Jul 142011

The summer football break is a bleak place at the best of times – invented stories, transfer ‘sagas’, and the endless sight of Harry Redknapp on Sky Sports News. But some things rise above these mild irritants and become truly infuriating, and while it takes a lot to rile me, I’ve been finding myself getting increasingly annoyed or disillusioned with some of the goings-on. I feel the need to vent.

1. Elitist fans.

One thing I’m seeing more and more, perhaps since the dawn of Twitter and the instant, ill thought out response, is the dismissive way some fans treat other fans, as if their opinion doesn’t count because of some arbitrary matter like where they reside, or whether they are a season ticket holder or not. Some of the most interesting and insightful bloggers and commenters live out in the States, and to see their opinions swept aside because ‘Yanks don’t understand soccer‘ is patronising in the extreme, and downright rude to boot. I frankly couldn’t give a monkey’s whether you live in London, USA, Venezuela or squat on the steps of the Emirates – as long as you’re not a dick about it, your Arsenal opinion is as valid as anyone else’s.

A similar fate befalls those who do not possess season tickets, or even more ridiculously, haven’t held one for long enough. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen ‘I’ve been a season ticket holder for fifteen years‘ as a statement intended to win an argument, which is once again ludicrous. For the record, I am not a season ticket holder. I haven’t progressed far enough up to the list to be offered one, but even if I had, I wouldn’t be able to take it – a young family makes that financially impossible. Does that make my opinion irrelevant?

2. Divisive fan labels

It seems we live in a black and white world. You cannot praise the work of Arsene Wenger (even with caveats) or defend him against what you believe to be unfair criticism without someone shouting ‘AKB‘ at you (‘Arsene Knows Best‘, for those who don’t know the lingo of the keyboard warriors). Similarly, you cannot critique any of his decisions without being labelled a ‘doomer‘, or worse, a Spurs fan. Both sides are so protective of their side of the coin that any statement not fitting their notion is slammed, dismissed, and sees you wrapped up in their label of choice, before being unceremoniously pigeonholed and ridiculed.

What I find equally annoying is that once people pick a side, they interpret every news item in such a way as to back up their own preconceived perception. And let’s face it – it is possible to spin pretty much any story in either a positive or negative light, as we’ve seen countless times in the written press.

But what happened to the good old fashioned notion of reading a quote from a manager or player, and deciding rationally what you think of it before coming down on one side of the fence?

3. Sky Sports News

I haven’t subjected myself to much of SSN’s tripe this summer, because their endless headlines of ‘X not about to join Y‘ get pretty tiresome after a while. Not only that, but every time I flick over to it, Harry bloody Redknapp is talking about how his players aren’t for sale, how he needs to sign a few more players to progress and top players cost money, so would Levy please put his hand in his pocket for the millionth time so he can spunk another £18m on the likes of David Bentley.

Today, however, I watched a full hour. I’m not sure what was the reason for this self-imposed penance, but when the hour was up I knew precisely why I’d avoided it so long. They seem to have hired a new male presenter (I don’t know his name, I was too busy growling at his inaneness), who specialises in reporting on the dullest, most tenuous stories imaginable, and pumping them up to the extreme. Honestly, the guy is a complete self-parody.

It seems to get on Sky Sports News, or indeed any of their channels, you have to have an extreme opinion which stops being funny after about thirty seconds when the viewer realises that you aren’t taking the piss. That, or you have to be Harry bloody Redknapp.

4. People turning on Cesc Fabregas

This one really gets my goat. Despite my article semi-defending Samir Nasri, I know that his behaviour doesn’t sit well with many, and can completely understand that (and to an extent, I agree). However, the vitriol directed at Cesc is baffling.

Here is the situation as I see it: Cesc would like to move to Barcelona. He grew up there, his family live there and it is his boyhood club. So far, so logical. However, despite immense pressure from the club he idolises, he flatly refuses to antagonise for a move, because he loves and respects Arsenal too much. He also accepts (as he did last summer), that the end result will be dictated by the clubs, not by him, and is staying out of negotiations precisely because anything he says will weaken Arsenal’s hand. Ultimately, if Barcelona refuse to stump up the cash, he will give his all to Arsenal, as he always has done, for another year.

Now, I can’t see anything wrong in that, I really can’t. I sometimes think we get blinded by the fact that we love and support one club, and one club only. Cesc has two in his heart, a natural situation for a travelling footballer, but an alien one to fans across the world. So Cesc’s priorities are:

a) Do not do anything that destroys his relationship with Arsenal fans, which has been built up over seven years.
b) Do not do anything that destroys his relationship with Barcelona, a club he grew up in and will eventually return to.

