Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday July 23 2009
First things first, apologies for the radio silence from me over the last fortnight, upon arriving back on mainland England after a weekend away with friends a fortnight ago, I arrived back to my flat to find our internet connection had been amputated, a situation that has been without reconcile ever since, hence the intermittent correspondence. Given that I also don`t own a television, the period of solitude mercifully allowed me to escape the furore Ade-pay-me-more transfer somewhat unscathed. The period of relative monastery has allowed time for meditation amongst the uninspiring chatter of transfer news as the dick swinging contest between City and Real Madrid reaches its threshold. It`s given me time to consider some things that have demonstratably changed at the club this summer and some things that have stayed irrevocably the same. The status quo is being observed in terms of the manager`s musings, he continues to affirm faith in his players (why wouldn`t he?) and extol the values of lessons learned. (I have watched back every Arsenal Season Review DVD since 1998 during this summer, the words "exciting young team" have been used in the narrative of each of the last four). We have also lost yet another player to a serious injury only for the manager to diagnose the injury as "not too serious." (In January 2008, he also told us Rosicky would be out for "a matter of days, not weeks"). However, there is one thing that has notably altered.
Whether or not via the initiative of Gazidis it is unclear, but Arsenal seem more concerned with the impressions of supporters more than ever before. Players linked with moves away have instantly rectified the record via the club website and affirmed commitment to the club. The very fact that retraction never emanated from Emmanuel Adebayor seemingly carried the coded message that the club was happy to usher him to the exit door. Gazidis himself has made himself available for interview for Arsenal`s most widely read unofficial supporters website 'Arseblog.` I only recall William Gallas, usually very forthright and garrulous when invited to speak to the press, producing a single utterance to the media since being unceremoniously stripped of the captaincy last November, and that was simply to refute rumours that he was leaving. Whether official or informal, Gallas has clearly been asked to keep schtum by the club. Whatever the intricacies of Arsenal`s new found media savvy, it seems clear that the Arsenal bigwigs have witnessed the deterioration of the relationship between players and supporters which reached something of an unprecedented level last season. With Adebayor`s irritating flirtations with other clubs, Gallas` often misrepresented missives to the press and likewise Bendtner`s press twisted rhetoric has seen the voices in the Emirates gallows become hoarse with dissatisfaction. The rectitude of supporters berating their own players has been debated ad infinitum, and it is right that the club must be apportioned with some of the blame in this, as Robert Plant once wailed, communication breakdown. However, the fact that the club are going to such painstaking lengths to offset the possibility of the boo boys dominating next season proves to me that the players and the manager have identified this de rigeur occurrence as a genuine hubris to them.
In Wenger`s various post mortems of last season, a common theme occurs, he pinpoints external negativity as a factor that vitiated his team in the early stages of the campaign. That the club have moved to protect the sacrosanct reputations of Messrs Fabregas, Sagna and Clichy in the face of this summer`s churning rumour mill, shows that they consider positive relations between supporter and player as an integral bedfellow to success. In his adumbrated approximation of Arsenal`s finances earlier this week, Ferguson is attempting to feed ravenously upon Gooner cynicism in the hope that it will continue to manifest itself in the nebulous practise of Arsenal fans hindering their own side. Is it not fair to say that if our club are moving to eradicate the air of disenfranchisement permeating the atmosphere and our enemies are looking to amplify it, that in verbally chastising our own side we effectively expediate their downfall? We may cluck our tongues and spit, "salary, salary, salary" in riposte, but whilst some footballers means of chasing the pot of gold (*cough* Adebayor *cough*) are incredibly avaricious, a wage packet does not inoculate you from the mental effects of 50,000 acid tongues when trying to break down stubborn opponents. (Besides which, we cling jealously to the notion of pay when criticising footballers, yet top flight football has become a multi billion pound industry. That is because of the players; is it not right that they are recompensed to reflect that within the framework of a capitalist economy? And if the idea offends you so much, answer me this, what have you done for the Socialist party lately?)
The underlying issue here is not to proselytize anyone into thinking that all is rosy in the Arsenal garden. This is not so much a call to arms, I don`t want to teach the world to sing, that would be horrible. (Besides which, singing has become something of a benign practise inside the Emirates anyway). But the upshot here is that the verbal exorcism of our frustrations against our own players is evidently so counter productive as to be, not so much an exercise in futility, as a chink in the armour for our opposition. My personal preference inside the stadium is to store up the frustration for the opposition (though all too often I fall into the mind numbingly repetitive trap of shouting at the referee to such a histrionic extent that I feel pangs of shame for using this poor human being as a voodoo doll for my own sense of helplessness). Whether or not quietly contented or eye gougingly mad at the team`s current state of affairs, there has to be some syncretic solution of uniting the supporters in the aim of common cause. Leave the negativity for the pub, join a blog or site such as this one and spill your guts, but venting spleen at our own players inside the ground is so incredibly counter productive. The fact is, this summer, the club are acknowledging it, our enemies are seizing on it. Heaven knows we all complain about the money we pay to watch, why continue to spend that money hurting the team? Those that counterpose "I pay my money, I have the right" miss the point, the more you boo and scream and whinge, the greater the likelihood that you`ll be given more to boo and scream and whinge about. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that that scenario would be peachy creamy for a lot of our supporters whose sole reason for attending football is just that.LD.
Date:Thursday July 23 2009
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