Arsenal 3-1 Stoke FT
Saturday’s victory over Stoke was by no means the most convincing of Arsenal wins but the Gunners continued their fine form, turning up the heat on Antonio Conte’s Chelsea ahead of their game on Sunday.
Theo Walcott’s equalizer, Mesut Ozil’s sublime header and Alex Iwobi’s calm finish cancelled out Charlie Adams first half opener and sealed the Gunners’ tenth league victory of the season.
I was offered the chance to move seats this weekend and I reluctantly took up the offer. However, it was an opportunity to sit in what I call ‘the prawn sandwich section’ and view the game from a totally different angle. I was right on the half way line, dead centre, a few rows behind the away dugout and the view was awesome what more could you want?
It sounds like a dream but in reality it was one of the worst experiences I’ve had at the Emirates stadium. My season ticket is situated in Block 6 of the North Bank; without doubt the most atmospheric part of the ground. I can count on one hand how many times I have sat in other parts of the ground and when I have it’s only ever been the odd league cup game.
Despite only moving 6 blocks around it felt as though I was sitting in a different stadium and to be honest, at times it made my blood boil. We often hear fans of rival clubs calling us a ‘prawn sandwich club’ and if they’re basing it on what I saw this weekend you’d have a hard time arguing against them.
The Casual Fan Base
As the game kicked off this weekend the four seats directly in front of me, the two to my left and the three behind me were completely empty. We’ve all been in a situation where the transport around the ground has been an absolute nightmare and so you can forgive the odd fan for strolling in a minute or two after the kick off but this is a far deeper issue.
Since the Gunners moved to the Emirates stadium just over ten years ago we have acquired what I can only describe as a casual fan base. Football is no longer a working man’s sport due to the sky high prices and to put it simply, half of the spectators in the Emirates stadium are just there for a day out or because a casual season ticket holder gave them his ticket for the day.
The bigger the stadium, the more room there is for the casual fan and it’s an issue that almost every big club suffers from.
The Typical Casual Gooner
The reality is, these people don’t really care about Arsenal football club. They don’t share the same love and passion for the club that you and I do. They turn up ten minutes late to every single game, disappear before the first half ends in search of the bar, and return ten minutes into the second half having gotten carried away talking with their mates inside.
Best of all, no matter what the score is, however finely poised the game is or whoever the opponent they choose to leave ten minutes early in a bid to avoid the crowded trains.
Is there any point in even coming!?
I’m sure every Arsenal season ticket holder can think of at least one person around them who fits this description.
Having a stadium plagued with casual fans can have a detrimental impact on the team and causes divide amongst fans. The club itself will never see this as an issue as long as they’re balancing the books..
I am a firm believer that a vocal crowd can give the players performance an extra 10-15%, can carry a team through a difficult period in a game and can influence refereeing decisions. These factors, especially in the big games can sometimes get the team over the line but what kind of atmosphere can you generate when the ground is half empty at kick off, before and after half time and ten minutes from the end?
During the course of last season I witnessed a number of clashes inside the ground between our own supporters. In particular when our title challenge began to de-rail. There is no better example of the division in our support than the Wenger IN/OUT debate. The casual fans acceptance of just finishing 4th in recent years has distanced them further from the real Arsenal hardcore.
Sadly, it’s the direction modern football is heading in. Inflated prices, casual fans and even the most historical of clubs are beginning to lose their identities.