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There is a supporter protest planned at Ashburton Grove tomorrow. In my eyes it’s futile but at least shows how close to boiling point everyone’s ire has become, mainly because of a crisis in confidence.
I was too young to be really aware of the outrage when the bond scheme was announced 20-odd years ago. But as far as I can recall that was the last time Gooners became so vexed with the club that they took to the streets. Generally speaking, while we are as passionate about our team as the next supporter we are pretty non-committal when it comes to considering overthrowing things.
By the looks of it, Saturday’s ‘black scarf’ demo is only going to attract a couple of hundred people which means it is likely to just be ignored by the club. Most outsiders will probably agree with that response and wonder why on earth people are getting so angry. I’ve written before about whether our ‘whinging’ is justified – and concluded that it was, to an extent – but it is the rise in ticket prices that appears to have tipped people over the edge.
I haven’t seen hard data about how season ticket prices have increased in the past few years but I think this 6.5 per cent rise follows a period of static costs. Times are hard but to my eyes prices that were already too expensive just became a little bit more expensive so I don’t think news of the increase is the trigger for the heightened sense of discontent.
Instead, I’d say it is part of a growing feeling that supporters and the club aren’t fighting on the same side.
The comments from Wenger a few weeks ago, particularly about how people who have never worked in football are essentially not worth listening to and how he would settle for 20 years of coming second, have eaten away at me ever since and, I suspect, most other supporters. To me his words now mean, probably unfairly, ‘I don’t care what fans think’ and ‘I don’t care if we never win a trophy again’.
There is no point getting too precious and I happily admit to thinking supporters often have an overblown sense of importance; we are as much spectators seeking entertainment as we are living, breathing embodiments of our club. But still - to whatever extent - we are living, breathing embodiments of our club and want it to behave like that. We want to win things so we want the club to want to win things. We want the club to attract the best players it can so we want the club to want to attract the best players it can.
At the minute, we’re going through an identity crisis brought on by a profound lack of confidence. Does this Arsenal want the same things as us? What does it stand for? Can it ever achieve it? The solution is winning something. Just like players dealing with a new manager who only trust his methods when they lead to victories, we need silverware to prove to ourselves that we are doing things properly.
The man who needs to help us out of these ‘gloomy’ times while that wait goes on is the manager. We’ve gone from worshipping Wenger, to investing a massive amount of trust in him to finally becoming just plain bored of being promised jam tomorrow. He needs to find the words and actions that restore the faith. Unfortunately I doubt he can do it and, having been let down by players he was convinced would produce the goods, Wenger must be just as sceptical. Expect the discontent to grow.