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Three go missing at the Emirates; black flags in the Gooner.

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The Christmas gift for the fan with (almost) everything

Ontold on Twitter: @UntoldArsenal

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Reflections on Arsenal v Sunderland; by Tony Attwood

There are three guys who normally sit a couple of rows behind me.  They come to each game, and they complain.

One shouts out “What was that?” endlessly, suggesting that every pass, every leap, every corner, every goalkick is something worse than anything he has ever seen before.  (Clearly he’s never had the privilege of watching non-league football).

Another endlessly made fun of Bendtner, irrespective of whether he was the pitch or not.

The third just says, “Oh for fuck’s sake” over and over again, and leaves it at that.

Anyway, they have been threatening to anyone who cared to listen that they would not be coming any more, and yesterday, en masse they didn’t (if it is possible to not do something en masse.)

It was a blessed relief and allowed the rest of us to enjoy the match in a more pleasant manner.   But it led me to wonder: people like this who moan and complain about everything – do they “support” the club, or individual players, or the manager, or the team….?

Listening to them over the past couple of years it has been hard to know.  Certainly they don’t support Mr Wenger, just as they don’t support some individual players.  Indeed they can be hyper-critical of individual players of great class who just miss the occasional pass – Cesc certainly wasn’t immune from their attacks, nor Van Persie.  I suspect they attacked Henry and Pires on occasion (if they were supporters in those days).

So if they don’t support players, or the manager, then is it the team?  In fact no, because they spend far more time complaining about the team’s performance than doing anything else.

Which leaves the club – for them to spend nearly £4000 between them a year on their season tickets they must support something, and the club is the only thing left.  So I guess it is that.

But what club?   Obviously not the one that I follow, the one where I give all my energy to supporting all aspects of the club, the players, the managers etc etc.

I can only conclude that they support their own Arsenal – and that is where things start to get a bit nebulous.   Can a supporter actually have his/her own Arsenal?

In a sense I suppose if pushed these guys would probably align themselves with the Black Scarf Movement – the rather nebulous grouping without a “membership” whose aims seems to come down to a desire for the transfer funds to be used differently.   A bit like the earlier “Give us back our Arsenal” campaign which seemed to feel that the club actually belonged to the supporters – which of course in reality it doesn’t.   (There’s a really interesting article on Black Flag in the current Gooner magazine – 01233 665682 or thegoonerfanzine@btinternet.com if you want to get a copy and can’t get to the ground).

They have the view (if I have understood it correctly) that the club is drifting, that prices should not be going up, and that some tweaking of ticketing arrangements should be introduced (some of which policies are akin to those of AISA – of which I am a committee member – so I don’t have any problem with them).  They are the people who took over a billboard by the ground and put the word “Forward?” on it.

Which brings us back to what seems to be the key point then – buy some other players (which was the chant we heard at the end of last season, and early this season: “Spend some fucking money”.)

It is an interesting point, in that in its simplest form it suggests that the money is there, and can be spent on anyone.   As if one might say, “Arsenal want you” so the player comes along.

Except we know it doesn’t work like that.  If Arsenal have an interest in a player the most likely outcome is the selling club will offer the player to Chelsea and Man City in the hope of getting more money, and the player will fancy holding on, in case of an offer from one of those two, to get more money himself.  An extra £20k a week let us not forget is an extra £1m a year.  Not bad for my pension fund.

But let’s try this another way.   Liverpool spent £110.5m on players since K Dalglish (who had been unemployed for 10 years) took on the managerial role.

That is in fact just about double the money Arsenal have.  It isn’t money Liverpool have – but they spent it, because they like to be in debt.

£35m on Andy Carroll, £20m for Jordan Henderson and another £20m for Stewart Downing, £22m for Luis Suárez and £6m for José Enrique

This is seemingly all based on a system call “sabermetrics”, in which data is gathered on players and turned into “value for money”.

I am not sure that if our summer spending had been along those lines that Nasri and Cesc would have stayed.   Nasri’s agent made it clear his man would want to move after the first year at Arsenal, and spoke of “the next stage in his career”.  Cesc as we know, always wanted to go back.

Had we spent like Liverpool would we have had different results so far this season?   Would the three guys who previously sat behind me now start to believe in the club, or the players, or the manager, or anything else?

I doubt it in both cases.   Rather, for some, complaining, moaning and bitching has become a way of life.   Trouble is, when you adopt that style, it tends not to make you very happy.  And these guys certainly aren’t happy.

