Time Waits For Nobody

The trophy pictured above is from the 03-04 Invincibles triumph. Red and White ribbons haven’t been attached to the trophy since.

In that miraculous season, we had wrapped up the league with four games to spare. At that moment, with the FA Cup and Europe no longer possibilities, the team could have relaxed and taken it easy. To an extent, they did, but they had a bigger target in mind, immortality. Their names would already be in the history books, but here was an opportunity to write an entire chapter of English football, something that will probably never be achieved in England again. With that pursuit in mind, Arsenal pressed on and completed the Invincible season. They defined themselves as legends.

As Wenger’s new experiment is rapidly approaching the maturation date, we currently stand level with Chelsea (albeit with one more game played) and two points behind United (but we have a game on them). We have an opportunity to score a resounding victory for football by wresting the Premier League trophy from the clutches of Manchester United.

These next four games will not decide the season, but they very well might define the season. Wenger has placed his faith in these players over and over again, refusing to sign players both out of principle and belief. They are the players who will be responsible for Wenger signing off in a blaze of glory or trailing off like a failed idealist.

In life and in sports, you are sometimes fortunate enough to get a small window where you can either succeed or fail. Of course, it’s somewhat foolish to define things in those terms. There are many players who never get to play in a Champions League game. There are athletes whose careers have been destroyed by injury. There are wonderful players, like George Weah, who have never played in a World Cup. Circumstances decide what situations can be defined as successes and failures.

And in that regard, we can already regard Wenger’s experiment to be a success. They have thrilled neutrals and played with a style that Wenger refuses to abandon. They have proven that a team can compete without being financially irresponsible. Others see it differently. Others see a defiantly stubborn man who has thrown away opportunities to win real trophies, charges that were leveled at Arsene as recently as Sunday when we lost to Stoke in the FA Cup. Wenger has shown the courage to laugh in the face of his critics and believe in this team.

In the next four games, the players at Arsenal FC will be given the choice to be regarded as championship material or pretty pretenders. Make no mistake, this team will challenge for the next few years, but there is no moment like the present. We do not know what will happen in the future. Cesc Fabregas may be swayed by Spanish riches. William Gallas may seek a different challenge. Tomas Rosicky might suffer a career ending injury. Arsene may lose his passion in the game. None of these scenarios are likely, but we cannot predict the future.

Teams and athletes often come to a crossroads. They are greeted with challenges that will define their careers. Great players can break through and become legends, while “just good enough” players enjoy their time being some kid’s fifth favorite player on a team before they ride out their mediocre careers.

As it stands, this Arsenal team of the past few years have given us personal memories that will never be forgotten. What they have not done is write themselves into the history books so that everyone else can remember as well. I believe that Wenger’s experiment will be remembered forever, but I do not want to read an epilogue in a book that tells us that it ultimately failed. The onus is on the players. The chance to play for Arsene Wenger comes but once in life. The difference between immortality and mere greatness is definitive success.

It is time for this team to make a clear statement. That begins against Villa.

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