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ArseWars: Episode II - The Clone Army

The year is 2006 and The Arsenal has entered a pivotal moment in their history. In order to progress from a big to an elite club, they must leave their hallowed home of Highbury and colonise a new and larger dwelling which will house more faithful fans. Obi Weng plots to uproot the club to a nearby plot of land, Ashburton Grove.

Despite some local resistance and feelings of sentiment towards Highbury, the move goes ahead and The Arsenal watch on as a new home is slowly erected. The fans are promised that the new stadium will bring forth untold riches and success and we will be sitting at the galactic top table with the biggest clubs in the galaxy!

Slightly moist of the idea of becoming an elite club, The Arsenal faithful sit patiently, slowly anticipating the arrival of big names and eternal glory. The future looks bright, if somewhat uncertain...

Soooo...That worked out alright! Right? Guys? Hello?!

Well, not quite. I’m apprehensive to say, “we were sold a dream” because the word “sold” implies I’m pissed off that, as fans, we were spun an elaborate web of PR that was designed to placate our ambitions and fears of leaving such a well-loved and revered stadium behind.

Despite this...

We were heavily shelled with a rhetoric that was specifically structured to help us understand the need for the move. “We’ll be able to compete financially with the big boys” or “we’ll be a self-sustaining model that will help us function at the top level whilst living within our means.”

I use the word rhetoric not as an allusion to its political connotations, but as a means to explain and understand the communication that came out of the club at the time. It’s a sensible move they did to calm any potentially over the top nostalgic hysteria we might have about leaving somewhere so god damn precious. A sensible move.

This is where I counter my own reluctance of wanting to use the word “sold”. As mentioned above, we were carefully pitched a plan that described how we’d go from knocking on the VIP section of Europe’s elite, to chilling behind the velvet rope with a bottle of Chandon and puffing on a Cuban (a cigar, not an actual Cuban man. It's cool if you want to spend your night in a club orally stimulating a hombre from Havana - I'm not judging.)

So...Ten years on and we’re asking the question “did we make it into the VIP, or are we still standing outside in the pissing rain being told we can’t come in because we’re wearing trainers?”

Well, I’d like to see someone put forward a case that argues successfully we’ve made it past the velvet rope. (I am really happy to hear this argument. Genuinely. Sensible and well-formed opinion directed in a courteous way is always welcome on this blog. If you want to be a prick, then you can f*ck off down the lane).

We are still tap, tap, tapping on the door, standing in the rain and clumsily handing a bouncer our ID.

Us: “Please let me in! I’ve brought talent like Özil and Alexis!”

Europe’s Elite: “Yea, but to get in this club you’ve got to be packing in every department, mate!”

Us: “We are! We’ve got Petr, Laurent and... Er....”

Europe’s Elite: “Who else?”

Us: “JUST LET ME IN! We’re only one or two people short!”

Europe’s Elite: “You’ve been singing that tune for 10 years, mate. Bye!”

That is how the conversation would go if we were to extend the club metaphor all the way to fruition. We’ve tried and pretended really hard to get there, yet we’re still just shy of the big time. I, like a lot of Gooners, have tried to kid myself into think that we are a top level club. We’re not. We are a big club and worth a shit ton of cash, but in footballing terms we are second tier. I’m comparing us to Barca, Real and Bayern. We’re clearly not a huge draw for their players just by definition. If we were a draw for them then they’d play for us. We’d be the ones poaching their stars, not the other way around. Arseblog frequently remarks on his excellent podcast (see arseblog.com) that the best way to see Barcelona is to come to Arsenal. We’ve seen that with Citeh too – Clichy, Nasri, Kolo, Adebayor... PLEASE NOT HECTOR!!! The c*nts even flirted with Jack. This I will not accept.

Let’s answer question one on our list... Has moving to The Emirates Stadium helped us attract football’s best talents and turned us into a European elite team? (Purely coming at this from a football, not financial, perspective.) No.

Evidence for this...Lack of Premier League titles, consistently underwhelming performances in Europe and always falling short at the final hurdle.

Let’s take a look at our second question...Has the move to The Emirates allowed us to compete financially at the top end of the transfer spectrum? To look at this fairly and rationally this question needs to be looked at across a number of years, not just in isolation.

Right at the start of our Emirates tenure we were finding it hard to balance the plate spinning act of paying off a new stadium and paying and attracting top talent. Henry, Hleb, Cesc, Na$ri, Clichy, Adebayor, RVPrick were all shipped out for one reason or another (not always just to balance the books, I agree). If they went for football reasons, it still went some way to easing our financial burdens. Add these regular departures to our inability to replace our glaring gaps and the mood around the bowl gets rightly tetchy. Fans went from “mildly miffed” to “Christ alive! I’ve not tutted this much since Waitrose moved the avocados and quail’s eggs further from the shop entrance!”

