Are Arsenal The Most Hated Team In The League?
Football is loved worldwide for a number of reasons but I think the biggest reason is its ability to evoke emotion. I usually feel a multitude of emotions when I watch Arsenal but for the past few weeks I have found that the dominant emotion has been anger.
Unlike some of my frothy-mouthed fellow supporters I haven’t been angry about team selection, tactics or the inclusion of Gervinho/Ramsey/Mertesacker or league position. No, I have been getting increasingly angry when watching Arsenal due to the commentary.
So-called experts, pundits, commentators and co-commentators seem to derive pleasure from criticising Arsenal at every given opportunity and are always looking for ways to fault Arsenal.
Of all the teams that are considered “big” Arsenal seem to be the only club that suffers from unrelenting criticism. I don’t classify all of these teams as “big” but the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool all seem to garner praise from the press and TV pundits regardless of their actions whereas Arsenal it seems can do no right.
Last Saturday, Tony Gale was the co-commentator for Arsenal’s match against Norwich and he revelled in disparaging Arsenal. Norwich could do no wrong and Arsenal could do no right. When tackles went in on an Arsenal player he claimed that Norwich was doing a great job at “getting” at Arsenal and he could see nothing wrong with the challenges. Within moments he would be scolding Arsenal for identical or lesser offences. When Kei Kamara tripped over his own leg for the freekick that led to Norwich’s goal he called it a clear foul from Gibbs and took great delight from Norwich’s goal with a gleeful rant about Arsenal’s poor defending and how Arsenal can’t defend etc despite having one of the best defensive records in the league.
Later on in the same match when Giroud was brought down in the box for the equalising penalty he claimed that Giroud had gone to ground too easily and after the chance had gone. According to Tony Gale, there was nothing wrong with Giroud being pulled to the ground and the earlier penalty claim on Theo Walcott was rightly waved away despite it being a stonewall penalty. He spent the entire match making scathing remarks about Arsenal and making hypocritical comments about Arsenal’s tactics or fouls and even managed to taint the one good thing he said about Arsenal when Podolski scored by harping on about Theo being marginally offside in a match that was probably already won. He was even heard calling Bunn a professional for time-wasting. Classy Tony, classy.
The way Tony spews vitriol about Arsenal you would think he was turned down by them at some point and has a 40 year old axe to grind.
Despite Tony Gale being a regular fixture in the Arsenal-haters club it isn’t restricted just him. Former Arsenal player Brian Marwood built a reputation for praising opposition players for their physical play even when it amounted to blatant and brutal kicking. Marwood also revelled in labelling Arsenal players as cheats and divers even when replays showed crunching tackles.
The commentator on Tuesday night against Everton was just as bad. Everton played like Stoke in blue and committed foul after foul yet were praised by the commentary team for their physical play and aggression. I have no issue with physical football as long as it isn’t the only element of the game as it seems it was for Everton on Tuesday. The commentators seemed to enjoy the physical play however spoke of Arsenal with contempt when any challenges were made by a player in a red and white shirt. When Darron Gibson should have been sent off for body-slamming Theo Walcott they got stuck on the point that his first yellow was maybe a tad harsh. They completely overlooked that Gibson’s card was justified by his repeated fouling and the repeated fouling of his team and an example needed to be made. As a standalone incident his card probably was harsh but it wasn’t a standalone incident and his challenge on Theo should have been a second yellow card as a minimum.
Now, the choice to send Gibson off or not rested entirely with the referee so that’s not part of this rant but the commentators reaction to the challenge and praise of the referee for “balancing” things out was further cause for me to believe that Arsenal are in fact the most hated team in the world of TV punditry.
Arsenal suffer lashes from the tongues of many pundits and commentators from the universally hated Alan Hansen to the previously worshipped Paul Merson who has struggled to find a positive or decent thing to say about Arsenal for about 5 years. The ones the rankle the most are Tony Gale, Adrian Durham and Andy Townsend and pretty much everyone on ESPN or MOTD (bar Dixon and Keown) but none I feel beat our very own Stewart Robson. The man who was paid by own beloved club to tear chunks out of them on a weekly basis.
Thankfully we don’t have to put up with him on official club commentaries but the fact that we did and for such a long time still irks. For those unfamiliar with his work you may be shocked to know that he has been on national radio attacking Theo Walcott, not once but twice. The first time was in May of 2012 when he said, whilst still in the clubs employ that Theo was not a good footballer and again in January of this year when he said that Theo was overrated and that he doesn’t have a good understanding of the game.
Some people may say that these are fair criticisms, I would disagree but hey, that’s what opinions are for, but I would say that regardless of the fairness of these criticisms, a person in the employ of Arsenal Football Club should not be attacking players on national radio nor should they be using their Arsenal TV show to attack the players, the manager or the tactics without good cause
I don’t know where the hatred for Arsenal comes from but it isn’t anything new. For quite a few years Arsenal came under a lot of criticism for having a lot of foreign players and I always felt that Arsenal were targeted because of that and labelled as a bunch of Euro-cheats, divers and weaklings. I just don’t understand why it is still happening with a team that boasts some of the best young British talent there is in Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.
I don’t know what it is about us that causes almost every pundit on TV, radio or in the press to hate us but I do know that despite getting angry, I actually quite like it. I’ve come enjoy these commentary injustices that make me scream and shout because I know they’re wrong and biased and that means something. I’m not entirely sure what but I get an innate feeling that it is positive for Arsenal.
So Gale, Durham, Robson and your brethren of bile, hate on us all you like. We don’t care.
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