49 matches and not one single loss: an unbreakable record standing iconically unflinching in the history of English football. The legends who fought to achieve this feat – Henry, Ljungberg, Pires, Vieira – rightly earned a title that smacks of success, a title fit for a band of heroes: The Invincibles.
Now, in almost laughable fashion, Arsenal Football Club have lost that reputation. What’s replaced their standing as one of football’s most formidable sides of the 21st century is, instead, an ongoing Twitter joke and a gang of disgruntled – if annoying – fan/comedians.
As much as we’d like to jump on the belly-aching bandwagon of banter, it’s actually no joke.
Whilst, yes, watching the berks at AFTV getting riled up and sweary every week is certainly more entertaining than the team they purport to follow, what’s happening to the north London side is a damning thing for English football, and their descent into meme-dom is a worrying indictment for the modern game.
Of course, the dissent we’re referring to isn’t so much what manifests itself on the pitch. In fact, last season aside, Arsenal hadn’t finished outside the top four in over 20 years. They’ve won five major trophies in the last four seasons alone; the same as Manchester United, Liverpool, and Tottenham combined.
This season is a shambles so far, yes, but the rot isn’t coming from a slowly turning cycle of failure; the last four seasons have undoubtedly been the best Arsenal have enjoyed since fielding that indestructible unit of talent for the last time together back in 2005.
And while Sunday’s horror-show of mediocrity confirmed any fears held by Gunners about the calibre of this season’s squad, the reaction of the footballing world to Arsenal’s demise is far more of a joke than what’s happening on the pitch.
Did we laugh the same way at Liverpool – once unquestioned kings of England – for their solitary piece of silverware in ten years and recent 6th and 8th place finishes?
Or how about Manchester United? Finishing 7th, 4th, 5th and 6th over the last four seasons hasn’t sparked such a menagerie of piss-taking jibes for them.
So, as much as it hurts to say it (believe me, I’m no Gooner), there is definitely a case to be made for the defence of Arsenal Football Club.
Their on-pitch performances have been poor and it’s up to you and your 56 Twitter followers to debate Arsene Wenger’s issues over timing and dignity, but Arsenal are still succeeding and are still one of the greatest clubs in the history of football.
Their success outdates that of any other Premier League club in existence, having not played in anything but the top tier of English football since the First World War – further back than any other team in the country.
Arsenal are synonymous with the top of the English game and always have been.
They’ve blessed us with watching some of the brightest talent football has ever seen as well as some moments in history that will outlive even the fans who had watched them live.
A lacklustre team of hyper-preened millionaires being schooled in how to play the sport by the superior 11 opposite is amusing. Arsene Wenger’s eternal umm-ing and coat-based vexations are also amusing. Whiny, bitter and often comical fans with several cases of anger management issues can, ever so often, be amusing as well.
But, it says something about the extent that we’ll go to in football to outdo the opposition. By its very nature the game is about rivalry, only it’s a sad indictment when getting one over the next guy stops becoming a battle on the pitch and transfers itself into an unfounded viral joke for social media.
The Gunners are doing fine, this season seemingly a blip in an otherwise smooth history. Their squad is one of the most talented in the league and their manager its most experienced. Best of all, Arsenal are enjoying their most successful period in a dozen years and they support a side with a prouder history than most nations can boast.
Their rapid decline appears to have been imagined; the laughing-stock status crafted. The problem with Arsenal is not what’s happening on the pitch.
It comes, instead, from elsewhere.
The Emirates Stadium has become one of London’s finest tourist attractions and fans such as those who prostitute and debase themselves on YouTube are an insult to those who remember the Invincibles at Highbury.
Furthermore, as with many teams at the top of English football, business has taken over at Arsenal, and every sponsorship extension only adds to the vapidity of the club.
These are the issues that plague those who wear red in north London, not their trophy cabinet or current gaffer. Gunners, annoyingly, can be proud of the club they support and what they’ve achieved over time.
What should be laughed at is our readiness to write-off one of the kingpins of this country’s football before they’ve even stumbled.
If we want a one-horse race to suffer through every season then, yes, squeal with glee at every smashed piñata once in the mode of Arsene Wenger’s mug as it flakes down from a hot air balloon.
But, if we enjoy a league based on competition, history and glory, then perhaps it’s time to look past the televised bellends on your Instagram feed. Arsenal are no laughing stock!