I ask this only due to all the goings on recently with fans in Manchester storming into Old Trafford and making tits of themselves. Bringing the wrong kind of publicity towards a cause all the fans want. Arsenal fans turned up in numbers and put on a great show of solidarity to protest before the game against Everton. No extremes like in Manchester which is good and it created the right kind of publicity to be a topic in the news and also catch the eye of a potential new owner in Daniel Ek.
However without covid happening to us would there have been such a level of demonstration in the numbers that were?
I mean certainly fans were not going to take any revelation regarding the formation of the ESL lightly but after a year of lockdowns and sheer frustration, a chance to protest and mingle amongst Arsenal brethren for a cause was as much inspired by getting the Kroenkes out as it may have been to just get out into the open world, see the red and white represented in the numbers and have a chat to someone about a common interest and get more out of it than the people you’ve been stuck indoors with for 14 months. On reflection It was a successful protest but it was also a bit of a successful get together like old times.
Moving away from the protest and touching back onto my original question on covid changing the fans. I take into account pretty much every game has been made available to view on TV. We all love Arsenal and we all would watch them at every opportunity we got but we were placed into a situation where cheering them on from the terraces was no more. This put us into a situation where we could micro-analyse every game from a different perspective.
Watching football on TV and viewing the analysis is not a new revelation by any means and me writing this isn’t to marginalise fans that don’t have the luxury of owning season tickets and being able to attend games live at the Emirates due to being overseas. But there’s a different level of analysis, experience and perception you can have of a team and individual players through watching from the stands. You may not see how wide open a player is or how far from goal they are when you scream for them to “shooooot” but you could walk away from the stadium satisfied from the adrenaline rush of goals flying in, visually seeing players doing things maybe not picked up by the cameras and of course 3 points secured leaving you in a happy mood and more likely to have a good chinwag down at the Tolly.
It’s not to say watching from stands you miss most things but there’s an emotional rollercoaster you can travel through just from seeing a breakaway and jumping off your seat in anticipation that it ends up in a goal. You can still spot someone playing crap or someone running the show but the level of satisfaction can’t be replicated when you are used to viewing the majority of games one way live then having to substitute for 100% of another way i.e. sat on the couch, family members running around making noise, the dog/cat annoying you and throw in VAR to kill the excitement factor. It leaves you in a bit of a hump, the football doesn’t appear as entertaining, and it’s just same old same old. So you are left just running the rule over every player, you now get frustrated at the lack of 100% pass accuracy, every missed shot has you throwing the scatter cushion at the TV and when the result doesn’t go your way, that’s it. You pop on social media and discover everyone feels the same way.
Barring Man City fans it’s come to a point where watching the football isn’t enjoyable. Where you could get over a bad game by heading out to the local pub post game you instead are stuck at home, stewing over the result and then just having a good old moan on social media with equally frustrated fans. The analysis of players becomes more critical as we fans have more time to dwell on mistakes and wrong options made in a game.
The lack of fans in a stadium has taken away something from football. The performances are just inconsistent. The home advantage created by thousands of fans willing the team on is gone and you are sometimes sitting through games questioning to yourself why am I doing this to myself?
As England edges towards the end of lockdown and the chance for fans to return to the stadium becomes more of a reality it certainly brings hope that all the things that made us fall in love with the game returns ASAP.
The pandemic and the lockdowns have united us more as a fanbase, we interact more online, we build bridges and share common views – but at the same time we have maybe become a little bit more critical and judgemental than before. Our expectations are high but we overlook that the changes we’ve experienced the past 12-15 months have also had an effect on the players and staff. Does this excuse standards dropping? No, not at all – but some balance needs to be met when it comes to expectations. Arsenal might have had their worst season for 50 years but look over at the dominating Liverpool team from last season and notice they may not even get a Top 4 place this season. These aren’t normal circumstances to draw comparisons with other seasons and a level of leeway may need to be afforded.
Covid has changed everything; our enjoyment of the game has been tested to the limit. Our fortunes on the pitch have been hit hard. Our club finances may take a long time to recover (with not much help from the current owners). This season you could say is a write-off and yet we could end it with silverware. The way we are as fans have changed through no fault of our own, covid has changed us.
Lets hope normality is resumed sooner rather than later and we are back at the emirates doing what we do best. Being the 12th man. Covid has changed us but it won’t dictate our lives and our football forever…*gulp* I hope!