Taking The Mik: Why The Entire League is Rattled By Arteta's Arsenal’s Celebrations
Good morning, Gunners.
And it is a good morning, isn’t it?
The air seems extra pure, the sky seems extra blue, and I could swear there’s some warmth in that February sun.
Because Arsenal welcomed the lead leaders to the Emirates on Sunday afternoon and roundly dispatched of them.
Mikel Arteta’s team delivered an almost perfect performance... and it has absolutely spun the head of pundits and rival fans alike.
The celebration police are out in full force, batons in hand, seething at the sight of a jubilant Emirates and a characteristically animated Arteta. “When it’s Arsenal, everyone wants to lump in.”
Now, I know football fans are prone to a siege mentality, and love to slip into the familiar grip of conspiracy... but we really do get a different treatment to other clubs, don’t we?
Jurgen Klopp’s pending exit has dug out compilation after compilation of him tearing around touchlines, running on pitches to hug goalkeepers, and doing his hammy in pursuit of fourth officials.
And I hear words like “passion”, and “character”, and “culture”. In the five minute spell where Tottenham were winning games at the start of the season, Ange Postecoglou was (bafflingly) the pundits’ sweetheart.
Their ‘mate’. And yet Arsenal and Arteta are constantly hounded for being overly zealous, or lacking in composure, or displaying an “immaturity”.
And... I’ve never really understood why.
I think it’s disrespectful. How many times do these players need to prove themselves to you before we can put the “naive” or “raw” allegations to bed?
How many big games do Gabi Martinelli and Buakyo Saka and Martin Odegaard have to produce enormous performances in before you stop questioning whether they can hack it at the very top level?
And why... why... why does it bother everyone so much that toppling Liverpool and City and United means so much to us? What would you rather us do?
I’ve taken a minute to try and reflect on why Arteta’s Arsenal rattle so many cages.
Firstly, we hate what we fear. And, of course, I’m biased. And, of course, I’m deluded. But I do believe that the most fundamental reason that the wider footballing community so detests our jubilation is because it worries them.
Spurs, or Manchester United, or Chelsea simply do not have a young, prodigious, devoted manager.
They do not have captains who would take the time to celebrate lifelong servants like club photographer Stuart MacFarlane.
They do not follow a club that, in the current climate, could snare the most sought-after defensive midfielder in world football.
If I hark back to the times at which I have felt most dismay and frustration at the successes of City and Liverpool, the true origin of that anger lies in a jealousy. A jealousy at the silverware and the special evenings. And I do believe that other teams have been jealous of us over the last eighteen months. Jealous of our culture, and jealous of our performances. If this weren’t the case, I don’t think these moments could feasibly even come on their radar.
Then, we hate what we don’t understand.
Again, perhaps I’m embellishing the narrative, but I think another reason that rival fans are so exorbitantly bothered by how much these games matter to us... is that they simply can’t wrap their head around how we’re managing it.
Rival fans hate that the ‘process’ and the ‘project’ has undoubtedly worked. It is undoubtedly working. Arteta has brought us so, so, so far. With similar projects, Ole, Ten Haag, Xavi,
Pirlo, Gattuso, Jose and Lampard have all failed.
I don’t think it makes sense to other teams that we can dominate a rampant Liverpool, generating the highest ever xG that the league leaders have had to face in the Premier League.
It doesn’t make sense that we’re keeping pace with a state-backed mega-power that possesses arguably the greatest manager in the history of club football.
And it doesn’t make sense to them that we’re doing so with a young, hungry and cerebral crop of players. They do not recognise our passion because they simply do not see it on their home turf.
There is another reason.
A reason that lowers the mood somewhat. An extremely pervasive idea in this online discourse is that our joy is somehow unmerited. That we haven’t earned it. So often, we hear and see the phrase, “they’re celebrating like they’ve won the league!” And, in spite of the countless timeless memories this squad has given us in the last year-and-a-half or so, we are yet to reap the rewards that I feel we certainly deserve.
Perhaps the special treatment afforded to Klopp is derived from his trophy success. And if we want to irrevocably silence the celebration police, we simply have to get our hands on one of the two most coveted trophies in club football. I say this (again, perhaps naively or immaturely) because I believe we’ve got as good a chance as anyone to do so.
And I think Sunday proved that.
In the meantime, gunners, drink it in.
Savour these moments. Watch the highlights, scroll through the timeline, listen to Louis Dunford’s live album.
Savour it, and believe that we can, and must, push on from here.
In the words of dear Stuart, “this is my club. I f***** love this football club”.