So, given that, and given the media propensity for twisting anything he says, what exactly could he do that would make the current situation any better? If he says he wants to leave, he massively weakens our hand – this is precisely the action Barcelona are hoping for. If he says he categorically wants to stay, he is lying, and we will all see through it, and if he tries to explain the above situation as ‘I would love to go to Barcelona, but if they do not meet Arsenal’s valuation I will happily stay and proudly continue as captain’, this will be reported purely as ‘Cesc wants to go to Barcelona‘. We all know it.

So for me, silence is the best policy. He has refused to bow to pressure from Spain, and has left the situation in the hands of his manager. And for this, he gets abuse. Explain that one to me. No seriously, explain it.

5. FC Barcelona

More than a club, my arse. If they didn’t play beautiful football, they would perhaps be the most reviled club on the planet. On the field, their stunning football outweighs the shameless play-acting in the eyes of many, but off it, their mockery of the simple laws of the game shows arrogance to the extreme. Relentless tapping up is just the tip of the iceberg, although in fairness, it could hardly be said to be working – if Xavi thinks his latest comments making the Cesc transfer more likely, then he needs a psychology lesson, specifically around the term ‘strengthening resolve‘.

6. Ligament tears

Whenever I hear of one of our players tearing a ligament, my first reaction is ‘you idiot, how long are we going to be without you?’. No more. Well, I’ll still have that reaction, but it will be preceded by a modicum of sympathy, because, as it turns out, ligament tears are painful.

I know this because I am recovering from one – I had knee surgery a little over a month ago and walking is still nigh on impossible. Which means I am sitting down a lot, which in turn means I’m forced to flick on to Sky Sports News after a while, and catch sight of Harry bloody Redknapp.

So the next time RVP knackers his leg, I’ll imagine him in pain, throwing the remote at the television, and I’ll feel a twinge of sympathy. Only then will I curse him for being absent.

7. Transfer window lingo

Rules of the transfer window:

  • All young players are starlets or wonderkids, and all must be labelled ‘the new X‘, where X is a fading star. The players need not have anything in common.
  • All transfer bids are ‘swoops’.
  • All transfer requests are ‘shocks’ that ‘stun’ clubs.
  • All players subject to bids are ‘wantaway’.
  • An ‘understanding’ allows a story to be categorically true, despite the lack of quotes, or indeed sensibility in the subject matter.
  • Players can have daily medicals from the moment you first ‘break the story’ until they day they officially sign. There is no need to backtrack, ever.

8. Overt cynicism

I can understand a bit of skepticism from time to time. When Wenger says that Almunia has an elbow injury that last three months, smirking as he says so, a certain level of doubt is to be expected. When Samir Nasri says it is all about club ambition, we can frown and respectfully disagree. But the dearth of summer stories means that too often the tidbits are analysed to a ridiculous degree. Take the photos published of the players’ first day back at training. You had people claiming Nasri was staying because he was smiling in a photo, but in another shot he looked more serious, which obviously meant that contract negotiations had stalled. Now, I don’t know about you, but my expressions have a habit of changing based on slightly less career-changing facts than those, but perhaps footballers are different, eh?

And then, people start doubting every news story. Arsenal’s official line is that Cesc picked up a muscular injury in his thigh on his first day back, hence him missing the current tour. Immediately, this was dismissed, not by a vocal minority, but by a substantial chunk of the fanbase. Obviously we are selling him and this is a cover story.

Er, hang on a moment. First day back after holiday, and a return to physical training. Yep, sounds to me like one of the likeliest days to pick up a muscular injury.

9. People purporting to speak for others

Let’s get this straight. This blog is my opinion only. I do not profess to speak for anyone else. It really irritates me when I read people saying that ‘all real fans think so-and-so‘, or ‘we all want X‘, an increasingly prevalent practice used by those who wish to artificially enhance the gravitas of what they are saying.

I speak for me, you speak for you, and never should anything else be true.

10. Online player abuse

When did we, as a race, drop all sense of decorum and start flinging the most personal of abuse at people who do not come close to deserving it? How exactly does the salary of a Premiership footballer mean that the masses feel entitled to act like complete morons to the players within the club they claim to support?

