The strong emotion that fans bring to sport, their reaction to the undulating fortunes of their chosen clubs, is a strong evidence of their love for these clubs.
This love should be, above all, the undergirding principle that modulates passion when it rises to a boiling point, when all the person can feel is searing anger at the things at the club that deviate from their proper function, at persons perceived to be at fault when things don't go well.
Like the beacon in the lighthouse, this love, this cord that binds us to our beloved clubs, should, at such heated moments, when madness threatens to overrule reason, be the principle that guides us through the treacherous shoals of emotion to the safe harbor of reason, where we can best analyze the reason for our disquietude with a dispassionate eye, at least, as much as this is possible.
It is normal that fans should be angry when things don’t function well at their club, when their team fails to live up to expectation, when the hope for better things crumbles. This, in fact, is typical. It wouldn’t be realistic, therefore, to chastise Gooners for their anger at this time when Arsenal isn’t doing well.
What isn’t proper is to allow our emotions to cross the boundary of reason, to figuratively burn down the house just because our expectations haven’t been met, to disregard the positive things that have happened at the club, things that are still happening, choosing instead to rain condemnation on everything and everyone—the case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.
This is how I can explain the call for the head of Arsene Wenger at the slightest of chances. I have a suspicion that those who do this are new fans, internet fans, perhaps. Because any fan with a little bit of history behind him or her would see that Wenger has been our best manager by far, overshadowing even the iconic Herbert Chapman.
If you look at what Arsenal was before Wenger, you can’t but appreciate what the man has done. If you go further to compare his first decade at the club with the second, then, you must, as a reasonable person, notice the discrepancy, the gap in achievement. This should prompt you to ask why this has been so, and the reason isn’t very difficult to uncover.
My point is this, that, indeed, it is natural to be annoyed at the lack of progress at the club, at the current underachievement, at the seven-year trophy drought, but in doing so, we shouldn’t disregard reality. We shouldn’t trample underfoot the things that make us what we are.
If there aren’t specific things that set us apart from the rest of the world, from other clubs near and far, for what reason then do we support this particular club? If we aren’t consonant with these reasons, this principles, then perhaps we are fans (if, indeed, we are) for the wrong reasons.
If may be that we are there just for the euphoria of victories. If so, it is no wonder, then, that we throw uncontrollable tantrums when victories prove elusive. It is the duty of every ostensible fan to search out the reasons why he or she supports a given club.
I have nothing but disdain for those who haven’t done so. Such are the type that wantonly criticize players and call for the sack of the manager at every bad turn. I do not by this imply that we shouldn’t criticize players at all. That would be unrealistic. What the reader should note is the qualifier “wanton.”
I have strong confidence that those reading this article do not fall into this particular category. The comments in the first half of this article were reasonable and well-moderated. I do not think that anyone would fault such comments and suggestions.
My gripe is with those who see good things in other clubs but not in Arsenal. For such, 15 games already equal an entire season. Hence Everton and West Bromwich Albion are now the bastion of great clubs, much like Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United were said to be at this time last season when Arsenal passed through a similar slump in form.
Abusive readers crowded the comments section of my articles at this period, calling me all sorts of names, simply because I urged moderation. When I dared to mention that the current situation has been caused by two factors: the rise of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, supported by oligarchs and oil tycoons and by Arsenal’s bid to position herself for a better future, someone called me a despicable human being.
But these are factors we can’t disregard.
We may be justified in condemning the sale of players such as Alex Song because we had no need to do so, but if we look carefully at the other players we have lost, we’d see that this happened under circumstances that Arsenal couldn’t control. As such, we can’t blame the manager (or even Ivan Gazidis) for this.
Secondly, we are not being reasonable when we say that the club should just spend money anyhow because this simply isn’t feasible. We do not have an oligarch bankrolling us, nor should we seek one.
Thirdly, when it comes to comparing the success of other clubs vis-à-vis ours, the comparison has to be panoramic. It is stupid to simply look at the first half of a season and then judge everything in the light of this limited span of time. It is stupid to simply elevate Manchester City while condemning Arsenal without an examination of the circumstances surrounding the rise of the one and the supposed fall of the other.
It is unreasonable to hold up Manchester United vis-à-vis Arsenal without asking what exactly has made Manchester United successful over the years, why Arsenal have failed to match their level of success and how Arsenal could position themselves to achieve the same success.
It is unreasonable to say this or that manager is successful and the other not without taking note of the circumstance under which each has worked. Would Roberto Mancini have won the league last season had he not outspent everyone? Would Chelsea have enjoyed their success over the last decade without their seasonal boon from their oligarch owner?
These factors are important. They have to inform our opinion, opinions that we are quick to offer.
The point of this article is to say that, yes, we should be concerned about the things that are happening at the club. Yes, it should be expected that we would be angered by our slump in form. Yes, we would be frustrated by our lack of success over the last six years. But accompanying all this should be our unflinching loyalty to the club and to our long-suffering manager.
Simply put: we should stand behind our team. That’s the second of the five things fans should do at this period of relative darkness. When we see a problem such as the one that has befallen the club, we should:
- Recognize the cause
- Rise of super-rich clubs
- Planning for the future
- Recognize the current problem
- Lack of balance in the team
- Affirm the team through our support and intelligent criticism
Affirmation is necessary because it helps the players. It also helps the coaches. If we go all negative, what good does that do to the team?
If we are bent on offering our opinion over every issue, then we should do so with intelligence. Wanton criticism does not help anyone.
Do we need to buy more players? Yes. Will that solve all the problems? Probably not.
Does the current situation means Arsenal is finished? By no means.
Does it means our chances at finishing in top-four are gone? Not at all, which is why we need to stand firmly behind the team, that way we can pass through this period standing together.
After all, isn't it our love for the club that has made us supporters? Should we abandon this love at the slightest hint of difficulty? I do not think so.