Arsenal Fans: Seeking Balanced Analysis Among the Anti-Wengers and 'AKBs'

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Arsenal Fans: Seeking Balanced Analysis Among the Anti-Wengers and 'AKBs'
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Battle lines have been drawn among Arsenal fans in recent seasons. They are between anti-Wenger fans and those who have come to be known as "AKB's."

The abbreviation stands for "Arsene Knows Brigade." Both groups have strong views on the state and direction of Arsenal.

So much so that any discussion of the club often descends into an exchange of verbal attacks between each camp.

But which set of fans are right, and can balanced analysis of Arsenal still happen?

That issue of balance is an important one and has some personal significance. At different times this season, this author has been accused of so-called reactionary analysis.

In truth, not all of these accusations have been without justification. However, nobody said discussing the team you support is an emotionless pastime. Nor should it be.

Yet it has become increasingly difficult to voice or write an opinion about Arsenal, without being challenged by both sides of the argument. The biggest point of division is naturally manager Arsene Wenger.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Love him, or hate him, judging Arsene Wenger's tenure at Arsenal deserves more than single-minded defiance.

A fan's view on Wenger's performance is now demanded as though it is some kind of badge of allegiance. The middle ground no longer seems like a viable option.

On a personal note, this writer finds the derisive term "AKB" particularly galling. It's dismissive of those who genuinely believe in a particular part of Arsenal's history and the intentions of the present.

It's a smirking, conceited put down that assumes there is only way to view a manager as complex as Wenger. However, the other end of the Arsenal fan spectrum can be just as irritating.

Three times this season, this writer has been admonished for being critical after a defeat. This scribe was told in only thinly-veiled patronising tones that each defeat was "just one game."

That's three losses, each written off as "just one game." Apparently it showed a lack of reason to assume the negative aspects of these defeats could have any bearing on this Arsenal season.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
More than "just one game:" Arsenal's 2-0 defeat to Manchester United had symbolic significance and real implications for their season prospects.

There's a disturbing arrogance in that view that could even make the most ardent Anti-Wenger member seem modest.

What of those fans who take the middle ground, the so-called moderates? It's easy for those aggressively expounding their views at each end of the argument to forget that such fans exist.

Fans who maybe still adore Wenger and deeply admire what he has done and still tries to do. At the same time, those same fans may acknowledge that mistakes have been made, particularly in the last 3-4 years.

They may even consider that change is not only an inevitable reality, but a necessity.

So where is the middle ground in analysing Arsenal? Is it possible to seem credible if you believe Wenger must do better, but accept he has been constrained by financial factors?

Those anxiously queuing up to attack the last part of that statement, would probably answer no.

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Not every Arsenal fan is either a Wenger hater or an "AKB" member.

Can fans and commentators still call for Wenger to spend, without being accused of endorsing the rejection of fiscal stability?

In the current climate, the answer to both examples is probably not, but they certainly should be able to.

That's because any analysis should be a fluid, multi-layered process. If writers can be accused of being reactionary in their assessment of Arsenal, then this author is gladly guilty as charged.

Impartial, judicious reporting is an ideal to be striven for, but is surely impossible to achieve every time. Striking balance is the best to hope for.

It's that balance that speaks to the inherent hypocrisy of supporting a team. What fan doesn't engage in a reactionary rant at their team one minute, but will happily savour ecstatic joy the next?

In one of this author's recent articles discussing the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa, two readers played out this argument. One was a fierce critic of the team and Wenger's approach.

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Different reactions to different results is natural, not a betrayal of core values.

The other chided this criticism by pointing out that the critic would happily praise Arsenal after their next win. Is this not perfectly natural?

It is not natural if taken to extremes. That way lies the birth of the fickle supporter. However, the dichotomy is natural throughout long seasons that always see ebbs and flows in form and fortunes.

Those who accuse writers of being reactionary often miss this point. Examining Arsenal's fortunes over an entire season can only be based on two things, results and performances.

What else is there to base judgement on? Factors like injuries, transfer dealings and others, merely serve as context. Reporting on Arsenal's season is a varied response to different results and performances. Plain and simple.

That's why if Arsenal beat Everton on Wednesday, this scribe will praise those aspects of the game worthy of it. If they lose, this writer will also not shy from examining the negative realities and implications of the performance.

Anything else wouldn't be true analysis. It would merely be a narrative that services one end of the growing divide among Arsenal's fans.

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