Why I can't laugh at Arsenal fans
In the wake of Arsenal’s second half capitulation to Watford at the weekend, in which they gave up 31 shots in the second half, Arsenal fan’s ire was directed firmly at the man in the dugout, Unai Emery. He had no plan and no ideas. They had shown no progress. He was to blame. The fact that his hair looks like a well greased teflon pan is mere coincidence apparently, the flak’s gonna stick to Emery in North London (much as it did in Paris).
But it’s obsession with a former manager, and all that he brought, that explains Arsenal fan’s malaise, much more than their current boss. Wenger brought many things to the club; salad (infamously), Thierry Henry, ambition, hope, style, swagger. He also threw many things away; pints, Park Chu-Young (eventually), and, of course, via the medium of success and the adoration of the neutral, any self-awareness the fanbase might previously have had.
Of course the man who believed he did not look ridiculous in swearing blind that he had not seen the stud-thudding challenge that had occurred centimetres from his moon-rim adorned face would have this effect. But it ran deep. And when mixed the ambition to play “proper football” it became truly dangerous.
Arsenal fans could not help themselves in wanting their cake and eating it. They wanted to be both good at defending and buy no defenders. They wanted to laud Gilberto Silva as Arsenal’s most underrated player while wondering how it was that their failure to replace him was resulting in adversity.
And the cognitive dissonance and plain wretchedness of the Arsenal fan became a spectator sport. Arsenal Fan TV’s host and auteur of misery, Robbie Lyle, in a pinned video celebrating the channel hitting the 1m subscriber mark gives a shout out to the fans of other teams who “come here to laugh at us”. But even though I’m regularly told I should become one of them. I just can’t do it. Because Arsenal football club isn’t comedy, it isn’t even farce, it is tragedy.
You can learn a lot about Arsenal fans by their reaction to Emery, but you can learn more from their reaction to the signing of wide -man Nicolas Pépé. In a team that clearly required several defenders, Arsenal added the Ivorian from Lille. Because he came highly rated and was the sort of bright shiny thing that had won league titles, and hearts, under Arsène Wenger. It is Arsenal’s birthright to have this sort of player. He belonged in North London, and so there shouldn’t be a cost to having him.
It would be unfair to Arsenal fans to characterise the reaction as unreservedly ecstatic. There were caveats to the elation, but that’s usually all they were. “Add Tierney and a CB and this’ll be an AMAZING window” reads one typical comment. But the problem is that there’s no disavowal of this signing. There’s anger that resources, both financial and in terms of time and energy, are being devoted to this at all. It is Arsenal’s birthright to have this sort of player. They should get defenders on top. What they got was David Luiz, and a 2-2 against Watford that could have been a whole lot worse.
Arsenal fans consistently have three pints too many on a Tuesday and then expect sympathy at work the next day. They go down the middle aisle at Aldi “for a laugh” and are surprised when they have a new sander instead of the rent money at the end of the month. They buy one of those printed hoodies which you can just tell has been photoshopped and absolutely isn’t going to look right and costs $40 (+$16.95 international shipping) but it would look so so good down the pub so you just have to. It doesn’t look right. Obviously. You still have no rent money.
If watching Arsenal fans can teach us anything, it is that we are all easily seduced by bright lights, extra pints, false economies, and shit on the internet. We should not laugh at Arsenal fans. They are us. We are them. When we laugh at them we laugh only at ourselves. We laugh at our own greed which will eventually catch in our collective throat and destroy this world, and us along with it. Admittedly, it will destroy Arsenal football club long before that.