A lot of crowing during and after the game yesterday about the protest (from the usual suspects). I’m not sure why. It was a success if you give it context and fair expectations.
Most people in the media have framed the protest under the expectations that the whole stadium would be waving Wenger Out banners. Pretty sure the people who ran the protests were aware of what Arsenal fans are like and fairly muted with their expectations.
Yesterday was about firstly getting fan unrest in the news. It was secondly about doing something Arsenal haven’t seen since the Terry Neil days… namely getting a protest in the stadium. Thirdly, it was about making it feel acceptable and safe to do so. You know, like a norm of sorts. Big worries that if you get involved in these sorts of things, you’ll get a beating.
From all three points, it was a success. I watched it in a bar in New York and the banners and the flags got plenty of exposure. Fans stood, for the first time, during and after the game without suffering any issues of fighting. The world saw that we’re not happy with the performance of Arsene Wenger.
That’s the way it should be.
Bravo to those who took online moaning into the stadium and turned it into something symbolic. Standing up there, putting it out there and having the guts to do it in a potentially hostile environment. I’ve never done it, I doubt I’d have waved a poster. But I reckon after seeing the reaction, I might do next time.
However, for me, the biggest protest was the empty seats we’ve seen over the last few games. Or, the basically empty stadium on a sunshine day in the 85th minute. Those actions, or inactions, speak louder than the banners.
The sniping after is just petulance. Arsenal fans, in general, are a very middle-class bunch. Especially the ones in the ground. I’ve sat next to someone who has busted out a baguette and started spreading it with duck liver pâté during a game. We have £15 salt beef bagels on sale, and they fly. So you get a picture of the audience. This sort of thing is pretty alien and it’s not the sort of thing that most want to be involved in on a Saturday afternoon (even me when I was back at home). However, the touch-paper has been lit, if Wenger continues his pretty shabby form into next season, and we see more of this average dull football, expect there to be more dissenting voices, more banners and more anger.
… and earlier.
Also, you might see sharper organisation next time, or a lower barrier to entry, like the hanky they have in Spain and Italy when they disapprove.
Gotta say though… the best thing for me was the half arsed ‘One Arsene Wenger’ song over the protest, followed by agressively booing the lads off at half time. So Arsenal it hurts. Anyway, well-played to those who made a stand.
Just for fun, read the 8 stages of a social movement. I don’t think it’s for football fans, but it’s funny to layer our first world problems over it. Where we at, stage 3 at the moment?
Anyway, onto the game!
Well, it wasn’t a great showing, was it? Arsenal played the first half without much interest. We created very little and to be honest, I think Norwich had the best chances when Cech was forced into tipping the ball over from a smart shot.
The second half didn’t really kick into gear until Wenger brought on WELBZ for Iwobi… I thought he was going to take off the terrible Giroud, but clearly, Wenger needs his fellow countryman in good form for the Euros!
ALSO: Wenger dropping subs earlier than 70mins, what the heck?
My sneering at Giroud soon turned to, well, a smile for 30 seconds as he cushioned a cross into the path of WELBZ who rattled the ball under Ruddy for us to take the lead (that said, is that 1 goal in 21 games now?).
Welbeck certainly gave a glimpse into what our team could look like next season with mobility and pace up front. He’s a hustler, that’s for sure, he stretched defenders both sides of the pitch and he’s very good a pressing defenders. It’s just a shame he’s not quite good enough in front of goal. He has all the ability to improve, my fear is that he’s 25 years old now and if we gamble on him coming good next season, we could have another Giroud on our hands… a nearly man, capable of getting the goals people can point to, but not good enough to be decisive with one chance in an important game.
Another concern I have is that our intricate football isn’t that intricate anymore and it doesn’t create many chances. We’re pretty easy to defend against. You do wonder if personnel will change that, or whether we need a fresher system?
It was funny sitting in O’Hanolons after (great New York bar for Arsenal imo), shooting the shit with American fans. For a starter, the bar was pretty empty compared to what I’ve seen it be in the past, so empty seats at home are translating globally based on my sample size of one space. You also have similar moans from people… and similar knowledge vacuums about what exactly is going on.
I genuinely think one of the things that keeps fan rest at a minimum is mainstream fan knowledge. I’m still hearing people say that Stan Kroenke doesn’t give the manager money. A myth laid to rest years ago. One guy was trying to tell me that Wenger doesn’t have a tactics issue. Someone else was slating Steve Bould for not helping Arsene. Plenty of others seem to think we still play stunning football.
We have a satisfied fanbase in a lot of places. When you think about it, a lot of our global audience has been won over in the last ten years. So people have opted to love Arsenal because, well, Arsenal. Arsene Wenger, being the man who has drawn in that sort of fan. So around the world, we have people who follow us because we’re just a pleasant club, not because we’re trophy machines. Quite a feat… I’ve said it before, but Wenger would be an incredible marketing exec.
One thing that a lot of people are saying online and in places that are not online is that Jurgen Klopp has shown one major flaw in the Arsenal armoury… our players don’t fight for the manager. They don’t fight for their dinner. You look at what goes on at Leicester and Atletico… those players lay down their bodies for the cause. Our players don’t do that because they’re not made to. We don’t play a system that requires them to.
If Wenger wants to get the better of the league next year, he’s going to have to promote a more devoted style of football. He’s going to have to instil a more ruthless streak of discipline. He’s going to need to up his smarts 50%.
We get the leader we deserve as Arsenal fans. If the majority of dissenters would rather not attend… and the majority of those who speak out, don’t want to upset the apple cart in the ground, then you can’t really moan at Stan for not making the smart decision. Our leadership option is as mediocre as our effort as fans is for taking a stand.
But look, on the bright side, the turnout might not have been a 50,000 strong protest, but my hope is that at the very least, it’ll shake Wenger into a better summer. Because look, no one likes to be disliked in the house they think they built… even if that dislike is mostly muttered politely, in a mostly passive middle England kind of way.
This tweet kind of summer it up for me. So Arsenal.
Suggesting that Arsène Wenger would deserve the sack and not wanting him to be sacked can coexist. Personally, I hope he stays next season.
— FK² (@fkhanage) April 30, 2016
Roll on summer, I need a bit of disappointment in my life.
P.S. Congrats to James who weighs in on here in getting in the Match Day Programme.