Sunday 25 September 2016

Football: The Rise Of The Celebrity Fan

I toyed with nicely asking if one of my favourite Arsenal bloggers will write this article as I didn’t think I have the authentic history of living my whole life in the UK to do this article the justice I thought it deserves.

I also wrote the headline last week but abandoned it, as I wasn’t sure I was able to come up with something to interest many. Anyway on this day of joy for Arsenal fans following that remarkable thrashing of Chelsea yesterday, I have decided to make a decent fist of the subject today.

I believe all historical sources are in agreement that football started out as a working class sports. Played and watched mostly by working class people and has now become a middle class pursuit both as the cost of participating in football has increased and the lot of the populace has improved.  Although a case can be made that the middle classes are now the new improved working class.  :)

As a working class sport, I doubt football attracted a lot of celebrity attention in its early days. The popular people within football were most likely the players themselves and their managers and the odd oddball fan. I want to hazard a guess that no fan had a following and considering the fact that we were probably less complicated as humans back then, nobody wanted a following.

So how should we define celebrity culture? In preparing for this article, I have skim read a few articles from different sources. I find this one particularly helpful on defining Celebrity Culture  the article singles out the start of celebrity culture to the mid 1920s. I would imagine that up to a certain point in our collective lives; TV & Movie stars were the only genuine celebrities as that article outlined. We probably then added politicians, super talented football stars like Pele, George Best, Maradona etc. and maybe super talented Journalists. Until more recently that is, when anybody can be a celebrity including those whose only talent is getting their bits out.

So when did the culture of Celebrity fans enter football?  I think the 1st modern day British Prime Minister to identify himself with a football club is John Major who had a soft spot for Chelsea FC. I find it interesting that his tenure as Prime Minister coincided with the start of the modern day Premier League. In my opinion, the significant riches that the Premier League has attracted to football have also resulted in the rise of the celebrity football fan. This is not to say that MPs and Councillors long before John Major entered politics didn’t identify themselves with football clubs in their constituencies and wards.

I have done a Google search of celebrities who have identified themselves with Arsenal FC as this is my primary focus as an Arsenal fan and I came across this 

The list of prominent (celebrity) Arsenal supporters in that link is quite impressive and has calmed me down a bit as I now realise that although Piers Morgan might be the most vocal popular (something of a) celebrity Arsenal fan, he is by no means in my 25 man squad if you were to choose one from a list of Arsenal celebrity fans. You might wish to come up with your own squad.  :)

Is Celebrity culture bad? Are celebrity fans a bad thing? Not at all. We live in a world where celebrity culture can be a good thing. Lots of positive humanitarian projects have been delivered and are ongoing because of the support rendered by celebrities.

The rise of social media has also helped. I recollect the young Afghanistan boy who caught Lionel Messi’s attention recently. It might have taken months for Messi to see the initial picture and maybe we would never have heard about Messi’s humane gesture for many years thereafter. But in the space of a week, the picture of the boy emerged, caught Messi’s eyes, he responded and said young boy was very pleased.

I think celebrity fans are largely good for football. Their presence gives many fans the opportunity to interact with people whose lifestyle and maybe career we can only dream about. And in some cases they bring a smile to our face or give us the occasional bragging right for a photo opportunity or even a few quid on eBay for the odd memorabilia.

However like the proverbial saying, “too much of everything is bad”. When football then becomes all about celebrity fans, I think it leaves a distaste in the mouth. Many fans want to be celebrities amongst their fellow fans on the basis of their sometimes incoherent and often inconsistent opinion. Some want to become shadow directors of the club, dictating managerial decisions and shaping club strategy.

This shouldn’t be the case. Firstly, I think there will be chaos in the world if the sun ever decided to take over the job of the moon and vice versa. So I commend that fans be first of all fans. Let us go in a game determined to cheer the selected 11 to the rafters irrespective of our personal opinion. No matter how knowledgeable we are as fans, it is impossible to have the information that the club management possesses.

Lets cheer for 90 minutes even when it is a horror show. We are not the lead actors in this 90 - minute movie, we are extras. We must start to believe that the support we give can increase the level of adrenaline in the veins of our players and this can translate into improved performance on the pitch.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Four – Midable At The City Ground

 What a great run out for our boys at Nottingham Forest to crown 3 away games across 3 competitions without a loss.

The manager’s selection was something of a pleasant surprise to me. I was expecting David Ospina in goal as I had totally forgotten Emiliano Martinez. As it turned out he was relatively untroubled in goal and had Matt Macey as a back up. I remember Matt was on the bench during our 3 all draw with Liverpool at Anfield in January. The presence of these 4 goalkeepers in the Arsenal team further underlines the depth of the squad.

