In the face of adversity, do you favour fight or flight?
I was on a management course yesterday, and one of the sessions focused on the best way to handle conflict, featuring this very question.
When the going gets tough, do you take the direct approach, or do you take a step back?
It got me thinking about the current conflict between Arsenal the club, and Arsenal the fan base. It’s a sad situation we find ourselves in where we have to draw a line in the sand between those two very crucial components of a successful football club, but that’s the situation we find ourselves in today.
I would usually put myself firmly in the fight camp when I’m wound up, and yet with the Arsenal today, it just feels futile. I feel distant – disconnected even – from something which is a huge part of my life, something which takes over my weekends, and something which has the power to make or break my mood at any given moment.
As Britney Spears once mimed, “I’m addicted to you, don’t you know that you’re toxic?”
Arsenal Football Club is causing me too much pain right now, and for the first time in my life, I’m dealing with it by adopting a ‘flight’ mentality.
The overall cause of the conflict is fairly clear to us all: the failure of the united club to meet its expectations and targets for whatever reason. However, the subtleties that have led to that overall outcome is the subject of much debate, if you can even call the current level of vitriol ‘debate’ with any credibility.
The day-to-day club has no choice but to continue operating, with three crucial games left and Champions League football still yet to be secured. However, the fan base has plenty of time, opportunity, and motivation to raise the kinds of questions that don’t have many answers or indeed ones that you could put your house on making a difference.
Buy more players? Let the squad gel? Sack the manager? Sack the board? Score more goals? Concede fewer goals?
As Stephen wrote so eloquently last night, we’re in a world where we’re baying for change for change’s sake without knowing the right answer. All we know is that what we’ve got at the moment isn’t it.
It’s a precarious position.
As the acrimony between two previously harmonious parties grows out of all proportion, fans are now at a point where they want to vote one way or another. But which way?
So far, the route chosen has been to fight, with banners, vocal chants, abuse and Twitter rage.
But the problem with fight, particularly if the other party isn’t fully in control of what you’re asking for, is that it causes them to retreat.
Every time Arsene Wenger pops his head up over the parapet, a volley of abuse is directed his way. But the ineffectiveness of that particular fight so far means that the quarrel is now extended to the players, the stewards, and pretty much anyone connected with the club.
So in return, the club retreats within itself, building up the defences and turning within for strength and solidarity – the very role that fans usually perform for a happy club.
In this environment, there’s very little for the fans to push up against – each time they try, the club just retreats a little further.
Have you ever tried to have an argument with someone who responds by walking away or throwing out an inviting comment such as “I can’t deal with you when you’re like this”?
I challenge you not to be even more hacked off in such circumstances. The shutters come down, as they withdraw within.
All that leads to is fans turning on one another instead.
Fight, fight and more fight.
The walls within
Arsene Wenger’s dislike of Jose Mourinho is well known.
There’s a certain irony that the Frenchman has succeeded in creating the very culture of “us” and “them” which served the Sacked One so well in his first spell at Chelsea.
The only difference, this time, is that the “us” and “them” are two groups who should be on the same side, facing the world together.
United we stand, divided we fall. And we’ve been falling for too long now.
Something’s got to give, or someone’s going to get hurt.
We already have.