Of all the casualties at Arsenal during the back half of Arsène Wenger’s tenure—the trophies they haven’t won, the beloved stars they’ve sold to balance the books, the ones they’ve run off once those players’ ambitions swelled beyond the narrow parameters of the club’s own limited aspirations, the big games they’ve habitually lost, their failure to admit to let alone address the endemic flaws plaguing their playing style—the most rueful losses have been the hearts the club has broken, the spirits they’ve drained, the intense adulation they’ve engendered and then slowly bled away year after year. In a dark and depressing ritual, every year Arsenal fans go from giddy with hope to enraged in indignation to eventually hollow in resignation, knowing that this season, like so many others, will end in disappointment.
Case in point: the trajectory of our man Troopz. Troopz, a fixture among the cast of characters that appear on Arsenal Fan TV, is in some ways the soul of Arsenal fandom. He is famous for his fiery, indomitable oratory style and for getting on camera after each and every match, home or away, to, through the passion in his voice and the intensity in his eyes and the “fams” and “bloods” that season his eloquent and rational if heated takes, convey the common man’s feelings on the state of the Gunners. He’s been through some shit this season.
When Arsenal were high, he was the highest of all the fans, leading a throng of fellow believers in a raucous, chest-beating post-game celebration after Arsenal beat Chelsea and everything felt possible. When Arsenal were low, he was the incensed voice of accountability, almost volcanic in his tirade about the frustration he and so many similar-minded Arsenal fans were feeling as they watched their team yet again teeter off the title-challenging pace. If there is a physical manifestation of the current feelings of a large sector of Arsenal fans, it’s right there in the face and gesticulations and vocal tone of Troopz.
Which makes this video so depressing:
Here you have Troopz and Arsenal Fan TV host Robbie previewing today’s Arsenal-Bayern Munich match. Arsenal got blown out 5-1 in the first leg of this Champions League Round of 16 tie, an insurmountable deficit. Thus the eight minute video mostly consists of the two diehard Gooners finding different ways to say, “So we really, really have no shot at this.”
What makes the video so disheartening isn’t so much what Troopz and Robbie are saying, but how they—and Troopz especially—are saying what they’re saying. Troopz is just so damn subdued and deflated. This is a man whose whole deal is being loud and animated in both the good and bad times, and here he is all slouch-shouldered, nodding meekly as Robbie explains that Arsenal have no hope.
Even the immediacy of this weekend’s embarrassing loss to Liverpool couldn’t stir much emotion in his heart:
As he said at the start of his remarks in uncharacteristically despondent fashion, “It was terrible, fam. I’ve gone past ranting, you understand? Today I was broken, blood. You understand? Today fucking broke me, fam. I’m heartbroken, blood.”
Thus we’ve seen one of the most passionate voices of Arsenal fandom slide from pure elation all the way down to total crestfallenness over the course of just a few months. And while seeing the journey manifested in Troopz himself is sad, it’s even worse when you consider that he’s but the single exemplar of a phenomenon afflicting many more just like him.
Arsenal will play Bayern at home today and even if they don’t lose, they will still almost certainly fail to win by a margin sufficient to see them through to the next round. And it won’t even hurt that much, not anymore, not after fans like Troopz have been numbed by so many heartbreaks already.
As Troopz mentioned later in his post-Liverpool comments, this stage of being out of realistic trophy contention in the big competitions is right about the time when Arsenal traditionally begin to turn it around and make their annual push back up the table to regain their natural place in fourth. Troopz has been on this ride before though, and claims he will not be fooled again by an end of season uptick in form and its illusionary promise of rewarded faith in the future.
But that’s how these relationships always go, isn’t it? They build you up, break you down, and right when you think you’ve finally had enough, they return with a couple positive gestures and promises of change, eventually winning you back over against your better judgement. It’s a pretty safe bet that come September, Troopz will be right back where he was last fall, standing in front of Robbie’s camera all excited—cautiously excited, yes, but excited nonetheless—about the impending season and how this one might just be different in the best kind of way. Likewise, it’s just as safe a bet that come next March, we’ll find a dejected Troopz outside some stadium in Northern England, Premier League and Champions League title hopes dashed once again, swearing that he’s been hurt enough and won’t fall for the trick next time. It’s a wonder how anyone manages to care about anything.