Arsenal need to start doing this to improve the “library” Emirates atmosphere

THE GREAT DEBATE (Bitch/Moan/Argue)

Fans and noisy stadiums

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“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings…who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory or defeat.”–26th President Theodore Roosevelt

There you go. Sums up sports perfectly really, well sport and its critics/media/fan base really. As you’ve probably guessed already, this is not my normal style, my usual Pythonesque nonsense is on the shelf for a week, and for a change I’ll revert to something a bit normal, almost serious. It’s not because I’m in bad humour, Jaysus no! Bad humour? After that performance on Saturday? Never! I’ve been bouncing around the place for the last few days, truly awesome stuff at times, plus putting to bed another one of our previous weakness over recent years – the dropping of points, when we know the results of our rivals matches, by playing at a later time or a day later, used to be guaranteed when we knew beforehand that they’d dropped points. So another box is ticked, and the bin-dippers have been well and truly thrown to the skip for another while at least.

I speak for myself, when I say I’ve been in great form, but looking at Twitter, there’s still arguments flying around the place, bitching, and having a go. Unbelievable! we’re flying, 5 pts clear at the top, yes, no doubt, with an awful long long way to go, but 5 clear, none the less, but still bitching. WHY, WHY, WHY ? Enjoy these days, for crying out loud. We all said at the start of the season, well the level headed ones said, we’d be happy if we were challenging, that it might be unrealistic that we could win the bloody thing, but to challenge, for a long period would be major major progress. Well, guess what, we’re challenging, competing, and playing some truly sensational football. Growing as a squad in front of our eyes, even while missing a large number of key players, meaning we can actually, only get stronger, but yet the bitching continues.  UNBELIEVABLE.

Some of the things being argued about, well, naturally the usual transfer crap has started raising its head. “At the start of November?” – Yes ! at the start of November, honestly, I think some people are addicted to the transfer shit, can’t get enough of it. Poor Olivier Giroud has been sent to pastures new already by some folk, to be replaced by Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski,etc. with some already drawing up the formations we’ll play when the others arrive. For fuck sake, I thought we’d have a few month’s without this crap, once the footy itself started, maybe raising its ugly head only during the numerous (too numerous) International breaks, when people got a chance to look at players we wouldn’t normally see – “Oh, he looks like an Arsenal player.”, “Oi, sign him up Venga”, etc. Not worth, wasting our breath, please show some respect for the players we have, by at least waiting for the feckin window to actually open, and get behind the ones we’ve got until then, rather than making plans to move them on.

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“Getting behind the players” – this is the debate that I do want to throw my 2 bobs worth into. This whole debate about the support, the atmosphere or lack of in the stadium, that’s been going on for a while now. There’s no doubt we suffer in this department at times. But the games that I’ve been to this year, I haven’t seen much problem with the atmosphere, to be fair. There were chants when chants were required, shouting at ref’s when that was required, and yes silence at times, but that was quickly followed by gasps and whooa’s and applause, as some of the football had our chins on the ground, ala Jack Wilshere’s goal v Norwich. Jesus, the whole stadium gasped and turned simultaneously to the huge TV screens in the stadium, delaying their celebrations as we all wanted to see “What the fuck just happened there”, and then after reviewing it once or twice, proceeded to go mental, now that’s a silence that doesn’t affect players.

I for one, am a true believer that the atmosphere has a direct link to a players performance. As I’ve said in a previous piece, I play music, and if you play to a small, quieter crowd, it feels like it’s a room full of critics, and therefore it’s harder to relax, and more likely to make mistakes as your thinking “oh they can hear everything really clearly, their waiting for me to fuck up.”, whereas, if you play to a big, packed room, with people jumping, dancing and shouting, screaming and laughing, it’s so much easier, you don’t think about things, you get into it, and get on with it, join the buzz of the crowd and ride it out, enjoy it. So I presume that football works in the exact same way, but who am I to say this, and to take this as gospel, and stick with it, and then bash people with it, even though it’s only my opinion, so I decided to look into it a little bit.

Many books, articles, and papers have been published relative to the relationship between an athlete’s mental state and his or her performance. A point of consensus clearly stated in these sources is that athletic performance efficiency is reduced by distraction. It is believed that distractions interfere with an athlete’s ability to focus. Distractions evoke negative mood responses, detrimental arousal and anxiety levels, and stress, thus resulting in the consumption of mental energy. Mental energy is a vital element needed to be able to concentrate one’s attention and maintain a positive mental attitude. By concentrating effectively, an athlete can conserve physical energy by maintaining good technique and focus, executing skills properly, and pushing the body through pain and fatigue barriers. Time spent fretting over distractions drains mental energy so that performance suffers.

That sounds about right. It matches my thoughts. If you’re getting abuse and boo’s from your own fans, surely this would count as a distraction. (not saying it’s happening now, but has been in recent years as we all know.) Then, on the other hand, if a stadium isn’t making much noise, then does that mean that a player has no distraction, can hear all the calls and movement around him therefore allowing him put in a better performance. (mmmm this could be head-wrecking, debating yourself isn’t easy.)

Distractions may arise from various sources including: the presence of loved ones you want to impress, family or relationship problems, teammates and other competitors, coaches, underperformance or unexpected high performance, frustration at mistakes, poor refereeing decisions, changes in familiar patterns, unjust criticism, and the media.

This shows that the poorer performances could be a crowd factor, but can also be so many,  many more things, and also shows why the work that a club does with a player outside of playing/training time is so important – a player with a happy rounded life in and out of the club will have less distractions on his mind thus freeing up more freedom to show his talents.

