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Are Arsenal Fans Losing Faith?

There was a recent report on Twitter that the upcoming Emirates Cup tournament, a now traditional pre-season fixture on the Arsenal calendar, is seeing poor ticket sales.

“One week before the Emirates cup and the stadium is pretty much empty. In block 106 only 17 seats have been sold.”

It may be a case of confirmation bias on my part, but I think there is something real here that is under-reported by the media.

Once upon a time, especially in the latter years of the Wenger era, mainstream media was eager to depict as a crisis every piece of bad news that affected the club. Take this Telegraph report in 2016 for example:

The growing disenchantment among Arsenal supporters about the team’s disappearing title challenge has seen thousands of them snubbing Thursday’s home clash with West Bromwich Albion.

The club has taken the unusual step of placing tickets on general sale because of a lack of interest from season ticket-holders following the team’s stuttering form.

But these days everything is peachy, nothing to see. Unless there is group of prominent Arsenal bloggers willing to publicly attack and criticize the club owners.

Wenger-Out was supposed to be the panacea

But the media has no time for fans disaffected and disappointed by the current state of Arsenal Football Club. Contrast this with a remorseless 10-year plus campaign that  Arsene Wenger was the main impediment to the club’s progress and once “Wenger-out” was achieved the club would experience a transformation on and off the football field.

When Wenger announced his resignation, President Trump’s “favorite” cable channel, CNN, did a story reporting how Wenger-outers successfully spread their campaign home and abroad:

A placard with “Wenger Out” splashed across it appeared at a protest against Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe early last year, while a couple of months later one Arsenal fan made his views clear at the WWE’s annual Wrestlemania extravaganza.

Leader of the British Labour Party and an Arsenal fan, Jeremy Corbyn is an MP in the club’s Islington neighborhood in North London.

Some supporters of Corbyn, however, didn’t afford Wenger the same backing in the run up to the 2017 British election, with “Wenger Out” messages appearing at a public appearance by the Labour Party leader in Leamington Spa.

The campaign reached a bizarre pinnacle during a 3-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion in March 2017. One anti-Wenger fan arranged for a plane to fly over the stadium trailing a banner emblazoned with the message “No Contract #Wenger Out,” only for a second plane with a pro-Wenger message to appear moments later.

The banner condemning Wenger reappeared in the skies above a match at Stoke City the following May. Incidentally Arsenal won that match 4-1.

Yet even CNN had to sound a note of warning; while the “Wenger Out” campaigners will no doubt feel vindicated, they needed to be careful what they wish for.

Twelve months later, after years of repetitive adverts that a new manager would be the panacea, and smug assurances last summer that Unai Emery could take the existing squad and power Arsenal to new glories, it is becoming clearer every day that the new regime is far from what was promised. Instead of a limousine, Arsenal fans were sold a lemon.

  • Finished 5th in the Premier league, outside the top-4 Champions league places, badly stumbling down the homestretch with one win in their last five games.
  • Thrashed 3-1 by London rival Chelsea in the Europa League finals.
  • Losing Aaron Ramsey, one of the best box-to-box midfielders in Europe, on a free transfer to Juventus.
  • Playing some of the most boring, uninspiring football in the recent history of the club. In the words of Rich (@whatsinaname81) in his attempt at a pro-Unai post for this blog it “was disheartening, dispiriting, worrisome, and generally…damn painful.”
  • Now club captain Laurent Koscielny wants-out, taking the extreme step of going on strike in an unseemly public spat with club’s management over his contract.

No wonder many Arsenal fans are not enthused about the Emirates Cup.

But the pages of The Mirror and The Telegraph, particularly the likes of John Cross and Jeremy Wilson, who respectively covered the Arsenal beat, are deadly silent, avoiding any reminders that they were top salesman for the Wenger-Outers. Not just them, by the way. Almost all the entire English press corp was singing from the same hymn sheet.

Deflection and Misdirection

If the press is deadly silent, even more disingenuous are the big Arsenal bloggers. In the campaign to undermine Wenger and to hasten his departure, the most insidious role was from the inside. As someone on Twitter remarked:

“the ‘big Arsenal accounts’ and ‘bloggers’ have hurt Arsenal image the most and created a toxic fanbase.”

Year-in, year-out they poisoned the fanbase with the idea that things will immediately improve once Wenger was out. Now that no such improvement has taken place they would rather discuss every other subject under the sun than critique the performance of Unai Emery and the new regime. No wonder they chose to focus on that easy £4 Billion target, Stan Kroenke in that pointless, misguided petition they have convinced thousands of fans to sign.

According to the petition “Things need to change.” Yet in 2018 Stan Kroenke gave them the change they demanded for years; the removal of Wenger, a new head-coach without the power the Frenchman once had, a new modern management structure comprising director of football, technical director, head of recruitment, etc. Now four-five people do the job that Wenger once did himself. Isn’t that the change they said would make the club better?

What is most telling about the petition is how highly the 16 original signatories think of themselves when they coined the hashtag #WeCareDoYou. Why do they think they care more than most of us? What superior virtues do they possess?

A post on Twitter was the perfect riposte, showing how selective some are about what and who they care for:

“#WeCareDoYou? Well yes, but we don’t care about Mustafi, or Iwobi, or Xhaka, or Kos or even Ozil, but yeah we care.”

If we are to go by the Manchester United experience and the animus that many of their fans have towards the Glazers, who have extracted millions in dividends and other large payments from that club (the Kroenkes look like saints in comparison) this campaign will be another act of total futility. The Kroenkes, just like the Glazers, are well entrenched owners of the club, and can easily ride out any fluffy, PR campaign that has no specific purpose. The Glazers gave the United fans expensive, flashy transfers while continuing their pillage of the club. Josh Kroenke is promising Arsenal fans “expensive” transfers while continuing their policy of self-sufficiency. It worked with United, why shouldn’t it work at Arsenal?

Rather than attack the Kroenkes, the petitioners would be better advised to target Unai, Raul and Vinai who are primarily responsible for much of the shambles during last season. Hold their feet to the fire for a better performance next season and demand they toe to the values of the club which made it successful for nearly 150 years. But it is obvious most of the petitioners won’t, because they would first have to admit they were wrong to hound out Wenger. Much easier to engage in deflection and misdirection.

As fans grapple with remorse and regret, showing little enthusiasm for the Emirates Cup, most psychologists will advise “the most effective way to manage regret is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.” But if Arsenal fans and their biggest bloggers and tweeters fail to honestly recognize they erred with Wenger and continue to cover up for the failings of Emery and the new management, how will the club recover the enthusiasm of fans.

Meanwhile Liverpool and Tottenham seek to consolidate their places in the top-4 ahead of Arsenal.

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.

4 Comments

  1. Brilliant post
    This is gradually and more effectively becoming my go to site for balanced arsenal writeups.
    Please continue the good work
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Thanks for the positive comments about the blog. Feel free to always make a comment. We aim to be UnCensored.

      Reply
  2. If you get a chance guys try to see on Netfix: the Great Hack.

    Reply

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