Now here’s a thing. There are three articles on the internet which are in essence all about the same thing, but all pointing in different directions.
Let me explain. The first is about Jack Lambert, who was signed by Herbert Chapman as a free scoring centre forward, but who in his first two seasons played 32 games and scored just four goals. The fans got on his back, and his confidence dipped so far that in his third season he only played six games.
Not because he was injured. He was literally terrified of playing in front of Arsenal fans.
Herbert Chapman was outraged by the fans’ behaviour. He demanded that the chairman, Sir Henry Norris, ban the fans that booed an Arsenal man. He wrote articles in the national press about the disgrace of the “boo-boys”.
Eventually seeing his manager do so much for him Jack Lambert’s self-belief was restored and the boo-boys, seeing Chapman glare at them as he prowled the ground (no technical areas in those days), reigned in their attacks.
The positive fans rallied, and Lambert scored 18 goals in 20 matches in his fourth season. In his fifth year he scored an amazing 38 goals in 34 games – an all time Arsenal record.
That’s the first story. The second story is about Mesut Ozil. It looks at his statistics and reveals that when players are compared over their last 100 passes, and when the important of the pass is considered (that is to say valuing a forward pass into the opposition penalty area above a pass along the half way line, for example) Özil is the best and most consistent passer in the Premier League.
It strikes me that this is quite an interesting concept. The 21st century equivalent of the boo-boys are on Ozil’s back constantly, and yet he is delivering in a way that no other player can do.
The third article is in the Daily Telegraph. It goes under the headline Transfer Talk, and says… “Arsenal are willing to sell Mesut Ozil,”
That final piece is, to my mind, so daft, outrageous, and basically petulant, it’s not even worth giving a link to it – although you can find it if you really want it in the paper. But here’s the thing – that “rumour of the day” although it made the headline in the Telegraph web site, is not something the Telegraph writers have discovered by having a mole in the Arsenal and Bayern Munich camps.
No, they nicked it from the Daily Express – a paper that has been following Ozil constantly since he signed. If the player goes to a night club, they talk about him “dashing in” and “dashing out”. If he makes a call on his mobile, they report it. A player that they have been trying to link into a scandal since he first arrived. Now, having failed to find that scandal they are trying to rubbish him.
Quite why people who purport to support Arsenal join in such nonsense and turn on a player who really is delivering is probably down to several reasons.
First, being failures in their own life, they can’t take it when others succeed.
Second, the technicalities of football are really a bit too much for them.
Third, writing about failures, about signing the “wrong” player, and players going to night clubs gets visitors to web sites and sales for failing newspapers.
Now those three points are fairly obvious, but I would like to end by focussing on just one of them – the second point.
Read a report of a match in any paper and you will find that most of the report is about individual players, their failures and (occasionally) their brilliance. There is only a limited amount about the way the team plays as a team.
Of course there can be the odd mention of the “folly” of playing Ozil out wide, just as there was about the “folly” of playing Ramsey out wide (a “folly” which led to Ramsey’s development as a top goal scorer last season), but that’s it. The context of the player and those around him, the notion of developing a player like Ramsey by giving him experience out wide – these things are missed.
As for the moment when a player suddenly comes good (as for example Jack Wilshere has done of late) that is just put down to Jack getting himself together, being a father, quitting smoking or whatever. Rarely is it considered to be a result of the training he has done, the experience he has had playing in different parts of midfield, or the totality of the team around him.
No, the answer is, single out a player, follow the view of the national press, and hound him out.
The effect is twofold. First, the player might well leave, and so a brilliant player who really could make a difference goes, in order to get away from the anti-support. If you want an example look at Gervinho and how he played for Arsenal and how he is playing now for Roma.
Second, if you ever see Arsenal linked to a player and then find he isn’t signed, the answer might not be that Wenger and Gazidis were too slow off the mark, or were too mean in their offer. It is more likely to be a case of the player, having heard what the Arsenal supporters did to Gervinho, and are now doing to Ozil, saying, “Blimey – if they do that to a genius like Ozil, what chance have I got? Arsenal? No thanks.”