Behind the Banners: 6 Real Arsenal Fan Perspectives on a Club Divided

Andrew Headspeath
90Min

It's hard to think of another club where such opposing arguments are both so compelling.

On the one hand, Arsenal are the club who have been dumped out of the Champions League at the round of 16 by a humiliating scoreline again. They have come up short in the title race again. New signings have failed to impress again.

It will be 13 years since their last Premier League title this May, while for the first time in history Tottenham Hotspur will almost certainly finish higher.


On the other hand, since Arsene Wenger's arrival Arsenal have never yet finished outside the top four, and been in the Champions League for 19 seasons straight. They play attractive football for the most, they have a higher average league position than Liverpool and Manchester United over the last three seasons. T hey are also, famously, that rarest of things in modern football, profitable.

Stick or twist is the question is the question this summer, as the newly-influential social media pressure ramps up an increasingly-beleaguered Wenger.

Here's six perspectives on life as a Gooner towards the end of another underwhelming campaign... 

Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Premier League


The Father & Son


Stefan & Chris Osipiuk

Age: 58 & 27

Location: Gloucestershire, UK

Occupations: Accountant & Contracts Manager

You're both away season ticket holders, but you don't go to the Emirates so much these days. Why not?

Chris: I just don't enjoy it, so I don't go. 

Stefan: We last went regularly to the Emirates about five years ago. We went to all home and away games for a couple of seasons but then stopped going home.

At the home games, opposing teams tend to set themselves up very cautiously. it tends to be attack against defence and it ends up being a boring game. 

Arsenal v Manchester City - Premier League



The atmosphere isn't good. Its a corporate atmosphere at the emirates and you tend to get surrounded by people who haven't been to many games, or aren't very knowledgeable, and are quickly disappointed by the way we play. They also don't have the sense of humour that the away fans have.


Chris: [at the Emirates] People just shout shoot whenever we are 40 yards out.

Stefan: There was definitely a more appreciative and electric atmosphere with everybody reacting as one at Highbury. You just don't get that at the Emirates unfortunately.


Should Wenger stay or go come the end of the season?

Stefan: I would like to see him leave at the end of the season. It's become very difficult to get behind Arsene, because the results arent coming through. 


I don't want to see his reputation tarnished. I appreciate what he's done but I don't want him hanging on and being remembered for the difficulties rather than all the success he brought in the earlier part of his reign.

Chris: For what's best for the team, I don't mind either way. For him, I want him to go! He's old enough to draw a state pension and he's just getting ridiculous abuse every week.  Out of respect I'd like him to go, so people stop abusing him. 


It's not his fault he hasn't been sacked. I don't know how many managers really resign or 'leave by mutual consent'. The majority really get fired. What's happening is down to the board. They're setting the expectations and Wenger must be meeting them. 

Arsenal v Manchester City - Premier League


To be honest, if we finish this season with another FA Cup and qualify for the Champions League that's still a success. There are not many teams who can better that.


Some of the abuse at the stadium just seems like pantomime. It seems like some people are waiting for the other team to score so they can kick off and say 'we want Wenger out.'


Stefan: Wenger isn't trying to lose. He's trying to set the team up to win. He's made his share of tactical mistakes, and some things haven't paid off, but the players need to take their fair share of the responsibility.


Chris: During the West Brom game, he didn't tell Ramsey to stand still during two corners and watch the ball go over his head. It's that kind of thing.

West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal - Premier League


Stefan, When did you change your mind on Wenger then? Was there a moment when you thought ok I agree it's time for him to move on?

Stefan : I changed my mind on Wenger seven or eight years ago when he started to get a predilection  for bringing in foreign players rather than home grown players. 


I read Amy Lawrence's book  Invincible and agreed with the sentiment that actually we could've even done better with that team than we did, and it was more a case of the players being really good, rather than the organisation of the club and management.


Chris: I don't think Wenger has ever been a 'great' manager. We've only ever won the league when we've had absolutely the best squad. United were winning the league when they had Sylvestre and John O'Shea at centre back and we were losing it when we had Campbell and Adams.

Who would you like to see in charge post Wenger, whenever he does move on?

Stefan: I'd like the club to be ambitious and go for a big name. I like the sound of [Massimiliano] Allegri. To be honest I be just as happy with [Thomas] Tuchel. 

Chris: You have said Neil Warnock before...

Stefan: [laughs] I have. I'd have taken anyone to be honest at some points. I'm over that now.

