Twitter Revisionism: Why Are Some Arsenal Fans So Prone to It?

Henry Waddon's thought-provoking piece on the revisionism of some Arsenal fans

Twitter Revisionism: Why Are Some Arsenal Fans So Prone to It?


Why Are Arsenal Fans So Prone to It?

It’s all a bit doom and gloom at the moment, isn’t it? It feels like an eternity since we last saw Arsenal play, January transfer ins and outs are slow-to-non-existent and, to make matters worse, a certain inevitable Belgian playmaker has returned to full-fitness and is already racking up goals and assists for City.

Starved of much hope, and in the absence of live Gooner action, I’ve often found myself doom-scrolling in the depths of Arsenal Twitter. And it’s been absolutely astonishing over these last days and weeks. We’re terrible for it. As soon as Arsenal hit a drop in form, our faithful turn to Twitter to drop some of the most baffling takes you are ever likely to read in your life.

Perhaps understandably, off-the-back of Villa’s recent revival, I’d started to notice a fair bit of Unai Emery revisionism on the timeline. Some even dared to claim that, given the time, backing and resources that have been afforded to Mikel Arteta, Emery could equally have led us to the heights that we’ve reached in recent times.

But we were there, weren’t we? We remember what those days were like, don’t we? We bottled the race for top four, we were utterly, irrevocably humiliated in Baku, and Emery was sacked in November 2019 off the back of a seven-game winless streak. It was a bad time, wasn’t it? We mustn’t forget that. Arsenal are a different prospect under Mikel Arteta, who has transformed our footballing brand, has off-loaded our wage-bill deadwood, and has taken us to title-contender standards. In the Arteta-Emery conversation, I know who I’m throwing my weight behind.

This, however, is a debate that you can just about entertain. Emery is a proven manager, with an impressive record across many of Europe’s higher calibre competitions. But, in the doldrums of this latest Arsenal slump, I have seen some revisionism that is capable of making the most fervent Arsenal fan’s toes curl.

I’ve seen people comparing Nicolas Pepe to Saka and Martinelli, I’ve seen fans lobbying for Lacazette over Gabriel Jesus, and, most confusingly of all, I’ve seen accounts trying to postulate that Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a better footballer than our very own Love Island Maldini, Ben White. Now, don’t get me wrong, these Arsenal players of by-gone ages offered some wonderful moments, and, for the most part, were pretty good servants to the club. But they do not touch our current crop. Our current team, for my taste, far exceeds them in terms of ability, athleticism, aura and will. These footballing takes... they’re just a bit odd, aren’t they? They feel desperate. They feel like a knee-jerk reaction from a fanbase that are upset. Disappointed.

So, why do we do it?

First and foremost, I think it’s because Arsenal are a team on the brink right now. It’s palpable.There have been times this season - City, United, PSV, Luton - where we have felt like behemoths capable of going all the way both domestically and in Europe. Equally, there have been moments, such as the one that we currently find ourselves in, where we feel like nearly-men. Like a club who just can’t quite take that step.

Whose shortcomings in terms of personnel and style-of-play will ultimately hold us back. And it really does feel like the remainder of our season could go either way in-extremis. In these difficult, fragile moments, I think it’s easy to reach-out into our past to look for answers and solutions. It’s easy to put rose-tinted spectacles on, and conjure up the memories of Sanchez and Ozil and Ramsey et al. To look back and say, ‘if they were here now, we would go all the way’. And it’s easy to look back at every cross-road and say, ‘if only Mikel had done this, or bought him, or tried that, then we’d have pushed onto the level that we dream of being at by now’.

But I think we’re very wrong to do so. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again, that the successes of last season are hugely attributable to the conjoint evolution of our set-up on the pitch, and the resurgence of culture, atmosphere and community in the ground.

The very worst days under Wenger and Emery were marred by terrible performances, married with a reputation for being a reactionary, vitriolic fanbase. We’re at our lowest when we start the genre of revisionism that I’ve seen on Twitter over the last few days and weeks.

In years to come, we will look back at Arteta’s reign with the same rose-tinted spectacles that we’ve dusted off of-late. We’ll talk, as we already do, about Tottenham (A) or Bournemouth (H) last season with a yearning and a joy.

But we have the chance to live it now. Let’s not tar it with ungratefulness for how far this manager and group of players have brought us already.

And let’s not allow our disappointment and grief at this recent blip play any role, big or small, in preventing us from lifting the silverware that this squad, and this manager, whole-heartedly deserve.

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