I do agree with the Black Scarf Movement, and the Gooner, on one thing – the publicity being generated by the club sometimes looks naff.   I did have some discussions at the club over the way to celebrate the 125th year of the club this year, and wrote a report for them with my thoughts (which certainly didn’t include the use of “Forward”) but they were not taken up.    Fair enough, no reason why they should be – it was just my view, and I get to write about the things I find interesting, in the “Uncovered” column in the programme for each match.  But I personally agree that the “Forward” campaign doesn’t hit the right note at all.

But let’s not hide from the fact that PR always has a problem because different people have different perceptions to begin with, while PR tends to put out its message to everyone irrespective of where they are coming from.   So the three hardened cynics who normally sit behind me get the same PR as the three people sitting in the non-season ticket seats to my left who were clearly at the Ems for the first time against Sunderland, and who were loving every single second of the experience.  They were in their seats before the players came out to warm up, and they were still there until the last player left the pitch.

In the end, we support the club, and because certain players play for the club, we support them too.  If you don’t do that, there’s not much else is there?

Maybe those guys behind me have finally realised that, and won’t come again.  But I rather fear that after this run of five consecutive home victories they might be back against Stoke.

I’ll just have to wear ear plugs.

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Write for Untold Arsenal

We really do welcome writers who have a positive view of the Wenger revolution, or who have something new to say about any of the topics that we regularly cover – all listed above.  Just email your idea to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org or send in the whole article as a Word file attached to an email.

17 comments to Three go missing at the Emirates; black flags in the Gooner.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Great read Tony.
    And this reminds me of my local team a bit. Where we sat on the occasions when we went to see them there were 2 brothers of middle age sitting a few rows in front of us. One brother was the “what was that” type. Each pass was a disaster and welcomed with the same “Allez…” shout. A local negative shout we use.
    And this was also very annoying. Even in a period when our local team had 3 consecutive promotions you still could only hear him shout “Allez…”.
    But as I only go there on occasion it didn’t bother me that much but other die hard fans of my local team really disliked the guy for this.

    And then when after not being able to go for a while to my local team I went back the “Allez…” person was sitting on his own still shouting the same thing with each ball that wasn’t give like he thought it should have been given.
    But as I met some old friends from my younger days we went over to the standing area on the other side of the pitch and there we saw the brother standing there.
    And it then turned out that he had been going all the time but simply got so fed up from the negativity of his brother that he had chosen to go to the other side of the ground just to avoid the constant moaning.

    Just enjoy the fact that you had a game without the moaning 😉

  • @blacksheep63

    Great as usual Tony,
    This is my first year as a ST holder although I have been coming to games since the 70s. I get frustrated too – by the team and the fans – but surely the reason we go is because we love the arsenal? I travel down from northampton so I’m looking at 3 hours plus travelling every game and the added expense. But looking out onto the pitch on Sunday I am very proud that i follow the team by father and grandfather supported. I love the fact that my step children are JGs and that in years to come they will be sitting in the emirates when me and your three moaning minnies are long gone.

  • Richard B

    We all have some idiot(s) sitting by us who seem anxious to display their ignorance of even the basics of the modern game by shouting it for all to hear. ‘I pay my money and I can say what I like’ seems to justify, in their minds at least, what appars to the rest of us as crass ignorance. But they’ve always been there – it’s just that, in the old days we could go and stand somewhere else on the terrace to avoid them and now we can’t.
    What worries me more is the people who ‘want their Arsenal back’ as if, in some way, such things as transfer policies were different in the past.
    We have always lost players to clubs who were willing to pay more than we were and that also were happy to tap up our players to achieve it. Viv Anderson and Frank Stapleton were two classic cases from decades ago. The fact that they both went to Man Utd is not a coincidence.
    We have always had instances of players that we wanted to buy being ‘stolen’ from under our noses by clubs willing to pay way over the odds and maybe go into debt to do it.
    What we have never had, or certainly not since the Second World War, is a policy of paying more than we think a player is worth let alone going into debt to do it.
    Arsenals policy has always been to ‘grow our own’ and augment where we need to with cheap ‘journeymen’ the occasional medium to large purchase. The 1971 double winning side was built like that, as were George Grahams squads. Much of Wengers success comes from the same policy – it’s just that he’s thrown the net wider for recruitment.
    Arsenal has remained true to it’s declared and demonstrated policies throughout the last sixty years and has been rewarded with far more success on the pitch than 99% of other clubs.
    Only changes at Chelsea and Man City – whose business models are not of their own making anyway – have upset the status quo.
    But only now can we see that the impact those changes have had is far greater on the likes of Spurs, Everton, Liverpool and most others, than it has been on us.
    Wenger stated recently that ‘financial catastophe’ is about to hit European football and the evidence of players strikes in Spain (for non payment of wages) and Premiership clubs in this country mortgaging their future TV income just to survive bears witness to the fact that he’s probably right.
    In the circumstances that prevail at the moment Arsenal are doing exactly the right thing and you can count the number of clubs who wouldn’t swap places with us on the fingers of one hand.
    Was that true pre Wenger? No it wasn’t.

