Being an Arsenal fan on social media is akin to being a soldier in a civil war at times. Regardless of the result, if you are so inclined you can always discover an untapped vein of ignorance and or thinly veiled contempt directed at the very club they profess to adore.
With the Premier League never more competitive than in its current incarnation and with our inner city rivals lying in wait for any slip-ups – it has never been more vital for Gooners to stick together. Unfortunately, the divide seems to be widening.
It is common knowledge that the representation of Arsenal on social media is far greater than most teams in Europe. Few can boast the wide reach that Gooners have, and how we utilise that reach is often highlighted. Internet polls skewed to fit an Arsenal viewpoint, even if it isn’t warranted. It is simply an advertisement that whatever you do, whatever window you open or link you click, Arsenal WILL be lurking.
It is quite something to witness when you take a step back and evaluate the impact our club has, especially in comparison to other fanbases. Even more eyebrow-raising is if you hark back to fifteen to twenty years ago and attempt to imagine how big our club would become.
It is such a small time frame – especially in football – and yet back then, a UEFA Cup qualifying spot was huge news. We weren’t a small club, but to describe us using our current stature would be ill-fitting. Our club has changed and moved with the times, embracing the huge following our club has across the globe and with more fans, this means far more opinions.
In the first game after Jose Mourinho had been unceremoniously dumped by Chelsea, the team were serenaded by their own fans to the tune of ” Where were you when we were sh*t “. Amongst Chelsea fans, there is a rather large divide, separate camps of fans, instead of united by the love of their club, are at loggerheads. Credentials and qualifications for entry to any argument are longevity of support and if you were a fan before the watershed moment – before Roman Abramovich injected large amounts of money into the club.
Gooners are in danger of having the same splintered fanbase as the club we all enjoy to bait.
The phrase ‘Superfan’ was coined by several people on Twitter to describe a certain breed of fan who assault our senses via videos, blogs and or a large amount of followers on social media. Every word that is typed or uttered is greedily swallowed by thousands of people and then shared, creating a cloud that is essentially one person. This clouds grasp affects so many people that a large proportion of people are tired of their antics and opinions.
There are others who pride themselves on the length of time they have been a fan. Of course, if you were supporting our great team decades ago, then no one can question your faith, but to brandish it as a weapon or trophy when in discussion with someone?
What about the people who can see no wrong in Wenger’s reign? The blinkered group who are of the mind that any questionable decision Wenger has made was ultimately the right one and any who cast aspersions on his judgement cannot truly support the club? These fans cannot separate the manager from the club, but they are far from the worst.
There are those who have put Wenger on a pedestal, but this pedestal is used to single out the Frenchman during every single game, win lose or draw. The man apparently should have been put out to pasture long ago and the fact he is still at the helm is an irritant which drives these fans to spout bile. Any who oppose the stance taken by these people are enemies and cannot truly be fans.
Our fanbase is so large that diversity is mandatory. This brings with it a host of varied opinions. Social media brings all of these minds together in one big melting pot, as we all look to discuss all things Arsenal. We search for people who have a little more information than we do, we look for fans who are like-minded, but can offer an alternate stance. Discussions involving differing opinions can turn heated, but as long as it remains respectful, then we can all learn something.
It is when people are opinionated that difficulties arise. It matters little what you offer in discussion, as they will not take anything from the words you speak or type. Why listen when it is categorical fact that the opinion they hold onto so tightly is true and nothing else will sway that?
It doesn’t matter how long you have supported Arsenal. Whilst it is interesting that you were present when Arsenal won the Littlewoods Cup in 1987, should it represent a notch higher on the fanship barometer? Why is there even a barometer in the first place? The epidemic of arguing the toss just to boast of who is superior is futile, and a little immature. Of course, it is also futile to imagine we will all get along, but when fans start branding other fans just because they don’t share the same opinion? That borders on xenophobia. Just because the idea or concept is a little left field for you to grasp initially, does it make it wrong?
It won’t stop though. The only time we can claim to be close to a united fanbase is during a match. Even then, there are those who choose this moment to drag their soapbox to the middle of the stage and blast out their own brand of soundtrack. I guess we must face up to the fact that with the joy of meeting and talking to so many Gooners around the world, we also must face off against some truly gruesome people who only claim to be Arsenal in order to get their kicks through flinging vitriol.
The civil war shows no sign of abating. A badge of honour fitted to the collar will soon be the order of the day, with the date you first became a fan. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, then, well, your opinion can be derided as you obviously know nothing. It is only those who have seen Arsenal from those fabled times of ‘Back in the Day’ that can quantify what ails our club. It leaves you with a tired feeling everytime you look on Twitter or open forum, looking to glean some information on the line up, but instead, you sit on the fence for fear of riling the baying mob. I’ve been a fan for over twenty years, but there are so many people I’ve talked to who can easily match the adoration and fervent support I have and they have only just started supporting Arsenal. Some have never been to a game. It doesn’t matter and they shouldn’t be singled out for it. As long as they can discuss the team with a modicum of knowledge and truly love the club, then that should be the only requirement.
So, to surmise, it shouldn’t matter where you are from, nor how long you have been a Gooner. As long as you can back up your opinion with knowledge, then that should be enough. Unfortunately, rational thinking has no place in this civil war that takes place on your mobile and tablet screens.
War never changes.