There are many factors that can cause you to lose confidence…… it can be a critical crowd that gets on your back, after every mistake. Maybe there is a lot of negativity in the dressing room….Once confidence has gone, doubt and uncertainty take over. Fear of defeat leads to indecision and costly mistakes.

In the above, there’s no doubt in my eyes that a negative crowd, can quickly spread into the dressing room, and as you can see what that can lead to. These last few quotes are from Martin C. Perry, who actually worked with our very own Aaron Ramsey last year, to regain his own confidence, and we all know how that’s working out.

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I could go on and on, the amount of research on the subject is unreal, but it’s still not 100% clear as to how much it totally affects players/sportsmen, the opinions differ from expert to expert, so I’ll stick with the opinion that it does boost players, especially when our team falls behind. When things aren’t going right for the team, hearing the support is still with them, pushing them on,  surely drives them forward, trying to be successful not just for themselves, but for everyone else in the stadium also. That is why it really pisses me off to see people leaving early. Just because you think the game is done and dusted, who knows, with your support and help, strange things can happen, just ask the Liverpool fans who left at half-time during the Istanbul champions league final, but that’s another debate altogether.

Now before anyone gets onto my case, I used to give the support a hard-time, but I’ve mellowed, I’ve thought things through more, thanks in the main, to my new friend Hennessy (brandy of course.) It’s because of late, I’ve seen the arguments going on , with people giving out about certain areas of the ground, the support, the noise, the usual ‘plastic fan’ , ‘day-tripper’, ‘foreign fan’, etc. bullshit. Yip, I know, it can be tiring. Some saying, that the West Stand was pathetic, no noise, what’s the point of them being there? Etc. In fairness, half of the lower tier is taken up by the poxy media and their laptop tables, now they’re hardly going to be singing are they. Plus, I was in that section for Napoli and Norwich, and there was an older type of crowd, a lot with families etc with them, not necessarily kids, (before you say, well they should be in the Family section then), but with teenagers, or aging fathers, etc. Now, you might be a raving lunatic, sing your heart out type when your off out to games with your mates, but when sitting with your elderly father and 14 year old daughter, you might just relax the cacks a little bit,, if you know what I mean.

Look I, more than anyone would love our stadium to be hopping, bouncing, full of colour and noise. Like the first time I experienced the away European support, FC Lens in Wembley, not sure what the year was, but they blew me away. They wore red and yellow. Each supporter had a small scarf  tied to each wrist, one red, one yellow, and they bounced, and sang in unison for the full 90 mins, pure class, their 5,000 outsung the other 70,000 or so Gunners for the whole game. I of course would love if we had that, but sometimes it’s just not possible. There are so many factors that can stand in the way of this. Too many for me to go into, though I have brushed over a few already. But to start name calling people for the lack of noise in a section of the stadium is a bit petty. Look, we’ve all been first timers at something. We didn’t go from being virgins to Don Juan’s/Cassanova’s after one night with a woman/man. Some people could be making their first visit to the stadium, nervous, excited, shy, separated from friends (though seating arrangements), etc.

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Now they could love the club with all their hearts, they might be from the area, they may well end up future season ticket holders, and some of the loudest, rowdiest supporters in time. But at that moment, they are new. They had nobody bringing them to games when they were kids, for whatever reason, therefore they don’t know the songs and chants. The only bits they know is from TV, where they hear the barely audible bits of singing on SKY, which seems to be muted out, so we can hear the pearls of wisdom flowing from the Tyler’s and Neville’s of this world. So what I say is, before people criticise, abuse someone for not singing up, for being quiet in a section, think! maybe they are new, and don’t know the songs, and therefore can’t join in, and they are afraid to make attempts at the songs as they’re sitting so close to other fans ears, and fear making a bollocks  of it. So instead of sitting and doing nothing but abuse, why not do something. Contact the club, and get songs printed in the programs. “Sounds Lame”…. “why?”… “what’s the problem?”, share the knowledge, grow the sound, I say. We wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by this. Plenty of clubs do this. National teams do this, as so many don’ t know their national anthems, so no need for embarrassment.

I witnessed this first hand myself, when in Buenos Aries, I went to a Boca Juniors game, where we were handed a small leaflet entering the stadium, with all the songs written on them, in both Spanish and the translated form in English, which led to scary reading, I may tell you. These most passionate and fervent of supporters had no problem with people being so obviously visitors to their stadium, no problem with us basically holding hymn-sheets and trying to sing along in Spanish, but basically, “you’re welcome to our stadium, enjoy it, but while you’re here, pull your fucking weight…. Now here’s the words…” Interesting and novel idea, and what a laugh and a buzz. I can so still hear the tunes so clearly in my head right now as we speak, and even some of the words in Spanish even though I don’t speak it, but it goes to show how quickly it gets embedded in your mind when you jump into the middle of it.

As I say, it would be great to have it week in week out, but I fear that since the stadiums are all seating and so spread out that we may never see it. As one section starts a song, by the time the sound spreads and another section joins in, the first section has already stopped, and turning to each other, giving out about the rest of the stadium not singing.

So, have patience, accept that the guy near you might be new, help them, tell them the words, is that not what the ‘Arsenal family’ (Gunner train hahaha) should do, don’t do nothing and bitch, after all, everyone in that stadium, be it loud, quiet, full kit on and full of beer roaring and singing, or suited and booted, sitting with their daughter and sipping on a coffee are there to see the same thing, an Arsenal win, and fingers crossed, by the end of this season the same guy in the suit will have it ripped off, red tie around his head screaming his lungs out as we pick the trophy up, there’s no better way to build an atmosphere….here’s hoping… we’re well on our way.

Keep it real.


John Woods

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