THE LONG VIEW: FOOTBALL FANS ARE NOT FOOTBALL EXPERTS by Uche
As the aftermath of our loss to Chelsea continues to unfold, what began as a sympathetic reaction to fan’s frustration has gradually turned into disgust. I don’t know how else to be diplomatic about this but this is ridiculous. We are gradually becoming the sporting equivalent of extremists. Some are even going as far as calling for Arsene Wenger to be sacked. Really? The guy that got you to the top of the table with no money spent? Thank God football clubs are not managed by football fans. If they were, there will be no football left for us to watch. In fact there will not be a team left to play the games! Wenger would have been fired nine years ago or earlier and Arsenal Football club might possibly have gone the way of Leeds United or Aston Villa.
Football management is not for the sentimental and shortsighted and it is certainly not for the know-it-all pundit. Just ask Gary Neville. How many games has he won since he went to Valencia? One? I know it is not more than two. I don’t mean to come down too hard on fans but the sort of reactions I have been reading and watching have spiraled out of control. Fans are hurting. I get it. I am hurting too. But while nursing our pain (and it is not as if we got shot with a bazooka or something), the logical adult in us should enable us maintain a somewhat balanced view of all that is happening.
As at Saturday morning just three days ago, we were top of the league with many of our best players injured. We had spent the least amount of money during the summer transfer window and yet outperformed all the top teams so far. The club has been so impressed that rumours of a two year contract extension for our genius manager was all over the papers. We all felt he deserved it. Twenty four hours later, many want this same manager fired for losing a game he played with ten men. That makes sense. What are we? Real Madrid? This is ridiculous. Per screwed up by tackling Diego Costa like that. Sh*t happens. High pressure games do that to even the best players sometimes. And suddenly, Per should never come close to the first team again? Really? Same guy that has formed a rock solid defensive partnership with Koscielny touted as the best in the league? Per Mertesacker, the German World cup winner and two time FA cup champion? The same Per that has been an ever-present in this same team that has kept us top of the league all season? I agree that we might have been better off starting Gabriel due to Per’s lack of pace. Emphasis on might. I am not an expert. What if Wenger chose a stable defense over agility? What do I know? He has gone with Per all season and kept us at the top of the league. We beat Man United with Per. We beat Bayern Munich with Per. When the odds were stacked against us and the world predicted that we would be playing Europa league in a few weeks, we went to the home of the Greek Champions and won. That was mission impossible. We scored three goals and conceded non. Per was in defense.
Let me put it this way. If you want to grade a student to determine how good or terrible he or she is, you don’t base your judgement on that one test that they got 49% in. No. You put together the results of all the other tests they have taken (68%, 79%, 91%, 52%, 84% and that 49% amongst others) divide it and find your average. That is how we all got graded in school. That is how end of year results are determined and you will be surprised to find that the same student that had 49% once is actually an A student or B+ student. Get it? We need to pull ourselves together and be measured in our response because you know what? When they say the customer is always right, it does not apply to you the football fan who has stacks of season tickets and has bought every Arsenal Jersey and memorabilia produced in the last sixty years. Why? Because football fans are not football experts and should not even be allowed near the corridors of management. Yes your opinion counts in some quarters but if every manager and player were graded game by game the way fans do, there will be no teams left to watch. Everybody would have been gone by now. Ramsey would have gone three seasons ago. Ozil would have been sold after his first season. Peter Cech would have been benched after that disaster against West Ham and Cazorla and the rest of our players would have been got rid of at one time or the other. If you are a football fan, no matter how clearly you perceive the game unfolding in front of you, you are still not an expert and cannot manage squat. More experienced folks than you have tried management and failed. Jose Mourinho has won tons of trophies and is probably the most accomplished manager of his generation. He knows more than you and I and yet he couldn’t even save Chelsea. He is currently unemployed.
I could go on and on but the point is simple. We all need a lesson in humility and objectivity, even when we are angry and hurt. We need to realize that belting out what you believe to be the best tunes while bathing in your shower does not make you the next pop idol. We are football fans. We love and support our team and players. Our passion is unquestionable and our commitment is unrivalled. That is why we hurt so much when we lose. But that does not make us football experts and we don’t have all the answers. You win some and you lose some. That is the nature of sport. Burnley is next. Game face on. We have a match to play.
Lagos – Nigeria