The Kubler-Ross Model is probably one of the most famous psychiatric theories that you’ve never heard of. Often known by its more palatable moniker, the five stages of grief, it was an observation of the five most commonly experienced emotions experienced by those confronted by death as they tried to process what was happening to them. It was revolutionary at a time in which there wasn’t a significant amount of research on the psychological impact of death on a person and those close to them.
The five emotions are summarised in the acronym DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) and one can’t help but notice these same emotions manifest over the course of a typical Arsenal season. It might not always be in the same order as it is dependent on when the deceptive winning run, injury crisis and total and utter capitulation occur but whatever the fact pattern, those same five outcomes are always likely to crop up. I’m sure Dr. Kubler-Ross didn’t intend for her model to be cannibalised as such but the similarities are uncanny. So we mapped the five stages across the typical Arsenal season and provided a few key phrases that might help you identify where Arsenals are at.
DENIAL: The initially bullish response to a setback such as a dire home defeat in a midweek fixture or a humbling at the hands of one Arsenal’s alleged title “rivals”. Arsenal fans, players and staff alike will come out and speak of the need to show mental strength and that the defeat(s) won’t deter them from their goal of winning the title. A seemingly impressive winning run against the dross occupying the mid-to-lower reaches of the Premier League renews optimism amongst the Gunners faithful. Previously substandard players such as Giroud and Walcott are scoring freely and saying that the title is still in reach.
- “Chelsea/Man U/Man City still have to go to…they will drop points”
- “Mathematically we’re still in it”
- “My team have shown terrific mental strength and I think we are ready to compete”
ANGER: This is the stuff you tune into Arsenal Fan TV to see, an exasperated Claude at the end of his tether saying he’s had enough and that the manager has to go. A few Wenger out placards can be seen across the ground and tweets about planned protests float around cyberspace. The anger phase most often occurs when the glorious winning run is brought to an unceremonious end, with the catalyst normally being a bruising Andy Carroll header, Ozil jogging on the spot as the opposition centre backs stroke the ball around him or Aaron Ramsey playing on the shoulder of the last man instead of dropping in to cover the full back who has pushed forward.
- “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, HE’S GOT TO GO. YEAR ON YEAR, IT’S THE SAME THING!”
- “They haven’t got any passion, get rid of the lot of them”
- “This is my last year as a season ticket holder, that’s for sure”
- “FFS Giroud”
BARGAINING: A strange halfway house between the denial and acceptance phases in that Arsenal fans will acknowledge the season thus far is a failure but are looking for ways to salvage success/inspire optimism for next year. The anger has subsided and now supporters are now seeking solutions rather than identifying problems. Most discussions around Arsenal are prefixed with “if only” or “if we just” as hypothetical tweaks help to eliminate the problems encountered throughout the season. Alternative league tables that rely on a horrible misinterpretation of statistics are produced which show Arsenal, have in fact, won the league under whichever contrived scenario has been picked.
- “Arsenal were actually champions over the calendar year, no team picked up more points in 20XX”
- “With just 2 or 3 extra players, we can definitely challenge”
DEPRESSION: Often prompted by the FA Cup/Champions League exit that confirms Arsenal have no meaningful silverware left to play for in the season, this is full-on existential crisis mode. Claude was exhibiting worryingly early signs of the depression phase in the post-match evaluation of the Chelsea debacle last week, however he was far from alone. Attendances for dead rubber home games versus West Brom dwindle and all involved look sheepish as the announcer thanks a capacity 60,000 crowd for rocking up at the Emirates and the MOTD pan to hordes of empty seats. This is compounded on the last home game of the season in which the players give a lap of appreciation despite all involved parties acknowledging the last 50 or so games as largely a waste of time.
- “I don’t even like football that much anymore”
- “Wenger is never leaving, what’s the point of caring”
- “It doesn’t matter if you have Ozil and Sanchez if you’re playing them alongside Gabriel”
ACCEPTANCE: Having finally come to accept the reality of the imploded season, now Arsenal fans reach a higher echelon of clarity and serenity in which they realise it was difficult to be disappointed when at the start of the season expectations were low already. There will be talk of lessons being learnt but there is a tacit admission that nothing will change at Arsenal for some time and this is just how things are. Even the most vehement Wenger Out supporters swallow the bitter pill that he will be in charge for the next season so there is no point protesting, and the most optimistic supporters realise that no signing, tactical shift or fit-again player will solve the crippling mental deficiencies present in the club. All are in agreement that while things seem bad, they could be a lot worse and there is no happier time at Arsenal then when no actual competitive football is being played.
- “When you take net spend into account, top 4 is a relatively successful season”
- “There’s always next season”
- “At least Wenger guarantees Champions League football”
Repeat the above 5 steps ad infinitum.