Tuesday 12 May ~
When the Fast Show satirised new football fans in one of their best known sketches, the object of ridicule was an Arsenal supporter. He'd brought a hamper with him to the match, applauded an own goal by his team as if they had scored and showed his enthusiasm for his new hobby with a clenched fist yell of "Soccer!" at the end. Making him an Arsenal fan worked not because they have a monopoly on clueless arrivistes among their support but because he was representing the metropolitan middle class – a few years later he could have been depicted as a Chelsea fan.
Nonetheless, anyone who watched either of Arsenal's last two games will have seen plenty of men in replica tops, mostly the 1970-71 Double shirt, standing up and shouting. But they were angry rather than enthused and their target was the Arsenal manager. There's no reason to suppose that any of them were recently acquired supporters, which just makes their behaviour seem even worse.
Five days after their team were humiliated at home by Manchester United in their Champions League semi-final, the boos rained down from sections of the Emirates crowd when Arsenal lost 4-1 to Chelsea. Some didn't bother to jeer to but simply walked out during the match as they had done in the previous game. This defeat meant they were "condemned" to fourth place and potentially a tough route into next season's Champions League. It was their biggest home defeat since March 5, 1977 when Ipswich won by the same score at Highbury.
As was the case with the side beaten by Chelsea, the Arsenal team of 32 years ago contained several youngsters although Richie Powling, John Matthews and Trevor Ross didn't go on to have the sort of glittering careers that are prophesied for their counterparts today. Still, the team finished eighth that year, which was a considerable improvement on the preceding two seasons when they had ended up in the bottom seven.
Arsenal were in another slump when Arsène Wenger took over in 1996, since when they have won three titles including two Doubles and reached a Champions League final. Success always spoils some people and you can see hundreds of textbook cases of that at every Emirates home game now, all raging at having their sense of entitlement undermined. Of course, Wenger should not be immune from criticism – indeed his failings are being pored over throughout the football press, as though it was a national crisis. Most of the suggested remedies involve spending large amounts of money, at a time when other clubs are criticised by many of the same commentators for having irresponsibly built up huge debts.
If Wenger were to leave – which still seems unlikely, despite persistent overtures from Real Madrid – his replacement might indeed work his way through a small fortune, for a year or so until he too departs with the team even further behind the top three than they are now. Failing to win a trophy for four years is not a disaster, but an experience common to most football fans. Welcome to reality you stroppy Gooners.