Friday , 17 November 2017
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Cannon Fodder: The Erosion of Support

Hullo there lads and ladies! We meet again post trouncing of a frankly woeful side that evidently deserves to drop back into the Championship, cheer is abound in the Arsenal camp and the faint whiff of hope is once more in the air. Reading was thrashed with a score line that is turning increasingly popular with Arsene and his crew in recent times, but I wouldn’t go about trying to replace the usual chant of “1-Nil to the Arsenal” just yet. That being said, I frankly wouldn’t envy the Uncle Fester Look-a-like that manages the Reading Royals. The man’s been having a torrid time in the Premier league in spite of putting up a couple of decent performances. I’m just glad that Arsenal could add to that pile of misery.

Sorry, If I’m sounding a tad bit sadistic today, watching mid-week matches when you are in my part of the world is a giant pain in the arse as it involves making do with only a few scant hours of sleep before rushing to the office where you have to pretend to complete “meaningful work” while you try to deal with a massive a head-ache with no caffeine whatsoever. To circumvent the sleep deprivation I had brilliantly planned to catch a few hours of shut-eye in the evening but a few vile creatures parading as “friends” and a mad food delivery guy (ok ok “Dabba-wallah”) conspired to puncture my sleep with idiotic phone calls and silly text messages. So much for that plan, so that has left me sleep deprived and almost as grumpy as Arsene was at his last press conference.

 Theo in the center came as a pleasant surprise flanked by Poldi and Ox, but unfortunately the rebellious little English winger did very little to stake claim for a permanent position at ‘point’ rather than flank, he was ineffectual and his pace was of little significance. His minuscule frame didn’t help either, though he did score the fifth goal. Maybe it was the universe giving Wally a hint, as the only instance when he looked like a threat to goal was when he moved out wide to receive a pass from Cathola (whose virtues will be extolled in the coming paragraph) and finished from a wide-ish angle past a miserable Fredrichi who had put palm to ball often enough to save the Royals from a double digit score-line.
Next up: SANTI CATHOLA! The man underwent apotheosis yesternight, an impotent Reading midfield made his job even easier, as he dazzled all over the pitch, creating chances left, right and center. He walked away with the match-ball after a classy hat-trick: the first, a low and acrobatic header off a sweet Poldi cross into the center. The pass from Gibbs leading up to the second goal found Santi with his back to the goal, the Spaniard controlled the ball with a deft first touch before spanking it into the ground and past three defenders and a flapping goalie. The third was a simple tap from yet another Poldi cross. Lukas too had a reasonably good game and made a difference whenever the ball was delivered to his feet with the opening goal and two assists. The German’s work rate off the ball was smirk-worthy but he made the most of the opportunities handed to him, so I don’t want to sound too churlish and nit-pick.

Booyakahsa! Sati’s first! (Image from www.sportsmole.co.uk)

A phenomenon I have noticed in recent times is the full-backs sacrificing defensive stability to move up the pitch to lob in crosses. Gibbs and Sagna boast of decent pace but leaving holes in the defence leaves us vulnerable to counters unless the midfielders drop deeper to shore up the defence, which was something that hasn’t been happening in the last few games.
Another mild annoyance is Gibbs’s left footed-ness, it almost appears as though he fears using his other feet to make even the simplest of passes, and instead he tends to shuffle around until the angle of the pass is reversed and more suited for his left foot. This chronic left footedness also plagues Jack and Poldi too but Jack’s more fluid ball-control masks the fact a little better.

Enough recapping the obvious; lets move onto more serious topic of import.

The issue of stagnation and the “chronic lack of ambition” (or so the press have dramatized it) is a growing issue at Arsenal, as most fans will agree. When the Ashburton Grove’s construction was started, project youth was started and Arsenal fans world over nodded in implicit understanding that trophies would take a back seat “for a while”. Now 2012 is ready to roll past us and the board now blames the raise of noveau riche football clubs for our lack of success. The excuse has shades of truth in it but it begs the question: How did the board expect to compete with the likes of United, Real Madrid and Barcelona who were wealthy far before the entry of the mad billionaires into football?
I wouldn’t expect any convincing answer from Ivan even if he was poses with the question.

Arsenal has continued to remain among the crème de la crème of English and European football under the guidance of Wenger which has ensured that the club has cultivated a decent fan base the world over. But, with the rise of the oilgarchs (spelling pun intended) like Chelsea, PSG and City; their pyrrhic victories, super-stars signings, flashy football and growing number of trophies, what happens to the non-English Arsenal fan-base? Will our chronic lack of success cause the drop in the number of supporters over an extended period of time?

The concept of a “family club” barely exists outside the Europe and certainly doesn’t apply to the vast swathes of Asian audience. Most football fans who aren’t from North London who follow the EPL would usually pick a club that attracts them, and frankly to football newbie, Arsenal would not look all that appealing.  Overseas supporters may or may not stick with the club as they have little or no geographical or cultural ties to any specific club, which means that they will invariably pick the club that is playing good footie and winning competitions at the time when they start watching football. Arsenal transcends the aforementioned parameters but what would person new to football know of that?
Even if the current crop of non-English supporters were to pledge their undying loyalty to the cannon; this would be rendered insignificant when our generation starts to make way to our successors who would obviously be European football’s main target demographic. If things at the club continue to move on the same track, these future runts might view Arsenal the same way we look at the Spuds and Everton (and Liverpool to an extent): with a mixture of revulsion, pity and disinterest!! You and I would find that sacrilegious but we would be helpless to do anything about it.
In the face of my theory, I have sworn that any of my progeny that does not embrace the sacred red and white will be grounded indefinitely with no dessert until they see the error in their ways.

But jokes apart, this non-winning streak will adversely affect the club’s ability to attract supporters (and hence consumers of the club’s “produce” which would be football on TV and merchandise sales) which could have a huge impact on the club’s finances (over time).

While talking about fans, a more sensible way of measuring them is the “percentage” of Arsenal supporters out of an ever growing football following legion. If the percentage of Arsenal supporters in  Asia and Africa were to decrease with respect to (say) Chelsea or Manchester City or PSG, the club’s ability to negotiate television deals would be greatly diminished as networks would be more willing to kowtow with the top dogs rather than the “have-been’s”.

This phenomenon would take place gradually and its full effects might become apparent only after a decade or two but this one effect I do not wish to see in action, at least not with my club. Liverpool were already slowly sliding into oblivion until the Yanks showed up and starting bailing them out of their problems by tossing cash at it. Not that the Fenway group’s intervention has done much good (so far) but it has at least stemmed the rot.

My point?

If “Too big to fail” didn’t apply to Lehman Brothers and the rest of the financial quacks then it most certainly does NOT apply to Arsenal. So the board better get their act together and get the club back on winning ways again or face a slow and painful (for the fans at least) extinction process.

Chilling stuff eh?
Don’t take my conspiracy theories too seriously; it’s bad for your noggin! Stay Goonerish and drop a line in the comments section!!

About Varun Chand

Profile photo of Varun Chand
Full time nothing doer and part-time Engineer (supposedly). I really hate the Arsenal and that's why I spend so much of time writing/talking/discussing/debating about them. I enjoy mocking YOU because it's fun.

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