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The Importance of the Supporters’ Belief in the Side
It seems to me that the last month or so has seen a sea change in the Arsenal support. Following the double defeats to Chelsea and United, the anti-Wenger boo-boys were out in full force calling for the Boss’s head on a platter and a swift end to his “personal project.” Five weeks, qualification for the Champions League Quarterfinals, and five League wins later, Arsenal are in the midst of their best chance at a title since 2004-05.
For most of last season and much of this season, a very vocal minority of Arsenal supporters have given up faith in Arsene and do everything they can to let everyone know it. Those of you who frequent forums or nameless Arsenal blogs of that persuasion know what I am talking about.
However, with the prospects of a title as good as they’ve been in years, the deluge of anti-Wenger protests have diminished from the ubiquitous Arsenal newsfeeds. Now, I am not naive enough to believe that just the prospect of winning the title will change these supporters’ minds and I am quite sure that if we even lose the title by 1 point they will be back in full force throughout the summer. Yet, for now, they seem to have gotten behind the manager, the players, and the club.
Of course, there are still a few rogues. 606 played host to one of the most idiotic rants from an Arsenal fan I have ever heard this past Saturday. If you heard it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Others continue to deride Nicklas Bendtner as if the Burnley match was indicative of his season so far obviously failing to realize that he has now scored 6 goals in his last five games including a hat-trick in a second-leg of a European tie and a last-minute winner away to Hull which kept our league season alive. What more can the kid do? Attitudes like that do not help the club.
However, the majority of supporters have gotten behind the club and the players. Perhaps, the incident most indicative of this change involved Bendtner. After one of the most inept and unlucky displays of finishing we have seen in a long time, the supporters at the Emirates stayed behind him, even clapping him off. This was in stark contrast to the treatment Emmanuel Eboue received back in December 2008 against Wigan.
Supporters received a lot of stick in the media following their booing off of Eboue. To his greatest credit, Eboue didn’t put his head down or take the easy way out and ask for a transfer, though he was obviously hurt. Now, 15 months on, he is an indispensable part of the club as the best back-up right-back in the league and a genuine wide-attacking option. His versatility and his spirit have proven invaluable this season.
The contrast between the treatment of Eboue and Bendtner is the single best indicator that the supporters, who over the last two years have almost split into pro- and anti-Wenger factions, have dropped their petty differences to get behind the club for these 13 possible remaining fixtures.
Arsene has always spoken about the importance of belief for the players, but, last year at a Q & A with the fans in May, he spoke of how important the supporters’ belief was to the club. Not only is the side growing in confidence and belief but so are the supporters… and the players know it. They know that for the first time in a long while the supporters believe in them, and that could make all the difference over the last two months of the season.