I thought yesterday was going to be the worst of it but today has proven to be far worse than I have ever seen. Maybe it’s because this is the first year I have had to pay attention. Previous seasons when Arsenal were dumped out of competition I could hole up, make a few comments to friends, and spring would wash over me as I set sights on a sunny summer of transfer speculation.
This year is vastly different. First I have a blog, which I update every day. This means I can’t hole up like I did last year, rather I must read the news articles, must stay attuned to what the fans are saying, must be here in the moment. Second, football has taken off here in The States. Whereas two years ago I had almost no one to commiserate with over the loss in the Champions League, now I know hundreds of local Arsenal supporters. Third, since I’m a regional manager of Arsenal America I have been more plugged in to that scene as well. Because of my involvement in that scene and with the local football venues I can say with great conviction that more Americans are watching football than ever before and as we all know, Americans love to have an opinion about stuff! Hell, here I am publicly baring my opinions! If I go into Doyle’s I will no doubt get 4 people asking me very detailed questions about Arsenal, their players, the season, comparisons, and of course a few people who want to twist the knife.
So, I am inundated with Arsenal comments and it’s been a bit hard to take. I thought it was going to die down after Sunday. But rather today seems to be the high water mark. The press have gone insane: comparing Wenger to Basil Fawlty and “condemning” him with the title of idealist. They also offer helpful articles which rip Gallas for imagined statements that he made (even if these have been proved false) and are piling on the pressure for fans with speculation that Flamini and Hleb are out the door.
It doesn’t surprise me that in this atmosphere the fans have started to react just as negatively. The problem is that some of you all are going way overboard. Senderos is reported to have cried after the match against Liverpool for fuck’s sake!
And I’ll admit it, I do/did it too.
I tried, so valiantly, to “leave Eboue alone” but I just couldn’t resist; like when you’re lonely and your crazy ex-wife calls you up. I didn’t blame Senderos explicitly, but I am guilty of putting him and the whole defense under the guillotine. I wondered publicly whether Gallas should be fired after getting duped by the Daily Mail and their lies about Gallas saying he has “no friends at Arsenal.” The point is, I’m guilty.
Guilty of what? I think Cesc let it out of the bag a bit last week when he said of playing at Anfield
The good thing about playing away is that we don’t have the pressure from our own fans
It’s true. Standing in the bar, sitting at Emirates, we’ve all done it. That groan when one of Arsenal’s passes don’t connect. I started noticing that I was doing it some time in January. This team makes, literally, hundreds of passes a game and generally has a passing percentage in the 80% range (I can’t find a good statistics page, if you know of one please let me know.) Against United, Hleb made 86% of his 51 passes, Cesc made 80% of his 51 passes, Adebayor? 80% of 37 passes. Eboue and Toure were the weak links with under 70% and under 80% respectively. Ronaldo, Rooney, and Park COMBINED for 84 passes with an average completion percentage of 74%. With Ronaldo being the biggest pass waster of all.
I say all this to show you how spoiled we all have become and how our own petulant behavior is effecting the lads on the pitch. Arsenal cannot make EVERY pass, they cannot score EVERY chance, and they cannot keep 38 clean sheets, so you all need to let that shit go. Because if Cesc is publicly saying that the fans are creating a stifling atmosphere with their unrealistic expectations, then you know it’s something the whole team are aware of and something that weighs heavily on them come match day.
We need our fans to be supporters. Unlike in America, Arsenal aren’t going to leave Seattle for Oklahoma City to get a better stadium deal. Unlike in America, the club is a club — it’s here for us and we need to be there for it in return instead of playing like we are managers. So, we can’t just be “fans” as we are here in America. The club demands more. The club demands supporters.
Like these people who stayed for 20 minutes after in Manchester to cheer on the club and the team.
Let’s get THAT kind of support at Emirates and strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Let’s get that kind of support on the road and let’s get that kind of support for the club and the players on the blogs and forums and in our pubs.
Because we are the Arsenal, fuck all the rest.
With that in mind, I’m starting a five part column tomorrow called “Top five Arsenal players of the season.” Each day of the next five will feature a season recap for one of the five players I think was most instrumental to the team. I want to be clear that this is not a competition. The team could not have done well with ANY of these players missing so no one player is “better” than another. Further, they are presented at my whim and the day that they are presented is in no way a reflection on ranking or status within the group. And finally, I want to state at the outset that because I am highlighting these five is not a slight on any of the other players on the squad. I think all the players have performed admirably this season and I could say something positive about every player at the club (yes even Eboue, who I said something positive about on Saturday). They are just 5 players who’s performances I’d like to highlight in order to give you all something positive to go forward with as we head into the off season.
And so, see you all tomorrow where I will be highlighting…