I don't know if you heard or not, but Arsenal lost yesterday. I know! Third loss in a row! Crazy, right? Anyway, there were a number of things that came out of that game, and are coming out now that Arsenal have lost three games in a row, that are interesting and warrant further discussion, and here I am to tackle one of them. Sorry, boys and girls - detailed discussion of Wenger's substitution patterns will have to wait for another post. Today, I want to talk about booing.
As we all heard yesterday, in the 72nd (ish?) minute, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (and seriously, why he doesn't have OXLADE on his back over his number and CHAMBERLAIN below it, forming a Circle Of Awesome Name, I have no idea) was substituted for Andrei Arshavin. Reaction to this at my house was a head-scratching WTF (I had to be quiet as my wife was still asleep), but reaction at the Emirates was, shall we say, a little more spirited. There was applause for young master Oxlade-Chamberlain at first, but when Arshavintook the pitch, the boos started - both for removing Alex and for inserting Andrei, and by extension, for Wenger for calling for the sub in the first place.
Arsenal also got booed off the pitch at half time, and despite playing much better in the second half, got booed off at full time as well. Fans are frustrated right now; we all see what's going on at Arsenal, and we all see that precious 4th place finish becoming ever slipperier, ever more elusive. That's irritating, andfans are making their displeasure known rather vocally, both at the Emirates and on the internet.
Booing is a divisive, controversial topic, not just in the Arsenal fan sphere, but in all sports. There are many people who feel like they paid their money, they follow the team, and they have the right to make their displeasure as well known as their pleasure. There are many others who feel like booing is counterproductive, that it insults the team and the work the team has put in, and that people should get behind the team no matter what because only positivity will help the team play better and/or win.
As with all things, though, there is both not a right answer and a lot of gray area.
I, like a lot of Arsenal fans, am incredibly frustrated with Arsene Wenger right now. Not overall, but for his continued reliance on Arshavin when Arshavin has repeatedly shown he is
Gilles Grimandi not up to the task at hand. And Wenger's hands are somewhat tied right now through injury and pointless Cup competition absences, but still. What I would like to see from Wenger is less "I have made 50,000 substitutions and I know what I'm doing so shut up" and more willingness to depart from a formula that works great in his head but not so much out on the pitch.
Would I boo him, or Arshavin, were I at the Emirates? No, I wouldn't. I would swear a lot, and I might let loose a "YOU SUCK ANDREI" or something, but I'm not a booer. I understand people that do, though - this is a frustrating team right now, anda frustrating time to be a fan if you believe that the Champions League is the only goal worth pursuing (the title hasn't been an option since October, really). I think it's a bit premature to be booing this particular team off the pitch, though; there are teams and fan bases who would love to be in Arsenal's position, and on the face of it finishing fifth or sixth isn't the end of the world. But I do understand it.
I'm not one of those people who get all woolly and romantic about "our boys". I am a fan, but I'm not nearly as invested in sports-as-life as I was when I was younger, so I'm not the kind of person who will cheer no matter what - I honestly don't think it makes a huge difference to the players. I think it's nicer and more fun to cheer than to boo, but I have never bought in to the theory that a crowd can change a game; most of the time, players are so focused on what they're trying to do that they tune out what is going on in the stands, unless it's personally directed at them while they're taking a corner or a throw or something. But by and large, fans vastly overstate their influence on game play - that's their right, they're emotionally invested, but I'm not sure it's accurate.
Back to the Emirates on Sunday, then. Was the crowd right to boo? As I said above, I think it's pretty premature to boo Arsenal off the pitch at this point. Three straight losses is bad, but it's not like Arsenal are relegation candidates or anything, so to me that was a pretty extreme reaction to a dip in form that will right itself soon enough. The Arshavin thing, however, that's a bit different.
Andrei Arshavin is not good. We all know this. He has demonstrated this many, many times. And yet, for some reason, Wenger keeps running him out there and he keeps making mistakes and looking disinterested and just generally wasting a roster spot. This has been a thing for months now, and yet Sunday morning, there's Andrey getting ready to come on for Ox, who was having a great game. Cue the boos. Cue van Persie mouthing NO at the substitution. Cue angst.
There was some word that Ox may have been cramping up, but in the absence of specific information or an explanation, all we know for a fact is that Ox went off for a vastly inferior option, and that's what set people off. And it wasn't just this one Arshavin sub, either - this was the latest in a long line, and seemingly everybody but Wenger knew it would not end well. That's why people were booing, and that booing I fully andcompletely understand.
What about you? Would you boo if you were there? Have you booed at a sporting event? What's your stance?