I was delighted to see Ainsley Maitland - Niles at right back. Many have worried about a deputy for Hector Bellerin what with the indifferent form and maybe indifferent attitude of Mathieu Debuchy. A player who has been unfortunate to lose his place in the line up to a vile & dirty player in Marko Arnautovic.

Jeff Reine - Adelaide, Chuba Akpom & Rob Holding are very popular young players amongst the fan base and they all had starts and a very good game. I was delighted to see Captain Kieran Gibbs lead the team out. Kieran deserves a lot of praise for his positive attitude at lack of starts, as the manager has rightly preferred Nacho Monreal in both League competitions. Commendably, every time he has been called upon, Kieran has never disappointed. His goal against the Spuds to force a draw at The Emirates last season will remain forever in my memory.

I was happy to see Gabriel start following his recovery from a freak injury at the last game of pre season. There were memorable starts for Granit Xhaka & Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Both of them in the goals. Xhaka’s goal deserves all the superlatives you can find in the dictionary and Oxlade – Chamberlain’s goal was a lovely topping on a delicious ice cream.

The 4 nil result reflected the gulf in class at the end of the day but it was by no means an easy match. Forest had a few very close efforts on goal and should have scored before Xhaka stepped up with his wonderful wand of a left leg. Bendtner had an effort curved wide. I have seen him score that type of effort many times for the Arsenal.

Pajtim Kasami should have scored when Gabriel and Holding fluffed their lines. I fear that mix up happens too often with Arsenal or maybe I am wrong and it is inevitable that such errors / lack of concentration will happen in any game of football. 

Xhaka’s goal settled nerves and deflated both the home crowd and their boys and was just deserts as they had mouthed off about our lack of Champions League glory.  I always worry when Arsenal don’t score in the first 20 minutes of a match. I think we always try to play positive football and drive towards goal with a belief that we can always score. However once we don’t score in the first 20 minutes, it emboldens the opponents and it can sometimes be something of a heads down moment for our boys and then you start to see errors either due to nerves or anxiety that we are yet to score.

The talent of Reine - Adelaide shone throughout the match but he might need to tone down the showboating. Elneny looked a bit different. He appears to be a bit slower and less imposing than the player we saw last season. Xhaka was in full control of the midfield, starting the attacks, spraying passes and engaging in tackles.

Perez was a busy bee throughout the 90 minutes and got two goals. He could and should have had a hat trick but he had a good shot saved by the keeper and was unselfish in trying to tee up Chuba Akpom with what should have been another effort on goal. This is both good and somewhat negative. Good in the sense that at 3 nil, there was no way back for Forest, so he might as well spread the joy by helping his fellow forward score a goal. Slightly negative that he MIGHT not have the killer, selfish & greedy instinct that strikers should have.

We fluffed some of our lines in attack. It would appear some of the forward players still need time to gel, to instinctively understand each other. All of these, I believe will come as the season progresses and players are able to get game time under their belt.

I noticed a few heavy challenges from the Forest players especially Lansbury. He appeared to be trying too hard. It makes you wonder if there is a back-story to his crunching tackles on the night. In my opinion, these sort of tackles are the cause of Arsenal’s injury records and I believe Referees should be severely clamping down on such.  

Towards the end of the match, the Manager brought on Willock, Zelalem and Bielik and it gladdens my heart to see the next generation, the future of the club.  I can’t wait for these young players to break into the first team.

So we got Reading in the next round. Courtesy of the club’s website, I watched the highlights of our last league cup match with them this morning. I am not hoping for anything as ‘exciting’ as that match. I am looking forward to a similar line up at The Emirates and I am confident that whatever line up the manager decides, the boys will give a very good account of themselves, the club and their manager.  It is a mug’s game trying to second-guess a very successful manager.

Before then, we’ve got the Chavs this Saturday. I hope we tonk them.

Come On Arsenal    

Thursday 15 September 2016

From Paris With Draw

I enjoy going away with Arsenal especially visiting iconic stadiums, meeting fellow Arsenal fans, sharing football opinions, dissecting the match and expressing our hopes and aspirations for the next match and the club.

I grabbed the opportunity to watch the PSG v Arsenal match with both hands. Fortunately I still had a few days holiday left at work. I was initially going to drive but decided against this, as I didn’t want to drive back to England with all the issues around Calais. So it was a short flight across the channel and a crawl during rush hour to the Parc Des Princes.

Security was somewhat tight. Not as tight as I expected it to be. Although the Police looked like they were expecting fan clashes. I wonder why.

