The fickleness of football fans
AFTV epitomise fickle fans
Suppose, as we all expect, Spurs gain 4th and Arsenal fifth this season, then there will be many complaints, moans, and even downright abuse of Arteta, the players and the visible staff like Edu. We will read a mountain of bile directed at Arsenal. But suppose, again, that Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs are involved in some scandal and are demoted. Arsenal get crowned champions then suddenly the fans go wild, cheering their manager, their players, and everything about the Arsenal. We wouldn’t care that we finished fifth, only that we are champions.
And so, this week, we will listen to all the sob stories as we lament losing our chance at Champions league, how useless Arteta is, how useless the players are, how we will never qualify for Champions league again, and bla, bla, bla. But suddenly, we beat Everton. Spurs fall down a black hole at Norwich. We are in Champions League. WE ARE IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE!
This makes us happy
And then the stories change. And so does the song:
We’ve got Super Mik Arteta,
He knows exactly what we need,
Kieran at the back, Gabi in attack,
Arsenal on the way to Champions League.
Thus it has been since I was a boy, I guess thus it will be after I am long gone. And honestly, having been writing all my life, people don’t want to read measured reasoning about their teams. Generally football fans fall into two camps. Those that are negative and those that are positive. When I was growing up, I had almost no Arsenal fans around me, so I didn’t have the negative ones, and Arsenal overachieved by winning the Fairs cup (Europa League) and then the magical double. Then lots of Irish and successive FA cup finals. And so to me, we were overachieving. And I am mostly naturally positive so probably am mostly in that camp.
But I pride myself on trying to be objective, to make a true calculation of where we are, and not one based on the fickleness of fans.
Small steps might be wiser
A wise member of the Arsenal backroom team here in Bulgaria, Zdravko Talvi, outlined his opinion, that realistically, Europa League would most likely be best for us next term. He made a lot of sense when I thought about it. The team is young, inexperienced, and new young players are coming through that we either let go and may regret doing so like Gnabry, or we have the scope to play them in the Europa League. We probably can’t play them much in the Champions league. The thing is that such reasoned debate is rare in football fans. All they want is victory, no matter how it is achieved. Even in the hypothetical situation outlined above, where the top teams are demoted, we would cheer our great victory.
The question is: did we overachieve this season with a minimum fifth? I say yes, we have far too many young players with great potential but not enough experience. Son and Kane are two of the wiliest operators in the league, using every trick to their advantage. Kane knows he doesn’t even get booked no matter what he does, and Son goes down when he feels the wind change direction. Our players need that vital experience. It may surprise younger fans but Patrick Vieira took a long time to stop getting cards all the time. He frustrated us enormously as we saw the great talent but lamented the time spent out suspended. Martin Keown never totally lost his penchant for getting carded but at least we had Steve Bould as cover. I feel, objectively, that that team of Wenger’s and the next one, the Invincibles, were the best team in the world but underachieved because of indiscipline. No team had better players than Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Pires, Ljungberg, and the rest. All the way through both teams, we had top players. But we never won Champions League and only 3 Premier Leagues. I reckon we had at least 8-10 years of being the best team in England and a few as the best in Europe. So, bizarrely, we underachieved. Points out a flaw in Wenger, he was superb in assembling a team and getting them to play for him, but ill discipline and a certain lack of tactical nous were probably his weaknesses.
Me? I am innocent, ref!
The greats underachieved
I wonder does he agree with me, that his team should have accomplished more? I would love to ask him. But those were our wonder years, maybe the best spell I will ever see.
And so back to the current team. All the teams around us, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd, even West Ham, have lots of scheming old pros, ready to fool a ref all the time, even VAR. Combine that with the Northern preference of the refereeing system and we did have a disadvantage. The only old pro we have that plays all the time, Xhaka, is a target for refs and can never gain any advantage. He will never escape that, I feel, even if he went on a summer camp with Son and Kane.
He battered me, ref
In that context, with such young players, we have overachieved this season no matter where we finish. Does that make Arteta better than Wenger if we accept my previous assertion? Of course not. A manager is judged on their overall achievements. Arteta has such a young team because he seems to have a problem with experienced players and even some young players like Guendouzi and possibly Saliba. He got rid of, or doesn’t play the experienced ones. That is his flaw, more so than any other. He then needs these young players to grow with him, keep improving and playing for him, and not giving him much trouble. Then we can see if he is any good or not. All managers have flaws, but the best ones make sure that theirs don’t stop them winning things.
Trophies are all that matters
To underline my point, Manchester United, under Ferguson, were the richest team in the world and certainly in England, yet that did not mean he won everything every season. Far from it. He rarely came close to winning everything. That is an argument that he always underachieved. A manager who underachieves surely is not a great manager, yes?
I hope you can see where I am coming from, a manager is judged entirely on trophies. Gain enough and nobody digs too deep to say whether you underachieved or overachieved. Ferguson and Wenger are two of the greatest to have lived, despite my argument that they both underachieved.
And so you can see the fickleness of fans. If Arteta gets us into Champions league, due to a St Totteringhams day, or due to a crazy scandal that demotes 4 teams down the league, or even if Chelsea alone get demoted for some Russian reason, he will be deemed for the moment to be a great manager. I believe it is fair to say that he overachieved this season no matter what, 4th or 5th, and I also believe that it is fair to say that a manager who overachieves deserves plaudits. But the sniping will continue with 5th. The achievement of a trophy, the mythical 4th spot, no matter how it is done fair or foul is the definition.
A Russian scandal demotes Chelsea?
Shout louder so everyone will hear you
The problem with the fickleness of a lot of fans, and I have no idea if they are in the majority or just shout louder so we think they might be, is that the negativity doesn’t help their team. Personal abuse of the managers, players and staff doesn’t help. I hope this piece has underlined for you how difficult it is to even decide if your manager and team have overachieved or not, but one thing I am certain about, it is the attitude, epitomised by our own Zdravko Talvi, that what fans should really care about is the long term welfare of the team, and in that context, EL may be better than CL.
I believe our young players will prove the knockers wrong