Like many Arsenal supporters out there, I suffer from an acute case of Arsenalitis. It’s a disease characterized by a deep emotional attachment to anything that has to do with Arsenal football club.
Some of the symptoms include chronic insomnia when the Gunners lose games or draw games we should have won, and frequent bouts of hypertension and anxiety attacks when we feel the club is unfairly being misrepresented in the media.
Despite the responsible thing of managing one’s own health and well-being say by not watching or listening to diatribe—you can’t help but notice the blatant cases of bias against Arsenal.
So is this anti-Arsenalism really a myth, or shall we stop beating around the bush and call it what it is—blatant bias and xenophobia by the establishment towards Arsenal?
Years ago, my Liverpool loving friend Dean asked me why I love Arsenal so much. You see, Dean and I grew up together and we’ve been really close friends for just shy of 30 years.
When we were kids, we played our own leagues in the council estates and equivalents of Hackney Marshes. This was in the early to mid-'80s when Liverpool were flying and many of the local neighbourhood teams adopted the names of big clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United, despite the fact that we were lucky to even watch a televised match once a month in our part of the world.
The funny thing is that we knew more about the team we supported and the players of the time, than we did about school work and the local curriculum. Prozone would have been proud of us at the time.
Dean was the local Liverpool’s star. Their Graham Souness, the guy who made them tick. He’s the only footballer who I know will nutmeg you and dribble past three players, turn towards you with that impish ”gotcha” smile, before smuggling the ball into the goal from a ridiculously impossible angle.
So I wasn’t the least bit surprised about his allegiance to Liverpool. His question to me about the roots of my allegiance to Arsenal did make me think though.
I suppose the biggest driving factor for me is to do with what Arsenal as a club represents. Victoria Concordia Crescit says it all, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the club’s values and philosophy of openness and opportunity. About the club's desire to go about things in the right and fair way, and about the club's patience and determination to develop an ambitious vision, stick to it and work hard at realising it.
There are many aspects of Arsenal’s journey over the last two decades that are a reflection of my own journey in life. In the last 18 years in particular I’ve identified more with the Gunners than any other development in my life I guess.
Friends tell me in a way that I’m lucky that my wife is also crazy about football. The down side though is that she’s a diehard Chelsea supporter (yeah! I know)—but I guess we all make sacrifices in life and have to live with the consequences.
Perhaps these are the reasons why I feel more sensitive and aggrieved about the open bias towards Arsenal that I encounter every day from the English football establishment. And it’s not paranoia. I know paranoia, believe me.
I’ll give you four examples (and there’s loads more) to illustrate my point.
1. Broadcasting of Arsenal Games on TV or radio
I’ll cite the group stages of the champions league. Out of six match days, there’s 24 opportunities that two radio stations have to broadcast the commentary for the games involving the four English sides.
I’ve used radio as an example because on the specific Tuesday and Wednesday nights of the Champions league match days, I was working and where I was, we can only listen to radio.
Out of the 24 opportunities that both radio stations had, only one Arsenal game—the match day one game between Standard Liege and Arsenal was broadcast. In a fair world, you’d expect that more than one out of 24 Arsenal games would get air time. In most cases, both stations broadcast the same match involving either Chelsea, Man United or Liverpool.
Don’t even get me started on the debacle of the Sky vs. ITV split that sees Arsenal relegated into broadcasting wilderness.
2. Anally Retentive Commentators
It’ was refreshing that in his last webcast to Arsenal supporters, Wenger confessed that he rarely watches Arsenal games on TV with the volume on. The outright bias and diatribe the commentators have against Arsenal can drive you loco.
It’s almost like it’s a scripted attempt to brainwash Arsenal fans with negativity. Whether it’s constantly referring to Gallas’s drama at St. Andrews in February 2008, or the application of selective amnesia that blanks out any virtues of the Arsenal game and amplifies Arsenal’s shortcomings; some commentators need to be lynched.
In many cases, commentators have publicly referred to the opposing team as ”our.” I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on the opposing team’s payroll, but to be fair, such commentators are just thick.
3. Xenophobia towards Arsenal’s colourful squad
The constant references to Arsenal’s supposed lack of English players is mind numbing and bang out of order. They serve to reinforce stereotypes that promote the dislike of the unknown and the misunderstood, and essentially fuel xenophobia.
The way the non-English mantra is latched on to suggests that there is something inherently wrong with not being English. An argument has been made that the English premier league is actually English in an attempt to justify the xenophobia.
Frankly speaking, in the 21st century, that’s an argument that needs to be filed right between shit and syphilis. There’s no room for that level of ignorance and arrogance for that matter in a game that is prostituted around the world as the best league competition on the planet.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Premier League is only popular in the world because of the myriad of international players and managers in the game. If it was still quintessentially English, the league would still be in the wilderness of the mid-'80s to early '90s following the five-year UEFA ban caused by hooliganism.
Furthermore, the billions of pounds Sky and other TV broadcasters pump into the game is only made possible by the ability to sell broadcasting rights all over the world. The English premier league can’t be a reality without non-English participation.
Inevitably, Arsenal is the whipping boy of this ”you’re not English enough” band wagon. It’s a shame that no one takes notice of the composition of the Arsenal youth and reserves team, and Arsenal’s stellar work in bringing through talented English players for the future.
4. Misguided truths or convenient lies about Arsenal
Take your pick:
- Arsenal don’t have strength and depth
- Arsenal need an English spine to win the EPL
- Arsenal must play ugly to win
- Arsenal can’t hack it if you bully them or kick them off the park
- It’s OK to actually kick them weak and brittle Arsenal players
- Arsenal are broke and there are a poor man’s imitation of the big two clubs
- If Arsenal don’t win a trophy this season then Wenger must go
- Wenger is a tight fisted egomaniac who refuses to spend money for big name transfers
- Arsenal are a selling team
You get the picture...
Basically a narrative has been building for several years now to serve the purpose of pigeon holing Arsenal into an also-rans outfit. There will always be a negative edge pursued on any Arsenal story.
A good example is when Andrey Arshavin said that Arsenal needed a miracle to have all their first team players available at the same time. This was swiftly rehashed and reported as “Arshavin says Arsenal need a miracle to win the title.”
What is also noticeable is the contempt and disdain that Arsenal and Wenger are held in by the I-Zombies (pundits and hacks) in football. Most of them find it really hard to hide their contempt for all things Arsenal. It’s so pathetic to watch them pretend to be impartial.
It’s true what they say though. If they hate you this much, you must be doing something right. Is choosing to win by playing beautiful football such a bad thing?