In the last few months, we’ve been filled with a ridiculous amount of uncertainty, ranging from social and political commentary into the new world we’re facing under a world-wide spread of fascist and authoritarian regimes under the cloak of supposed democracies, then onto less important things, such as the concept of success in football management and who to swipe right with on Tinder.
If you’re a fan of Arsenal, whether you’re happily or angrily in a love/hate relationship with the club, you find yourself still in this world, the same world that belongs to everyone else, and all around you is constant change. The footballing world rarely reflects the political world in the same way that other things do, so the change that occurs is quite different. But, as humans are very similar, the reactionary behaviour to instant news and instant gratification exists and will continue to exist in the ultra-hyper information highway we have creatively succumbed to in the 21st century.
Processing change, measuring change, measuring the success in football over time, has become increasingly difficult and will continue to do so as people draw permanent conclusions from temporary situations, as mentioned by a tweet by Diana Kristinne -
Modern football has a desperate need to draw permanent conclusions from temporary situations. Which leads to extremism.— Diana Kristinne (@DianaKristinne) September 25, 2014
This leads to extremism.
We see articles and posts before the game, slamming a manager’s tactics, a player’s behaviour, who gets to start and why, before the game has even begun. He must be dropped, he must be sacked, he must not play that formation. When a result shocks them, they immediately write a new article, writing the same about the opposing team, as has happened recently with Barcelona vs PSG.
A game of opinions has become a game of extremes, the extremes of which, are used to gain revenue, in a journalism business that thrives on the reactionary culture of fans through a sport like football. Football journalists rely on cultivating the senses of the most reactionary fans and use them for profit. Fans see this opportunity and take it, as most want to grab any opportunity they get to become a minor celebrity, or exit their boring and often boring uneventful lives.
The culture of extremes doesn’t mean that just a small minority will stay a minority and do, as with any extreme, if it can grow through profit, it will rely on more and more extremists to create a bigger profit. The articles will get more extreme, they will be more classless and filled with lies, when fans inevitably react to it, they will write about it, and if fans don’t, they will find something else they will react to. Our club, more than any, seems to have more pawns for this than any other, due to the sheer social media usage and engagement of our fans.
The culture of extremes makes it difficult to create a nuanced image of what is happening at Arsenal, or whether the journalists are intentionally disregarding Arsenal’s success as failure, because it doesn’t match up to their idea of success. After all, no matter what, if Arsenal doesn’t win the league, someone else will, and Arsenal will always be compared to them, not the teams that finish below them with more resources, not the teams that have never finished above them under Arsene, not the teams that won the league last year but are fighting relegation this year.
My previous conviction has always been that the board back Arsene Wenger because he’s doing for them, what it takes 3 or 4 other people to do, and even then, the chance of failure is too high. Arsene Wenger is the most reliable engine Arsenal will probably ever have. But he has not excited the minority or majority of the fans the way they would have want to be excited. And the extremes has caused false equivalencies and false pretences to be carried away to the front page of every newspaper, in the hope that someone falls for them, and people usually do.
These extremes and false dichotomies have made it difficult to really trace Arsene’s short comings compared to other top managers, especially at clubs that fire managers even after they win the league, for inconsistent performances that have never happened under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
Each top manager faces this extreme criticism, from Conte, Klopp, Guardiola and Mourinho (although he probably lives for it), but where do you find the truth amongst all of their current short-comings? It seems that it is difficult to find it when each of those managers (excluding Conte), are all expected to win the league, or compete for it until the end (but really, actually just win it), and as we all know, only one ever does.
Again, this extreme comes from not being excited, not seeing a bigger risk taken by the club to improve their on the pitch performances. Not only do people seem unexcited about seeing the bigger picture, some would burn down anything that makes the club that it is, for a chance at a tin trophy.
The manner in which people discuss what goes on at our club, our losses, it is like we have lost more than we have, that we suffer more than we do, and that we are more pathetic than we are. It is an extreme caused by entitlement, boredom, anger, hatred, and uncertainty outside of football, as well as general dissatisfaction with the manner of which the club treats the fans.
The type of fandom we see, is no longer a supporter being asked to shout louder in games, or back players better on social media, but one of entitled consumerism, always asking for a better product, always demanding for more, in an unpredictable footballing world where you quite often get less. No one is demanding you to buy tickets, no one is demanding you to pay ridiculous cable rates to support a footballing franchise that pays footballers millions, we’re all complicit in it because we love the game, it’s an addiction of sorts. An addiction that inevitably leads to this, no matter who manages the clubs, or the players coming and going, the top 10 richest clubs in the world (ours included), will probably stay that way for a while, with or without trophies.
In a world where we need to pay even more attention to the politicians and demand more from them, as it is a matter of life and death, it seems almost careless to focus solely on football the way we do at times, but it makes sense given, that from a sociological and psychological standpoint, we have invested thousands of hours on football, emotionally and physically, it’s both a distraction and an addiction.
With these distractions and addictions, all at the same time, we seem to know less and less every day, mainly due to the information that is released on a minute by minute basis, but even with our club, there is more uncertainty than ever.
We know so little about the type of players we will attract without Arsene Wenger, how much we will pay for them, or how many of the current players wish to leave if he leaves. As we saw at United post Ferguson, they had a lot of difficulty attracting world class players, and when they did, they overpaid, and the players have had mixed form for them, with some being sold a year later.
It seems ever less likely that the board were preparing for such a backlash this season, nor that they would react to fans in a reactionary manner regardless. For all the elitism, their employment of Arsene Wenger has made Arsenal Football Club increase in stature, size, and value. Some supporters say they don’t care about this any longer or never did, but this negates a vital and successful business structure that are essential to the growth and survival of the football club in an ever-changing game.
Each point in the Premier League or the Champions League for Arsenal could be worth millions, finishing 4th, 3rd or 2nd for 20 years has never been a trophy, but it has been a milestone, that other Premier League clubs have failed to achieve. It has been a milestone that ensures our club gets to partake in the biggest competition in the world, it has been a milestone that attracts us the best players in the world, and will continue to do so, time and time again. Arsene Wenger believes the best work he did for the club was between 2006-2014, and I believe he is right.
The measurement of success in a world of extremes doesn’t sit so lightly, because boredom can drive us all a little extreme. To call for change doesn’t seem extreme anymore, nor even disrespectful, to a man who has given and done so much for this club, by many people who have done nothing. If masses of journalists and pundits, believe that Arsenal should be winning trophies, then surely, they must win trophies, F.A. Cups don’t matter, unless other teams win them. It’s either the Premier League or the Champions League, and even after they’re won, the victory is short lived, and it won’t be long before the club and its fans find themselves at the feet of the pundits, being criticized in a permanent manner for something so temporary.
Nothing really lasts in this world, especially not in football, for Arsene Wenger to last so long, is a testament to his value to the club, the board, and to the fans (whether some believe so or not is up to them).
We learned after the elections that even after the extremists get their way, they won’t believe that they have won, they’ll continue in their false dichotomies and labels and reactionary anger, if anything, it entitles them to behave even worse. This is why I don’t believe Arsenal Twitter will not be the place it was after Arsene decides to retire. Because it all starts over again, but this time without someone who has given most of his career to us, someone who has given us 20 years of brilliant quotes, amazing football matches and someone who is loved and admired by many.
But it is also extreme to think that we can’t have a bigger trophy success without him, I believe that his consistency is unmatched. And we will see a different club after he decides to step down or retire. Because if it is a club that values consistency, but not the extreme that will excite and might bring more trophies, but also bigger failure, then it will also fail to live up to the expectations that the media and fans have created over the years.