Would Bergkamp or Henry have survived the “Twitter era”

Yesterday I wrote about “The mystifying criticism of Matteo Guendouzi”.

The jist of the article was simple.

19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi ran the game against Newcastle. No play had more touches, no player played more passes, and only Aaron Ramsey had a great pass accuracy. Despite this, and Arsenal winning 2-0, some fans went on Twitter to criticise him immediately after the final whistle.

Two responses to the Guendouzi blog got me thinking.

It is frustrating about how kick we get on the back of youngsters who are still making their way in the world. They are given no time to develop, to establish themselves in the first team. People, and mainly Arsenal fans, expect every teenager to already be as good as Cesc Fabregas. It is a high bar.

I can not think of any teenage midfielder to have been good as Cesc Fabregas when he first came through. And there will probably never be one. If we are using his ability as the bar to what is good enough, we are setting unrealistic expectations of these young lads coming through.

One of the reasons why fans get on these young lads backs quickly is Twitter.

Again, absolutely spot on.

Twitter has changed the way fans view game. It has provided a platform of instant response, which in turn leads to an increase in expectation.

Every poor performance is Tweeted about thousands of times. Fans on the players backs the second the final whistle has blown.

Twitter, social media and 24 rolling news has put us in a “fast food era”. Everything has to be immediate, now, perfect. There is no room to develop, no room to progress, no time for someone to have a poor game.

It makes me wonder whether Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry would have survived the Twitter era.

Bergkamp joined Arsenal in 1995 on the back of a poor campaign with Inter Milan for a club record £7.5million. Inter Milan shipped him out, happy to get rid. Nearly 25-years-later, people would be moaning on Twitter that we had spent a club record on another sides reject. A flop.

The media were on Bergkamp’s back from the day he signed, with Alan Sugar quoted as saying “If Bergkamp thinks he’s gonna set the world alight he can forget it.”

The start of his Arsenal career would have gotten even more people on his back in the current era, as he failed to score in his 1st 6 games of the club.

At this point fans would have been all over social media calling him an expensive flop. Media outlets would be running stories of “the worst signing in the history of the game” and Sky would have spent an hour discussing his poor acquisition on the Sunday Supplement,

Bergkamp went on to become an Arsenal legend and is one of the greatest players to grace the English game.

Then we have Thierry Henry.

Like Bergkamp, Henry arrived from Italy after a poor season. This time for Juventus.

He only spent a year at Juventus, who dumped him after just 3 goals in his 19 appearances. Pace to burn, he struggled to defensively disciplined teams in Serie A.

He joined Arsenal for a club record fee (like Bergkamp).

If we bring his transfer into the modern era, fans would have been on Twitter moaning that we had spent a club record fee on an ineffectual winger. At 22-years-old, he certainly was not a youngster. What a waste of money, fans would have said.

And imagine the outrage when it transpired that Arsene Wenger was planning to use this average winger as a striker, as a replacement for Nicolas Anelka – the most exciting teenage striker on the planet.

And mirroring Bergkamp, he struggled in his opening games.

In 1999 blogging was a new thing. The internet was a new concept. But even back then there were Arsenal blogs. And I recall one slating Henry and Wenger. Bemoaning the fact that Arsenal had gone big on a failed winger and were not playing him upfront.

Had this happened in 2019 rather than 1999, this complaining would have been many times louder, many times more viscous. You would have had people offering to drive him back to France.

Henry’s first 8 games went by with 2 yellow cards and no goals. He finally broke his drought against Southampton – also the side that Bergkamp scored his first goal against.

Imagine in the current era, Arsenal spending a club record fee on a winger who had flopped in Italy, converting him to a striker and then watching him struggle to score in his first 8 games. There would be uproar.

Henry went on to become Arsenal’s record goal scorer and one of the greatest players the world has seen.

Both Bergkamp and Henry arrived at Arsenal having flopped in Italy. Both for club record fees. Both endured tough starts to their Arsenal career. I doubt either of them would have been given the chance to shine, to become the legends they are, if they were signed now.

Fans would have been on their back before they had even kicked a ball.


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