For years now, Arsenal fans have been sitting down to the very same show that they already know how it ends. It's a show that depicts the rise and inevitable fall of an Arsenal season; a show that has become so predictable that it has become a pantomime. "He's behind you", is what the crowd would usually bellow through cupped hands, but with Arsenal, I believe it would go like this, "February is coming", bellowed through the very same hands. However, this monotony hasn't stopped the fans from forking out wads of cash to grab the same seats year in, year out. In fact, non-Arsenal fans have even started coming to this production show to watch the club's comedic fall. I've broken down this cycle into three stages, similar to a start, middle and End paradigm of any usual story.
Stage 1 - The Mess
Arsenal have tended to trip at the very start line of the marathon race towards the Premier League title, which has almost become ceremonious of them. Though a poor start to any race comes from poor training in the off-season, and the club has adopted this habit of not addressing its needs in the summer. This year was no different, as the club brought in only two new players [Alexandre Lacazette, and Sead Kolasinac], never really solving the need for a new centre back or central midfielder.
The club also faced a crisis of want-away stars desperately looking to exit stage left. Some were helped towards the door [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs] and some were told that they were not leaving [Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil]. Nevertheless, this was a black cloud that carried over into the start of the season. Arsenal triumphantly beat Leicester city 4-3 in the season opener but followed that performance with back-to-back losses to usual foes. They lost 1-0 at Stoke, and a week later were pummelled 4-0 at Anfield. Stage 1: The Mess.
Stage 2: The "Hmm" Moment
What usually precedes 'The Mess', is Stage 2: The "Hmm" Moment. The "hmm" moment is that small growing optimism you feel when the club start to string together a few good performances and results. You feel as though the bad hangover at the beginning has abased, and the belief that the club can brush shoulders with the teams at the top gains momentum. It presents itself as fool's gold every year, and Arsenal fans get caught romanticising the fraudulent gold. The season has barely started, thus, it is hard to discern whether Arsenal are in stage 2 at this very moment, despite picking up wins against Bournemouth, and Köln in the Europa League. Recently, drawing away at the Champions, Chelsea. Though, using past seasons as a barometer, we can assume that the false promises will soon arrive. "Hmm, if we can pick up a win at home to West Brom, then maybe we can mount a....". Beware of Stage 2.
Stage 3: The Valiant Fall
With every play, story or movie, there is a final part. Most stories tend to lean towards a happy ending. After all the adversity faced in the middle part of the story, the ending serves up the chance for the protagonist to overcome said adversity and live out his/her days peacefully. Not for Arsenal though. February/March are the months that spell impending doom for the club. It is the time where Arsenal fall away from the league, and also the period where they exit the Champions League last 16 stages in the same vain—though they are in the Europa League this time around. Its the period where the fans voice their displeasure in deafening unison. The banners unfurl with a gust of wind - signalling out their allegiance (or lack of) towards Wenger. Its a story of a systematic fall that we all know of as if it was the same bedtime story our parents read to us at night. We know the words verbatim, yet we still watch the fall. "February is [still] coming".
The season is still in its early stages, so it is hard to discern which stage Arsenal are at, at the moment, but be vigilant of the signs. What is certain though, is that when the curtains fall to signal the ending of the show, there will be a raucous reaction from the audience. Will it be boos or cheers? Sit tight.