Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Leicester City yesterday was great. It was great for a number of reasons: winning despite the rotated side, winning convincingly, Willian and Nicolas Pépé playing so well. One of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much that isn’t getting as much play is that the result was unexpected and surprising, in a good way.
When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by Arsenal? Off the top of my head, for me, I think I have to go back to Arsenal beating Manchester City in the FA Cup last summer. But even that has a bit of a different feel than yesterday’s win. The FA Cup win and run had a bit of a magic feeling around it, that Arsenal were going to, against the odds, pull it off.
Yesterday against Leicester, I had no expectations whatsoever for a good showing from the team. The prioritization of the Europa League, the rotation, the recent record against the Foxes — all of the factors seemed to indicate that it was a “maybe snag a draw but probably not” match. That’s what has got me going today; the win was totally out of the blue.
At the risk of creating a strawman, I think many of us (myself definitely included) can get so wrapped up in player performances, stats, tactics, squad selection, what have you, that we lose sight of some of the more entertaining and joyful aspects of the game and our clubs. We get so hyper-focused on the minutia, on identifying areas for incremental improvement, and analysis that we forget that sometimes football is just fun. All that stuff can be fun, too.
But watching a game from the edge of your seat, living with every bounce of the ball, experiencing those powerful emotions, is awesome. I’d lost touch with and sight of that a bit. Yesterday’s unexpected win brought that back, and it was great.