Emirates atmosphere as dry as prunes in the sun for tepid North London Derby

There was plenty about Arsenal’s lacklustre draw with Tottenham to be disappointed with – from the fear-induced constipation in attack, to the sudden outbreak of defensive ineptitude.

For me, though, the most disappointing thing about the whole match day experience was the attitude of a reasonably significant section of fans. Frankly, it stunk.

There is no doubting that every Arsenal fan, everywhere on earth, wanted the win – we were all desperate for it. Confidence was high, Tottenham were in disarray – this was a golden opportunity to really give our old enemy a real spanking.

I’d be lying if I didn’t privately feel as though we really would do a job on Sunday.

And yet, despite all that, the atmosphere at the Emirates was as underwhelming as lukewarm piss. Not only that, it worsened dramatically as the match wore on. At times, it was angry and impatient, and there were even outbreaks of abuse directed at our own players. Can you fathom such a thing?

In what universe, either the one we currently occupy or the infinite parallel ones, does abusing your own team mid-match improve the situation? It was bizarre. For a man who only played for 19 minutes, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain seemed to attract more anger from fans than a burglar in the stocks.

It reminded me of the back end of last season, when, almost from the outset, the fans were more interested in angrily voicing their frustration at the players than really creating an atmosphere that might inspire the team.

It quickly became obvious that the players did not relish the prospect of playing at home, they were consumed with a nagging sense of self doubt, they daren’t try anything to risky lest the crowd jump on their back.

After disappearing briefly at the start of the season, it looks – worryingly – as if the same bad attitude is back.

That whinging and bitter hum of abuse led, on several occasions last season, to the type of performance we saw against Tottenham on Sunday.

The angst around the stadium spread like some insidious, unstoppable disease to the players, who seemed to panic and retreat into their shells as a result.

To be clear, I don’t blame the crowd for the result. That would be unfair. More often than not, the crowd takes its cue from the team and how it is performing. If the team is under par, chances are the crowd will be too.

But, sometimes, the team needs the crowd. If things aren’t going so well, the impact of the 12th man can be invaluable. It can change games; you won’t find a fan who would deny it.

It is clear that, after Harry Kane’s equaliser from the penalty spot, the crowd and the atmosphere withered and died like a bag of prunes in the sun. The stadium was gripped with fear, which quickly morphed into anger and transmitted itself in no uncertain terms to the team.

That was the absolute antithesis of what was required at that point.

I can’t sit here and say that simply cheering loudly and encouragingly at the team in those moments would have changed the result – but it certainly would have had a far better, more positive impact than what ultimately transpired.

I have unwavering respect for any fan who parts with hard-earned money to follow the team, home or away. It takes a lot of patience and dedication to do so. Without the fanbase, the club would never have achieved half of what it has.

That said, however, I think the time has come for some fans to sit down and reconsider how they conduct themselves at games.

Debate and disagreement around any team is an age-old and essential part of any healthy, functioning football club. But that can wait until the final whistle is blown.

For those fleeting 90 minutes, the focus simply must be on giving everything for the team – as we expect the 11 on the pitch to do.

The attitude of some fans must change. Leave the abuse and the anger for social media, or discussion down the pub. If you’re behind the team, really get behind the team, from the first whistle to the last.

When Arsenal hammered Chelsea 3-0 scarcely a month or so ago, the Emirates was absolutely rocking, even before the match had started. It was the best atmosphere I had heard at the stadium for a good long while.

The effect that had on the team speaks for itself. If fans can resolve to create that sort of hype around every match day, we will win far more games than we lose, or even draw.

It’s a simple thing, but if we want success this season, the fans are going to have to play their part too.


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