Journalist writes in favour of Ashburton Army. But maybe it is not the full story.


By Tony Attwood

Two interesting statistics have emerged recently from Arsenal.  One is that Arsenal have scored more set-piece goals than any other team in the league, the current count showing the club having 13, which is four more than Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.  But although Arsenal are top in this regard we should also note that others are trying the technique as well.   Everton have 11 from set pieces for example.  (The other is that we have the second best defence in the league – something that seems generally to escape journalists’ notice).

But back to the first point… the difference however is that Everton have scored 11 set piece goals out of a total of 24 goals (ie 46%) this season, while Arsenal have scored 13 out of 42 (31%).   As opposition clubs recognise what is going on (something that they can be very slow to do largely because many managers are men of “fixed views” who don’t like to change their approach from that which they learned as a player, if they were one) they do tend to adopt a tactic, (such as scoring from set pieces) , but then lose touch with other successful ways of scoring.

That finding concerning the way set piece moves are handled is focussed upon in the Athletic (but rarely elsewhere from what I have seen).  Indeed virtually every article appearing either on a website or newspaper column is just about the transfers that Arsenal are about to make (but almost certainly won’t, although the media doesn’t add that final point), nor do they ever apologise later for wasting our time with tales that are never true).

Football.London however has a different point of view saying that “despite the best efforts of the Ashburton Army, the crowd failed to respond (during the Palace game). The group have seen a cut to their allocation and there is a noticeable difference in their effect in the Clock End.”

Well yes that is true the allocation is down, due to the massive demand for tickets at games, and protests from silver members that they are not getting value for money from their memberships), but it might be helpful if FoLo gave a bit more of the background concerning the Ashburton Army and why their allocation was cut.   

Now to be clear, I don’t have first hand information from the club and I don’t personally know any members of the Army, but everyone I have spoken to about this who is generally in the know about club issues suggests there are problems with some of the chants and associated attitudes which emanate from the group.  The suggestion is that these are chants that are not acceptable anywhere in the UK.

I sit in the front of the upper east block directly in line with the 18 yard line, so closer to the Army than those in the north bank, and generally through matches I can hear the drum beat and some of the noise from the Clock End when the ground isn’t full of noise, but can rarely work out what is being chanted, unless it is one of the normal everyday chants.  (And yes I am there for each and every first team game).

So when FoLo says, “Multiple attempts were made to get a back and forth with the North Bank with chants but they seemed to fall on deaf ears,” that is just arrant nonsense in that it misses a key point: can the north bank hear the group at the front of the Clock End?   For me, and those around me (who are younger and may have better hearing) much of the time it is not possible to hear what the Army are chanting, and indeed most of the time what chants are emerging from the much large number of hard core vocal supporters in the North Bank.

As for the statement, “Even an early goal from Gabriel Magalhaes was not enough to get the crowd going,”  is total tripe and utter bilge.   There was huge excitement in the upper east, and given that the age range of people sitting there is considerably above the average for the ground, that says something.   And talking to friends in the north bank, since the game, they concur.

But I think FoLo’s comments in favour of the Army don’t reflect the full picture.  If you want to know more about the disputes that have enveloped the group in recent times you might care to look at this article from the Guardian, which appeared last spring.   Obviously you’ll choose who you wish to believe, but it does reveal that there are issues being debated, which FoLo very noticeably simply ignore in their daily attempt to knock something at Arsenal, even when it is hard to knock the team. 



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