Arsenal Refuses To Die, Which Stokes The Love Of Misery

I left Arsenal for dead months ago.

If you talk to any of my friends, like my frat brother Bola or my former co-worker Frances, they'll tell you the same. I've cussed manager Arsene Wenger like a stepson unwanted by mom's new bae, I've cussed owner Stan Kroenke like legendary Atlanta Braves' manager Bobby Cox would an umpire after an egregious call. I've shipped players out of town and pondered what players should the Gunners target during transfer windows like Tristan Thompson looking for a new side pieces. (Too soon?)

As you can see, I'm just like every other Gunners fan in the world.

On Thursday, the Gunners stepped in for their second leg against CSKA Moscow in the Europa League quarterfinals. Arsenal, banished to the NIT of soccer due to their mediocrity in the Premier League, have quietly been tiptoeing their way through the bracket with the hopes of possibly winning the entire thing. Winning the entire thing would qualify them for the Champions League and could possibly save the job of Wenger. Going into the their match versus The Horses, Arsenal carried a three-goal lead in aggregate and football news sites like Live Bets gave favorable odds for Wenger's squad to move on to the semifinals. This of course meant that the specter of giving up said lead would be a fate instead of insurance.

This is the life that all Arsenal fans live, the haunting fear of inevitability.

That inevitability reared its head in the form of two trash goals by CSKA within the match's first 50 minutes. No, the goals were literally trash, and I only know this because Coach Orion taught this to the Junior Varsity Mighty Ducks in D3 in preparation of their epic clash against the Eden Hall Varsity team. (Suck it Rick Riley) On the verge of his 36th birthday, Petr Cech made some miraculous saves only to have the Gunners fail to clean up the garbage. Two goals later, and Arsenal fans were in their palace of haunting fear.

Of course, of all people, Danny Welbeck decided to throw lighter fluid on a fire that seemed destined to fizzle out courtesy of a gorgeous assist from Mohamed Elneny, who was the best player on the pitch Thursday. Coupled with some extra time icing from Aaron Ramsey, the Gunners secured an invitation to the semifinals.

This is the life and times of Arsenal, as things got weird, tense and gross on the pitch. Gone are the days where a marauding Gunners squad could overwhelm lesser opponents, and here are the days where everything feels volatile. On their best day, they can beat anyone. On their worst day, they can get embarrassed. Former Gunner Martin Keown said as such on BT Sport during the post-game:

They seemed to lack purpose, they were losing individual battles, then Elneny finds the pass of the game and you're wondering what all the fuss is about...

You start to look, can Arsenal win the competition, on this performance no. Away from home is their Achilles heel. They didn't look like a team...

In the end they showed character, they needed to, and Wenger has a lot of work to do if this team is to go beyond the semi finals.

If you're a football fan, you watch for the sheer purpose of entertainment, where Schadenfreude is the meat and soccer excellence is the gravy. If you're an Arsenal fan, you watch for the hope of glory...or to be able to accurately aim your cursing at the worthy culprit.

Arsenal held onto their hope to return to the Champions League next season, and the Gunners will face Atlético Madrid in two weeks. Of course I'll be watching (in a constant state of fear and loathing), but not for the sake of saving a manager's job or for the hard resetting of a roster. Nope, I'm here for wallowing in the misery, and if there's glory instead...I'll wallow in that as well, with a weary smile on my face.

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