I am well aware than footballers have to put up with a certain level of ‘banter’ on the terraces, but that is different because there is a purpose behind it – it is designed to put them off their game. Most of the chants have a great deal of humour in them, which cannot be said when you switch to the online world. But pick any footballer on Twitter, and have a look at their ‘mentions’ section. It is truly a portal to hell, and frankly I’m amazed they last long at all. Not only is the abuse ridiculously harsh and personal, it usually comes from the club’s own fans.

Footballers have to be thick skinned. But they are also human, and deserve better. I’m not sure I’d want to stay at a club at which I was routinely lambasted by my own fans. And yet we wonder why they sometimes seem cagey when playing in front of a home crowd. Food for thought, hmm?


As ever, feel free to comment below. I know I’ve touched on some fairly inflammatory subjects tonight and you may well disagree with some of my views, and that’s absolutely fine. As I said, I speak only for me. Now it’s your turn.

  29 Responses to “Groan’s 10: The ten summer Arsenal trends/subjects that are making me angry”

  1. 1. 16 years
    2. AdoesKB
    3. A wonderful news outlet
    4. Jack says WHAT
    5. Fuck ’em
    6. ACL, PCL, MCL lived it so… stop whining
    7. Unless Bendter and sold are in who cares
    8. “No really we are going to keep Cesc”
    9. Arsene and I feel this comment is inappropriate and without justification
    10. You should see what I do to those PS3 BITCHES

    Love Chandler

  2. Pete,

    That’s the best thing I’ve read in a year, and I can’t really say any more than that.

    • Martin @ #2 wrote exactly was I was going to write. This is best, most reasoned Arsenal article of the summer on any Blog period (and I follow tons of them).

      Let’s hope both Cesc and Sami stay and we bring in a few new faces to make another run this year. What else can we hope for?

      Gooner till I die!

      • Thank you very much! I’m still hoping for a positive summer – I’m not expected all the holes to be plugged with new players, we are likely to sign 2-3 more, which is likely to disappoint some.

        But I’ll be as optimistic as ever come the first day of the season, and hopefully the fanbase will reunite.

  3. Got that right, mate.

  4. I got into watching world football, (not the kind my hometown Cowboys played), during the World Cup that was held here in the States, which eventually led me to a player I saw lining up for France, (#12 for Les Bleus/#14 for the Gunners), and I was hooked. Naturally, because I didn’t have a vested interest in a team, I followed the team for which my favorite player played. Thus I am now a Gunners fan through and through. I ingest anything and everything I can concerning Arsenal, and wake up early each weekend to watch the matches.

    I have to say, though, that through all my time trying to figure the culture of world football out that I have come across so many trends and tendencies I don’t understand. You have hit on so many of those trends, and helped me feel a little bit better about being unsettled with these things. I thought I might just be a “yank” without a clue… maybe I am, but I am one that is used to cheering for my hometown team, (MLB – Rangers), who have been absolute crap my whole life, but who I have had my complete devotion and support… and remained positive and hopeful. Arsenal are always competitive and are a model for how a professional sports franchise/organization/club should be run. I especially loved 2, 4, 6 – I just had an injury that literally caused me to think to myself, “oooooh, maybe 2-4 weeks WAS necessary”, 7 was a great laugh, and 10 really hit the nail on the head!

    Sometimes it takes an outsider’s perspective to help people who are so used to being so good for so long to help you understand what you’ve got. Then again, as this article shows… maybe it just takes a level headed perspective from a die-hard with the ability to see outside himself.

    Good on you man!

    • well said mate….

    • I am reminded of a quote I read – ‘those who claim not to know, instantly have more chance of knowledge than those who believe they are already there’. You clearly love the game, love the club, soak up everything about it, and yet wonder whether you ‘have a clue’ or not. I’d suggest, based on that, you know plenty.

      At the end of the day, we only ever represent one voice in a sea of opinions, but that is was makes sport so great – there is no right answer. Unfortunately, debate is always ruined by the idiot who shouts his opinion over everyone else’s, without listening. That tendency becomes more apparent online.

      Regarding he blog post, your comment made my day, seriously. Thank you.

  5. Generally I’m not a web commenter. Even less so a blog complimenter. Once in a blue moon I’ve been compelled to point out to the children over at le groan what a bunch of ignorant crudmunchers they are but that’s about it for me expressing myself on the interweb, and I never say anything nice as I’m better at being critical. But today I will. I can honestly say I am at a point this summer where, for the first time in my 37 years, I prefer talking to non-gooners about footy, because our own have become so prone to spouting horseshit. Not you though I see. Good on you sir. Good sense and wit. Just the tonic for a frustrated insomniac

    • Thank you very much. I must admit that I have also started to seriously filter what I listen to and read, because my blood pressure wouldn’t cope with much else. I don’t know if other clubs suffer the same problem during a quiet summer, but I know that Arsenal are more heavily represented online than any other club, so perhaps not.