  • the mickster

    a rather pleaseant by-product of our current malaise is that i feel we have lost a lot of the moaners, there does seem to be a better feeliing in the ground, and maybe it’s based on people now coming who just want to support the club rather than be entertained by it.

  • FunGunner

    @ Tony

    We can relate to this article – we all know the type. They literally go there to have a moan. And to give the dirty looks to anyone cheering or shouting encouragement.

    @ Richard B and mickster
    good points both

  • Robbie

    Having a couple of “experts” nearby complaining about everything is part of the live football experience. I wouldn’t want it any other way =)

  • Byron

    The article raises an interesting point Tony. Can you be a fan of Arsenal but not a supporter of the current set-up? I am a Fan of Arsenal and I do Support Wenger and most of the players so I am not sure but if I may digress for a moment in order to offer an Analogy. In around 2002 the Natal Sharks(Rugby side) were coached by a rubbish coach and lacked quality players we battled and finished last in super rugby- I have gone to the stadium with my dad since I can remember but we stopped going that year and didn’t even watch on T.V It may be said I stopped supporting although I remained a fan and Have barely missed a game since there was a major overhaul.

    I think you can still be a committed fan even though you are not actively supporting what is happening at the club, the people you describe are not even fans let alone supporters as they seem to take joy in criticizing the club and players.

  • george

    great article!!!

  • The problem with being a fan of Arsenal but not of the current set up is that as fans we have little control over the club other than to attend or not to attend.

    AISA, of which I am a member, has meetings with the hierarchy and Mr Gazidis is most courteous and does listen – but we can’t tell him what to do – only give him some of our thoughts.

    And yet moaning at Arsenal seems to be the supporters’ role. I remember buying the fanzine 1-0 down 2-1 up, for the start of the season after we had won at Liverpool to win the league with Micky Thomas’ goal. They crammed the magazine with articles saying, “that was a fluke, we are not that good, it nearly didn’t happen…”

    In one sense they were right, we did not retain the championship, but hell, where was the sense of celebration. It was almost as if most of the writers felt annoyed that we had won – perhaps annoyed that they had not been there.

  • mick winnett

    reminds me of years ago in the North Bank, watching a game where some bloke was on Paul Davis’ back right from the first minute. “You’re useless Davis” “Your a c***. Davis” “Davis why don’t you pass it to a red shirt?” “Davis get off the F****** pitch”

    About the 75th minute I could stand it no longer and just had to turn round and tell him that Davis wasn’t playing, wasn’t even on the bench, was in fact injured. He went a bit quiet after that.

  • I remember going to see Arsenal reserves play Leicester at Kettering’s old ground about 7 years back. As usual the ground had lots of children in, with dad’s using the game as a chance for kids to see what football was like, before splashing the cash on a big game.

    Sitting in front was a lad of about 7 who was clearly excited by the whole event, and wanted to show off his knowledge in the way 7 year olds do.

    Arsenal kicked off, and controlled the ball, passing back and forth, but making no progress forwards, just trying to get the hang of a very muddy and bumpy pitch.

    After about 30 seconds of this, and without Leicester having touched the ball the kid screamed out

    “Come on Leicester, get this fucking defence sorted out.”

    Words of the father in the mouth of the son, I fancy. Shame the context was so wrong.

  • goonergerry

    If I am honest- I can at least understand your sentiments-about moaners-but there is a very slippery slope here leading to a very oppressive form of support- where any person critical of the actions of the manager or the Board is labelled “anti Arsenal” by a person who thinks theirs is the only acceptable view. The Board are custodians-some of whom have inherited their positions and shares others have been invited because they share the same views as others members-rather like a private club. The owner is a sports investor- who despite being a billionaire does not appear to want to invest in the club-except in order to gain control of it. In my opinion this is not an optimal ownership model.
    Some of the issues you have raised are fundamental-and I disagree with your view about what football is-it is not a high street shop where consumers choose to shop elsewhere because this one no longer sells what they like. Brand loyalty does not come close to describing the identification that individuals and families may have with their football team. Football may need to be run like a business- but that does not make it a business. Give me back my Arsenal may be a reflection of how some fans run feel-that they may find it more difficult to identify with a club which has turned itself into a corporation-that communicates to fans in marketing and accountant language.

