Fan Power And Direct Action

By Jack Crutcher (@NorthernjGooner)

Earlier this week I found myself having to defend a tweet I made back in August. The general point of the tweet was that Arsenal fans should protest against Wenger before and after our next home game if signings were not made. Back in the fiery depths of August this tweet did not seem so controversial.

Tactics seemed lacking, no money had been spent, and the rhetoric remained the same from the clubs hierarchy. However considering our recent turn-around in fortunes, it and tweets like it from thousands of others are continually used to create division and to even prove a point by those Gooners who stoically stood by Arsene Wenger throughout the summer.

Ultimately I was partly wrong about Wenger. He did adapt his philosophy to suit the modern game – finally taking the plunge and signing big. Even the most ardent pessimist would give up porn and look at pictures of Mesut Özil in an Arsenal jersey for a week. And look at what said signing has done to our glorious club.

Along with the change in fortunes of Ramsey and Giroud (whom I supported wholeheartedly throughout…minus the odd match day jibe), we now look like a genuine force and yes, under the guidance of Le Prof. But having said and done all of this, I still stand buy the stance I begrudgingly took in the summer (and at times before).

I do not for one moment believe I, as an individual red member who lives up north had anything to do with our change in fortunes. But what I strongly believe is that those who over the past few years, have spoken out against the way the club has often done its business are, as a collective, largely responsible for the club adapting and changing for the better.

The power of fan pressure can be seen through the successes of groups like the Black Scarf movement, who work tirelessly and effectively against the Corporatisation of our club – especially the extortionate prices hard working people have to pay just to watch their team. Thanks to the Black scarf movements’ efforts the Arsenal fan base has secured victories ranging from cheaper seating for Young Gunners members with their own section at the Emirates, meaning kids can watch the club they love for a better price in a child-friendly atmosphere, to an away-game ticket price subsidy for travelling fans – our famous twelfth man.

Not forgetting the response of Ivan Gazidis to the fans’ suggestions on an online blog regarding how we could improve the match day experience at the Emirates stadium. The much vaunted ‘Arsenalisation’ of our home was a bi-product of fan activism, not blind deference. Or what about Red Action Gooners, the fan group/ twitter campaign responsible for some of our best match day banners and the genius behind the idea of introducing flags to the Emirates on match day.

It is clear to me that fan’s should speak out and become an activist body when they feel a grievance towards their club. We all put hundreds if not thousands of pounds into this club every few years – our love for it has both personal and financial consequences. For me this all came to a head on the pitch – over recent years things have been far from perfect. Often tactics have looked threadbare and our teams have lacked conviction.

This season the team looks like a whole new beast, and we can all speculate why that is, from personnel change to more experience – but either way, something was not right. On top of this the money Arsenal did spend was used in an ineffective way.

We signed Gervinho, Park, Chamakh, Santos and Squillaci, yet passed up opportunities to sign Gary Cahill for 5 million or for only a few million more than all those players previously mentioned, we could have captured Juan Mata for 23.5 million. The questions regarding how our money was spent did not stop there. How can we pay 40,000 per week to Park or 70,000 per week to Gervinho (roughly), yet refuse to pay the wages asked for by Samir Nasri. Whether he would have been worth it or not is irrelevant – it is the principle that is under the microscope.

Arsenal is finally starting to look and more importantly act, like the Arsenal of the late nineties and the early naughties, the Arsenal of the late 80’s and the Arsenal of the 70’s. From more fan-friendly club policies implemented by the board to Arsene Wenger’s brave decision to change his own philosophy and spend huge, whilst also adopting the new tactics we see the team play this year (we’re way more efficient without the ball for example).

A mixture of the genius of Wenger’s football brain and the fans after that Villa game, the hard-working fee paying fans, making their feelings blatantly known, had a huge effect on the fortunes of our team. But my overall point is that fan action works, and that those of us who spoke out against issues on and off the pitch were not anti Arsenal, far from it.

Not one of us hoped to be proven right long term, but we were proven wise short term – and look at where Arsenal is heading now. Fans are what make a club great, and we have the best fans in the world. Be proud and stick together.

Follow me on Twitter : (@NorthernjGooner)

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