Surviving Silly Season: A Gooner's Guide to Sanity

In the wake of the celebrations at the final whistle at the Hawthornes, Arsenal having hung on to win 3-2 and clinching 3rd place, Champions League, and ushering in a late St. Totteringham's Day, I recall feeling a sort of numbness. The knowledge that the season was well and truly over had begun to sink in, and we now faced the comparatively barren landscape of summer. This season, for all its ups and downs, had hooked me, just as every season seems to do. There were months sprawling ahead without football, without Arsenal. What is one to do?

Well you can always jump into transfer speculation with both feet, and occupy your time that way. I don't recommend it, myself. Having spent so many summers fishing around the internet for anything Arsenal-related, I find it is one of the supremely frustrating ways to spend one's time, but that is only my opinion. I don't judge anyone for indulging their need to do so, it's just not for me. But there are pitfalls; for one thing, the moment something juicy pops up (KAKA IS IN LONDON AT EMIRATES TO SIGN FOR ARSENAL MY COUSIN WORKS FOR THE CLUB SAW HIM) and you re-tweet it/post to facebook/etc, there are quite literally millions of other folk doing exactly the same thing. Which means that what began as someone making a completely unverifiable and likely completely false claim has now dominated social media and ends up in the actual press masquerading as news. Which is how we get stories like Fernando Llorente to Arsenal. There was never any basis in fact and people begin howling that we MUST have him despite limiting their exposure to the player to buying him on FIFA 12. The club were never interested in the first place, there was never any truth to it, yet we still end up with a supremely dissatisfied fanbase who have now carved a rod for the manager's back out of thin fucking air.

There is no happiness in transfer speculation, not even when it is correct. So much has been written about Eden Hazard (no doubt because the player has been whoring himself out to every club via the press for over a year) and his eventual transfer to Chelsea before a ball has been kicked that by the time the season starts, Chelsea fans will be expecting the next Maradona and will be severely disappointed with anything less. I'm sure he's a tidy player, although I've only seen him a handful of times, but even a great signing won't measure up when one's expectations are for Lionel Messi. Not that I'd be unhappy at millions of disappointed Chelsea fans, mind you.

Similarly, I've noticed a great deal of hand-wringing, worrying, and general jackassery regarding Robin van Persie's contract status, and not just on social media. When I run into other Arsenal supporters, within the first minute of conversation someone will ask "Do you think Robin will stay or go?" And my answer now is always "Yes." As in, he will stay or go. I've tried to answer the question in a more decisive manner, but I keep returning to the fact that what I think about Robin's contract status won't influence his decision one way or another. In other words, Robin van Persie gives *THIS* many fucks about what I think (see how many fingers I'm holding up? That's right, zero fingers, chief).

The jackassery part of all this comes via Twitter, the social media miracle that allows fans unprecedented access to the thoughts and minds of their heroes and interaction with them. The flip side of that coin, however, is that fans can use that ability to interact in any way they choose... generally it is asking for ReTweets or some small acknowledgement from the player, but some have decided that since Robin hasn't signed a contract extension that it is time to start abusing the captain. That's right, the man who single-handedly (or both-footedly and headedly) dragged Arsenal kicking and screaming into Champions League qualification for next season has become an object of scorn for some misguided Arsenal "fans" because he hasn't signed an extension.

I understand there is a temptation to reach out in some way and try to get answers to questions that we as fans will never know the whole matter behind. I get it. You do truly want Arsenal to retain the services of a player, and decide the best course of action in furtherance of that end is to berate him openly on the most public of forums. Now, is that wise? Is it shrewd? Is it good tactics? Or is it stupid?

Frankly, if you've even contemplated such a thing, my correcting you likely won't do any good whatsoever. That's something that can only be cured by the wisdom that comes as a byproduct of age, and even that isn't guaranteed. I think if anyone took time to think before they spoke, or in this case typed, we'd see far less abuse and far more discussion; objective thought, however, seems to be in short supply. As players rarely ever decide to mix it up among the fans, what we have seen is the less self-aware fans channeling Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction ("I will NOT BE IGNORED!!!"). People, I implore you: the man is not only a contracted player to Arsenal Football Club, he remains the captain. I can only hope that he a) never saw those Tweets or b) if he did see them, he immediately realized these people are the fringe, and not a representative sample of Arsenal fans, who do love and appreciate him for all that he's done in the hallowed red & white strip.

Again, this behavior, while completely inexcusable, can be explained by our increased access to information, and more importantly, misinformation. Fans prior to the internet age were less likely to form pitchfork-and-torch-wielding mobs after a few comments from a fake Twitter account of a journalist (UK sport journalists being paragons of responsible reporting and integrity). But it's silly to pine for a simpler time, because there is no going back. So what are we left with? A few things, actually:

1) Increased personal responsibility. Not what anyone wanted to see, I'm sure, but there it is. If you see something regarding Arsenal transfers online, consider the source, take a deep breath, count to 50, and put it out of your mind. Ranting about it to all and sundry won't do anything but make you look foolish, and it won't even make you feel better to vent about it.

2) Rapid procession through the 5 stages of grief. If, and I'm not saying I know anything you don't, so read NOTHING into this, but IF Robin does decide to move on, your reaction should be as such: "Oh, he's not leaving." "Fuck off, he can't leave us!" *Tweets* "Robin, please stay at Arsenal and I will literally be your personal, unpaid servant for a period of 4 years!" "Well that's it, we're fucked. There's no point in even watching football anymore. I'm going to take up model airplanes." "You know what, he's gone, but we've got Podolski, we've got a good squad, and we've got Arsene Wenger. We're going to be okay." If you can move through these steps over the course of a day, congratulations, you have achieved transfer nirvana. You have ascended to a plane above the rest of us normals. But if you're taking a week or more to get past anger, you should probably seek medical help, because you probably have a disease that turns people into miserable bastards.

At the end of the day, rumors of who Arsenal will sign or won't sign mustn't be allowed to color your days and nights until the season begins anew. I feel reasonably confident in saying that Arsenal will sign a few players and will also sell/loan a few players; who, from whom, for how much and to what club are of no concern until the news has been confirmed by the club (no, even BBC doesn't count).

It seems a tall order, I know, and I don't expect any of you dear readers to be such masters of your own domains. I myself will, without a doubt, slip up and backslide into old, silly habits, into caring about silly season. But always remember, summer isn't all bad: there's no (proper) football, no, but there is warm weather, sunshine, fancy drinks with little umbrellas, women not bundled under 30 layers of wool and scowls, and good times to be had.

And never forget, even when things seem to be at their worst, sometimes things take a turn for the better. Keep the Faith.