Of the 94 quadrillion verdicts, opinions and hot takes that were given in the aftermath of the match against West Ham, only one thing was relevant to how we stood in the league table afterwards; we lost.
It didn’t matter if we played good or bad, it didn’t matter if we thought Olivier Giroud was rubbish or not, it didn’t matter if we thought Petr Cech had a bad game or not, we lost. The Premier League doesn’t give bonus points for being the better side or playing the more attractive football, we lost, so we got no points.
Now, the above paragraphs aren’t a dismissal of any criticism of how we played, but just imagine the analysis of that game if instead of conceding two goals in the manner that we conceded, we scored two identical goals and won the game 2-0. Would there have been jubilation because we won, or skepticism of the quality of the performance because of the poor quality of the goals scored? The answer to that question is of course; there would have been both.
As much as we can ask those who called for radical action on Sunday to have a little patience and see if this is may be just a one-off, the fact is that no matter what the outcome was, some people were going to over-react and draw far-reaching conclusions from just 90 minutes of football.
In today’s society, it’s hard to fault someone for wanting immediate results when the world around them is trying its best to fill every minute of their day with something ‘important‘. There’s now so much to do, any time that is wasted by an action that isn’t of the person’s own doing is labelled as ‘unacceptable‘.
Even the most minor of inconveniences are now so much of a pain, we immediately look for ways to avoid them in order to ‘save‘ time. We often wonder out loud why newspapers and media companies are failing to make money, yet at the same time we bemoan their attempts to monetise their articles because we don’t want to spend more than five seconds watching an advert.
It’s behaviour like this that shapes how someone watches their football team. If they’re so used to not waiting for anything else in their life, why should football be any different? In a world full of instant results, fans are becoming more and more restless at their football club not following suit. The problem with this behaviour doesn’t lie with the fan, but with football itself.
We have more and more people now demanding ‘success‘ from Arsenal instead of hoping for it, but what exactly is ‘success‘ nowadays? Spending a decade trying to remain competitive and then winning the FA Cup twice in a row would be many clubs definition of success, but what about for Arsenal? When the Premier League and the Champions League are your two main targets every season, and you haven’t won the former in 11 years and you’ve never won the latter, how much ‘success’ have you actually had?
So after a summer of optimism culminating in signing a top goalkeeper from a rival team, you couldn’t blame any Arsenal fan who walked into the Emirates for thinking ‘This will be our year!‘. And then we lose. Watching Arsenal lose is always heartbreaking, but to also have that bubble of optimism, self-built or not, being burst in such a fashion, hurts.
But it’s not just the fact that Arsenal lost that hurts nowadays, it’s the feeling that our time is being wasted that is adding to the frustration being vented. Any event that gets in the way of Arsenal winning a major trophy is scorned at, and any possible remedy is lauded as essential. There is no in-between anymore.
That’s why the talk of signing Karim Benzema has been so fervent over the summer, not because we think he’s a great player, but some fans are just tired of waiting for Arsenal to win the league. To them, Benzema is the footballing equivalent of the ‘Skip Ad‘ button in the bottom-right hand corner of YouTube videos, and by buying him, the wait will end.
It’s not just Arsenal fans who are becoming more impatient, it’s happening everywhere. Manchester United fans wanted rid of Angel di Maria after one season, even though it’s common knowledge that it takes most foreign players a year to acclimatise themselves to English football and living in Britain. Chelsea fans want rid of Juan Cuadrado after six months, Man City fans want rid of Manuel Pellegrini even though he won the league 18 months ago, and so on.
There’s no point asking fans to be patient any more, because the world has moved on past that. If Arsenal win at Crystal Palace, fans are going to say that it’s a sign that Arsenal are back on track, and if Arsenal don’t win, then those same fans will say it’s a devastating blow to our title chances.
So the question needs to be asked; how much value should we put in the opinions of someone who refuses to see the long-term picture because they’re too caught up in the moment? It is a cruel and ironic fate that the more a fan demands to see action taken at their club, purely because they care so much about it, the less they should be listened to.