If self-harm is appealing, then Arsenal are the nation’s sweethearts. How could anyone deny their status as the continent’s entertainers? We are Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe. Don’t hate us for our frailties, cherish us for them. Don’t mock us, applaud us. Arsenal produce performance art of which no other club in the competition is capable. We are the chaaaaaaaaaampiooooooooons of self-destruction. We are Homer Simpson taking cannon ball after cannon ball to the gut. You want to cuddle us, clutch us to your bosom and look after us and tell us everything will be alright. But you can’t because you don’t want to lie to us.
Arsenal’s commitment to the absurd, (and sometimes, with the right set of eyes, our defensive setup from setpieces looks like a piece of installation art) produces a kind of mania in us, the supporters too. I scanned my twitter feed on the train home from the Olympiacos performance (and performance really is the best word for it) and immediately saw 6-7 theories for the team’s European Cup malaise, which, by now, stretches back many years. Somebody asked me whether the installation of Santi Cazorla as captain was in some way responsible for the latest episode of Cirque du Arsenal.
I initially rebuked the man’s theory, but fuck it? Why not? Because the proliferation of theories put forward for Arsenal’s acts of European self-mutilation just serve to demonstrate the extent to which none of us have a clue why this keeps happening. I know that I don’t. The team are perfectly capable of shooting themselves in the foot domestically. But there can be no doubt that Arsenal save their headline acts for the Champions League, where the hilarity is condensed into linear episodes. It’s like watching an HBO boxset. You’re guaranteed action in every episode. In most seasons, the cliff hanger doesn’t appear until episode 7-8, but this season, Arsenal seem determined to fast forward the suspense.