View From The North Bank: Arsenal 1 Villa 2
The last home game of a season in which we’ve conspired to throw away success that was there for the taking was never going to be a party, however I didn’t imagine it would be quite so demoralising.
Aside from the customary schoolboy defending, territorial dominance and lack of end product there was the poisonous atmosphere that’s crept into The Emirates of late. Disappointment about the 6.5% price hike is understandable but chanting about it while the players search for a way back into the game was never going to help. Neither was booing at half-time.
When you’ve been challenging at the top of the table all season, regardless of how much hard work we made of that challenge, it’s very hard to keep going in pursuit of the runner-up position. Defeat here, and the lacklustre attitude, wasn’t unexpected; had we had the mental capacity to fight for second in the face of the disappointment of missing out on silverware again, we’d probably not have missed out on trophies in the first place.
People will talk about professional pride and large wage cheques but fans forget that footballers are human beings too. These players know they’ve failed and I would imagine are desperate for the summer break. Arsenal looked like they hadn’t switched on in the first 20 minutes, but then again there’s a section of our fan base that seem to turn up hoping for things to go wrong so they can take a perverse pleasure in saying “I told you so”. Playing in front of a set of fans who just expect a comfortable victory, and moan when the other side haven’t read the script, can hardly be inspirational.
People want to look for scapegoats, boo and moan about everything. Primarily because we haven’t won anything for 6 years, which is hugely frustrating given the success we had had the previous seven years, but is that all Football is about: winning trophies? Don’t get me wrong, if we’d won the league this year it would have been brilliant but it all starts again in three months anyway. Trophies shouldn’t be the ‘be all and end all’ as a fan. I love going to Arsenal just because it’s Football, it’s my team.
Sometimes we have a go at opponents or referees when really they’ve not done a lot wrong – that’s all part of the pantomime – but I’d much rather we pulled together during the 90 minutes to criticise anyone else but our own players. By all means dissect the squad after the game, write blogs about it, vent your spleen on Twitter or ring up Stan Collymore, but seriously, if you’ve paid the money we pay to “support” Arsenal, the least you can do is support them for 90 minutes.
There are a number of reasons to be disappointed as a Gooner at the moment but most of these issues seem to have come off the back of our failure to lift a trophy. We do not have a divine right to win anything. Trophies are a bonus as a football fan. If you come to Football purely for the reflected glory of winning trophies then you’re missing the point. Football is about a team pulling together through thick and thin, striving for better. It’s not about sulking because you don’t get what you think your entry fee is offering.
If we as fans expect more togetherness and resolve from the team then maybe we need to start showing some ourselves. I don’t forgive the players their disappointing performances this season but it’s no surprise that our home record has been so poor. It must be a pretty joyless place to play your Football sometimes.
I’m still keen not to absolve the players and the manager of all responsibility. There have been many occasions where we’ve not been good enough and this needs to be addressed in the summer. There have also been times when we’ve looked excellent this season. The post Carling Cup record of three wins in 14 isn’t good enough but it does cloud the waters a bit. We’ve been dismal since that day but that’s partly because of the expectation to win every game and despondency when we don’t.
There have been good times this season - United, Chelsea and Barca at home – we should look at those games as the benchmark of what we can achieve rather than retreating into our default position of defeatism and in-fighting. The fact is that if we couldn’t win the league this year then we weren’t good enough but subtle changes, and a change in attitude – fans and players alike – means that we’ll be back next year.