by Tony Attwood
As you may have seen I have been writing a little series of articles on the way the media and some of the Arsenal fan base have on occasion united in attacking the team and the management of Arsenal.
The opening piece which introduced the series was “Arsenal on the back foot. How the media misrepresent Arsenal’s situation. That will be followed up by “Supporters and the Media against the Arsenal: how it all started,” which will appear this afternoon.
There will be a couple more articles in the series over the next couple of days which will continue the review of Arsenal, its fans and the media through the ages.
I do appreciate not everyone is interested in Arsenal’s history, which is why I normally keep articles relating to Arsenal’s history on a separate site, but the history of the way the media and some “fans” have combined to undermine Arsenal players, while the fans pretend to be supporting the club, is one that I think is fascinating, and needs examination.
And of course it is not a subject that the media (which is complicit in encouraging fans to complain about the Arsenal), is certainly not going to investigate. So it is something for Untold to take up.
The issue has been highlighted for me, not just by the activities of some fans groups (the media keep say 16 fan groups, or 17 fans groups, but I am darned if I can find more than two or three of fully organised groups in the sense of having a structure and membership) but by the activities of some fans on the American tour, where, I am told Mustafi has been roundly booed.
Of course the Sun loved this, reporting the issue and calling Mustafi a “calamity defender”. But they then said something quite interesting. (Yes I know it is the Sun, and I would not normally call anything they write interesting, and indeed they probably didn’t know they had written something interesting, but interesting it was.)
For the Sun said, “Mustafi’s name was greeted with a chorus of boos when read out over the stadium PA system in Denver. On Twitter, though, fans were split with many backing the boo-boys while others believe while he is still a Gunner, Mustif must be supported.
What particularly made me look twice was the use of the phrase “boo-boys” – the phrase that Herbert Chapman used to describe supporters in the 1930s who booed every mistake players made. Indeed so bad was it that Chapman vigorously called them out, and the players in interviews talked about how bad the situation had got on the terraces, noting that no other club had this sort of problem to the level Arsenal had.
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So it seems the tradition continues.
But what is the benefit of booing Mustafi? There can be no doubt that the management of the club know about the campaign that has been run by some supporters and the media against Mustafi. But likewise there can be no doubt that the statisticians see the player differently. “Who Scored” for example rate him “Very strong” for tackling, “strong” for aerial duels, and “strong” for ball interception.
Not that I expect many people to take notice of this. When I quoted statistics about Xhaka in some detail these were just denied with replies of “Anyone can see he is useless”.
What is interesting in all this is that the fans, most of whom have had no engagement in professional football, feel that not only can they have an opinon (which of course they can) but also their opinion is worth more than that of people who have been involved in professional football for years.
Even more odd is the fact that they think that booing players like Mustafi and Xhaka actually helps Arsenal. And I suppose from their odd point of view, if Mustafi puts in a transfer request and leaves they will believe that they have helped the club see the error of its ways.
But the reality is that each time this happens, it gets that bit harder for Arsenal to recruit the next player they want. Footballers, not surprisingly, talk to each other, and the word spreads about clubs that have a lot of negativists in the ground.
Here is a player who has played 20 times for Germany who the media and some fans together are trying to force out of the club, seemingly in the belief that they (the journalists who by and large can’t seem to tell a wild rumour from the truth, and the fans most of whom have never played professional football) know more than everyone else.
Would I ever put my faith in a professional football journalist? Actually no, simply because they are so wrong most of the time. But I know why they propagate such stories – it is to get readers.
So why do people who claim to support Arsenal boo some of the Arsenal players. Certainly it can’t be for some weird reasoning that suggests it will help the club or the player. No, the posturing is there to make themselves feel good. At least journalists have the excuse that writing the gibberish they write is done in order to make a living and perhaps feed their family. But fans don’t even have that excuse.