Arsenal - The Most Frustrating Club In The Land

Continuously threatening to break into glory only to fall short through being shot in one foot and shooting themselves in the other. It must be so frustrating to support Arsenal...

Last Updated: 28/08/14 at 09:03 Post Comment

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There is usually someone worse off than you in the world. If you're poor, there's probably someone poorer. If you're ill, there's someone more ill. If you're in a relationship with someone whose very presence makes you cringe and your skin crawl with embarrassment, there's Debbie McGee.

That doesn't mean you can't complain, though. If someone nicks your wallet, it's fine to be annoyed and not just think 'Well, they might have needed the money more than me', or if you get pneumonia not shrug and say 'Mustn't grumble, some people have ebola.'

Equally in football. The chances are, your team is having a bit of a crap time of it at the moment. Due to the unfortunate fact that only a few teams can be any good at any one time, sheer numbers state that the majority of football fans have plenty to p*ss and whine about, but there will usually be some berk who will pop up and insist that you have no right to complain because some other team is in even worse shape. United fans should shut up about their current shambles because at least they're not Coventry, etc and so on.

Arsenal fans, on the face of things, don't have a huge amount to be cross at. Lovely new stadium, shiny collection of players, nice statues outside, pie shop down the road, Champions League football every year. Sounds smashing.

Except, it isn't. Arsenal must be the most frustrating team in the land, possibly the world, to support, simply because they're always so very, very close, but just don't quite manage to win the biggest prizes. They're constantly the child with their nose pressed against the window of the cake shop, watching someone else eat the tasty treats. To extend the gastronomic metaphor, a man on Twitter likened supporting Arsenal to being allowed into a fancy restaurant, but never allowed to actually eat anything. It must be soul-destroying.

Arsenal are now in the Champions League for the 89th season in a row, but how many of their fans will honestly, seriously believe they're going to win the thing? Of course, strange things happen in the Champions League, but we all know how this will play out - Arsenal will get out of the group with varying degrees of struggle, draw Bayern Munich or Real Madrid or Juventus and bravely lose, possibly with some sort of slapstick misfortune thrown in for fun. Twas ever thus.

Equally, one could map their domestic league campaign out in similar fashion. They will have a terrific run at some stage and it will look like they will seriously challenge, before a key injury or three puts the kibosh on things and they'll finish third or fourth.

It's the predictability that must be so very crushing - the predictability, combined with the scraps of hope thrown in. The cruel, cruel hope. They might be better off with just despair - at least they would be able to come to terms with their place in the food chain, without the prospect of something better dangled in front of them before being snatched away. It's a form of footballing purgatory, a hinterland between success and failure that would leave even the most stable of men or women thoroughly confused and unsure how to react.

(Incidentally, you can take this opportunity to bookmark this piece, should something unlikely happen in May. If Arsenal win the league I'll hold a special event outside the Emirates where you can simply read it out to me over and over.)

The saga over whether they should sign a new striker after Olivier Giroud's injury sums the whole business up. It's pretty obvious to most people that even before the calcium-deficient forward mystifyingly broke a bone of some description against Everton, they needed a better option up top. Giroud is a perfectly good centre-forward, as the 22 goals at a tick under one every other game last season show, but he should not be the only serious option in this position for a team ostensibly challenging for the Premier League.

An option, sure, but the option...not for anyone ambitious. All the other teams in last season's top seven, with the possible exception of Spurs, have at least one better striker than Arsenal.

So his injury, while bad news, should have been the perfect chance for Wenger to dip once again into that massive pot of cash and buy someone really good, but at the time of writing the pot looks like it will remain un-dipped, and they will muddle through with the options they have.

It's stubbornness like this that raises blood pressure and shows Arsenal would really have been better off if, after last season's FA Cup final, Wenger had taken the applause and shuffled off into the North London night, out on a high, happy that he had built a club but recognised it was for the best that he let someone else have a crack.

While one should obviously not 100% believe the words of managers in press conferences, it was tough to hear Wenger's assertion that he probably wouldn't sign a striker before Monday above all the Gooners slamming their heads against the nearest brick wall.

It's all part of the package that comes with supporting Arsenal. Always close, but never quite there. The most frustrating football team in the land.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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