Guest post by Arsenal Andrew (aka @luckietwit)
What a wonderful game we saw played in Brighton at the weekend by two teams equally deserving of much credit, sandwiched as it was between the thug-fest of the earlier kick-off in the semi-deserted Potteries and the passionless snore-fest at Old Trafford. Great calls by the local broadcasters, there, by the way.
That Arsenal’s Great Well of Potential is finally being recognised more widely is to be welcomed. That Arsene continues to attract more than a little doubt on a wider level continues to bemuse this observer, at least. That Arsene will likely only win back the doubters with significant trophy-based success over successive seasons (just to prove it’s not a one-off) is quite possibly the bottom line in all of this.
The last time I had a chance to write at any length was on A Cultured Left Foot just ahead of the opening of the Transfer Window. Much water has passed under the bridge and some old friends have departed in regrettable circumstances, at least from the pages of ACLF. But the two things that remain from my last ramble seem to be the need for at least two decent additions to the squad and there are grounds for optimism that in Diame, we may yet secure a beast of a cover for Diaby – all 6′ 1″ of him – and in A N Other, a back up for a Centre Forward berth that will require immense talent to dislodge the resident immense talent of our very own Olivier, coming good now in a way that delights the faithful and surprises the doubters.
That Arsenal’s support base can now be easily recognised as falling into two camps – the doubters and the delighted – is clearly a simplistic notion. But there is some merit in this construct although I’ve little doubt myself that the doubters are as delighted as the next fan with a good goal, an improved performance, and a win, be it scrappy or spectacular. But the temporal nature of these more positive vibes in the minds of the doubters can scarcely be disguised let alone denied. Until such victories turn into winning runs leading to trophies (plural, mind), one anticipates little chance of change, on this front at least.
In the overall scheme of things – so what? Does this even matter – supporters, we are often told, have always criticised their players and the team, critiqued the manager and his directors?
Well, I think it DOES matter.
I get that fans should in theory be free to support their chosen team as they see fit and I’m all for healthy debate – is player X being played out of position, should player W have passed or shot – this is the meat and drink of following football and I’ve never had a problem with it.
The problems emerge when the atmosphere around the club is such that banners become unfurled at games that lead to violence in the crowd.
The problems emerge when players can’t begin the difficult journey back from injury or loss of form without the accompanying castigation by a vocal sector, united in a refusal to recognise the challenging nature of that same journey.
The problems emerge when decent, honourable and faithful supporters are blocked from blogs having been so wound up by the provocation and sometimes baseless barbs of some of the doubters that they have veered over the line of acceptable debate, in the eyes of those who matter.
Until Arsenal win – and win well – these problems, which are reflected throughout ArsenalWorld, will remain.
And for this writer, the divisions within the support at large are as tragic as they are damaging.
Tragedy is not a word to be used lightly but it’s how the fragmentation of the Arsenal Tribe might currently be described. We are all fans of the club, but not of each other, it would seem.
I hope Arsene finds his men. Whether it’s one, two or even three players matters little to me. I’d love us to win a trophy though my support for the club is not contingent upon this. What I’d love more is for the doubters to rediscover their faith and get back behind the club and its players and staff 100%. Maybe we need a small miracle to help that happen?
The sight of fan fighting fan – with actions or words – is something I’d happily never again see. Healthy debate, for sure. But the crossing of the line into the abuse of players – and each other – is something I find intolerable regardless of perpetrator, regardless of victim.
I’m not blaming either side for this although I know which side of the supporting fence I stand. It’s a consequence of sky high expectations dashed on the rock of financial reality, in my opinion. What that ‘reality’ actually comprises will continue to be the subject of much future debate, I’ve little doubt.
It’s a bit late for New Year wishes I know, but maybe I’m just holding out for a small miracle here. If Arsene can get the team back together, who knows, maybe the rest of the tribe will follow.
Arsenal still have the potential to be the biggest club in the world. In my biased eyes, they already are the best. But the next time anyone thinks about knocking the club or their fellow supporters – regardless of which side of the fence they sit – it might be worth remembering this.
If we ARE to become the biggest AND the best, we will only do it as one. And with ALL our cannons in a row.
The responsibility for such unity rests with each of us. Passionate debate by all means. But the continuous running down of players and the club with ever-more diverse weapons of mass distraction are doing none of us any favours.
If we are ever to start to win our biggest battles as a club, then, one day, our fighting – as fans – has to come to an end.
And that’s one day that can’t come too soon, for this fan.