Every club’s fans complain. But in the recent history one club’s supporters have taken complaining to new heights of whinging, past the level of ‘diva’, onwards to ‘spoilt brat’ and beyond. How do I know this? Because I’m one of them.
All it takes is one of our players to concede a corner or a free kick and large sections of the fans explode in to doomful outbursts of panic that make the Sun’s front page headers look tame.
If the Premiership were a competition of moaning football supports us Arsenalholics would be ‘The Invincibles’ every season (then we’d probably bitch about how the trophy were too small.) I make a point in reading several match reports from various media sources after each game (as well as the user comments) and you’d be forgiven for assuming we were struggling in the relegation zone somewhere around League two. Either that or about to be wound up.
The reality is Arsenal have one of the finest stadiums in the world, long term economic stability, and an abundance of world-class footballers. We’re the only team in Europe who has qualified for The Champions League every year (16 years in a row) and we’re the FA Cup holders. I’m not surprised fans of other clubs question why we are perennially in the huff. Surely the situation can’t be that bad…. Can it?
Honestly, everything isn’t that bad; but it certainly is bizarre. To put it simply, there exists several conditions that aren’t major when taken on individual merits, but compiled together explain, (dare I say excuse), our never-ending misery.
The most obvious point is that between ’98 and ’05 we had an amazing period of prosperity, winning 7 trophies (two doubles), and creating history by going 49 games without loss. Our football was admired the world over. Then we slumped into 9 seasons of trophy drought.
At the helm throughout has been the ongoing, and seemingly unshakeable presence of a (nearly) 70 year old manager who instigated and masterminded the aforementioned outstanding era but who has only produced 1 (coin-toss) of an FA Cup since. Despite his permanent legacy that all Gunners fans are thankful for, the eyebrows are raised and the sighs of frustration are abundant.
Since Wenger is an economics scholar it seems fitting to mention finances. Le Proffesseur is the top earning sports boss in Britain whilst ticket prices at The Emirates are the highest in Europe. To be more accurate, the cheapest Arsenal season ticket is more expensive than the priciest at Anfield, Old Trafford, and The City of Manchester Stadium. Fans being priced out of football is a hot topic on both the sporting and political agendas and unfortunately Arsenal are the worst culprits. It’s not quite the table I’d like to see us topping. How would you feel being charged premium prices for fourth-rate products? Would you happily return every week for more?
Then there’s this ‘bright future’ us Gooners have been eagerly anticipating for nearly a decade now. Like scarf-waving children we’re being spoon-fed a tale about a make believe age where our newly matured Arsenal superstars will pass-pass-pass their way towards winning every competition. Strangely enough however this ‘promised land’ always remains out of reach.
Arsenals recent finishing positions –
2005/06 – 4th
06/07 – 4th
07/08 – 3rd
08/09 – 4th
09/10 – 3rd
10/11 – 4th
11/12 – 4th
12/13 – 4th
13/14 – 4th
Life in the real world brings only a recurring pattern of predictability. Where will we finish? 4th. It’s a banker. Last season we were 1st at Christmas and where did we finish? 4th. You know where this is going. We’re currently 5th in the table, and every man and his dog knows we’ll finish 4th. Always 4th. (Actually, we have finished 3rd (rarely) but to us (and our mocking rivals) it’s 4th.) The only thing that’s as predictable as Arsenal finishing 4th is the phrase ‘defeated in the round of last 16’ to show our Champions League record for the previous decade. We’re favourites to progress past Monaco next month, so watch this space.
A have a friend who’s a Leeds fan and I know he’d love some consistency at Elland Road – however speaking from experience, you get fed up with quickly. I became addicted to football because I seeker the thrills it can provide, not a mundane familiarity. I can barely remember an Arsenal without Arsene and it is because of this eighteen year reign we are nigh on a whole generation of supporters who haven’t felt the surge of exhilaration that comes when a fresh management set up comes in to a club. No, there are now 18 year olds who are so used to the same obviousness and apathy that they may as well be in The Emirates for a screening of Groundhog Day.
What makes the whole situation slightly more bearable is that Tottenham are just as dependable at being worse than us. Historically we’ve exchanged alternating seasons of leadership, but our noisy neighbours haven’t finished higher up the table than us since 1995. Each campaign since then the humour has diminished and it’s now the case that the North London derbies are no longer the biggest matches of the calendar season. When I was in the crowd at Newcastle I heard a few groups of fans talk about the next weeks match with Spurs quoting Alex Ferguson’s infamous statement “Lads, it’s only Tottenham.” Well, quite.
As clubs go, Arsenal are solid. The ground has been built and paid for. We are a million miles from ending up like Portsmouth or Leeds, and unlike to many clubs are nowadays, are as stable as conceivably possible. Although on the flip side, we’re a team that’s based in Islington and run by a stubborn continental European, so by definition don’t the fans have to be petulant and uppity?
Time for Le Proffesseurs math lesson. Add a bygone age of achievement to one now archaic and out of touch long-term manager, throw in the most expensive tickets and merchandise, plus 4th position every season, mix in a rivalry that is becoming less significant annually, and a poncey home neighbourhood, and it all equates to one large unending lament.
Every season before this, my previous position on Wenger was as unwavering as the 4th position we end up at every year. I was as guilty as Arsene himself of blind faith. Whilst the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade grows increasingly in numbers, I can’t help but think we must be careful what we wish for. When Wenger does leave I reckon we’ll end up finishing first or tenth, but for as long as he’s in full control we won’t be doing either. In the aftermath of the FA Cup victory, he confirmed his long term future to Arsenal.
Quite like the atmosphere around The Emirates in recent years, the inter-fan debates on ‘should he go or should he stay’ are dull and consist of rehashing the same things over and over again. The arguments in the stands, like the performances the pitch haven’t changed in nearly 10 years.
Our BFG (Big F**king German for those who don’t know what we affectionally call Mr Mertesacker) has stated publically that there is a real absence of motivation and desire amongst the first team. It can’t be surprising since us Gooners are the sports epitome of a ‘first world problem.’ Despite a lack of anything substantial to be anxious or nervous about we create idiotic dramas and stupid dilemmas which can’t help the eleven players we watch on a weekly basis. Am I part of the problem or the solution? Either way the pessimism of the supporters isn’t attractive, and I’m guessing it won’t be easing in the near future.