Yes, most of us are down at the state of our club at the moment.
Still, I’ve seen and read a lot of interesting comments lately. Maybe it’s just me, but then they are things I take issue with.
Namely, that fans “won’t support the club again” if we don’t improve. Or “they will disassociate themselves from the club” if methods are not done to get success. Maybe these are said in the heat of the moment, granted. But I see this in other avenues too. Whether it’s Facebook groups, Twitter feeds, etc.
But there is the old cliché “support your team through thick and thin….”
I agree with this, wholeheartedly. Being a football fan is not logical to some, but then it’s as much a passion, hobby, or lifestyle, as it is just casual entertainment. It’s not like seeing a film in the cinema, or going to a beach, or walking on a nature trail. Football has an inherent link and bond, unlike most other pursuits.
We are THE Arsenal
Yes, THE Arsenal
The “THE” is telling here.
Manchester United is the biggest club in our country, without question. They have the biggest revenues, most fans, most trophies, and the largest stadium. However, nobody even then says “THE” Man United. It can be argued that Liverpool is a bigger than are, by virtue of more European trophies (and trophies overall). But nobody says “THE” Liverpool.
These are some of the records we hold in both English and global footballing history:
- First televised football match
- Longest unbroken stretch in top division (very soon to be 100 years unbroken)
- Most FA Cups wins
- Most appearances at Wembley, old and new combined
- Invented the WM formation and stopper centre-half
And it’s only in this sentence that I am mentioning the Invincibles.
These are all great achievements, and it’s why we hold high standards.
It may be entitled to some, but not to us, since it’s what we’re used to and inculcated with.
It’s like a person born into a rich family, and they get used to a high lifestyle. We’re all influenced by our experiences.
So nobody can fault us for holding high standards, or expecting the best.
That said, success is never a given. And not for any club.
Real Madrid, during the first Galacticos phase, didn’t win La Liga at all. They, of course, lost to us over two legs in the Champions League. They currently will only get top four in La Liga, and whilst still in the Champions League look unlikely to make it three wins in a row. And this is the biggest club on Earth, after all.
Liverpool has only won one League Cup since 2006 (the ‘Gerrard FA Cup Final’).
So because we, or other clubs, have a tradition of winning, it by no means signifies we must win all the time. To quote the cliché, there is no “divine right” to win any trophy. It must always be earned.
It’s understandable why we demand success, but success alone is never the end-goal or purpose.
Imagine if Arsenal’s record was like Newcastle’s, or Sunderland’s. Both are big clubs, and still possess very large grounds in a wider English setting. The Toon hasn’t won a major trophy however since the 1960s, yet they still average 50,000 a game. Sunderland may well be in League One soon, and their last trophy was in the early 1970s. But in their Premier League history, they averaged 40,000. The Stadium of Light when opened was larger than Highbury. If they can hold faithful support, with lows far worse than our lows in the same periods, then it shows support is deeper and more thorough than just following a winning team.
I guess the major reason why I don’t like these comments is that it harks on various stereotypes of Arsenal fans. And it also shows a potentially worrying facet of our supporter-base.
Yes, we have high standards, based on our achievements. This doesn’t mean we’re entitled, or too demanding. A major source of our ire is that we have not utilised our resources or power, especially since we’ve moved to the Emirates. We clearly are not competing with Bayern Munich.
There are several factors though that make success a non-given. A club may not have the money or facilities to compete. It may also be poorly-run, or in the case of some clubs like Juve subject to grossly corrupt practices (re: Calciopoli) that cause it to be relegated. Portsmouth is a similar but not exact example, since they were docked points by the Premier League and still are within the lower divisions.
But this attitude also shows, perhaps, that some of us are spoilt.
Part of the glory hunter tag is rooted in not just entitlement, but a show-off or affectation. It’s like if a person gets new clothes, or a new suit, and they feel prideful and cocky. Well, yes, we can boast to other fans that we’ve won three FA Cups of late. Or doing this would have felt good during the Invincibles era. But it alone is never a good reason to follow a team, nor feel pride in following a team.
For me, and I’m sure for many, it’s about deeper values attached. Arsenal is a club that for decades has stood for class, tradition, innovation, and doing things the right way. My parents always told me that anything I associate myself with must have strong core values and goals, and Arsenal is certainly that. Arsenal is a beacon, for me, in the global footballing world, and not just for its successes, but for the values I aforementioned.
And if there are indeed a sizable part of our fanbase like this, then it’s worrying considering we rely on match-day income for a large bulk of our revenues. It’s more worrying though those fans are not buying into the ethos, and are only on it for the ride.
I think glory fans are inevitable, since people like to align themselves with success and winners. For some, it’s about feeling good that the team they follow is actually achieving, and it gives them a sense of personal pride. However, for me at least, sports support is based on community values and bonds. I actually prefer modern football, with all of its “banes” like Sky/BT Sport, the Champions League with non-national champion clubs in it, “insane” player transfer fees, “constant” live TV games, and all-seater stadiums. A part of me though likes the core notion of what football support is, and it’s a pretty healthy thing overall. Humans are social beings, and we often seek some kind of associations. It could be racial, cultural, gender-based, religious, or some other factor. As football clubs arose as centre-points for communities, then it stands that they are a badge of pride.
If there are fans who “don’t wish to follow Arsenal anymore” as we’re going to finish 6th at best, and may or may not win the Europa League, then that is very fine. It only gives credence to those who seek to mock and deride our fanbase and club generally, and this is why I don’t like this ideal.
It’s a bad time, but they happen
Life is a roller coaster, as they say. But then it’s pretty much known that we’re not guaranteed success. And less successful periods can and do happen, for whatever reason. The last truly bad season we had was in 1994/95. We had some excellent players, many of which are club legends, like Wright, Adams, Bould, Dixon, Winterburn, Seaman, Merson, Parlour, etc. But the style of play was not pleasing, and Graham (in his final year amidst the bung scandal) was starting to get stale, and possibly even found out by other managers. The players also were not responding to him as much as they did previously.