Following Arsenal’s 3-1 away defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League, Arsenal Twitter exploded. While the performance from the Gunners wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, the knives were out; for Nicolas Pepe, Rob Holding, Bernd Leno and surprisingly, even Mikel Arteta.
Judging by the reactions from our fanbase, you’d swear that Arsenal had just lost to someone like Fulham or West Brom, not the second-best team in the world who haven’t lost at Anfield in over 60 games. They’ve also won both the Premier League and Champions League in the last two seasons. Since that game and the fallout from it, I’ve been thinking, just why are Arsenal fans so reactionary?
Don’t get me wrong, there are reasonable Arsenal fans who have valid and well-thought-out points. Tens of thousands of them, in fact. However, for every one of this type of supporter; there’s two who write the same points on Twitter that twelve-year-olds have in school playgrounds.
Now that all the context is out of the way, we can look at why Arsenal fans, over the past few years in particular, have been so reactionary and demanding. For me at least, there are three reasons; agendas, expectations and Arsenal commentators/influencers.
Agendas are something that have become very prevalent amongst the Arsenal faithful over the past year or so. For those of you who aren’t in the know, an agenda in football is an unjustified dislike; you essentially slander a player for no particular reason. They’re something that are now commonplace in modern football. Granit Xhaka was previously a good example of this.
Right now, Holding, Leno and Pepe have fallen foul of reactionary Arsenal fans. While each of the three aforementioned players did not have particularly good games against Jurgen Klopp’s men, the amount of abuse and unwarranted criticism they received from the “Football Twitter” masses is truly staggering.
Arteta isn’t immune from criticism, either. I do think that he made some mistakes with his team selection for the Liverpool fixture, such as starting Mohamed Elneny over Dani Ceballos. Judging by the slander directed at Arteta, you could have sworn he put out a line-up from the vintage days of Unai Emery.
The point is, agendas do go a long way to making fans reactionary and ready to turn on players with a moment’s notice. The same can be said for expectations. Since Arteta has turned around Arsenal’s form and performances, expectations have been unrealistically high. This is arguably doubly so when it comes to Arteta. While he has the potential to be one of the best managers in the world in years to come, he is still very inexperienced. He’s a good manager, but one of the best in the league after only nine months in the top job? To put it simply; no.
With expectations unrealistically high, reactions after a loss or poor performance are going to be exaggerated. Of course fans are going to be pissed off when they think they’ve seen a performance that matches their unrealistic standards. The truth is, Arsenal fans expect Arteta to turn water into wine and make a top-six side into top-four regulars after only one summer transfer window. After the seemingly fruitless pursuits of Partey and Aouar, however, these expectations have been significantly lowered.
But what exactly stokes these high expectations and these agendas against players? Easy, Arsenal influencers. Arsenal-related social media outlets with large followings are understandably going to set the parameters for the conversation. You know EXACTLY the people I am talking about. These are platforms who use their influence to spread negativity and toxicity around the club.
So in short, Arsenal fan social media accounts overhype and create massive expectations for the team. This normally occurs after Arsenal go on a good run of form and these outlets overreacts. When these outlets overreact, their viewers follow the trend they set and also harbour high expectations.
When the team and the players inevitably don’t meet these incredibly high expectations, fans then go into uproar. They overreact and slander players and carry agendas that last for weeks and months. This is to the detriment of the team and the club and it is the reason Arsenal fans are perceived as reactionary.