The previous decade has seen plenty of players turned into scapegoats.
Whether it’s reasonable or not, fans need to blame someone, or something, whenever the team doesn’t win. It’s a natural venting of frustration and anger, but the more a single player is blamed, the more likely it is that they become the first and easiest target, even when they don’t necessarily deserve it.
Unfortunately, Arsenal haven’t been very successful in the last decade, and the list of scapegoats in the squad has grown to be extensive.
The title of “biggest scapegoat” is a dubious honour but it’s undeniable that certain players get more flack than others.
Of the modern era, two names immediately spring to mind: Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil.
When it comes to post-match appraisals, you’ll often find those two slammed for not performing, both for entirely different reasons.
For Ramsey, it’s always an issue with his discipline and his love for tricks and flicks. If Arsenal lose a game, it’s because he didn’t protect the midfield well enough. He’s always caught high up the pitch and never helps out in defence. More than that, he’s needlessly wasteful with the ball, always trying a flick or hanging onto it for too long.
All of Arsenal’s midfield issues are invariably attributed to him. Sometimes, it’s deserved. His performance in the 4-0 defeat at Anfield was a mockery of the central midfield role.
Yet, most of the time, it’s misplaced. It’s at the point now where even his stronger, more disciplined performances are ignored because the perception that he’s tactically brain dead has stuck.
As for Ozil, well, where do you even start?
Not since Dimitar Berbatov has a player had his body language analysed by an army of armchair psychologists as much.
He is a player who can go through games creating chance after chance but a missed one-on-one, or one lazy attempt at a tackle, or one five second clip on Twitter showing him jogging, leaves people furious.
This is especially noticeable after the big games, which Arsenal have tended to lose recently. His poor performances – and in fairness, there have been some bad performances from him – have inspired countless think pieces and pundit diatribes about what he doesn’t bring to the team.
Never mind that he’s often simultaneously our most creative player on the day.
Two other names that stand out from this decade are Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.
By now, many accept that Giroud is good, but not suitable. Before many arrived at this view point, dragged there by Giroud’s efforts, fans would often get on his back about his lack of mobility and lack of goals.
If there was a game where the attack looked a bit flat and struggled for creativity, it was usually because Giroud was too slow and didn’t move enough. If there was a match where we made chances but didn’t take them, it was usually because Giroud wasn’t clinical enough.
Finally, there’s Walcott.
An eternally frustrating player who, like Giroud, is quick to be blamed for any game where Arsenal’s attack wasn’t working well. Despite being in the team to run in behind and score, he was often criticised for not getting involved in the build-up play.
On a similar note, his limitations on the ball frequently came under the spotlight. There would be games where he scored important goals yet, like Giroud, end up on the receiving end of fan anger.
The longer the club goes without a major honour, the more scapegoats that will be made.
When Ozil leaves the club, who will fans turn to? Maybe Ramsey will get double the blame.
Or perhaps Lacazette, should he not replicate his scoring form from Lyon.
It’s not nice to think about, but it’s inevitable.
The Arsenal fans love a scapegoat.