Am stating the obvious in observing that today’s Community Shield match is the official opener to the 2017-18 season. To be frank it is nothing more than a glorified friendly with no more at stake than pride and a fancy trophy.
Looking back over the last 20 years, the last team to win both the Community Shield and the Premier League was Manchester United in 2008. Five years later, United fans may have left the new Wembley cock-a-hoop, after beating the mighty Wigan City to mark the start of the David Moyes era. But there was to be an ignominious PL season by their standards, coming 7th and having to abort the era just after it got started.
Arsenal may have bit more to brag about. In 2014 the Gunners thrashed City 3:0 in the Shield but was up to its neck in a dog fight with United for an automatic champion’s league place by May 2015. The following year, for the first time, Arsene Wenger had a competitive victory over Mourinho at Wembley, only for Leicester City to rise from nowhere and snatch the title away from the big boys, Arsenal finishing a relatively distant second place.
While Arsenal may have scored an enormous moral victory in its last two appearances in the Shield, none but the most cock-eyed fan can count the trophy as anything more than a consolation prize for a failed PL campaign.
Given the Shield is just a preliminary battle in the PL war, Wenger and his coaches, just like Conte and his team, will see the game as an important measure of where their teams are in preparation for next week’s season opener. The results will be important but secondary. Unfortunately, that steely-eyed unemotional appraisal of the professionals will be absent from most fans of both clubs. I can already envisage banners being waved in Wembley by supporters of either club trying to win the pissing contest of who is the greatest club in London.
This takes me to the point of today’s blog. How prepared are Arsenal fans for this campaign? For the first time in 21 years the club cannot count itself as among the top-four campaigning for both the PL and Champions League titles. I am fully aware there are fans who discount participation in the CL on the grounds the Gunners had no chance of winning; something neither Barcelona nor Bayern took for granted as they played their best teams in an effort to defeat Arsenal to secure their place in the next round.
While reputation-wise and financially Arsenal still retains the cachet of a big club, for the first time in a very long time it is a challenger seeking to recover its title. Every former title-holder, gunning to get back to the top, will have doubts, no matter how hard they train, hoping to never duplicate the mistakes that cost them the title. Additionally, unlike the boxing metaphor, Arsenal will have to prioritize its fights on the comeback trail, sending a second XI to Europa League contests in an effort to prioritize its run at the Premier League title.
Are fans mentally prepared for these new challenges ahead? I am not a psychologist, just an amateur data analyst, but based on my recent experience on twitter the signs are not good. Just last week there was a brouha-ha among Arsenal fans when news was splashed by the mainstream media that Stan Kroenke had a financial stake in a Hunting Channel. It was the excuse for the most mindless, childish, feckless, emotional vituperations vs the majority owner of the club. This, by the way, was mostly by Arsenal fans, who are the majority on my timeline. They as far as I could discern have no knowledge of hunting as a sport, both the good and the bad, and most of all have no real concern about the ethical treatment of animals or else they would denounce the abominable and unhealthy conditions under which meat and poultry are reared in the factory farms, mostly in America. Yet these fans were picking up swords and pitchforks, signing anti-Kroenke petitions and, most laughable of all, advocating Usmanov to become primary owner, yet he is a citizen of Russia where hunting is legal and broadly advocated.
You can see my twitter denunciation of the nonsense which I describe as a clear example of virtue-signaling on social media by those who want to impose their phony virtues on mindless followers simply to gain popularity. No need to mention I have lost the fakes and phonies as followers on my TL. Good riddance, I say.
The 10-10-80 Rule
Why would fans so easily lose their shit over something so fake and phony? Upon reflection it reminded me of something I learnt during my near 20-year career in a retail-oriented business. It was crystallized in a discussion I recently had with the corporate executive responsible for Asset Protection. The issue was why we had to be constantly vigilant against thieves and fraudsters, always updating our efforts to counter them. He explained, in dealing with human nature there is a 10-10-80 rule. Despite our best efforts at selection and recruiting:
- 10% will never steal
- 10% will steal no matter what
- 80% will sway either way depending on whether there are stiff controls and penalties against theft and malfeasance
I think it is a model that truly approximates the average Arsenal fan:
- 10% selflessly love and support the club no matter what
- 10% support the club for selfish reasons and are easily motivated to steal from and undermine the club at every opportunity
- 80% are in the middle swayed by the tides and fortunes of the club influenced by parties inside (AFC’s PR) and outside the club such as the mainstream media, twitter, bloggers, podcaster etc.
Readers can easily fit the various segments of the fanbase into this model. Obviously the WOBs and AKBs belong to either extreme. But like any model it is a generalization, a crude approximation with many exceptions. Unlike my industry, there is no penalty for stealing from the club and no economic incentive to insure the thieves and fraudsters never prevail.
It is my observation, however, that only when the 10% that selflessly loves the club is aggressive and deliberate in countering the stupid, ignorant mindlessness of the “malcontents” (to quote @blackburngeorge), only then will the 80% will grow a backbone and not fall for the nonsense.
Today’s Community Shield will certainly exemplify the 10-10-80 rule. Apparently the virtue signalers and the enemies of Arsenal Football Club will be attempting to raise banners of protest vs. Kroenke and will do everything to undermine the united, vociferous support needed by our boys in the hard campaign ahead. Wenger has made the team as prepared as can be. He needs no distractions in spite the need for at least one more quality reinforcement before the transfer window closes on August 31st.
Are Positively Arsenal and the other fellow-minded 10% ready the fight?