When I was growing up, the club you supported was a family and community thing. Being a gooner was passed down through the generations – ‘it’ chose you so to speak. In my case, my grandfather started supporting the team when he came down from Cumberland to find work in the early thirties, he then passed on the baton to my late father who in term infected me and my brothers ( after a few brief and defiant flirtations with other clubs) with the bug. My sons are all gooners with varying degrees of intensity and so it goes on.
Now, however, Arsenal is a global brand and you are just as likely to have Arsenal fans who hail from Kuala Lumpur as you are from Camden Town. The way they found their way to Arsenal is different, more subjective perhaps. Be it style of play or level of success they actually made a decision to support the club rather than being born into it. If they were making the same decision now why would they choose Arsenal? I suspect many non-London supporters were attracted to the club by the Invincibles; by Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires; by the regular silverware which graced the Highbury trophy cabinet. What now? How will this team attract new support? What is there that will fire the enthusiasm of school children in Wyoming or factory workers in Beijing?
Yesterday at Blackburn, in the first half, save for the lapse in concentration of Andre Santos who played Yakuba onside for their first goal, I was heartily encouraged by the performance of the team. We looked fluent and composed and dangerous going forward.OK it was Blackburn, but I was certain we would go on and win the game comfortably. Once again, however, it was the defence that has lost us the game and, in particular, the lack of leadership during set pieces. We can’t keep using the absence of key players as an excuse. After all, aren’t we supposed to have a squad that is capable of challenging for honours?
In my opinion it is time to get back to basics. We have to rebuild the team from a defensive perspective and get back to the days when we were hard to beat. Grinding out 1-0 victories with a defence that was impenetrable. Whether Arsene Wenger is the man to do that is questionable. I would like to see Tony Adams back at Arsenal perhaps in a supportive role to Wenger concentrating on the defensive side of things while Wenger weaved his undoubted magic with the attacking options. Eventually it would be great to have Dennis Bergkamp back in a coaching role but that is something for the future. Until then we’ve got to shore up the defence and get back to winning. If that doesn’t happen it’ll back to the days when Arsenal’s support will only come from North London.