And breathe. Arsène Wenger is leaving Arsenal at the end of the season.
The announcement of his resignation is a cataclysm that, for better or worse, will herald a new dawn in North London. But this will be no easy rebirth for the Gunners.
Regardless of Wenger’s manifold achievements, he walks away from a fanbase bitterly divided between those who’ve wanted him gone for years and those whose faith in his ability extends far beyond the reality of 2018 Arsène. For most of the past decade, the story of the Gooners has been the story of the AKBs versus the WOBs.
Trenches have been dug. Lines have been drawn. At some stage in the 2010s, Arsenal became a sectarian club, a melting pot of bickering supporters’ groups whose fury is stoked at every turn by every type of media and, whisper the name for fear they overhear, Arsenal FanTV.
At the heart of the schism, of course, is Wenger, Arsenal’s very own besuited, greying Berlin Wall. But now that the wall is set to come down, what happens to the two sides left facing each other amid the rubble?
Since the inception of Arsenal FanTV a few seasons ago, several ‘names’ have emerged from the swamp to become Twitter Famous, a number of them specialising in a hysterical, bilious brand of either pro- or anti-Wenger rhetoric. For some of these people, Arsène Wenger’s employment status is more than just a trivial sporting matter – it’s a raison d’etre.
Their personas-by-proxy depend on the Frenchman for oxygen. Few would be interested in their thoughts if they were not set against the backdrop of a bi-partisan Arsenal bogged down by existential turmoil. These people are surely aware of this – so where do they go from here?
Do the two sides of the squabble come together to rally behind the club’s new figurehead, whoever that may be? Are the myriad social media spats cast to the realm of memory in favour of a collective Gunners-Positive Mindset?
Or, more realistically, does each side simply up sticks and transfer their respective entrenchments to a newer, fresher battlefield? Does #WengerOut become #VieiraOut? Does #ArseneKnowsBest become #PatrickKnowsBest?
Reunification after years of tension is not easily accomplished. Just ask the Germans. If Arsenal are to move on from the tearing down of their own wall, perhaps the only thing that will bring together the disparate halves of the fanbase is relatively immediate success.
Whoever steps in to replace Wenger must be aware of this – here’s hoping they can deal with the pressure that brings.