      I’ve been really glad to see the response to this post suggests there are plenty of fans out there who are not furious and dramatic about the state of the club.

  6. What a wonderful article. I’m not an Arsenal fan (though you could call me a sympathiser) – I support Aston Villa. Yet so much of what you talk about with Gooners is also true of Villans, and I can draw particular parallels between Cesc Fabregas and the veritable parade of players going out of Villa Park: Ash Young, for one, received abuse in some quarters for being a gentleman in his wishes to move to a bigger club. I guess all fans are similar in some ways, unfortunately.

    • I’m the same as you, but in reverse – an Arsenal fan who is a Villa sympathiser (due to having a couple of very good friends who are passionate Villa fans – you end up hoping for a modicum of success for their sake).

      It seems there is no right way to leave a club – players from both our clubs have quietly tried to depart without causing a fuss yet been lambasted for it. Compare that to the likes of Adebayor (multiple times) and Modric right now.

  7. your cesc part is too true..superb blog.

  8. My sentiments exactly, plus new insights! The level of abuse thrown at Wenger, the club board, several players, blog commentators et al. by a group of apparently antisocial know-it-alls (some of them writers themselves!) is often appalling. If I were Wenger, there’d be more than one day when I’d think of going to court with some of that stuff. In my opinion, it extends as well to some of the people from Barca, not Sandro R., but a bunch of the players, whom some of the Arsenal fans have recently labeled as “idiots,” “morons,” “twats,” what have you, for comments that merely supported the club’s interest in Cesc or the players’ sympathy for the guy. Actually only a few comments from that area merit any kind of reaction, most could not even qualify as “poaching” or anything. (The same goes for the Puyol/Pique photograph incident, the violent reaction of some apparent fans was far stupider than what they did.)

    • I don’t know if people forget that there is a human being on the end of their abuse or not, but it does sometimes feel like a mild irritation is often made out to be a drama of the highest order, which is often overblown.

      I would understand entirely if all players and managers completely detached themselves from fans.

  9. Great blog. I don’t often comment on blogs. I usually despair at the ignorance and quickly move on. This is a fine example of your usual high standard.

  10. I’d also like to comment on the Madrid situation. I think, if arsene is going to keep nasri for the year, it shows his clear intent to win a trophy this season. Nasri is improving every year and should be a huge part in a trophy winning campaign. We want trophies this season too so I think we need to get behind the idea of nasri being an arsenal hero for one last hurrah. I feel he owes us a trophy and we owe him the opportunity to bag us one. Just my thoughts.

    • I’m really torn on Nasri. I can see the value of keeping him, especially if we have other high profile departures this summer, but if we really are getting substantial offers for him I am surprised we aren’t taking them, even if a replacement would be difficult to find.

      Losing him for free next summer would be painful – I can only guess that Wenger either believes he can get him to sign, or Nasri himself is rejecting a move this summer. I suspect the latter, to be honest.

  11. Nasri not Madrid.

  12. Excellent stuff, as ever.

    What I do find interesting is that we are at all surprised that the level of discussion on blogs, Twitter, newspaper websites, etc is any different to that found in the pub or in the street outside the ground after the match.

    We’ve all, I’m sure, been penned into the corner of a bar and subjected to a drunken rant by the big sweaty guy in the ill-fitting replica shirt who thinks he knows best because he used to cause trouble at the Clock End in 1985. Why would his debating style be any different now he has a laptop and a high speed BT Broadband connection?

    I know we’re not all</i? like that, but some are, and they tend to be noisy, persistent and prepared to shout down any kind of reasoned argument in favour of lumping everybody into two camps and yelling at them.

    I don't know what the solution is – perhaps not engaging with them at all? They'll soon get bored and go off to spew somewhere else. As the saying goes, "Don't feed the trolls".

    • Excuse bad formatting at the end, it’s early and I need coffee!

    • Very true. I guess the lines get blurred when people you think are going to make sense suddenly say something outrageously stupid or offensive. Perhaps that is equivalent of the decent enough guy who is an unpleasant drunk.

      I guess in a way, the pub behaviour is enhanced because the drunken idiot is joined by a bunch of people who would never say the words they do in a real life situation, but enjoy being the antagonist when protected by the anonymity of the internet. Those are certainly the ones to avoid, but their number is so huge some always slip through.

