Arsenal: When High Expectations Hit Rock Bottom


Risky thing, ambition …


Competition in the Premier League has never been more fierce and the evidence for this lies all around in the form of the shattered dreams of the fans of Spurs, Liverpool, United and, to a lesser extent, even Man City.

The first two are evidence that simply spending a vast sum no longer buys the division and the latter two more evidence of the same yet with two, three, maybe ten times the expenditure.

Chelsea have put together a decent if largely loathsome side, though this hasn’t been achieved overnight; that they have required – or somehow acquired – the rub of the green this season in the form of outstanding refereeing contribution to elevate their position to a point where much of the media have them already crowned champions is indisputable. Game after game after game, Chelsea are gaining competitive advantage of the kind that makes an already good side appear invincible. A year ago, with Arsenal striding high, the word from the 4th Estate was simply that it couldn’t possibly last. Yet this year, the chavs are apparently indisputably water-tight. Indeed, champions elect.

How strange. And how sure they all seem.

And all around me all I hear are Arsenal fans tearing into club, players and manager.

Noisy individuals, many of whom have swapped their sunny summits of FA Cup success for a morose autumn of tragic victimhood, criminally misled by the club into thinking all would be unremittingly rosy in Arsenal’s footballing garden. That by now we would have a minimum of two ‘worldies’ (‘or even one!!’) for every position. That we would at least avoid squandering three-goal leads and jettisoning victories to low(ish)-flying Welsh opposition. That our squad would be purring like the English Champions. Oh alright, hang on, like Chelsea’s then (but without the mind-numbingly dull Mourinho-esque non-spectacle).

On Sky’s Sunday Supplement programme this weekend, four white men were reflecting on the lack of opportunity for men of any colour in the backrooms of the English game. They did this blissfully unaware of the irony of this caucasian broadcast, despite the well-meaning commentary on a lamentable and frankly shocking situation.

As I watched them, it struck me as equally ironic that at the heart of the complaints of Arsenal fans lies a perception of a lack of commitment by the club.

No commitment to spend, no commitment to keep ticket prices down. No commitment to acquire experience or to give youth its chance. No commitment to clear dead wood, no commitment to tie down players on long-term contracts. No commitment to attack, nor to defend. No commitment to buy an out-and-out goal-scorer/midfielder/goalkeeper. These are all actual charges that have been laid at the door of the club at different times in recent years and for different, doubtless carefully calculated reasons by the club’s accusers.

Charges laid by people at least some of whom’s own commitment start and end with the purchase of a ticket, the price of a Sky subscription, the five minutes invested in posting online complaints, criticism and/or abuse of the club and its staff. The irony of any critique, centring as it does on matters of commitment, appears as lost on most of the perpetrators as it did Sky’s angst-ridden, journalist debaters-turned-social-commentators.

Football is, of course, nothing without the supporters.

But the era of the traditional supporter, in the wider context of distinct club-based mass groups, appears to have passed, having been largely supplanted by a self-pitying bunch of miserable, unhappy individuals, masquerading as ‘fans’ yet behaving like ‘consumers’. Rather than being a part of something, followers give the impression of being a part from everything – their fellow fans and chosen club included.

This misery is as palpable as it is widespread.

Even those of us with a more ‘optimistic’ outlook feel robbed on a weekly basis by the perpetuation of a worsening refereeing crisis that denies us all access to justice and a sense of fair play on the field of play. Some of us favour the introduction of video-technology. Why? Because the amount we invest in following the game surely justifies the adoption of what we might argue to be ‘best practice’.

And so it goes on.

In the same week that City fans had to be bribed into their own Champions’ League hosting stadium with the supermarket style promise of two tickets for the price of one, the blight of fan apathy at Stamford Bridge was such that Jose himself was bitterly complaining of the absence of atmosphere at The Home of Chav.

Despite sovereign-scale funding in teams over many years, it is extremely telling that neither Chelsea nor City presently have real need of newer, larger stadiums.

And despite the influx of the greatest array of footballing talent this country has arguably ever seen, the discontent with football in a wider context, at least in the UK, has never been greater.

The price English football is paying for the mass ‘consumerisation’ of the nation’s once favourite game is finding expression not only in the struggles of the national side but also at the very heart of the game’s essence.

