So it's official, Arsenal are playing in the Europa League again next season. Another season to stall and hum and haw and just generally fall behind the rest of the The Official Premier League Big Six™. And the worst part is that I'm not even mad about it.
Being a Arsenal fan over the last few years has been a strange experience. The success of the first half of Arsene Wenger's reign spoiled us while the changing face of English football meant that even three FA Cups in four years in the second half of his tenure felt less like an achievement and more of a reminder of all the things we didn't win.
This season I have felt a certain ennui over anything to do with Arsenal. Watching games has felt like a chore. Something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But never was it as fierce as on Wednesday night.
I've seen many embarrassing defeats for Arsenal over the years. The 6-1 and 8-2 defeats as well as the Champions League semi-final thrashing at the hands of Manchester United. Pretty much any time we played against Jose Mourinho over the years. A myriad of Champions League second round games. But the defeat to Chelsea hurt in a different way.
It hurts because I'm not sure how much I really care about it all. There's a nagging sense that we shouldn't be here.
Not the Europa League - Arsenal definitely do not deserve a place in the Champions League and have done their utmost to avoid an embarrassment at the hands of Europe's elite next season - but playing in Baku on Wednesday night.
The financial implications meant that they were never going to pull out of a game of this magnitude but the fact Arsenal haven't kicked up more of a fuss over the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan is shameful.
Yes, Uefa deserve the lion's share of the blame for staging the final in a country where a player is forced to miss out because of his ethnicity but, as an Arsenal fan, I can't help but immensely disappointed that the club didn't take a stand and boycotted the game altogether.
As it happens, Arsenal now find themselves in the exact same place they would have been if they pulled out of the final but with another piece of the club's soul sold to the Uefa corporate machine.
Let’s go Gunners, let’s go out there on that field and conquer this trophy - for our club, for our fans and our beloved ones💪🏼🔥⚽️🏆 I’m with you with all my heart❤️🇦🇲 #BringItHome @Arsenal #COYG #UELFinal pic.twitter.com/JrmoUkLc04
— Henrikh Mkhitaryan (@HenrikhMkh) May 29, 2019
Money has infected the game to the point where we are left supporting Schrödinger's football club. They are all more than just a football club in their endless pursuit of "expanding the brand" while simultaneously nothing but a football club when there are difficult decisions to make.
This is not a new development. The Mkhitaryan situation simply brought it all to the surface. I doubt he would have done anything different but it still feels as if Arsene Wenger took a bit of the club with him when he left.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just a glory-hunter who gorged himself on so many wins at a young age. Maybe I'm just over-reacting after a big defeat.
But when your team makes it all about winning regardless of everything else that makes a football club, it's hard to feel any other way.