I have read very few articles over the last week or so but some things have stood out. I didn’t know how to feel about these things. Part of me was amused, another part was annoyed, and there were moments when I was positively repulsed by what I read.
Let’s consider the draw against Liverpool.
I get the frustration at dropping the points at the last minute. Well not the last minute but the bonus minutes added on. I also get the exasperation at the vaguely repetitive nature of dropping crucial points. I also get the point that most fans don’t realize this is only a vaguely repetitive aspect because they don’t really pay attention to facts but respond emotionally.
Some guy says United would never have dropped points the way Arsenal did against Liverpool. But the facts say that Arsenal have dropped 13 points from winning positions whereas United have dropped 14. So even with all the winning mentality, with leaders like Vidic and VdS, and all the other obscure arguments in their favour, Manchester United have lost more points from winning positions. Whether it’s in the recent past or distant doesn’t really matter. In fact, it is only in the recent past that United have actually lost three games. In the early part of the season they were going unbeaten! Such issues have to be seen over the course of the season and in that aspect Arsenal are not too bad when compared to United who supposedly would never drop such points. More importantly, who can honestly claim that signing one or two players will change anything?
And in these 13 points that Arsenal have dropped from winning positions we aren’t even talking about the ones that have been stolen by the ref. We aren’t even getting into the discussion that it wasn’t a penalty against Eboue because Lucas clearly moved into his path and away from the ball.
We can also see the attempts by some fans to belittle the performance against Liverpool by saying they had some teenagers in their side. These fans failed to mention that a very similar Liverpool side had spanked Man City 3-0. So much for spending money on proven players! City had spent money on a proven English defender like Lescott. Can anyone guarantee that Cahill won’t turn out to be another Lescott?
I can say a lot more on this game but will move on to the North London Derby.
For years, many fans have been predicting that the Tiny Totts will overtake Arsenal. Last season I read many opinions claiming Spuds had better strikers than the Gunners. In the last game they had the Player of the Year and supposedly world class talents like Modric and Van der Vaart. They had full-backs who can cross the ball, a tall striker who can win it in the air, an English centre-half, and a fighter like Gallas. Plus they were playing at home.
So why isn’t anyone saying that the Tiny Totts dropped two points at home and it’s a disaster for them? Why isn’t it seen as one point won by Arsenal?
Wenger and his team are having a meltdown whereas the Tiny Totts are flying high after a 5-0 demolition by Madrid and a dogfight for fourth place?
If United and Chelsea are having an off season, and Arsenal are throwing away chances to run away with the league, Why aren’t Man City or Spuds leading the pack? They have spent plenty of money on proven players, leaders, English grit and determination, clinical strikers, wingers, defensive midfielders, and so on. The real beauty is that those who want Arsenal to be like Man City (while claiming they don’t want Arsenal to be like City) or Spuds will find ways of criticizing these teams as well!
A couple of months ago when some key players were missing, the popular argument was that Arsenal’s A-team is top-class but the real problem is with some of the fringe players. Well, the team that played against Spuds was the A-team. And the mistakes that were made were made by extremely reliable players. As I have said before, it happens. It’s happened to United often enough that they have dropped 14 points from winning positions. And it will happen to Arsenal no matter who plays or who is bought. That is the nature of the sport.
The issues can only be solved by actually identifying exactly what goes wrong, not by blaming players. The naivety of that thought process is mindboggling. Imagine if the same approach were used in the corporate world. If a company wasn’t the best at what it was doing it should sack half its employees and hire new ones at big pay. Wonder how many fans who want a clear-out at Arsenal would keep their jobs in such a scenario?
I don’t have a problem with criticism. I have a problem with mindless, unbalanced criticism that fails to acknowledge the facts; or worse, takes issues out of context and twists the facts. Of course, when so many fans are frustrated it doesn’t take time for a rant to take the shape of a popular opinion or for that popular opinion to masquerade as the hard truth.
It turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fans’ dissatisfaction is picked up by the media. The hacks twist all kinds of stories out of that. It also affects the players who end up questioning themselves and their mates. This could easily lead to another mistake at a crucial moment in a game leading to a vicious cycle. Some people might not get it but it is connected. Just as a positive, vibrant atmosphere is a genuine twelfth man; such negativity can be a massive handicap.
The only purpose this achieves is that it breaks the fabric of the club. All the key elements within the club move apart. The players, manager, administrators, and fans – all start moving away from each other. For now, someone like Wenger will have a strong enough gravitational force to keep the club United but everything will unravel the moment he fails in holding things together.
I don’t know how the next year or two in the Arsenalsphere is going to pan out, but 50 years from now Arsenal will be a case study for many students of the beautiful game and business. All the responsibility is not on the fans but they can still make a real impact on whether it’ll be a case study of astonishing and inspiring success, or a shambolic and disgraceful collapse.