Man City is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
That you are a slave, Arsenal. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
Man City perform on a level that renders all other levels of reality redunant, such is the ridiculosity (which is so a word) of their dominance. What can any other club do in the face of their complete and utter dominion over what the rest of us plebeians call “reality?” It’s an ontological question for the ages.
In the aftermath of our disappointing loss against Nottingham Forest, one against which I forewarned in this preview, we have to take stock. Has this squad run out of fumes? Have too many players downed tools and booked beach resorts? Is it a crisis of confidence?
I suspect that we’re seeing a phenomenon whereby we fear the feeling that can come from exerting ourselves to the fullest only to fall short and, as a result, we shy away from what feels like an insurmountable summit. We subconsciously choose to give less than our best, thereby guaranteeing we’ll fail—but doing so from the security that comes from saying to ourselves that we didn’t give our best in the first place. Maybe, paradoxically, if we had given our best, we could have succeeded—but we might have also failed anyway. ‘Twixt the two, we can at least console ourselves by saying we weren’t really trying, so we didn’t fail. It’s all a muddle.
Once it came down to Everton beating Man City, we had to know that our destiny lay beyond our grasp, and that may explain why, after Everton failed, we capitulated at home to Brighton. With nothing left to play for other than a few points, we couldn’t summon that incisive edge that carried us for most of the season. Did we down tools against Forest? No, by all accounts, we should have won.
Even if we had, however, the Matrix wins. We, among the youngest and thinnest squads in the Prem, pushed Man City to the edge only to fall short, thanks in no small part to two talismans—Jesus and Saliba—missing one-third of the season. Man City, meanwhile, control reality to a degree that leaves all of their opponents wondering just what reality is. René Descartes would have been left reeling at the degree to which Man City control reality and the perception thereof. Does Arsenal exist if it can’t win the Prem despite sitting top of the table for 34 weeks? How can I trust my senses when everything I see, hear, touch, smell, and taste turns out to be a lie?
Cogito, ergo sum. I think; therefore, I exist. Even if all of this has been conjured out of nothing to trick me into believing I exist, I must first exist in order to be tricked. Man City have moved heaven and earth to delude us into doubting ourselves. We exist. We are a threat to the matrix, to the hegemony that Man City have smothered the rest of us with.
We very nearly smashed through this matrix despite our own shortcomings. We’ll come back next year smarter, stronger, deeper. Shrewder. Savvier. We won’t be beguiled or waylaid like we were over the last few weeks of this season. Man City may have won the battle. That’s not nearly the same as winning the war.