THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

9 March ~ After what seems like months of comment, conjecture and tactical analysis the Champions League tie between Arsenal and Barcelona has finally been completed. But there was still time in this morning's papers for one last push of hyperbole. In the Guardian, Richard Williams stated: "Big nights involving FC Barcelona have a way of making spectators feel like winners of a prize draw for a seat at the centre of the universe."  With all the recent comparisons made between the two clubs, I had expected my first visit to the Emirates, supporting Sunderland on Saturday, to feel slightly similar. But it didn't feel like the centre of anything, just a bit odd.

Possibly introduced during that great period of "Arsenalisation", the decision to introduce the home players by only their first names seemed at best twee, or a calculated ploy to introduce some sense of homeliness into an undoubtedly impressive large concrete bowl. Then there was the home supporters themselves. While I've never had a problem with Arsenal fans, finding the club's genuine followers to be fairly knowledgable and surprisingly self-aware, something has changed. The cost and culture of being a modern football fan has transformed a large amount of supporters into customers and consumers, looking for entertainment, excitement and gratification. This has happened at grounds across the country, but no more so than at somewhere like the Emirates. And the media hype must have something to with it.

My seat next to the home supporters was the ideal place to observe this. As the game went on and Arsenal still weren't able to score, the histrionics of the home fans grew and grew. Each weak Nicklas Bendtner header or scuffed Andrey Arshavin shot was greeted by increased wailing and gnashing of teeth. The sense of entitlement was palpable – they'd had paid a lot of money for this and Arsenal are the artists of English football, why on earth couldn't they just score? When I accused my nearest Arsenal neighbour of acting like a "spoilt child", he at least had the good grace to laugh.

Yet I suppose if you're told something enough times you eventually start to believe it. And the reaction to last night's game was rich with talk of Arsenal's "exquisite torture", a "pit of persecution", "darkest nightmares" and, of course, that "prolonged" trophy drought. In the Mirror, Oliver Holt claimed: "It is easy to forget that Arsène Wenger's failure to win the Champions League is one of the great anomalies in world sport." I've never found it that difficult.

While Arsenal may enjoy all this attention now, it can only have a negative effect. I fully expect the Champions League draw, an event I've lost completely interest in, to pair Arsenal and Barcelona again at some point next year. In the meantime, the more exaggeration we hear about Wenger's team and their "long-suffering" supporters, the more it's going to hurt in the long run, meaning Arsenal supporters will feel even more hard done by the next time they lose at the Nou Camp, or even draw at home to Sunderland. David Haydon

Comments (6)
Comment by Max Payne 2011-03-10 04:03:49

Because Sunderland fans don't patronise other smaller clubs in a similar way? Get a grip, man.

Comment by Dalef65 2011-03-10 06:55:17

I remember going to an Arsenal home game a couple of years ago,and as the teams ran out they were introduced over the tannoy as "Thierry Henrys Arsenal"......Que.......WTF....?
Not "Arsenal" or "the Gunners",but Thierry Henrys private mob.....

That was just a little bit sick-making for me.
I wonder if they are now announced as Cesc Fabregas Red and White Army as they take the pitch.....?
And dont start me on the comments that come out from both Manager and players whenever they lose a game or when things dont go their way..
As a club they are rapidly turning into the most arrogant and up themself entity seen in English football for a very long time ...!

Comment by bearlion 2011-03-10 10:29:55

Holt is a bell-end. It must pain him every time he remembers Aston Villa won the European Cup (and not under his beloved Martin O'Neill). This is of course assuming he's aware that Aston Villa have won the European Cup.

As part of the Arsenalisation process they've got the club's trophies listed around the edge of the roof. People who think their current 6-year trophy "drought" is such an anomaly should count the gaps between some of their previous triumphs.

Comment by kase85 2011-03-10 10:40:40

Interesting piece. I actually wrote an article on Arcelona game myself. From a different perspective though.

http://fueledbygareth.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/arsenal-vs-barcelona-–-am-i-meant-to-care/

Comment by donedmundo 2011-03-11 10:40:31

I suspect the introduction of players by their first names with the fans supplying the last name comes from Germany. During the World Cup in 2006 this was standard practice.
Arsenal's 'agony' and their 'trophy drought' are just phrases made up by the meeja. It's the same for Man U, Chelsea, etc. The underlying theme is that these clubs deserve (in some vague unspecified sense) to win more. What about the 'trophy drought' of teams like Rochdale (and this is NOT a poke at them), formed in 1907 and never won anything? Why don't we have long discursive articles on that? Arsenal fans would do well to stop listening to all the bullshit spouted by people who DO know better but write it just the same.

Comment by Sinitch 2011-03-19 00:34:12

Very good article, I agree wholeheartedly with the general point being made here, which is not unique to Arsenal fans (although they are from my standpoint too the most annoying). This sense of entitlement is all pervasive now; while it is probably the most blatant and annoying amid the ranks of the "big clubs" (Man U, Arse, Chelsea) as well as some former big clubs (most notably Liverpool, based on their never-ending wallowing in their historical achievements from a million years ago), it is also a widely shared prejudice generally. It finds its most common expression in the current general consensus around the presumed supremacy of certain teams that are deemed to play the most "beautiful" game, such as Barcelona and to a lesser extent Arsenal, which are therefore automatically deemed to be more deserving of victories and success. Following Arsenal's win against Barça at home, one writer in the Daily Mirror wrote a whole article exalting Messi's virtues (as if the rest of us had never heard of him) versus Stoke City's (and especially Rory Delap's) apparently illegitimate skills and approach. The same people are then the worst losers when these teams lose to better organized / collectively more coherent / more motivated sides, as was the case this week between Bayern & Inter and also on Sunday between Sevilla and Barcelona. On the positive side, mind you, this makes it all the more enjoyable when these "chosen" teams lose.
Fatchi Dadji (www.antijogabonito.wordpress.com)

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