Gary Neville vs ArsenalFanTV: Did the Anti-Wenger Brigade Further Their Cause?

Filed under England, Premier League

In the final minutes of Arsenal’s disappointing 3-1 loss to Chelsea two weeks ago, a banner  was unfurled by a disgruntled Arsenal fan, one which read “enough is enough, time to go,” a blunt message directed towards beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. In his role as co-commentator for Sky Sports, Gary Neville was quick to pounce on the fan, calling him an ‘idiot.’ Following the match, Neville continued to criticise the anti-Wenger brigade, this time focusing his attention on popular YouTube channel ArsenalFanTV, branding them as ’embarrassing.’ ArsenalFanTV founder Robbie Lyle hit back, claiming that Neville had ‘overstepped the mark’ in his criticism, before inviting the ex-Manchester United defender onto the show. Neville accepted and a 40 minute interview between Neville, Lyle, and other regulars from ArsenalFanTV was released on Thursday.

Gary Neville didn't hold back in his criticism of Arsenal fans in the wake of their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea

Gary Neville didn’t hold back in his criticism of Arsenal fans in the wake of their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea

Before we get into the discussion itself, I want to give credit to ArsenalFanTV for sticking up for what they believe in. As someone who supports a club where the manager is revered myself, I appreciate how hard it can be to speak out against the manager. Yes, the manner in which some of the fans speak is off-putting and over-the-top, however their message itself isn’t too outlandish or disrespectful. Simply put, the view of the anti-Arsenal crowd who appear on ArsenalFanTV is that, although Wenger has been Arsenal’s most successful manager in their history, he’s simply past it, and cannot take the club any further in terms of winning Premier Leagues and Champions Leagues. Not only is it a reasonable opinion, but it’s one that I go along with. When I first heard Gary Neville’s comments, I was taken aback by the scathing nature with which he spoke. Although ArsenalFanTV usually turn to the same few fans for post-match interviews (DT, Troopz, and Claude), they speak on behalf of a fair few amount of Arsenal fans, not just in London, but around the world. For Neville to so easily dismiss their opinions the way he did was rather unfair. Remember, most of these fans are working/middle class men, who save up to watch their team play. When they lose a match, they will understandably be very frustrated.

Unfortunately however, my praise for ArsenalFanTV ends there. In terms of the football itself, the debate wasn’t great because Neville and ArsenalFanTV weren’t arguing two clashing positions. Neville’s argument was that Wenger deserves better than having banners being waved during matches and abuse being hurled by fans, given the success he’s brought to the club over 20 years, and that simply changing the manager wouldn’t be a guarantee of success. As stated earlier, the position of the anti-Wenger brigade is that he simply can’t take the club any further. There was no discussion on how Arsenal should change going forward, whether there are any suitable replacements for Wenger going forward, how they should act in the transfer market, etc. In this sense, ArsenalFanTV really missed a trick: they had one of the sharpest footballing minds in the country on their show for 40 minutes, and never really took advantage of it. As someone who was expecting a football oriented debate, this was very disappointing.

There was a lack of substance in the arguments put forward by the ArsenalFanTV panel

There was a lack of substance in the arguments put forward by the ArsenalFanTV panel

 

Instead, the discussion centred around ArsenalFanTV defending their right to do what they do, and attacking Neville for being disrespectful. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and all Neville had to do was point this out whenever he was questioned: just as the fans can hurl abuse at Wenger, Neville can attack the fans for doing so in a manner which he feels is disrespectful. I may have thought that Neville’s comments were unfair, but this is an unavoidable fact. What they should have done was fully explain the shortcomings of the team in the last 12 years: the lack of quality signings, the lack of progress being made in the Premier League and Champions League, the financial inability of the club to compete with other giants following the move to the Emirates, the lack of ambition of the board and management, and the lack of tactical variation from Wenger himself. They tried to play the victim card, and it simply didn’t work. Moh-an ArsenalFanTV regular, and a member of the panel- was complaining about Neville using a clown emoji in a tweet. Seriously? You can’t act macho after matches, but then clam up when forced to defend your opinions.

ArsenalFanTV will be incredibly happy to have bolstered their image and reputation by securing an interview with Gary Neville, one of the best pundits in the world, however they did nothing to further the anti-Wenger cause. Ill will towards the higher ups isn’t exclusive to just Arsenal, and the lack of substance provided by the panel that ArsenalFanTV put forward did a great job of lending credibility to the notion that the modern day fan is a short-term, glory hunter rather than a loyal and logical supporter who has his club’s best interests at heart.

 

 

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About Nikhil Agarwal

I am an avid football fan, and have been following the game for close to 10 years. Although I try to keep track of football around the world, the league that is closest to my heart is definitely the Barclays Premier League. For more pieces check out my blog. http://nikhil111199.blogspot.sg

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