Last year for the same fixture, I happened to be at the Emirates. I sat with my friends Joshi (Arsenal supporter) and Madhur in the Wigan stand as no other tickets to be found. Joshi in fact, was walking right into the stand with an Arsenal jersey on his back, but was thankfully warned by a steward. Not surprisingly most of the away stand happened to be filled by people like us and there were only a handful of passionate Wigan fans.
Looking across the stadium, it was evident that the percentage of die-hard Gooners in the crowd was no better. Barring one stand, which was on some other side of the massive stadium, the rest was strangely subdued. I don’t happen to be any kind of expert in stadia atmosphere, but it was evident that for a 60,000 odd-seater packed to capacity, there was very little lung power going around. Most spectators (with self guilty as accusing) were more interested in taking pictures and feeling good, rather than being ‘one’ with the game.
For the record, that one ended two-nil with two late Arsenal goals sinking a resilient Wigan.
In terms of the game itself, it was a little similar and somewhat different to the affair from the last season. This time it ended 1-0 for the hosts with Adebayor scoring a first half winner and Wigan again putting up a plucky show.
In terms of the crowd, it’s gotten much worse over the last twelve months. Much, much worse. Other stuff happened in the game as well, but Eboue being booed off the ground by his own fans has to be one of the worst cases of home-support I have witnessed – in person or on a television.
Nasri’s injury saw Eboue being brought on as left winger. The man was himself making a comeback from a long spell out injured, and then was put on to play in a position that he is not used to. For sure Wenger knew what he was doing, but then it wasn’t exactly a shocker to see Eboue have a shocker! As the game ended his performance turned from shocking to pathetic to hilarious and by then it was obvious that he had no confidence remaining. Taking him off seemed to be a wise thing to do and that’s what Wenger did.
None of it warranted the booing. This wasn’t a pathetic team performance that demanded a show of dissatisfaction. This wasn’t a guy who had publicly let the club down. At the best of times, Eboue has not been much loved by Arsenal fans but approaching this game, there had been nothing from him that should have made him a target for the fans. If anything, with the team leading and a player clearly out of confidence, a small cheer would have helped him a great deal.
I try and visualize the stadium and I can’t put a finger on the stand which could have produced such a distinct sound in a stadium where anything more than a din seemed difficult to raise. Were the tourists, there for the first (and maybe only) time taking a break from watching others in amusement and taking pictures to realize that Eboue was being substituted and he had been shite? Were the prawn-sandwhich brigade involved enough to know or care?
I keep getting the feeling that it could have been neither. It is quite likely the new-age Arsenal fan, a regular follower of the team who knows his football but who does not know how to be a supporter. One who is fed by today’s media and sees his (and indeed her) football in black and white like newsprint. The old English football fans are a commendable species and Emirates has clearly put up the endangered sign for them.
Other things: Fabregas had a beauty, Arsenal are still scoring one out five that they should have and Emile Heskey is the best target man but the worst goal-scorer.