Was on my road bike pretending to be Lance Armstrong up in the Bedfordshire hills over Bank holiday - listening to this Sade song
‘Never as good as the first time’
Got me thinking…..Got me thinking about the make-up of Arsenal fans and why we react to today’s football/team the way we do.
Arsenal as a set of fans are on average the oldest in the PL.
By that, I mean the ones that actually go to the games. Many reasons for that, chief one being the cost of entry. Younger fans and these days older fans struggle to go as regular as they would like to – But it’s the older fans that are more likely to afford it. – Those same fans also pick and choose games even though money has passed over to the club - Hence the gaps we regularly see in the stadium. Those fans have other pulls but their love for Arsenal means they cannot give up that season ticket
My belief is as a fan we buy into a life contract when you support a team but I also feel there is a time – ‘a special time’ or 2 that we use as a natural reference point when we judge our team/club. Normally that time is dictated by the amount of emotional investment that is put into supporting your team at that point in time.
My time was 1989 – that season I attended over 30 games home and away. I felt I earned my stripes that year. I was there outside the Gunners pub the Saturday after Anfield. Drinking outside for 8 hours, singing ‘we won the league on Merseyside - There was about 300 of us who all knew each other. We had done the miles there was a bond between us as a group and with the team due to its youth, vitality and being absolutely the embodiment of all that is Arsenal.
I had more a Sky TV love as I reduced my games in 2004 but nothing will for me ever match 1989 – that was my first time.
Does it shape me as a fan – maybe.
I think 2004 I was tactically more aware about what made a team, what made a team win. That was for me embodied by Patrick Vieira, my favourite ever Arsenal player. This time definitely shapes my views. I remember the tension v Liverpool I remember the 2005 Cup final drunk in Cardiff and totally believing we would win. We had so many characters we couldn’t lose.
I look at today’s team with a natural comparison – thinking back to those times – Song’s bad time is very fresh in my memory. That sloppy stupid pass before Norwich’s third goal could cost the club £30m.
Song – decent player but to me he never will be a Vieira.
Maybe I forget how many crucial red cards Vieira got just before big games. Song plays every game. Pat never did. My views are shaped and will not be changed. Pat had street smart. He knew what to do when to control a game. He knew how to buy a foul, when to make a foul. Song, just as strong, fantastic athlete and improving but it’s that ‘street smart’ he misses.
The whole team misses this Arteta brings this assurance – talent alone is not enough. It’s about being professional and creating a standard of performance based on stability of game. But I’m sure the 2004 team was as emotional and flaky. I used to moan that Pires never tackled, Freddie could not dribble, Gilberto never shoots
Taking this further, Walcott will never be Ljungberg, Nasri/Pires and so on. Does this make us fickle as we have seen how this can be done, how this should be done and in very recent times. We know what worked and we were sold the dream of being able to compete – have we moved on since Lasagne gate.
I sometimes wonder if we did would we even notice – What is the success criteria for the new Arsenal.
What I do feel is 2006 was pivotal for Arsenal – move ground Paris for the CL final, Henry nearly winning it for us.
2012 is as pivotal and Sunday is HUGE. There are rumblings that we are re-focussing top to bottom.
Board - looking at Renewal
Coaching Staff – looking at Renewal
Playing staff – looking at Renewal.
Qualifying for the CL will make us all believe something is likely to change.
If we mess up Sunday the relationship between the fans and the club/team/Wenger could be damaged beyond repair unless there is fast tangible change.
A change to something most of us can relate to.