We start to see a slight improvement when we fast forward things into the modern day. Özil and Alexis are brought in for big money and they start to show what happens when you invest in world class talent – you get what you pay for. We’ve tried, with limited success, in the past to spend lemonade money and hope to get champagne. If you want the good shit, you gotta part with some good money.

Arsenal has stupidly high match day income. It’s mental how much money we rake in because of that. Highest priced tickets, stupid money for a beer and having to remortgage your house just to buy some nachos will put a healthy sum into the AFC bank vault. Still, I’m ok with that.

But only on one condition...

YOU INVEST ALL THAT YOU CAN BACK INTO THE SQUAD TO ADDRESS OUR SHORTCOMINGS AND TO HELP US PROGRESS AS A CLUB.

Has the club done this? No.

We’ve repeatedly heard about our obese cash reserves and how financially stable we are. We also hear how we can’t compete with the financially strong clubs. We also hear that we can buy any player other than Messi or Ronaldo.

Confused? You should be. I’ve not felt this much confusion since I saw an Ewok. Cute cuddly little f*ckers but they almost ruined an amazing franchise!

Coming back to the question...Has the move to the club allowed us to compete financially at the top end of the transfer spectrum? No.

Evidence for this...We’ve consistently failed to land a top striker capable of firing us to a top title and most recently IG has come out and told us such.  

The answer to the last question hurts. You and I are reasonable fans. You must be. If you weren’t you wouldn’t still be reading. We both want to see the club investing the money we put into to being invested in the squad. The players do to! Check out Per’s recent quotes. Pretty forthright for such a senior player. We could forgive the club the money they charge if we could see it doing all it could to push and push to plug the holes which we can oh so obviously see. Yet, they don’t.

This brings me nicely onto a point which has unfortunately been the topic of much debate and derision!

THE MODERN FAN!

I’ve seen so many tweets berating the fact we get a lot of tourists. They piss me off too. I mean, what sort of dick takes a selfie stick to a football match? These “tourists” do not help what is quite clearly a muted atmosphere. Highbury was wrongly called the library. It had atmosphere. The size of the pitch and the closeness dictated that. The bowl does not have atmosphere. It has a corporate staleness to it that has shown only glimmers of warmth and a sense of home.

The cause of lack of atmosphere?

The “tourist” fan. They don’t get the heritage, the history, the meaning of what it is to be a Gooner. They carry a “sing when you're winning” mentality which can make the “non-tourist” fan look the same.

You can't just put all of the blame on our lack of atmosphere at the feet of fans who pay good money to come see The Arsenal.

A lot of it is the regulars' fault

There's a sense of impending inevitability around the stadium on match days. We fear the worst before hoping for the best and we get sulky and petulant if the team aren't on top of their game. We've got a bit of a sense of entitlement that contributes to what can sometimes be a toxic atmosphere. We expect high quality football because we pay high quality prices. If we don't get it, we get mad.

That sort of attitude is inevitable if a club treats its fans like customers. These days, I feel more like the club sees us as a service user, rather than an integral part of the infrastructure.

We are the heart of the club. Despite that, EXCLUDE THE TOURIST FAN AT YOUR PERIL.

You can’t have people paying top whack for tickets on a consistent basis, pay players top end wages and be a massive brand without having the “tourist” fan. Do I want a stadium full of photo snapping selfie stick shits? No. Do I want a stadium full of local, heartfelt and passionate supporters? Hell yeah! It’s just not going to happen though. The rough with the smooth, my friend. The rough with the smooth.

So, rather fittingly, this leaves us at another crossroads. We’re at another point in time where we’re not quite there football wise, financially and our fan base feels more divisive than it’s ever been.

Is the bowl the cause of this? Yes and no. It’s exacerbated what is a huge desire for us – wanting even more to become a European elite- but it’s also allowed us to be (to a limited extent) more financially competitive. We wouldn’t be in the same financial position now if we were still at Highbury.

So what’s the point of this noncommittal and balanced blog? It’s pointing the finger back at us. The only thing we can do is sing our lungs out when we are in the stadium. Don’t sit there, grumbling at the cost of a pint or your ticket. It’s the same for every fucker in the stadium. There’s no point voicing that IN the stadium because we’re all in the same boat.

If you want to protest, protest with your feet. Don’t be a dick at the games. Protest before or after – not during. The players aren’t happy with where we’re at. They’re voicing concerns over our activity so it shows they share our views. Make a stand by not renewing or not going. It’s not much, but it’s the only way we can act.

Sit tight, guys. I’m a sure a striker is around the corner! Guys? Hello? GUYS! 

 Tell us what you think! If you agree, or have a different view, please leave a comment in the comments section or why not write a response or your own article on YouWrite?

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Tags: Arsenal, Arsenal FC, Emirates Stadium, Highbury House, Star Wars

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