Chris: Top of my shortlist would be Simeone. He would put the cat amongst the pigeons with the group of players who are quite comfortable and he tends to get more out of teams than the individual players would suggest.  Pochettino would also be one of my top choices, because I think it would be funny. 

The Banner Man 

'Troopz'

Age: 29

Location: North London, UK

Occupation: Vlogger/ArsenalFanTV Contributor

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How often do you go to watch games?

I've only missed one game this season - Ludogorets away. That was because it was little man's birthday, so the wife was like 'you're not going!' I would've gone though. I went Munich on Valentine's Day.


Your opinion on Wenger is pretty clear on FanVoice and ArsenalFanTV. When did you change from being Pro to Anti-Wenger?

When he sold van Persie. Since 2012, strong . Arsenal fans flip flop, but not me . I've wanted him out for five years.


When Wenger does go, would you take the risk of years of transition in order to progress?

Yeah, I've said I'll give the new man three years. It takes time to build a new philosophy after 20 years.


Do you trust the club to find a decent replacement for Wenger?

That's the thing, because I can see them getting another 'yes man'.


Do you ever think that its a case of be careful what you wish for? That you could lose what you've already got by upsetting the status quo and actually what is happening now is not perfect, but it is alright?

It's not alright.  We are Arsenal football club. We shouldnt be out of the title race in December. We are a big club. With all due respect we are not Everton or Southampton. We are bigger than Man City.  We have the third biggest club in the country by league titles and joint most FA Cups. This isn't acceptable. And it's him. He's a fraud! Make sure you put that in. I want fraud in capitals.

Is that Wenger's legacy now?

He's ruined his legacy. He's ruined it.

Three league titles out of 20 is not good enough. When you get three out of 20 in a test, you don't get praised for it.  You see it year after year, he bottles it. Last season what happened when we beat Leicester at the Emirates that should've changed everything. Our heads should've gone up and their should've gone down. What happened? Their heads went up and ours went down!


I don't like Mourinho but the one thing he said that I agree with is that Wenger is a specialist in failure. I hate Mourinho but he's right.


We [Arsenal fans] want a divorce, but he won't sign the paper.


You bring your banner to the games, Do you think that has any effect on the club?

The players have come out and said that the banners are getting to them, but if you're a professional footballer and you've got people saying: 'your mum's this', 'your daughter's that', 'I'm going to do this to your missus' but your getting hurt by a banner that says 'no new contract', then your mentality is weak. Get out of the club with him [Wenger].


The fans are not happy. A lot of people want him out but they don't have the courage to say it, because  people shout, spit at you and push you.  Me, I don't care. I'll walk around the stadium with a banner by myself if I have to. And banners are heavy by the way.


Is it Wenger's fault that he hasn't gone? How many managers really resign. Some say they do but most are sacked. Most people in their job back themselves to fix the situation.


Ferguson resigned. 



He was an exception  though...

Wenger could be another exception. He earned the right to be another exception and he needs to just go. Fergie knew when it was time to go, whereas Wenger is clinging on.



If everything gets better, if Arsenal win the league and everything is a success next season, will you be sad because your FanVoice videos and ArsenalFanTV don't get views any more because you're not ranting and raving?

I get views anyway, so we're good [laughs].


Ok, I do get more views when we lose, that's just the truth, but I still do alright with a win.


Yes, I'd sacrifice the views for a league title, 100%. Actually I think if we won the league, FanVoice would be more enjoyable because I'd be going crazy. You'd want to watch it!

The Overseas Fan

Rob Vandy

Age: 25

Location: New York, USA

Occupation: US Navy

Arsenal v Crystal Palace - Premier League


What are the biggest problems with the current squad in your opinion?

Speaking strictly about the squad, I think mentality is the main issue. The talent and skill is there, as we've seen in games like the 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea earlier this season. 

On any given day they can turn it on and compete with the best. The problem is with those days they are not at their best. Talent only goes so far, and the team now is mentally very weak. 

There is no never-say-die attitude that we used to see with the likes of Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira. But to be fair, I think that is becoming more common in the modern game.  In the past decade, speed and skill has become preferred to mental and physical toughness, which makes for prettier football, but the deadlock and dogfight matches just turn ugly as opposed to being exciting battles to the death.

West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal - Premier League


Do you understand the frustration from some of the fans depicted with banners etc? Is it justified?