Arsenal fans were in fine voice as usual. “WE ALL HATE TOTTENHAM” “WE WON THE LEAGUE AT SHITE HART LANE” and we are the only team to go “49 49 UNDEFEATED PLAYING FOOTBALL THE ARSENAL WAY” & of course “WE HAVE OZIL” we sang to our hearts content   :) 

I was very wary of this fixture when he draws were made. Yes it is a lot better than been drawn with either Barcelona or Bayern but PSG are a very good side and are in the next level down from Barcelona, Bayern and both Madrid clubs.

As match day neared and looking at PSG’s injury list and shaky start in Ligue 1, I thought we might have a chance against them. Although in discussing with a few Arsenal fans before the match, we were ready to shake hands on a draw. In fact some went to the extent of saying they won’t mind the result as long as the boys gave a decent account of themselves which rhymed somewhat with my belief that if we wanted to be taken serious as a team, we should never be at the end of a drubbing by any side.

I don’t share in the pre match 'gumpf' surrounding the manager’s selection. Ospina is a top quality goalkeeper for me. In my observation, there is no difference in our performance if Ospina or Cech is in goal. From memory, the results on the pitch do not show any difference as well. Undoubtedly, Cech has a reach advantage but Ospina is as good a goalkeeper as Cech. I think pundits or fans who query the manager’s selection of Ospina in any match are disrespectful of the Manager’s judgment, Ospina’s abilities and are clearly ignorant as they have no way of knowing what the manager sees in training which also applies to criticism of the manager playing Alexis as a striker.

In 4 matches, yes Alexis has a striker has worked once. I get that. BUT THE MANAGER SEES THEM IN TRAINING DAILY. He knows what he has. He perhaps understands PSG, and our other opponents and football better than any of us, better than Gary Neville, Piers Morgan, any football pundit and any other disdainful type on social media. So please give him a break on his selection.

 The match itself got off to the worst possible start as we conceded in 44 seconds. Even the Arsenal Twitter handler appeared upset with his “44 seconds” tweet :) 

Nervousness, lack of concentration whatever it was. We shouldn’t be conceding like that in any match. There was no pressure applied to Aurier before he crossed the ball, there was no attempt to put off Cavani when he jumped to head the ball and I would have thought that an instinctive keeper had a chance of parrying the Cavani header because it was always going to go towards the direction where he scored.

We had a few players who didn’t play well, All the players named Alex were sub par. Oxlade - Chamberlain didn’t get many chances to take on opponents, both him and Iwobi didn’t handle their defensive duties well leaving Hector & Monreal exposed. Iwobi was gassing at some point in both halves. As usual Sanchez attempted too many unsuccessful take - ons when the simple pass was on. He truly does have a Messi complex. Ozil was lukewarm and I was very upset when he appeared to be gesturing that his colleagues weren’t doing enough. There were too many touches going astray in the final 3rd, as it appears the boys are yet to gel this season. 

When I looked at the BBC Twitter timeline during half time, it appears PSG were targeting the right side of Arsenal defence. I think this was principally because of Mustafi (new in the team and definitely the weaker of the two central defenders) and possibly the fact that Bellerin wasn’t getting any support from the player in front of him.

As most people have said, we played better in the 2nd half. We pressed better and got a goal. Yes we could have won it with the Iwobi miss but many who complain fail to recognize what a damn good side those PSG players are. And man for man, technically better than Arsenal players. This is an expensively assembled squad; PSG starting 11 cost in excess of £240m and were able to bring on a c£42m perpetual bench warmer in the 2nd half while the Arsenal squad was approximately £160m.

PSG are definitely a team very much the victim of their own football philosophy of what I can interpret as always wanting to play beautiful football.  Many times, they got the ball in favorable position and instead of driving forward, they took one more touch, dribbled sideways to show their technical superiority over the Arsenal players and they capped this with some absolute piss poor conversion rates from scoring opportunities.

Many have made fun and ridiculed Cavani for his misses on the night. Please let me add Di Maria to that List of Dishonourables. I’m not surprised that he couldn’t fit in at United and was deemed surplus to requirement by Real Madrid. He was equally as culpable as Cavani for PSG scoring only one goal.

It definitely was a happy Arsenal camp after the match. I had great view of the pitch; it was the closest I had been to the pitch in all the away matches I have been to. Their fans are passionate but where they when their club was PAUVRES  :)

I am happy to have ticked that visit of my list. Next stop – Nottingham Forest City Ground. I can’t wait to see the future first teamers and other squad players next week. Hopefully we will arrive in Nottingham after a positive result from Hull.

Come on Arsenal