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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Lycett

The ups and downs of Arsenal Women 23/24

I didn’t plan to write an end of season piece for Arsenal Women 23/24. The year’s been packed with good times and bad, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to re-tread that path. And yet, I think that the ups and downs are important to chronicle as, at the end of the day, that’s why I started this blog.

 

The women’s game is an evolving, fluctuating, morphing behemoth. Arsenal is leading the charge. That’s what I tend to write about. The things that I see fans debate and discuss about our club and about the game. The overarching message: some of the change is wonderful. Some of it is not. 


On the pitch, the results for the team this season have come in fits and starts. 


Opening games were beset by mishaps. We saw wins against top teams. Yet, faced with low blocks, we crumbled. 


For many fans, myself included, this was a new reality to be faced with. Last season, the team was on the ascent. Even with injuries, the players battled to wins - or, perhaps, those injuries gave them the impetus to fight for their fallen comrades. 


Wolfsburg was the pinnacle. I agree with Katie McCabe in saying that sellout at the Emirates will remain forever more my favourite game, despite the loss. 





So, this season was a wake up call. And the fanbase reacted negatively. 


Blame games, pile ons, and arguments. Debates on how we should let the team know we weren't happy. Should we shout things at the players? Should we chant about it?


On social media and in group chats, old fans clashed with new fans. Tensions rose to the surface. 


The game’s demographic is changing. For better or for worse, only time will tell. Traditional football supporters merge with post-Euros fans, and we need to find a way to co-exist - simply because they will both exist. 


I predict that the coming seasons will see what it means to be a football supporter redefined, as the club and the fanbase deal with the logistics and the practicalities of soaring popularity - both of the game and the players.


There were also plenty of moments to be proud of. 


More sell outs. Emirates will be our main home next season, and for good reason. Even for games with little promotion, we packed the stadium to the rafters. 


For every game at Meadow Park, tickets are coveted like Gollum over his precious. We know the Arsenal is massive and those seats will be filled. 


Every one of us deserves praise for that, including those of us supporting from home too. And the Supporters Club, of course, for its work promoting the interests of the fans to the Club - remember, each one of them is volunteering their time. 


The win vs. Chelsea. 


After some rocky games, this was a resounding drubbing, painting London red for a brief time. A full stadium, a loud stadium, and the players excelled. It was beautiful to witness.



 

The Reading game. 


The players in the dugout laughing at us all singing stupid chants.


Everyone waving at Leah when she was waving at someone she knew in the crowd.


Wally, Laura, and Kaylan telling us the score - and Stina scoring another to cement her hattrick mid-Laura’s turn.



Leah and Kim back on the pitch, post injury. The best game of the season for me (despite the tyre blowout drama on the drive there…)


Viv’s comeback goal. 


I will always be proud to have been pitchside shooting that game. I don’t have a shot of the goal. I dropped my camera in excitement. I got the celebratory hugs though.


These ones lasted longer than normal, a special moment between the friends and family on the pitch. 


(Unbeknownst to us, this was also Jen Beattie's last game before leaving to Bay FC - a shock to lose such a legend, and yet a move that made complete sense too.)



The loss vs. Chelsea. 


No, I’m not mentioning this in the wrong place.


The crowd at Stamford Bridge was immense. It was the first time that I felt that the Red and White as an entity may soon become redundant. 6,000-strong supporters backed the team, attempting to propel them to a win, blue socks and all. 


It didn’t work. The team’s performance was dire. But we were flawless.



I was reminded recently that Lotte replied to my comment on Instagram, following defeat to Spurs before Christmas 2023.


It was a telling interaction that shows just what our support means to the players, how important it is to keep believing in them and showing up game after game.



The Conti Cup final. 


That connection between supporters and players was stronger than it's ever been in Molineux. Directly following the defeat to Chelsea - mirroring last year’s sequence of games - the fans showed up.


I wrote about it in the first ever women's team edition of the Gooner Fanzine.



North London Forever to send us into extra time. Silence in the crowd, aside from our singing voices, putting all our emotions into those meaningful lines. 


Singing it with the players at the end too. We need more of those moments, because they’re what strengthen ties to this club, for players and fans alike. 




Handing the trophy to Chelsea


Despite not being in the title race, we had a direct impact on its outcome. Manchester City had the trophy in its grasp, and let Stina tear it away in the dying moments of our last away game of the season.


That opened the door for Chelsea to then eliminate the goal difference that City held - and go on to win the league yet again.


No, we didn't want Chelsea to win. As our chant said, we prefer City to Chelsea. But we also always want our team to show that they care and to fight tooth and nail for every last point.


That's what they did in this game - and those of us that were there had a pretty epic weekend exploring Canal street too.


The season ended on a bittersweet note.


Viv leaving will test the strength of our club ties - especially for new supporters that don’t have an ingrained, lifelong bond. It was a celebratory and emotional atmosphere for the goat in the last game. Her name is probably still echoing around Meadow Park.


Her unrenewed contract has left the future less certain for Arsenal. It could be a perfectly astute decision by the club. It could be a decision that will affect the team’s progress for years to come if Viv's new club - supposedly City - takes full advantage of her exceptional skill and intelligence.


There is more that we don’t know about the situation. The levels of disbelief from all quarters means there must be some underlying reason behind the decision. And there is much speculation. 




This is football. Players come and go. 


This one hurts more than others, and will for some time. Yet, it’s a long summer. Transfer season has barely begun, and more ins and outs are likely. The team will have a proper pre-season, time to bed in and relaunch their campaign to climb to the top of the table. 


Whether they will or not, who knows. But we do know it will be exciting, it will be emotional, and it will be loud.


 

To end on a personal note.


I have, at times, found this season exhausting. Last season, come the summer, I wasn’t sure how to fill my time. 


This time around, I’m ready for a break. I lost the creative spark that I started the season with, that I started this blog with. I lost the drive to write about this game that I love. 


I have struggled to cope with the growing crowds, with this merging of new faces with the familiar, with the overarching negativity.


My first ever blog here was about how I found my voice. This season, I started to lose it again as I slipped back into the background. 


I hope next season to start afresh. A blank slate. Hopefully more wins, more positivity, and more singing. I aim to once again add my voice to the crowd.




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