I understand it completely. Very simply put, the fans run the club. Especially at Arsenal, whose ticket prices are among the highest in England. The fans pay good money every week to see their team play. The players, coaches, board, etc are all making money while it's the fans who give it up to sit in the stadium. They have every right to voice their opinions... it is their club, not the board's.


What will Wenger's legacy be at Arsenal, whenever he goes?

It's tough to say. I think his immediate legacy will be of the past ten years and the inability to win any silverware aside from the FA Cup, but as time goes on, I think he will be looked back on as one of the greatest Arsenal managers. 

With his overall trophy haul and Invincibles to his name, it's hard not to be remembered in a positive light.

The Lifer

Wayne Lewis

Age: 56

Location: Islington, UK

Occupation: Advertising Director

The word 'mentality' gets used a lot when talking about Arsenal, do you think there is a mental block with some players?

We have a problem with our physicality and approach. We are not organised without the ball. We lack shape and, I hate to say it, some bollocks. It is very easy for so called inferior teams to play us. They let us have the ball knowing that there is a chance of a goal on a set piece.

Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Premier League


There has been a lot of coverage of the 'Wenger Out' campaign and fan unrest this season. Where do you stand personally on Wenger's position? Is it time for him to leave in your opinion?

Wenger is taking all the stick for the board and the poor performance of the team. I get that he ultimately is responsible for the team but he is being hung out to dry. Maybe it is time for a change but I can do without all the abuse for the man.

I get the frustration, but Wenger (at his best) delivers the Invincibles and at his worst finishes in the top four every year. In fact the average position is 2.7.

FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-PARADE


We all bought into the 'we have no money while we build the Emirates' on the understanding that we would be challenging for the title/Europe. We have not done that and that’s why fans are pissed. There is an age split. If you are twenty, you were seven when the Invincibles were built. 

We have not challenged since then and that is the problem. They have had ongoing disappointment. But the abuse of Wenger is unacceptable on all levels.

Slagging the team and manager is not the way forwards. You can see players melt with some of the abuse. They have a genuine point but banners are bollocks and the fans are split especially at the away games.


Where should Arsenal be as a club in your opinion?

We should be challenging for the title each year and making much better progress in Europe. 


Arsenal FC are huge. We are the only club that has a manager for 20 years - that model does not exist anywhere else. It is guns for hire now. Look at Klopp, Mourinho and Pep. They have no responsibility to build a club. Wenger has laid an unbelievable legacy and someone will come in and take all the glory.


What will Wenger's legacy be at Arsenal, whenever he goes?

Just the best. there were times over a 10 years period that I watched the best football being played anywhere in the world.

The Nostalgist

Terry Agnes

Age: 46

Location: Islington, UK

Occupation: Account Manager

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier League


What are the biggest problems with the current squad in your opinion?

Too many players are in the comfort zone and are picked because a lack of quality in the squad to challenge their place in the starting line up. I'm sure a new coach would get an extra 20% effort, but a lot of players need to move on too.

Ideally [I'd like] a new younger coach, Usmanov to take control and spend spend spend not only on players transfers but our wage structure needs to fall in line with being a so called 'big club'. 

Do you understand the frustration from some of the fans depicted with banners etc? Is it justified?

You have to acknowledge how much a fan spends following a team around the country and Europe. 

FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-LINCOLN


I think it's out of pure frustration that the board have allowed Wenger total control. they too have to shoulder some responsibility in selling their fans down the river.

I have been three times to the Emirates since November as it is a boring, toxic atmosphere and just down right depressing. I've not seen any banners in that time though.


How does Wenger's legacy compare to that of previous managers you witnessed as a fan?

I loved George Graham, he installed the ethos of victory through harmony, [he was] a great tactician and Wenger has to be thankful of the defence he inherited were so well drilled.

George managed to win two league titles three domestic cups and a European trophy and was very near to going unbeaten in the 1990/91 season losing only one game in the league on a shoestring budget. Mr Wenger has a lot to be thankful for the famous back four, plus Keown probably the best man marker ever. This allowed the Professor to build his fantastic attacking teams from.

Arsenal`s French coach Arsene Wenger (C) prepares


Who would you like to replace Wenger when he eventually leaves?

Who to replace Wenger with is not an easy decision - to date the board have never been in this situation and probably never will again. 

If they make the wrong call then I can see us in the wilderness for a few seasons with a team full of players happily earning a very good wage but not performing as they should because we will probably go through a couple of Managers not up to the task. 

Personally I wouldn't mind bringing back Vieira and a Keown on the coaching side, and possibly even Bergkamp.

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