End of April. A lovely sunny day. The sort of day that makes going to football a pleasure for a supporter. No heavy coats, travel light and watch your team, enjoy the day.
There was an undercurrent to this match though. Many fans who are not happy at the clubs ambition and feel that the club are just treading water and happy to just float along with mediocrity were looking to start a protest for change. This group of supporters decided that a way of doing this peacefully was to print out some banners saying “It’s time for change” which covers a few angles from Board, to manager, to ambition, to spending money, to atmosphere inside stadium, to treating supporters like customers, to the squad, to having no leaders, to our style of play, to the boring football served up, I no doubt could go on.
The protest was arranged to be made inside the stadium to get maximum exposure. Of course protest could affect the team, but three games to go and a season where a rocket up the arse of the manger and players would still not have made a difference to our let’s try to reach 700 passes in the game and try to walk the ball into the net.
The idea was for fans to hold them aloft on twelve and seventy-eight minutes, highlighting the twelve year of no league title. I was unaware that any songs would be attributed to go with this protest, more it would be a silent, but visible protest. I did not hear any anti Arsene/Arsenal songs or chants from where I sat.
During the week the media had been highlighting the protest, however, on the day, the one on twelve minutes was a bit of a damp squib. However, strangely it had a different effect. The crowd that had been largely silent from kick off (and all season if we’re to be fair) started singing “One Arsene Wenger” and again to be fair it was at least half the stadium chanting it.
How hypocritical seeing as at no stage this season had that song been sung out loud and proud by those supporters.
Yet the effect the banners had was to get the home crowd going, this was followed by a pretty decent atmosphere for fifteen minutes or so as the crowd responded and got behind the team. Just what Arsene wanted and called for. Yet even with the crowd no vocally backing the team it had absolutely no effect as the team continued to pass, pass, pass, pass and lose possession, ending the half against a team in the bottom three with zero shots on target.
As the first half wore on, the very same people around me that were belting out “One Arsene Wenger” were then groaning at the football being served up in front of them. The half time whistle went and you could clearly hear boos and this was also from some around me that were singing his name during when the banners went up. I lost it a bit, turned round and shouted at them, you sing his name then boo you his team, have you no fucking idea, the hypocrisy!
The game itself was a steaming pile of crap. Norwich were shocking as you would expect from a team in the bottom three, yet even they can sit back, defend and say to Arsenal you can play in that middle third of the pitch all day for all we care, make 700 passes, because we know you’ll end up not shooting and giving us the ball back eventually.
Arsene made early substitutes yesterday for a change, maybe the Sat Nav GPS system wasn’t working and he had to think for himself. Arsene more often than normal got out of his seat and walked to the touch line. When Danny Welbeck came on for Iwobi once again like Campbell v Swansea you could hear the boos ring out, more for not bringing off Giroud I would imagine, but there were boos regardless. Once again I got up, turned round and shouted, “so now you’re booing the decisions of the man that you sung his name out with pride.
Yet on this occasion Arsene did have the last laugh as Danny scored the winner, from a Giroud knock-down. Mind you Giroud was a disgrace for the rest of the match.
Then on seventy-eight minutes the banners (albeit fewer) than on twelve minutes were raised again and the “One Arsene Wenger” song was again sung out loudly and for some with so much pride (as if they were singing the national anthem), but this also was a lot less louder the one in first half. During the second half of poor football you could hear the groans, which were also coming from the same fans that belted out his name again.
Fifteen minutes before the end crowds of people started leaving, this added to the 10/15 thousand already empty seats made for grim viewing and yet they supporters still kept leaving, again some being the very same people singing his name with pride. At the final whistle, I stayed, I always do, the stadium was a third full.
I will be interested to see how the crowd react in the final home game against Aston Villa when the team do a lap of appreciation. How will that go down? I am all for laps of appreciation when I know your team have given their all over the season, yet this season? For me it’s been a poorest under Arsene by a mile. There was no FOCUS, no SOLIDARITY and no MENTAL STRENGTH.
In my opinion I would say Hector, Nacho, Lauren, Alexis, Cech, Cazorla when he played have been our best performers. I’d give a shout out to Iwobi and Campbell who did all they could, the former for coming in and giving his all and playing some neat football and the latter when picked did well for a young lad coming in under the circumstances. It’s been an awful season and I for one will be glad to see it end and look forward to the Euro’s.
I’ll end on the “time for a change” note. I could be happy with a situation where the change could be Arsene changes. A summer where he goes and gets the players we so obviously need, the leaders we need. Let me see him change his tactics and formation to suit our personal available in any given match due to injuries, suspensions and also play to our opponents strengths. Sometimes you have to play a certain was to get what you want.
Stop the endless passing game that goes nowhere. It only works when you have Tomas, Jack and Santi, players who can drive you forward and pick that amazing pass out like Ozil. It doesn’t work when they are all out with long-term injuries. It also works when you have strikers that can finish.
It does not work when you have Elney, Coquelin and Ramsey who can pass all day long, across the pitch, backwards and sideward’s, but once they reach the twenty-yard line they do not posses the creative passing game.
Do this, start competing to win the title, not top four, Start competing to win the Champions League, not reach the last sixteen and you might find that the supporters looking for change might get behind Arsene again. Remember we’re football supporters, who can change with whatever way the wind blows.