    I believe that the playing strength and team performances of Arsenal appear to be declining- Going from 4th to mid table is not a transition I want to see this club make -and it bothers me that some fans are so passive in the face of a decline in playing quality. Having powerless fans whose only acceptable role is to blindly follow without question is simply not acceptable. I do not support this club in order to make Stan or fat cats on the Board more money.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Richard B, I am glad I read your comments before I wrote mine. I agree with everything thing you said there – spot on. When you read the things some people write and say it just makes me shake my head in dismay. I really do wonder how far their memories go back concerning Arsenal and if they have their head in the sand now about The business of sport, what is going on in the league now with players being tapped up, agents, player power, the incompetence of the FA, Ref’s and media.Their arguments have huge holes in them and their solutions are unrealistic.
    .

    I have to say, thus far I have been able to go to more games than usual and sit in better seats and so (for me personally) every cloud has a silver lining. I am happy to report if there is a protest going on with some season ticket holders not coming to games, they are doing a lot of other Gooners a favour really. I have sat with quite a few ‘1st timers’ around me (and taken a few too), who have cheered from start to finish and clapped every attempt on goal. Being able to get my hands on last minute general sale tickets has reduced the need for clandestine meetings and I haven’t paid over the face value for one, once this season.
    .

    Another good thing is that, now I am not in a ‘borrowed’ seat I don’t have to bite my tongue anymore. A few weeks a guy kept screaming and swearing at Chamakh, who is not beyond criticism – but I couldn’t see what the guy was doing so wrong to warrant the endless abusive tirade. So about the 60th minute I stood up and said quite a few words back to the guy three rows behind me. He was so shocked he shut up and unbelievably – quite a few people gave me a round of applause, as it turns out there are a lot of other people who are irritated by the constant put downs of our players by ‘supporters’ at games.

    I said to few people that came up to me after the game, who wanted to have a chat about it, that I think it’s time we reclaimed the Emirates from these idiot’s as they are part of the problem and not the solution. They are too set in their negative ways to understand the concept of the ’12th man’ or be a part of it. They have been encouraged and buoyed by the negativity in the press (John Cross must be like a bee to honey)and the number of stupid blogs and comments on the internet. I had wished I had been sat near the idiot that was going to unveil a protest banner this W/E, because things would of got interesting.
    .

    I think this kind of win against Sunderland was missing last season, where things weren’t going for us, but I am glad that the personnel on the pitch got the job done, Sunderland didn’t get a penalty, no one was sent off and we took all three points.

    Onwards and upwards.

  • Gooner Gal

    Oh and I do have a complaint about one of our players and that is of Szczesny, I think he showed poor decision making that put the defence under pressure. This is not the first time he has done what he did yesterday needlessly, I think he did the same thing at Blackburn but the haters focussed on Djourou. I have also seen him do this at Brentford so I think he has too work on this aspect of his game. A smarter player would of dinked the ball over or around him.

    I can confirm that I didn’t then groan at his every touch of the ball or swear endlessly at him either dispite my annoyance. I also managed give him a massive cheer when he pulled off a brilliant save. I am also really looking forward to seeing Fabinaski back in the mix against Bolton, as he has a lot to offer the club still and then hopefully play a few premiership games too.

  • Ian Trevett

    Some fans just go to Arsenal because that is what they do. Even though they never seem to enjoy a moment of the experience.
    In the East Upper Highbury during the Invincible season, most people around me seemed permanently angry and unhappy. In a season where we never lost a single league game.
    This is their leisure time and what they choose to do. It’s beyond me.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice post ,Tony – just hope this bliss of yours continues and you have a great time at the Ems(if you are not already).
    It brings memories of a popular t-shirt message from the ’70s –
    ” If you’ve nothing better to do ,then don’t do it here “.
    It also reminds me of an old joke – a man takes his care to the mechanic ,complaining of noises coming from the back of the car
    whenever he drives .The mechanic takes it for a spin and the noises start .He fixes the problem and drives back to his shop and hands it to the owner who is amazed and happy with the result.When asked what he had done to solve the problem ,the wise mechanic said,” I kicked your wife out of the car !”.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sorry, typo – takes his car..