Whatever happens come May 19 let's recall the joyous moments given to us by Arteta's superb Arsenal team this season

An outstanding piece by Henry Waddon: Resisting the 'What If' mindset

Whatever happens come May 19 let's recall the joyous moments given to us by Arteta's superb Arsenal team this season

Let’s recall the impossibly joyous, ephemeral moments, served up by genius-level coaching and a gifted, hungry squad, that have enabled us to push City all the way says Henry Waddon

I am a deeply sentimental person, writes Henry Waddon

I am incredibly vulnerable to nostalgia, and I am unquestionably fragile to a football-induced melancholy.

I’ve wasted many an evening in the doldrums of Youtube football highlights, reminiscing over Reiss Nelson’s last minute winner against Bournemouth, or Mesut Ozil’s dummy-laden wonder goal against Ludogorets, or Santi Cazorla’s beautifully whipped free-kick to kick-start our comeback in the 2014 FA Cup Final.

And so, on the back of a spell which saw a hat-trick of excellent performances in the league, where Arsenal claimed a maximum of nine points against (variably) tricky opposition in Wolves, Chelsea and Sp*rs, I can understand the inclination of many Arsenal fans to stare at the Premier League Table with a sad disbelief.

I can also vehemently understand a tendency to look back in anger, and to take to the timeline to pontificate about the results that might just end up costing Arsenal the title.

Specifically, I have seen a lot of discourse around the fact that Arsenal took just one point from a possible twelve in our home and away fixtures against Fulham and Aston Villa this season.

When staring down these apparent anomalies, against the backdrop of an otherwise nye-on perfect league campaign, it is only natural to wonder, “what if things had been different?”.

Because it is undeniably frustrating that after a tricky, complicated, hugely significant victory over Tottenham, we still somehow find ourselves in a position where we have to place all our trust and hopes into the hands of underwhelming London rivals, and pray to the footballing Gods that they can take two or three points off Pep’s Nouveau-Galacticos.

It is in City’s hands, and my God, it would be so much easier if it was in ours, wouldn’t it?

But this coin has two sides.

We are so infinitely spoiled and lucky to still be in a title race in May, and we are only here thanks to a cocktail of innumerate factors.

As well as ruminating on missed opportunities and dropped points, we must also ask, “but what if the footballing gods hadn’t been smiling on us in some of 23-24’s most magical moments?”

What if Declan Rice hadn’t chinned the ball down with aplomb and nestled a half-volley past Onana back in September?

What if Gabi Martinelli’s shot hadn’t taken that beautiful deflection off Nathan Ake in October?

What if Martin Odegaard hadn’t swung in an inch perfect ball with the second-last kick of the game at Kenilworth Road?

When you total just these three incidents up, we are minutes and moments away from being six points worse off than we currently are.

But it feels almost childish and unjust to be talking about rolled dice and happenstance, when, in truth, the only question any of us should be asking is, “what if Arsenal hadn’t been so... good?”

The Gunners have the most wins, goals, set-piece goals, clean sheets, touches in opposition box, and (at time of writing) points accrued of any team in the Premier League, compounded by the lowest goals conceded, lowest xG against and least on-target shots conceded.

We have an extraordinary group of players, coached by an extraordinary team, led by an extraordinary manager, who just celebrated his one-hundredth Premier League win (in the fifth lowest number of games of any manager in history).

In 2024, Arsenal have taken an astonishing forty points from a possible forty-five. It just so happens that City have kept an extraordinary pace, taking thirty-nine points from the same number of fixtures.

The levels in this league are just simply outrageous and astronomical.

You have to be perfect, and you have to beat perfect. I’m sure there are millions of Liverpool fans who are also currently treading this melancholic water, trying not to drown in ‘what ifs’ about their recent disappointing results against West Ham, Everton and Palace.

The key difference between us and them, of course, is five invaluable points.

Even the brushed aluminium cyber-pricks at the Etihad can join in the ‘what if’ game if they want to; seven total draws, as well as losses in winnable games against Wolves and Villa have held City firmly within the title race that they currently find themselves in.

It’s going to be razor thin, isn’t it?

So, let’s try and exercise gratitude. Of course, we can allow ourselves to be hurt by the Villas and the Fulhams of this world.

And, don’t get me wrong, it will be utter, unadulterated agony if we come up short come May Nineteenth.

But let’s also remember the impossibly joyous, ephemeral moments, served up by genius-level coaching and a gifted, hungry squad, that have enabled us to push City all the way.

And we are going to push them all the way.

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