  13. Living in London is an important part of being a real Gooner. We meet Spurs, Chelsea and Man Utd supporters on a daily basis. The club is part of our community. A source of local pride.

    I know that supporters from outside of London can be just as passionate. But they support the team in a different way. They are more prepared to take risks. They would happily bankrupt Arsenal for a shot at the Champions League. They they’ll move onto something else leaving London Gooners to support a crippled team. Overseas fans tend to be the most vocal for change. Sack the manager! Spend all the money! Where will they be if we stopped being competitive?

    • I don’t agree at all – you could make the counter-argument that fans outside London are more invested in the club because supporting them costs far more than for those within London.

      Take Tim, from 7am kickoff, as an example. Each season he picks a week to come over to the UK, based on the fixture list, timed to optimise the number of games he can see. This is done at great expense because he travels so far – he probably spends as much in the week as many locals do on their season ticket, the very thing they believe enhances their voice.

      I know not all fans are as dedicated, but that is as true of locals as people further afield. I don’t live in London myself (I work in London, but live on the south coast), and as such the round trip to the ground costs around ~£100, greatly restricting how often I can do it.

      I think the notion of the Arsenal community being strictly based on geography is outdated. People move further afield now, which means the local club of their birthplace can end up being a long way away, and the world is smaller now, so access to the club is easier from abroad than ever before.

      Witness the current tour for passionate fans – I’m not convinced that those fans are ever likely to change clubs.

      As for the risk-takers, I see plenty of local season ticket holders wanting excessive risk, and believe their voice should be heard because of their ‘status’.

      I accept that being in the ground every week, and watching on TV each week, are different experiences. But I don’t believe either is less valuable than the other – they are simply different perspectives.

    • “They would happily bankrupt Arsenal for a shot at the Champions League. They they’ll move onto something else leaving London Gooners to support a crippled team.”

      Sorry, but with respect, that’s nonsense. You are massively underestimating the knowledge and loyalty of our ‘foreign’ fans. Why would an Arsenal fan living out of London be any less devoted than one who lives in Avenell Road? My great-aunt used to travel up from Cornwall for home games; was she not a ‘proper’ Gooner? I lived in Yorkshire for 20 years; should I have given up the right to have an opinion on how the team should be run?

      I will agree that television has brought our club to the attention of people further afield and around the world, and if they decide to support it? Well, good on them, I say. We could do with some of the passion shown by those Malaysian fans when we’re 2-1 down to Blackburn in the 89th minute.

      It’s a global game now, and we’re part of it.

  14. Good Blog.
    Ref No 3 – The problem is that it’s almost never a genuine quote from the player or manager.
    It’s usually ‘an insider’ or ‘a friend of”!

  15. Fellow gooners,
    I totally agree with all of the above,media totally twisting for there own lazy journalism,don’t forget agnets turning to the media to disrupt players!.
    However,there is no doubt Wenger is far to prudent with his money to the point running the risk in leaving to late to buy, and yeah players like downing,jones,etc Wenger would never spend 20mil on these players because they are not worth it,afc prudentially sniffing is a tactic to get clubs like Lfc,mufc to wast there money on them.I digress,12m Samba is fine,wenger will only wants to spend 9m,get on with it.Sale Bentner for 8-9m, and but Benzame for 25m,job done,ok maybe real madrid and player do not want to go.Come on fans
    its all so familliar to the last 3-4 summers.Personally there is a board issue between them and wenger on money.That is my BIGGEST issue Wenger lack of spending its SO obvious where we need REAL quality!.Bentner not good enough as denilson,eboue,diaby etc.

  16. A good read, one of the best blog post I have read this silly season. Divisive fan labels seemed to have developed over the last couple of seasons or so. You have the Idiots in both camps. Entrenched in their own views.

    God help anyone that does not see everything in black or white. Or does not believe in the great media conspiracy. And if you believe that it is out of order to slag of your own players of all day long, then you are not one of us Like you say, your are either labeled a Doomer or AKB. What is wrong with these supporters. Are their lives so boring that they need to be on the internet 24hours a day spouting their views like it is fact.

    Like you I have avoided viewing SSN and stayed away from websites like Le Groove and A Cultured Left Foot where the two waring factions seem to hang out trading insults. Both seem to think they speak for the majority of fans, when in truth they are just idiots with extreme views.

    I’m glad I came across this post it has restored my faith in the Gooner Nation.
    Roll on the season so we can get down to what it is all about, Arsenal Football Club.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.