BLOG: THE 12th MAN

Inspiration and succour. Simplistic terms, crucial to success. When an artist is presented with a blank canvas, what do they look for? Inspiration. The same artist doubts the beauty of the creation they’ve made, what do they look for? Succour. True resilience is shown in times of hardship, when your back’s against the wall and failure seems inevitable. This not only applies to the eleven warriors who step onto the battlefield every gameweek, but to the millions around the world providing reinforcements. 

The concept of support has an aura of ambiguity surrounding it. What can you truly define as true support? Is it turning up to the Emirates every game to help fill the 60,000 seats or is it tuning in at ridiculous times around the globe to show your deep-rooted affection for the Arsenal? Whatever fan you may be, all are equally responsible for the reinforcements the Arsenal so deeply require. The concept of a fan has always been associated with backing your team when they appear to be down at out, they’re up against the tide, and you battle with them to return to safer shores. 

However, in recent years something’s change amongst the Gunners faithful. It’s not the team that is being supported, it’s an ideology. Nothing is a powerful as an idea. One cannot simply remove an idea. As John Maynard Keynes says, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”. The concept of failure is engrained into Arsenal Football Club, the years of recent pasts have scarred the Gunners faithful, an idea they’re unable to let go of. No levels of promise can remove this deeply engrained link between Arsenal and disappointment, even if all signs point to the contrary. This toxicity from the fans infects the club. As opposed to addressing issues from a logical perspective, divisions are created, discourse arises, and the club is infiltrated by its annual poisonous atmosphere. Logic shows both defeats to Everton and Manchester City, whilst poor performances, were down to refereeing decisions, with Williams’ goal coming from a corner that should not have occurred, and both Sane’s and Sterling’s goals having the offside rule not being initiated by the linesmen. But of course, this is football fans we’re on about, logic doesn’t apply right? 

The inability to support the team has been a contributing factor to recent failures.

It was a mere 10 days ago that the Gunners sat top of the pile, and bliss was apparent in all fields of the Arsenal community. Talk of the title was on the lips of not only the fans, but pundits and football “experts” alike. Fast forward to the present and a quick search on google will find you a Arsenal team in crisis, with the departures of star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Γ–zil inevitable, and the typical social media avalanches of “Oh I guess it’s Wenger Out Today for the Arsenal fans!”

Social media is extremely influential on the current atmosphere surrounding the Emirates.

It was as recent as November, when Arsenal had lost their first game since the opening day of the season, in the Capital One Cup (yes, that competition that Arsene Wenger has continually deemed an opportunity to give fringe players gametime), that Carl Jenkinson had to be removed from the Arsenal squad due to his mental state, deriving from endless abuse from the Gunners “fans”. Verbal abuse and harassment isn’t tolerated as a concept in regular society, so why do the conventions change when Arsenal players are thrown into the mix?

It would be ignorant to suggest the Arsenal players should be immune from criticism, they are multi-millionaires, being paid to produce performances capable of delivering the title back to the Emirates after 12 barren years. However, there is a line between criticism and abuse, and too often in recent years has criticism turnt into inexorable witch-hunts against the manager and certain players. You can believe from the media what you’d like to believe, you can critique the players how you like. Don’t take this as a lecture on behaviour and conduct, simply take it as a idea of my own. 22 individuals don’t win you a title, it’s millions, and if the millions continue to remain unaccounted for, 12 barren years will become 13.

Twitter: @JLennard10

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