By Tony Attwood
According to the banners and the chants when Mr Wenger left and a new manager was found the fans wanted and expected to get “our Arsenal back”. Quite what that Arsenal was, was never made clear, but the chants of the away support at Fulham suggested that was the Arsenal they wanted back and they felt they had got it.
So how are we doing comparing with last year? Here’s the league table at the same position in 2017/18
Comparing that position last season with now we find
… we have two more points with two defeats from last season being turned into draws. Goals are up by four, and goals against are one better.
So that is progress. One game with “our Arsenal back” and overall a slight improvement on last season.
And what has been the response? Certainly there is no barracking of the team or the manager in the ground of the type we had last season which suggests those in the ground might give the team a little more time.
But in the bloggettas and newspapers the professional moaners and whingers are heading back to normal.
In the summer every single player in the squad was described at different times by different writers as completely hopeless and the player that should be removed if Arsenal were to get anywhere.
We’re not replicating that at the moment, but a quick read through the commentaries and you’ll find that Arsenal fans (or sometimes “some Arsenal fans”) are demanding that two players are removed from the team now: Ramsey and Xhaka.
And I began to wonder, do such attacks have any impact? I think we can say that they don’t do much good based on the evidence. I can’t recall players attacked in this way either being dropped by the manager who takes the fans’ advice or being encouraged to play better. Mostly players and manager seem to carry on, or the player gets worse.
Now we have had a number of players over the years who the fans picked on and who then clearly declined in their ability on the pitch. I can’t prove a link but it seems likely there was one since it has happened a number of times.
But if these attacks don’t do any good, and don’t get the players to play better, why do people do it?
Obviously one reason is for publications that count their readers and hope their readers will click on adverts, it is to get money. I don’t know if that works, but there must obviously be some hope to that end.
However there is a second reason and that is personal gratification. Analysis of the personalities of bullies shows that bullies tend to feel better when they have bullied. But that feeling dissipates quickly so they have to bully again. It is a bit like drug taking – as is the fact that each hit lasts less time, and is less powerful.
So the bully comes back to do it again, and more so. And to my mind, claiming that Xhaka and Ramsey are useless and the manager is a fool for not seeing it, particularly behind a hidden name on Twitter, is functionally just the same.
I have no doubt that if the sort of reaction we have just seen to Ramsey and Xhaka is continued then the club will continue at this level and not break out to return to the top four and trophies. I also suspect that players will be quicker to leave, or more reluctant to come in the first place.
This is not a new thing at Arsenal. It certainly happened to Jack Lambert in the late 1920s and early 1930s, a man who was the most sensational goal scorer as Arsenal rose to their pomp and brilliance. And if you read the Arsenal history blog you’ll know that players have complained about it over the years, sometimes calling the Arsenal crowd the worst in the league because of this.
But now with the media feeding on this sort of approach there is probably no way out, which also probably means we are going to be set in a pattern of not making much progress.
Of course there is another problem – Arsene Wenger was by far the most successful permanent manager we have had in terms of percentage of matches won – which is itself extraordinary given the number of games he managed. And so any manager who is going to improve on that has to be the best manager the club has ever had since it joined the league in 1893.
That’s quite a challenge.
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