Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Monday August 25 2008
I realised some time on Saturday evening that I have lost all faith in Arsenal fans. Probably in football supporters in general actually. The discontent began to fester last week, after another shoddy England performance, continuing a forty year pattern of inspidness, people are lining up to lambast Capello. I'm tired of hearing this pattern repeated and people too afraid/ not intelligent enough to see that the players just aren't very good. I'm tired of hearing what Capello should do for Gerrard and Rooney when the question should be what can Gerrard and Rooney do for him?
The media saturation that envelopes football has led to a galling lack of intelligence amongst football fans all too prepared to recycle well worn cliches from dimwitted pundits. I see it very prevalent amongst Arsenal fans too. So on Saturday, it didn't matter that van Persie played appallingly and for himself, because there is a consensus that he is an amazing player (he is), but he is revered as something of a deity and to criticise him is an act of heresy that sees all that break the code cast asunder into Gooner purgatory. However, it's always open season on Eboue, despite him being our best player on Saturday and his absence on the right hand side leaving us exposed by Zoltan Gera, it was still Eboue who bore the brunt of the frustration of supporters around me. Similarly Gallas has been mercilessly blamed, apparently his armband should have summoned up the power to rid the team of their malaise. When Gallas got the comeback rolling at the Reebok last season, or scored against Twente in an average display, it has nothing to do with his leadership skills. But when we lose it is all because of his poor leadership skills. All people are essentially doing by trotting out these easy answers is making a hobby horse to justify their own opinions without looking at the issues.
I watched a recording of one of Chris Rock's stand up shows last night. In it he said, 'I'm tired of people trying so hard to be something or other. 'Oh I'm liberal' or, 'oh, I'm conservative.' Why not be a PERSON? LISTEN! Only an idiot makes up their mind before they hear the issue. Me, there's some shit I'm liberal about and some shit I'm conservative about.' They say there's never a truer word said than a word said in jest and you see this with the current football fan. Football fans simply don't WATCH football anymore, they've already made their minds up before they've watched the game. So when we lose it's because Eboue is not good enough and Gallas is a crap captain. It has nothing to do with complacent performances from Adebayor or van Persie, or the fact that Walcott has no idea how to protect a full back as Eboue does. England fans booed Lampard on Wednesday night when Gerrard was every bit as woeful as Frank was. Football supporters already have their weapons loaded the morning they set off for the stadium, as a group of people, we are simply no longer polymathic enough to watch a game like the Fulham one and say, 'actually, what does van Persie bring to the TEAM? Wow, Eboue really does do a half decent job on the right flank defensively, which is crucial away from home.'
The modern Arsenal fan just seems to have become spoiled to the point of childishness. On our way through the park after the match on Saturday I heard another of these tired nuggets, 'we need to bring Dein in to spend some money.' This would be the David Dein that was very forthcoming with the readies for Thierry Henry's signing on fee, the Dein that sanctioned the sales of Petit, Overmars, Anelka and Vieira. The Dein who basically ran Arsenal in the mid nineties and sat on his hands as football enjoyed a massive financial boom, but chose to look on in solitary as Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona and maximised their commercial capacity and left Arsenal trailing behind. The same David Dein that drew a handsome £70m from his share in the club he proclaims to love and has not invested it into his beloved Arsenal. The Dein who drew a mammoth £315,000 in expenses in his final year at Arsenal. That David Dein? These facts are routinely ignored in the face of Dein's unstoppable PR machine promoting and extholing the 'Arsenal need Usmanov's money' corporate line. I'm looking at you Daily Mail.
The problem is, if you try and understand what the manager and the board are doing, you are written off as an Arsene apologist. There is an entire website dedicated to rallying against any supporter who toys with this line of thought. Similarly, there are supporters who do routinely trot out the 'Arsene Knows' cliche and instructs all that do not necessarily believe that to be the case to 'sod off and support Chelsea then.' There is a sense of civil war amongst Arsenal fans and I find it malodorous. Nobody wants to assess the individual issues anymore, we're all too keen to align ourselves with one particular camp and regurgitate the appropriate party line. Nobody LISTENS. Nobody WATCHES. Comments I've heard this weekend include a gentleman who gave up his season ticket because he didn't think we'd win anthing this year, that the game showed Gallas is a horrible captain and should be replaced, that Dein and Usmanov will save us, that the financial structure is all wrong, that the youth policy is rubbish. All apparently because Fulham scored with their only shot on target in a poor performance for Arsenal. If you try and reason otherwise, you're a rose tinted apologist. Nobody will deconstruct your point, but you'll be automatically written off just as a Tory would write off a Liberal Democrat as a matter of towing the party line. It's paradigmatic of the Tory party themselves, who refused to make Ken Clarke their leader, the only man with the charisma and ideas forward thinking enough to resurrect the Conservative party (heaven forbid) in the last ten years because he is pro Euro.
There are pertinent issues in the above, but the trend for making a drama out of a crisis is pathetic. It's a symptom of the media age where everything is as bad as it could possibly be. A rapper makes a recordabout guns? Well then everybody who listens to the track will instantly purchase an AK-47 and gun down the neighbourhood. A bird in Scotland with avian flu? Well the whole nation will soon be in the thrall of bird flu and we'll all die slow, horrible deaths. Drains burst in Cornwall? Well the whole country will soon be engulfed in floods of biblical proportions. Every scenario is taken to its most apocalyptic conclusion and presented as an inevitability. So Arsenal play badly and lose to Fulham and the board and the manager should be sacked and the captain should be replaced and the youth policy is destroying the club. There are questions to be asked. Why haven't we replaced the midfielders we have sold for example. But let's actually look at the issues for what they are and stop fanning the flames of apocalypse every time things don't go correctly. Watch a game and criticise those that don't perform, not just those that you don't like. In other words, be a person, watch, listen.LD.
Date:Monday August 25 2008
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