The toxic mix of resentment among Arsenal fans
OPINION: Being told 'you don't know how lucky you are' isn't washing with fans shelling out on one of the league's most expensive matchday tickets
23 March, 2017 — By Richard Osley
YOU don’t know how lucky you are, Arsenal fans, is now a pretty standard response from supporters of other clubs when the never-ending saga of Arsene Wenger’s future comes up (ie every weekend). We’d love to be in the Champions League every year, they drone on, most clubs don’t get that.
Then usually follows the unfurling of the north London stereotype, the expectant, entitled, middle-class Arsenal fan who has lost their grasp on reality after forcing themselves to watch too many Romanian films with subtitles, gorging on £5 loaves of sourdough and conspicuously reading long and worthy Observer pieces in gastropubs every Sunday, usually about cleaners on strike in Bogota or the declining popularity of pineapples in Norway.
Yes, yes, it’s grim up north London.
There’s truth in the parody about who watches Arsenal; a fresh wave of fairly irritating nouveau fans climbed aboard just about the time Wenger arrived at Arsenal, and Sky TV was simultaneously being credited with making football more accessible, somehow by charging for it.
It was good that football grounds became more open to women, children, families and just about everybody who had come to assume (wrongly) that they were reserved for thugs. But these newbies had blissfully bypassed the dopiness of the Bruce Rioch days and, for all his success, the 1-0 culture instilled by George Graham.
When Don Howe died a couple of years ago, the name didn’t even register with them.
These latecomers latched onto cosmopolitan, French Arsenal without really appreciating they are a team which has always had dry periods. Not since the 1930s have they retained the title, and they waited 18 years for one after their first double. The reality of these boom and slump cycles at Arsenal is now beginning to sink in.
The disappointment among these cashmere scarfers does not tell the whole story, though.
When the new stadium was built, the old Clock End gooners, many in low-paid jobs, found themselves squeezed out, or only able to afford to go to a handful of matches. If you worked extra shifts packing supermarkets and saved for a £60 ticket to watch Arsenal play Watford, how the team perform becomes more important.
If it looks like they aren’t trying, or the manager has lost his grip on tactics, resentment builds. Nobody feels like being told they don’t know how lucky they are to be an Arsenal fan if they’ve just bought one of the league’s most expensive tickets and got a groundhog defeat in return.
It’s a toxic mix: the middle-class 1990s add-on fans who regret choosing Arsenal as “their team” and the old timers who feel they are getting little change out of their precious disposable income. No wonder the pressure is on Wenger.