Supporters of the idea that Arsenal are a big club have credible attributes to their theory. League Titles. The ‘Invincibles.’ World-Class players. A 60,000 seater stadium. Massive wage bill. Global audience. Typical attributes of a big club.
Opponents will point to the departures of Flamini and Hleb, the lack of trophies since 2004, a team policy built on youth, and no European cups, and say Arsenal are not a big club.
While the above connundrum would be interesting to delve into, there is another attribute that is not discussed above that to me is a big criterion for a big club, yet one I do not wish Arsenal to become acquainted with, and that is of a picky, demanding, plastic fanbase.
Arsene Wenger most definitely has not addressed certain issues he said he would correct: a replacement for Flamini, and a world-class defender. Our players at times have looked half arsed and disinterested, and we as fans have certainly suffered through our share of disappointments and lackadaisical performances. Our season, in all its infancy, has suffered a plethora of highs and lows.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend in our Club this year is the development of a faction of despicably fickle fans who jeer and taunt at every mis-kick. Indeed, with ticket prices high and wage bills comparatively higher, many fans have reason to be disgusted. As worrying as tepid team performances are, the development of this picky collection of fans is more worrying.
In my early footballing education, I noticed how quickly the Madridistas in the Bernabeu would turn on their players. I noted the calamitous circus-like manager merry-go-round at Barcelona, Liverpool, and Chelsea. I then harkened back to my favoured Arsenal, and epiphanized over the class, tradition, and stability on the part of both fans and faculty. I had pride in my club, and knew the fans believed in the team, and the team respected the fans.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, I think only of the fans who jump to criticize 30-goal Adebayor, a developing Denilson, and our most loyal servant, Toure, who seemingly has lost it. Even our great manager has ‘lost the plot.’ In times of political and/or economical stress, fans look for more tangible, relevant, and sometimes, geographically more accessible objects on which to take out frustration. That part of human nature can be understood.
However, in the tactical knowledge that Wenger was wrong in putting Eboue, who at best is a mid-table right midfielder, on at left-mid, a certain drop in performance can also be understood. Even more so when the fact that he has been out for 6 weeks is entered into the equation. As prodigiously paid as our players are, they nevertheless require emotional and psychological support from teammates and fans. While there is nothing wrong with voicing distaste for misplaced passing, there is something inheritently wrong with widespread, unabashed, uncensored booing with the sole aim of retribution. It is understandable and acceptable to boo an opposition player, such is today’s game. Nevertheless, booing a human who desires to perform best for his team is sickening and unacceptable.
I for one would like to follow these so-called ‘fans’ to their respective jobs on Monday morning, looking for one misdotted I or uncrossed T, and boo them roundly and provokingly. These kinds of fans have no understanding of the connection that should be made between fans and players. Instead, they seemingly rationalise that the booing of our own player will benefit the team in some unforeseen, nightmarishly-formulated way. Just how deep into the depths of ‘rationalisation’ these fans must delve is mysterious and, frankly, disturbing.
Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board, love them or hate them, have committed to a certain policy of running the Club. This policy was drafted with the ideas of class and tradition and fan support in mind. To unsettle our own team as on Saturday is to dare to upset the balance of the entire team. Make no mistake, the effects the players will feel from seeing one of their own booed with reckless abandon will sit on their collective psyches about as comfortably as drinking acid would sit on a stomach. To remove trust in the crowd and trust in fan support is to remove the relative shelter our players seek in our home games. The fans who have the temerity to blacken the eye of our club’s tradition and committment to class are the scum of the footballing world.
I fear Arsenal, with its spoiled fans, are indeed becoming a big club. This large faction of fickle and plastic fans is becoming more apparent and heard with each passing game. My deepest fear is that our fans will not have the ability to stop, and will turn our club into a laughing stock. Manchester United, Liverpool, and, god forbid, Chelsea, do not and have not and most likely will not boo their players with the blatant disregard of our fans on Saturday. I fear before too long our wonderful stadium will turn into a wasteland of pompous plastics who jeer and taunt at every opportunity, and turn our Club into a laughing stock. I call on all gooners, true gooners who know what real support is, to point these fans out during games and ridicule them to no end. I fear this is the only solution.
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