Well, it’s finally happened. We’ve finally run out of things to talk about.
Despite losing two games in the space of five days, nobody wants to talk about Arsenal. You’d think that the only thing fans would want to discuss is how the team can arrest this dip in form, but that time has passed. Nobody cares about why Arsenal lose any more, we all only care about what happens after the loss.
It’s hard to blame fans for feeling like this. There are only so many times that one can have the same conversation with someone else. How often have we lamented the lack of leadership in the team? The tactical inflexibility? The squandering of chances? The injuries? And so on, etc, etc. When you’ve argued over everything that there is to argue about, what else is there to be said?
There are only so many ways a point can be made without it becoming stale and repetitive. It can be argued that the difference between a good commentator and a bad one is that a good one can point out something that a bad one can’t.
But what can the good commentators talk about when everything has been pointed out? Arsenal, as a footballing entity, have become almost redundant to those looking for content to talk about, simply because nobody is interested in reading or hearing it. However, the Arsenal community is another matter altogether.
It’s one thing when bloggers such as myself are left to comment on how the likes of fan channels such as ArsenalFan TV are influencing the media, as it’s usually done from the outside of the industry, looking in. We don’t have the ability to talk to a player or a manager to try to gain a unique insight of viewpoint of the game.
But now, it’s not just the amateurs who have been left with nothing to say. Henry Winter, arguably the most senior football journalist in the country, is writing columns on fan channels. Gary Neville, arguably the most senior TV football analyst in the country, is talking about fan channels after games. It’s getting to the stage where we are less concerned about what is being said, and more concerned about who is saying it.
Instead of wanting to see what happened during a game, we’re becoming more intrigued by the prospect of seeing the reaction of others to what just happened. It started with the ‘X reacts to’ genre of videos on YouTube where some random person sits down in front of a camera and watches a clip, then posts their reaction online. It became so successful that The Fine Bros, a YouTube content creator with over 5 million subscribers, actually tried to copyright the entire genre, claiming they had made it so popular in the first place.
Add in a football fan’s general interest in seeing their rivals be humiliated in the most heart-crushingly way possible, and you have an almost limitless source of content. Watching a video of a Tottenham fan sitting in front of a TV screen that is showing the 5-1 defeat at Newcastle, is the Arsenal fan’s equivalent of a Ferraro Rocher chocolate. You know it’s bad for you, but one more won’t hurt.
ArsenalFan TV, or any fan channel for that matter, isn’t a bad concept at all. In a world where Jamie Redknapp is being paid millions of pounds to talk about football on live TV, the idea that the average fan can’t do a better job is not that far-fetched. Considering that these fans watch the same team, week in and week out, from a far better vantage point that a TV camera gives the fan at home, it’s only natural that they will pick up on things that the rest of us won’t.
But these fans aren’t being asked to give an opinion on the game, and that is where the problem lies. No-one cares about whether Claude thinks zonal marking is a good idea, or if Ty reckons that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is better through the middle than out wide, or if DT is of the opinion that Arsenal should starting playing three at the back.
Nobody watches ArsenalFan TV for the football. Everyone watches it for the reactions. No, I’m not going to criticise what they say or do, God knows I’ve said some stupid sh*t immediately after an Arsenal loss, primarily because emotions are running high and I haven’t had time to calm down and compose myself.
But now that I’m on the radio every Sunday, I’ve had to learn how to keep calm. If I want to be taken seriously, I can’t just go on some illogical rant just because I care about a topic. But once you keep getting invited to talk in front of a live microphone, or a live camera, and you know that people are tuning in just to see or hear YOU, you soon forget about being cautious and you just be yourself.
Let me assure you, that is an extremely intoxicating feeling, and I’m only a producer of a local radio show who gets 15 minutes of airtime a week if I’m lucky. DT has almost 50,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel alone, and his own videos are getting in excess of 100,000 views, never mind the ones he appears on for ArsenalFan TV. All he has to do to talk to hundreds of thousands of people, is turn on his camera.
We can all scoff at how ludicrous some people come across whilst their ranting and raving after a game, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t care how they are perceived, because they know we’re only watching that video because they’re in it. They have been given a platform that the common fan has begged for since Sky turned their game into a TV programme, and they are using it to vent their frustrations about everything they see.
As much as the fan channels are exploiting the travelling fans for clicks and hits online, those same fans are now famous. They used to be infamous, but now that Arsenal have sank into the same cycle of mediocre failures followed by just as mediocre successes, they are all that is left to talk about. And because all you need to make your own video is a decent camera phone, there will be hundreds, if not thousands of people wanting to be the next DT or Claude, sitting in the Emirates making a video, with the camera pointed away from the game.
Until Arsenal changes their content, the fans won’t change theirs. And at the moment, it’s hard to blame them.