Fatally, football, for the vast majority of modern day followers, is over-promising and under-delivering.

The high costs involved in being a fan has created the sense of entitlement and expectation more normally associated with a public service-based activity. But whereas high-class hotels and restaurants are geared up to deliver and never (or at worst, rarely) disappoint, football remains as relentlessly unreliable and gloriously unpredictable as ever.

And, it would seem, no amount of money is likely to ever change that.

Southampton’s currently outstanding season is testament to that, and more power to them.

Dortmund, over in the Bundesliga, were once also capable of similar – and greater -footballing miracles. It’s sad to say that Southampton, despite the well-earned plaudits, are today as vulnerable to off-field dismantling of their carefully nurtured squad(s) as their German counter-parts, even while the Saints look so good on it.

Arsenal’s own on-field ‘miracle’ is yet to happen though Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor, even, a decade.

That the off-field miracle HAS occurred is worthy of its own acknowledgement even though few are currently in the mood to celebrate anything.

It means that once we have assembled – and tuned-up – a title winning team, we won’t be going the way of Spurs, Liverpool, Dortmund or Southampton in losing our best players the moment they emerge. Let’s face it, we’ve been there and done that; mercifully we are unlikely to have to wear that particular shirt again.

And the sooner our own fan base realises this the better. For sure we are, frustratingly, a work still in progress. But it’s long-term, sustainable progress, nowadays both stately and invulnerable.

And our own fans can expedite the process by leading the way in returning to old-fashioned ways of supporting – to be our club’s 12th man at every match.

It’s not just about player-acquisition or tactics; the sooner fan-generated confidence courses through the veins of the club the sooner the whole process will cement our place at the top tables of the football world.

Yes, of course, the club HAS to get it right, but so too do the fans.

And, of course, that requires commitment, doesn’t it?

About ArsenalAndrew

Optimist and lifelong supporter of the finest football club the world has ever seen.

14 comments on “Arsenal: When High Expectations Hit Rock Bottom

  1. A simply, superb, erudite and sensible piece Andrew. Just what I needed this miserable Monday morning. It complements another outstanding “must read” for the reasonable Gooner. The sense of perspective and historical context is so necessary that I must alert fellow Gooners to this:


    Liked by 2 people

  2. Four comments on our role as fans that are so blindingly obvious that they shouldn’t need writing:

    We don’t cope well with the pain of losing because for eighteen years we’ve had very little experience of it;

    Anybody who claims they know why we didn’t win on Tuesday or yesterday is probably mistaken;

    Anybody who clams that these reverses result from not buying players who were available in the summer but not better than those we have is clearly deluded;

    It’s easy to keep the faith when you’re winning: the test comes when you’ve just lost.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I wonder can any of those calling for Wenger to be sacked, actually name a better choice who is currently available, or even who we could get to leave his current club. I have seen many when this has been put to them come out with stuff like its not my job to find his replacement, but it seems they think its their job to demand he be sacked, odd that.
    I have seen the stupid line that anyone would be better. The best line of all is “I don’t care if we do worse with a new guy, I just want Wenger replaced”. These type usually add that they are fed up with top 4 and going out of CL to Bayern/Barca at the round of 16. that they would rather not be in CL for a few years than go on like we are. they are also usually the type who claim our club are a laughing stock and they are fed up of their mates laughing at them. I call them Peter Pan fans, they just have never grown up.

    there is an awful lot of Gooners out there fill with a sense of self entitlement, the internet has a lot to answer for.


  4. Andrew, can you check your DM’s?


  5. You appear to have skewered all the important points and cooked them to rare perfection in this article Andrew Bravo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Andrew. Dortmund in particular are looking a little bare after having their prized two jewels plucked. Plus the old injury curse. It’s tough. And they only have one giant super club to compete with as the petro club investments over there are only minor franchises – Gazprom auf Rhine (Schalke etc.).

    And here we have the Arsenal, two seasons past similar horrors, six months on from a cup final victory. Terrible, is it not? Are they D**Med? They would be if the club had burned fifteen big ones on dross like Fernando (Melo, Parker etc…follow the pattern!). You’d be better off playing Hayden in there, on every level, if he was fit!
    Or are the Arsenal four months into Sanchez’s career at Arsenal, with Özil, Walcott and Giroud to come back from injury into the team and rejoin him?

