Archive for December, 2014

No one can really point out exactly when or where it happened. I certainly don’t have the exact date – the hour, minute, second or location it occurred eludes me. I think you’ll find it eludes us all, the exact point it happened. When did supporting a club go from an enjoyably insufferable dedication that brought family and friends together, to a 24/7 news cycle addicted, horde mentality with a generous serving of self-entitlement? Where exactly is it written that Arsenal MUST win, just because some, you, me, say they must. Let’s attempt to narrow it down.

Sport. Those that follow it, are engulfed by it. Sport, football in particular, Arsenal to be exact, is the reason you are reading this now and the reason I’m writing it – It’s a wondrous thing. Sport can show man in his purest of form. Athletes competing, in unison, striving to achieve a predetermined goal. Then there is the supporter, who plays their part, who at times cheer and push those athletes to higher levels, sometimes beyond themselves, to achieve – something, anything. It is a relationship that is mutually gratifying most times.

Alas, like sport, which is cyclical, the relationship between supporter and club (from players to owners) have their rough patches. These patches nowadays tend to show the nasty side of man. The abusive, cursing, violent side that is sometimes excused by some due to the sense of self-entitlement that now surrounds certain teams. Cue the fist-fights, protests, banners, etc.

My team, your team, our team, Arsenal is going through one of these rough patches, or so “they” tell us. “They” talk a lot don’t they? “They” like to tell you and me what should be, because of course “they” know better. All of this despite just recently having achieved one of those coveted goals, an FA Cup win. “They” apparently want their Arsenal back. Which version? The one that wins a trophy a year? The one that buys the exact needed reinforcements every year? Guess what? That version of the Arsenal never existed. Further news update, the version of Arsenal that competes near the top of the table year in and out is only a recent incarnation as well.

It’s really very simple, the self-entitlement of the modern Arsenal supporter has made it so that “grading” the team is now based solely on the trophies won that year. Now let me clarify, when I say “modern” supporter I don’t mean age, I mean mentality. There are plenty of “older” modern supporters. Still with me? Good.

So, where is this sense of self-entitlement coming from in the Arsenal supporter base? Where is it written that after the normal cyclical success of the club throughout its history, that not winning something on the season is now a failure? Every elite club in Europe has had a spell(s) where they weren’t relevant. So both historically with the results of the club and knowing that in sport nothing is assured, why now do we expect to win something every year?

The answer to that isn’t so simple, so I’ll start with the less controversial portion of it. Passion and access to information. The passion for the club, whether you are young or old, hasn’t changed. With the utmost confidence I can say we all truly love Arsenal, and it would be a truthful statement. You couple that passion with the access to information we as a society now have, and you have borderline obsessives throughout the supporter base. No longer is it just reading the daily newspaper or sports magazines to get the latest info. No longer is it waiting for the next radio show or the next match to get your “fix”. Now, all things about the club you support, the club you love, is at your fingertips. Access to players and their personal lives, commentary on the club from a thousand pundits, other supporters that have both similar and differing views on many subjects are RIGHT THERE, at your fingertips, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can access that information whilst at work, in the WC, on your commute, anywhere, anytime. That submersion is difficult to counteract. When you have so much information, about anything, then you feel you have all the answers, how could you not, how could we not (I’m as guilty as the next guy)? With that sense of knowing, well, everything (so we think), how can those in the club not see it? How can they not fix it? How can they not win, each year, every year in fact! Therein lies the delusion or is it just an illusion? Or better yet, in this age of Football Manager commentary, is it just a bad simulation?

The second part of the answer is obvious, even though some won’t want to admit it. Who has contributed the most for setting the bar so unbearably high that winning a trophy is the only sign of success? Who is responsible for fueling the modern, self-entitled supporter to feel as such? Well, funnily enough, the very man that receives all, well most, of their abuse – Wenger.

Now, some of you have read my posts here and follow me on social networks, you know I’m the furthest thing from an AKB. I am not afraid of change at Arsenal, I do blame Wenger for a good portion of our inadequacies in personnel in recent years, and the current “weak” mentality that seems to be festering at the club, but I also understand that Arsenal wouldn’t be where it is, on the brink of competing with the elite, if it weren’t for him. Arsenal Football Club has a long, proud tradition, but the fact is that there were many, many down times as well. What Wenger has done is make it so those “down” times now are near the top of the table and playing in Europe. It’s switch in mentality and execution at the club that he instilled into the fabric at Arsenal and the man has now become a victim of his own success.

What a bad joke it really is when you think about it.

Man comes into an institution, changes the path of said historic institution for the better, has unprecedented success, positions said institution for greatness, then progress is stalled for some time, and the supporters for that institution who have become emboldened with a sense of entitlement bestowed upon them by said man, now abuse that man. That’s what it’s come down to. The modern supporter, using his passion and his information, having selective memory and with his sense of entitlement now abuse the man who helped create that winning atmosphere, thus the entitlement, at the train station, on the pitch as he comes on or off. They abuse the players much the same and on social media. The vocal few spoiling it for everyone.

I am not an apologist for Wenger the manager, there is plenty of criticism to be thrown his way on a variety of issues. I am not an apologist for the players and their bad performances, which there have been plenty. But I do know you don’t achieve anything with abuse, with that abuse, you lower the standard of the club you claim to love. On the reverse side of that, abusing those that take things too far is just perpetuating the cycle of idiocy that now seems rampant. Protesting, speaking out, organizing, etc. is everyone’s right who chooses to partake in it, and done properly, with class, can be beneficial for all supporters. We as supporters, should never think we have a right to take that away from those who choose to go that route.

The situation with supporters these days has become so complex. A bit of clarity and perspective is needed. Success has bred a sense of entitlement with supporters of Arsenal. That has led to some really unfortunate circumstances recently both with those abusing and those trying to correct the abusers.

The growing pains of becoming an elite club are apparent. More trophies, bigger stadium, more success – more expectation. More expectation, more entitlement. If that entitlement can be curbed with a backwards glance at the history of the club, and the realization of just how far we’ve come under Wenger, we may be able to put out more fires than are started, because as we know too well in sport, no matter the era, there will always be those that take it too far. But unlike years prior, the modern, entitled supporter has many mediums to make themselves heard. Sometimes, too much of a good thing turns bad.

Up The Arsenal.