That feeling of goodwill towards all (Arsenal) men mostly made it intact through the World Cup, but the warning signs were starting to appear. Even with our Germans triumphinguber alles, and with one of our loanees (Joel Campbell) thriving on the big stage, people were criticising Arsène Wenger for being present in Brazil, for playing on the beach, and for not having bought all the best players. As the negativity started to gain momentum, boom! – Arsenal bought Alexis Sanchez, a top, top quality forward just approaching his peak years. Wow! Then came Debuchy, Chambers and Ospina, a veritable spending spree to acquire a mix of players to help address the club’s most pressing needs. The warm glow returned… for a while.
The team’s quick visit to the US turned Manhattan red for a few days and delighted the many dedicated fans who came to see the Arsenal at a series of events in New York and New Jersey. The mood was good – and then Arsenal lost to the Red Bulls. It was hardly the end of the world – the Red Bulls are mid-way through their season, so it was no real surprise that they won – but then when Arsenal were robbed of the Emirates Cup trophy, the lustre of the victory over Benfica seemed to ebb away very quickly. There was less talk of Sanogo’s four goals and more talk about needing a defensive midfield ‘monster’ and a ‘world-class striker’.
Victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield ensured the team brought back another trophy from Wembley, but this was immediately devalued in the press and by many fans because City variously ‘didn’t want to win’ or ‘were not at full strength’. A week later, an injury-time win over Crystal Palace was not praised for Arsenal’s perseverance or finding a way to win; instead, it was, after a day or two, used as evidence that Arteta was ‘overrun’ and that our strikers ‘aren’t good enough’. Oh, and Jack and Santi are shit as well, apparently.
A good home win over a tough team was followed by a good away draw over a tough Beskitas side. Arsenal ‘fans’ chose to celebrate Mikel Arteta’s injury on the basis that ‘now Wenger will have to buy a DM’. Olivier Giroud bore the brunt of the fans anger for not scoring any of the chances that came his way; other players who similarly had an off night were spared. The dark clouds are returning.
Will this battle of negativity and positivity ever end? Sadly, no. The negativity can only be kept at bay by the success of the team. In the age of instant feedback, the urge to judge is too powerful for many to suppress. For them, a bad touch or a bad match equates to a bad player. Young Chambers has started his Arsenal career incredibly well, but we should beware what may happen when, inevitably, some of his mistakes are punished by the opposition.
Every one of the Arsenal players, staff and management havs flaws, sometimes very obvious, sometimes not; but they all deserve our support. Any Arsenal supporter who hopes that an Arsenal player gets injured has lost sight of the big picture. The best team isn’t necessarily the team with the best eleven (or twenty-five) players. Effective teams need role-players just as much as they need stars. The Arsenal players who are less than ‘world class’ (whatever that means) are still important to the success of the team, because they do the jobs that need to be done. The team that plays most effectively TOGETHER is the team that is likely to win. Giroud won’t outsprint the defenders, but he will act as the hub of the attacking wheel, bringing the others into play and scoring a good number of goals himself. Arteta isn’t Yaya Toure or, the new flavour of the month, Nemanja Matic, but he will retain possession, pass accurately and help to manage the flow of the game.
People have the right to voice whatever opinion they want; my wish is only that they realise that tweeting ‘player X is shit’ or ‘I hope so and so plays so Wenger sees how rubbish he is’ contributes to negativity around the club, and that negativity is infectious. Ultimately, it hurts the club, the same club these people say they support. You want the team to play well? Be a good supporter. Pull for the team – all of them – and, if you go to a match, don’t forget to put pressure on the referee.
As fans, our job is not to manage the team and it is definitely not to run down our own players. Our job is not easy, but it is straightforward: our job is to support.
So, what this Arsenal team really needs is “Victoria Concordia Crescit”