By Tony Attwood
Last week there was a headline produced by The Boot Room which read “‘Deadwood’, ‘Lazy and inconsistent’: Many Arsenal fans react as £35k-a-week man struggles against Liege.”
And I wondered how the writer of this vignette would have felt if he or she had been referred to in a headline by his or her salary. “£6 an hour told to work harder in supermarket.” It is rather a de-humanising thing to do.
Anyway, the piece was about Maitland-Niles, a man who had spent his time this season playing out of his natural position at full back, and was now suddenly given a place in mid-field. As anyone who has ever played football regularly will attest – indeed as anyone who has ever done any job regularly which is skill based rather than simply repetitive will attest – a sudden change can be quite disruptive. Everything that you have been doing automatically slips away, as one has to think through all the changes needed.
These days I’m lucky – I have my regular writing schedule and although it involves several different types of writing, I’m very used to jumping from one to another as the moment requires. But early on in my life it was difficult and it took quite a while to be able to jump from writing an advert to a serious article to a report… People who do highly repetitive jobs don’t quite realise how hard some changes can be.
Likewise ask a blues musician suddenly to play country and western and it will take him or her quite a while to adapt. A young musician of quality needs time to adjust – and so does anyone whose job is more than just doing the same thing over and over. I rather suspect those calling out AMN had repetitive jobs. Check-outs in a supermarket perhaps. Or shelf-fillers.
Now giving Maitland-Niles the time to adjust in a game that Arsenal could easily win was, for me, a good bit of player management. I’m sure Maitland-Niles learned a lot from that game and will go on learning a lot so that as his career develops he will be able to move between several roles in midfield and defence, according to the needs of the team.
But this attack on M-N headline, as noted above with the “Many Arsenal fans react” opening can only cause harm – or at best have no impact on the player. It is hard to imagine any scenario in which it would do him good. He is, after all, told all about the evaluation of his performance by his manager and the coaching staff. Does he need to be put down by “many” Arsenal fans.
HITC picked up the theme by writing, “Arsenal youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles failed to impress supporters with his performance last night.” That means all Arsenal supporters I suppose. Except I was there and it certainly didn’t apply to me. Nor any of the guys around me in the upper east stand. But HITC also wrote, “What is wrong with him?’: Some Arsenal fans slate ‘lazy’ youngster’s display last night.”
A better response would be “What’s wrong with them: how come these supposed Arsenal fans don’t realise what effect their criticism has?” Or maybe “Have they no experience of the real world?”
Although I suspect, and indeed I have suspected for a long time that these criticisms come from people who are so limited in their outlook that the only pleasure they can ever get from anything in life is by criticising others.
And of course M-N was not the only player to get taken apart by the “fans” after the Europa game. Another to hit the dust was Pepe, as with “‘We need to drop him, Sorry’ – Some fans want this Arsenal star dropped after Liege game” from
But as if dropping a player is the only way to get a player to develop…. Perhaps the scribblers of these notes have forgotten the early games of Thierry Henry. I suppose they would have written stuff about how he should never be allowed to pull on an Arsenal shirt again as he struggled to adjust to English football.
And the same can be said of so many others. Endless criticism of players is virtually never helpful. Supporting them often is. And yet the negativity goes on and on…
Anyway here’s a bit of positive news, in case you missed it earlier.
Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah have been called up for England Under-21s’ friendly against Slovenia and their Euro qualifier against Austria.
Bukayo Saka is in the England Under-19s squad for the International Marbella Cup, where they’ll face France and Belgium.
Miguel Azeez and Sam Greenwood have been named in the England Under-18s squad ahead of friendlies against Poland, Slovakia, and Austria. Hubert Graczyk and Charlie Patino have been called up by England Under-17s for a series of friendlies against Germany (twice) and Spain.
All I can say to those lucky young men is enjoy every second of it. Because if you do make it through and get into the first team, there will be a load of alleged supporters out there waiting to call for your immediate departure from the team.
- Arsenal have benefitted by the world cup break: allegedly.
- Arsenal and Tottenham: which has had the easier ride so far this season?
- Arsenal v Tottenham: not exactly a battle of equals.
- Death by 300,000 passes: how the Arsenal transformation started 2 seasons ago.
- Approaching derby day we recall when Arsenal helped Tottenham get into the league