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Saturday 7 April 2018

Apathy, Apathy, The Curse of the Gooner Bourgeoisie

(or in Wenger's best Kenneth Williams "infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me") 

I'm fully aware that all right-thinking, reasonably civilised footie fans should've been suitably appalled by events at Anfield prior to the Champions League encounter in midweek, when pissed up Scousers went above and beyond the pale, in their efforts to intimidate the opposition, by bombarding the Man City team coach. 

Yet when one contrasts the rabid fervour that was whipped up by Liverpool fans on Wednesday night, in what proved to be a successful effort to try and ensure that they maximised their home advantage, with the all-pervasive apathy that prevails at the Emirates nowadays, I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to feeling more than a little envious.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting the Scousers on any pedestal. I've stood in the Anfield Road Stand on enough occasions in recent seasons, where the deathly hush emanating from the Kop has inevitably resulted in the customary taunt of "where's your famous atmosphere?" One of the most depressing drawbacks of the advent of all-seater stadia and the corporatization of the beautiful game, to develop a profitable, family friendly product, has been the quiescence of all the famous football crowds of yesteryear. Just as one would with an over aggressive puppy, what began with Maggie and continued with the inception of the Premier League, was the complete castration of the rabid atmosphere of old.

We've not seen a Scouser quite so excited about one leg, since Paul Mccartney met Heather Mills. It might not have invoked the same outrage in the Daily Mail as the fiery welcome, but perhaps more influential upon the decisive defeat of their more illustrious opposition was the fact that a fairly blatant second-half penalty shout went almost completely under the wire. 

Although Anfield might often be as library-like as our own sedentary stadium, the Scousers still tend to turn up the volume when required. I can't help but wonder whether the blissful ignorance of the customarily ineffectual official behind the goal-line (the proverbial spare prick at the wedding!), only a couple of yards away from this foul, was influenced by his reluctance to incur the wrath of 30,000 baying Reds?

Sure, I can appreciate that the dynamism and attacking zeal of Klopp's side has provided the Scousers with considerably more than us to shout about so far this season. Our piss-poor first-half performance against Stoke last weekend made for such painful viewing that I pictured parents telling their unruly offspring that if they were naughty they'd be forced to remain in their seats, to endure the entire second-half.

Moreover, there's no getting away from the fact that the Mickey Mouse Europa Cup competition is always going to be the Champions League's ugly sister. Nevertheless, Thursday night's encounter with CSKA Moscow was a European Cup quarterfinal. With our FA Cup humiliation, our League Cup Final shellacking and any last vestiges of hope of a top four finish long since quashed by our relentless inconsistency, any remaining aspirations for this campaign rested on our clash with the Ruskies.

It just about sums up how shamelessly entitled and spoiled our fan base has become that season-ticket holders couldn't even be bothered to show up, or to even flog their seats to someone who might appreciate the occasion. Some might contend that Arsène is entirely to blame for all this apathy, with the obdurate old fart lingering like a bad smell. 

Albeit we must remember that if it wasn't for Wenger setting the bar so high, with all that success in his early years, much like the Cup Winners Cup in the early 90s, a European cup quarterfinal of any nature would guarantee a full-house of Gooners, positively creaming our pants at the prospect!

Surely the sight of the Ox being let off the reins at Anfield to score such a scorcher against City, only reinforces the argument about how stale our squad has become under Arsène's enduring tenure. We might've turned it on against CSKA's creaking defence, but as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Yet while I'm no less desperate than anyone else for a new broom, I remain an Arsenal supporter, through thick and thin. I've seen some proposing on social media that we should register our dissatisfaction by boycotting our remaining home games. I can only begin to imagine how the likes of Baggies' fans and any club with a genuine cause for throwing their toys out of the pram, must perceive persistent Gooner protestations!

In fact, the only slight solace to be had from our most disappointing league campaign in donkey's years, is that this has at least begun to sift out some of the glory-hunting chaff. The infuriatingly ubiquitous sort of Gooners who are keener to be seen to have been there, by proudly confirming their presence to all their pals on Facebook, than they are worried about actually witnessing events on the pitch. There are increasing swathes of empty seats in Club Level and the corporate boxes, as those whose attendance is primarily about networking, decrease in direct proportion with the kudos going to watch the Gunners.

Although it's not entirely out of the question for this Arsenal side to blow it completely, by failing to turn up for the return leg in Moscow next week (as I suspect will be the case with the vast majority of our travelling faithful!), if as expected, we should progress to the semis, I for one will be far less worried about the impact of Europa Cup success on Wenger's future, than the delicious thrill of pooping Spurs' party, by not only securing more silverware, but knowing quite what a wind up it would be for them if we are restored to Europe's top table, without even having to finish inside the top four. 

With Welbeck seemingly so utterly shorn of self-confidence (as one wag put it on Twitter, Welbz couldn't even finish a "J. Arthur"!), up until now I didn't think we had a hope, but with Laca back in the frame, I'm a little less pessimistic about our lack of firepower.

The vast majority of our crowd had departed before the final whistle on Thursday. Arsenal fans have grown so irritatingly blasé and such was the phlegmatic mood of the crowd coming away from the ground that one would never believe we'd just given CSKA such a drubbing, in one of the most entertaining games of the season, with Rambo's exquisite goal worth the price of admission alone!

Unless the likes of Lazio, Marseille or Leipzig can do us a favour, ultimately it's likely that Simeone's Atletico will stand between us and this precious prize. Should we make it to the semis, whoever we meet, sadly I can't exactly envisage us creating the sort of fervent cauldron-like atmosphere in the home leg, which might influence both opposition and officials alike (mind you, they've not needed any help in gifting us spot-kicks recently!). The headline on the front of Thursday's programme proclaimed "no quarter given" but then I guess we should have long since grown accustomed to our club ignoring the blatantly obvious lack of bums on seats.

Raise the roof for the semifinal? I'm not even sure we'll deign to show up!


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Fed Merrill said...

Welcome back Bernard from your sojourn, your column has been a great miss. It's a shame Mr Wenger doesn't follow your example, but disappear permanently. Alas, I'm afraid that will probably never happen.
Fredtheted.....lapsed Gooner

Bern said...

Cheers Fred. Most gratifying to hear from someone other than my Mum that I was conspicuous by my absence 🤣