12 years, 11 months and 15 days ago. This was the day Arsenal won the English Premier League 2004 season and in the process converted me, a die-hard David Beckham fan (consequently a ManU fan) into a supporter of the beautiful sport itself – ‘The Arsenal Way’.
There is a consensus amongst fellow arsenal supporters that I belong to the select ‘few’ Arsenal fans. The ones who were wooed by the beauty that is Arsenal style football on that fateful day. Football which seduces you slowly using subtle off the ball movement, silky touch and passing, breath-taking unselfish play culminating in the perfect goal – ‘The Arsenal Way’. Sounds perfect right? Wrong. The timing was the issue; I could have been celebrating my team as the premier league champions if I had only discovered ‘The Arsenal Way’ a day earlier. More than 4000 days later, the wait for another (or one in my case) premier league title continues.
Thankfully, I am one of those realistic Arsenal fans who understands their philosophy and know in my heart of hearts that we do not compete with the Madrids, Barcelonas and Munichs of the world. I dream of a solitary EPL title and not the champions league. Else, I would be living through the tragedy of an arsenal loss in the middle of the week come February. Right now it is limited to a dull throbbing washed over by a sharp realisation that it was the expected result every other weekend.
In my mind, every Arsenal season can be grouped into 5 stages of fan emotion by using the Hype curve for emerging technologies template. (Yes, I formed a correlation between technology products and sports – 5 years in consulting will do that to you).
Every season begins the same way for Arsenal, frustration at not being able to sign a big player during the entire transfer window up until the last day hinting at a sense of desperation. You must understand, Arsenal fans always believe that we are just one player away from ruling the world. With renewed vigour and hope after a last minute signing who will not be available for the first few games due to a ‘lack of match fitness’, we enter the season not knowing what to expect.
Understandably, there is nervousness for the first couple of weeks as the team takes its time to hit the stride. However, the next 2 months are what define the ‘Arsenal Way’ as stuff of dreams. We take the championship race by the scruff of the neck and hit peak form over that period. This takes us from ‘Early Season Jitters’ into the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations – (Read hopefully champions of the world). However, this is a fleeting emotion as the familiar curse with injuries and a cramped fixture list attribute to a rapid decline in performance over the next few months. We start losing ground to the eventual champions leading to the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ over the months of January and February.
As March rolls along, realisation dawns at another failed season and the team starts playing with renewed freedom and a sense of purpose. This ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ period is the most frustrating for every Arsenal fan, as they start playing like a champion side and string together a set of great results. It’s almost as if the team wants to be remembered as ‘also rans’, but the fans know better and they are left with a bitter ‘could have’ type of a season. April and May steadies the Arsenal ship and the team is able to ensure a top four finish with form which would have won the championship with ease if it had materialised in January. Every Arsenal fan ends the season with a tempered ‘Plateau of Reality’. This late season surge instils a sense of hope in us once again for the next season and the hype cycle repeats again.
However, as they say sport is not just about winning. It represents an almost inexplicable emotion which takes you through immense highs and agonising lows, but the sheer joy of supporting your team is unparalleled and what keeps us going every season. Arsenal – An Emotion.