking. What if Arteta had a little more faith in his rotation options toward the end of last season? Maybe the energy would have been higher? However, I still feel we have moved giant leaps forward under Arteta and the fans should feel proud in this current Arsenal era.

  5. Truly beautiful peice, we are positive and full of optimism, a double pivot with Partey and Rice in a 4 : 2 ; 3 : 1 formation is not a team of simple hope.

    It is a team that will go anywhere and get a result.

  6. A thoroughly enjoyable read, a top article pal

    The fans will be a great boost from the kickoff. Our fans will lift our players when things aren’t going to plan and they’ll be deafening when we’re right on it. A big hello to all our fans out there

  7. Very well written article Mr Munday. You referenced our team at the back end of Highbury and the belief that they were the best. Why? Because they were a team of leaders from Lehmann to Campbell to Viera to Henry upfront. For the past decade or so, although we had some quality players I cannot recall a real leader. With the acquisition of Declan Rice we have at last a natural leader and a fine player but it should be the norm when contemplating buying any new player. The more leaders the more belief the more success. Man City is the perfect example they have 5 captains picked by the squad members. But we are getting there and have made a positive start. Imo Rice should be made Captain at the start of the new season with Odergaard as his vice captain. Start as you mean to continue, get the team into belief mode early to start getting positive results and continue that belief right to the end unlike last season. It’s going to be tough but that is what it takes to win the EPL, the epic battle between Man City and Liverpool the season before last exemplifies that.

    1. What leadeship can Rice bring that is beyond Odegaard capability for him to be made number 2

  8. A long-winded way to say shut up, don’t dare question or criticize.

    Everyone supports their club in their own way, and no one should judge or question how another supports their team.

    Asking questions or questioning decisions, even constructive criticism can be positive regarding growth and development. This happens all the time in business and personal development and growth.

    Why should fan support be different or negative?

    I would suggest blind faith or trust is more dangerous, and enabling is not a a positive or productive method.

    However I merely express my opinion on the topic, how someone supports their club is not for me or anyone else to judge.
    I don’t berate anyone on their support, and won’t tolerate someone saying I’m plastic or not a “true” goober, whatever that means.

    1. Absolutely correct Durand, criticise and be damned.

      I have to say that I enjoyed reading someone else’s opinion about our club and how to support it, but after seeing and reading what went on the three or four years before MA joined, I’ll keep holding MA to the same criteria that AW and UE were judged on.

      As for The Emirates, it truly was our home last season and that part of the article was spot on, just as Highbury was when we were witnessing the successes there.
      Imagine the atmosphere when that happens at our nearly new home – keep up the good work Mikel.

      1. Ken
        We seem to agree and have remained consistent on the issue of standards and accountability.

        Emery was not afforded an opportunity to build HIS team with HIS players, rather was just a “coach” managing players not of his choosing.

        Fortunately Arteta has us moving upwards and I’m ecstatic with our trajectory. That being said, it’s time to achieve something, time to have firm goals in place like Wenger and Emery had.

        Top 4 is a must and non-negotiable as it was previously. Over 600 million spent so far, expectations are not unreasonable.

        Top 4 and a title, domestic cup, or European trophy should be on the menu. Top 4 should keep Arteta safe, but goal should be higher now with investments over last several years.

        Can’t always win trophies, but we should be going deeper in cups and Europe than what we have lately. Early exits were disappointments.

        I look forward to us competing this year, and won’t be discouraged by early results. We should be near the top come Spring after January window, and I think contenders again.

        Phase 4 should be a return of expectations, standards, and accountability.

  9. Thanks for the comments, compliments and criticisms.

    It all helps to get a better idea of what I’m trying to get across in the piece.

    To answer some points I’d say that for one, no I do not at all advocate blind belief or the silly new age idea that belief itself can make things happen. My point is that sometimes when everything else is already in place, belief can be the one crucial element lacking.

    I’d also like to say that the article is in no way intended to get people to shut up with critical comments. Criticism requires thought, and thought is to be fully encouraged at all times!

    Criticism is also indicative of high demands, which are themselves also crucial for success to come about. I just want us to be accurate in what we say – yes, disappointing END to the season, and, yes, disappointing early exits in cup runs, but not a “disappointing season” overall.

    Hard to put all that into one article though without completely losing the guiding thread…

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