    This rebuild is not quite complete. The core defensive triangle, Arteta and the two CBs have had a set back, Koscielny etc. – It’s a worry, there’s a reason why some of us have been lauding Kozza as the best CB in the league for the last two years, some since his arrival as a briefly unpolished gem, and hopefully the Groaners inbetwixt their groaning are starting to work it out. Who am I kidding? Do I trust the coaches and scouts who plucked Kozza from obscurity to reduce the likes of Tevez etc to tears to find another CB? I think so. Why do I think that, apart from the obvious and strong evidence in the squad? Here’s the thing:

    FC Bunga Bunga La La Land paid £15M big ones for Thomas Vermaelan because few CBs out there have reached the levels he was playing at before his first big ankle knack – Geoff Arsenal might not agree, I agree that there were flaws there but he’s not been the same player since, although we had strong evidence he’d made a decent recovery from his solid performances last year when called upon. But like Koscielny he needed the summer off for fitness reasons, he’s got have surgery now. Hasn’t played since he came in unfit into a WC game. It’s hard to see him consistently returning to those top levels now. So FC BBB brought this Arsenal CB ahead of any other player* because there are few CBs out there who have reached the levels that these two Arsenal CBs have reached (LK6 & TV5), some of those few might have been other targets too but that’s essentially why they bought him. It’s all about the fitness…
    I wonder if those groaning about the “consistent problems” in defence can see the paradox here? Arsene can’t defend yet he’s had three of Europe’s top CBs in his squad in recent years? Eh? Youwhatguv?

    *rumours abound that AFC were in for Hummels till a late withdrawal by Dortmund.
    Maybe so, but Kozza is still the better player for me.

    Jenkinson didn’t get enough minutes last year. The apparent juggling of Bellerin and Jenkinson must be to ensure that the club has two experienced and quality RBs, who have not stagnated as young players, to compete in two years time when Debuchy is older is strong evidence of logical and considerate planning. I’m not a football genius, why have no uber bloggers or tika-tacticians made this reasonable guess on what the thinking behind Jenks & Bellerin may be? If I can see it, why are they ignoring it?

    I’m also one of those who’d be happy to see Chambo and Bellerin both play on the interim, I wouldn’t cry with Hayden, Bellerin and Chambers all starting, but I can also understand why not.

    The comments from Adebayor on the Tottenham home support were quite funny.


  7. Excellent article Andrew. Thanks. Nothing more to add.


  8. two comments I seen from supposed Gooners today

    1. I want him gone even if we win the league or cl

    2. I don’t care how we do in the league or CL as long as the *@&*%&* lunatic moron is still in charge

    now I ask what can anyone do about idiots like that. these sort also tell us that its the AKB that are holding the club back, the also accuse AKB’s of being unreasonable in their defense of Wenger and AFC, and of attacking anyone who is not an AKB.
    Which brings me to another point about this sort of fan, in their eyes anyone who is not anti Wenger, is an AKB, and certainly anyone who reasons or rationalizes Wenger’s actions or statements is an AKB. I am very nonplussed on the whole issue of Wenger to stay or go, but am still classified by the Wenger out mob as an AKB, it has to be that I am not anti wenger in a rabid or insulting manner that has them confused.


  9. Eduardo
    The whole AKB term was co-opted by these people some time ago in order to attack anyone and everyone who disagrees with them. It’s a pattern we’ve noticed. Alongside the Arsenal FC not Arsene FC bollocks. These people are self declared experts in PR after all – I’m guessing that Farage is one of their clients?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Brilliant, mi bredrin!


  11. You are right, none of the top teams are flying high. With that, I wonder if they have suffered the injuries we have? I doubt it. Chelsea lost Costa and have struggled since. Apart from the refs, I think they lose against Pool, at the very least drop 2 points. Just Just imagine these teams losing the amount of players we have.


  12. Brilliant piece AA.
    Nothing to add, just kudos to you.

    Let’s hear it for 100% fully fit player return in a fortnight.
    The last 6 weeks of the year is like a warzone.
    “All hands on deck, Rasers!”


  13. That!!!
    You outdo yourself every time sir. Take a bow.


  14. Thanks Goonerkam and others for kind comments.


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