After a stalemate on a cold dreary night up north we ended a losing run of three games in the league and almost immediately the daggers are out again for certain players, and as always, the manager.
It’s very easy to get angry in the aftermath of disappointment and failure, and since last night there’s been a hefty amount of vitriol doing the rounds. After some time to digest the game and it’s implications, I’ve decided to try something different with this post and turn the attention away from the team and put it on the people who really make the club: us.
Generations before Arsene Wenger arrived at Highbury and long after his succeeder departs the Emirates, the one constant throughout will be the fans. Without them, Arsenal–or any club for that matter–wouldn’t exist.
So what’s our role in the perverted story that Arsenal Football Club has become? To support? To buy merchandise? To turn up in our free time and jeer when things don’t go how we want them to?
While free speech is a notion that should always be advocated, especially if you’re paying one of the footballing world’s most expensive season ticket prices, there’s no reason why a bit of common sense and empathy can’t help someone bite their tongue.
Yet there was a twisted orchestra of boos as Arshavin replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain during the Manchester United game.
It’s debatable whether the ire was aimed at him or at Wenger’s decision to remove the impressive Chamberlain. What’s not in doubt is the where the jeers were directed at the Villa game before the match had even started as Arshavin’s name was called on the tannoy.
As Chamberlain left the field in the United match, it was obvious that the crowd were displeased at his removal. Players aren’t thick and of course he would have received their displeasure as a sign that he was having a good game and that probably made him feel pretty good about his own performance.
But it’s likely that anyone booing at his replacement didn’t stop to think what their actions might mean in the long term. Maybe that night when Chamberlain ran the game back through his head, a few thoughts crossed his mind. With the footballing world at his feet, this kid’s going to accumulate a lot of England caps and one day might set a major international tournament alight much like the vodka bottle-sized Russian did during Euro 2008 before we signed him.
Perhaps Chamberlain contemplated what would happen if he hit a bad patch, stopped scoring and started making mistakes. Are the same fans that lamented his removal last week then going to be volleying insults at him as he leaves the field, only for him to arrive home to find death threats sent via Twitter just like Aaron Ramsey was subject to after the Swansea and Bolton games?
There was a lot of love for Andrey after he single handedly stopped Liverpool with four goals all those years ago. But not any more.
And all of a sudden Arsenal doesn’t seem like a nice place to be playing the game at these days.
Over Christmas I was back home in London and my Dad gave me his ticket for the Wolves match. A draw and a flat performance was soundtracked by the worst experience I’ve ever had at a home game. Around my seat nobody was happy. Singing was only instigated by a pocket of die hard Gooners who are probably so afflicted with love for the club they go to reserve away games. Around me there was only slagging off and moaning. It wasn’t fun.
While it’s a basic human right to be in a society where free speech is allowed in any form, whether it be booing, singing songs about an opponent player’s dad washing elephants, or even the freedom to enjoy the game in silence, surely it’s better to use that privilege not to spout hate at something we’re supposed to love.
In 2004 Dennis Bergkamp gave an interview recounting Arsenal’s title ambitions midway through the season. We had just lost two games in a row–games which saw us exit the Champions League and FA Cup–and suddenly our title bid was looking wobbly. The next game we went in at half time at Highbury losing 2-1 to Liverpool.
We won the game 4-2 and I’ll never forget Henry scoring a goal after a run so mazy Carragher fell over and headbutt Biscan in the balls. Dennis doesn’t mention anything like that in his interview but he does recall, “It was a little difficult at first but the atmosphere and the fans were just fantastic.”
Despite the comeback last week when we were 2-0 down to Villa at half time there was no such sentiment. Nope, just booing.
Bergkamp also once said, “I really like Arsenal. But you, do you really like Arsenal? Or just with trophies?”
Now is a time we should all be asking each other the same thing.
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**For the record I’m not asking anyone to remain silent and just accept things the way they are. Constructive criticism is a separate notion and something to be used to encourage us to continually want to improve–Arsene might claim to have poor vision whenever something controversial happens on the pitch but there’s been no instances of him being hard of hearing.
And of course it goes without saying, none of this is intended to reflect the actions and views of all Arsenal fans, only those who took part in the mentioned incidences.