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04th Apr 2017

Arsenal fans are gaining a worldwide reputation for ridiculousness that the majority don’t deserve

It is a reputation that could become damaging

Nooruddean Choudry

Arsenal fans really are something else.

Or rather some Arsenal fans are. It’s quite fun to broadly ridicule the Gunners’ support en masse as a constantly cringeworthy collective, but in fairness it’s always the more ridiculous and attention-seeking minority that result in the most headlines and invite the greatest number of retweets and shares.

That said, even the most partisan amongst their number would surely admit that Arsenal have more than their fair share of headline hungry look-at-me types intent on grabbing the limelight. All clubs have them, but no one can compete with the sheer number of ‘colourful characters’ at the Emirates.

Quite often their annoyances are legitimate, but their actions take the focus away from the message and onto themselves. Perhaps they prefer it that way. It could well be that some of the more recognisable faces are less angry for change, and more hungry for personal fame and notoriety.

Of course the paying supporters have every right to protest whatever they please in whichever manner they deem appropriate. Anger towards the Arsenal board is utterly justified, and the growing unhappiness at Arsene Wenger’s continuing reign is understandable. Not everyone agrees, but fair fucks.

However, as much as they are free to do as they please, so everyone else is equally free to ridicule them, especially if they’re being ridiculous. And ridiculousness is something that Arsenal supporters are becoming world famous for – regardless of whether the majority shun the ongoing circus around their club.

Whenever someone dresses up – masks and all – as Arsene Wenger or Alexis Sanchez, or instigates a mass shouting match outside the ground, or hires a plane (or two) to fly over a game, or pays for a mobile billboard to bear a slogan, it adds to the aura of comedy club. Rivals fans lap it up and take the piss. Why wouldn’t they?

The defensive, often angry, reaction to this is what’s wrong with it? Why are you mocking us? It’s not the fans who are embarrassing the club, it’s the club itself, and the docile money-raking board in particular. That may be so, but their maddening obstinance isn’t a direct challenge to ramp up the cringe factor.

‘Peak Arsenal’ is an increasingly popular term with an ever-changing definition. It refers to behaviours and actions that sum up the outside perception of modern Arsenal supporters. It is unfair to the face-palming majority, but they are now characterised as a fanbase that lives for drama and wilfully invites ridicule.

The bigger concern for actual level-headed Gooners is whether the constant circus has real-life implications beyond mockery from rival supporters. In this day and age, players and managers are more plugged in and clued up to such matters than ever before. It could make the club seem somewhat toxic.

That is perhaps an extreme scenario. Arsenal remain a hugely respected club around the world, synonymous with exciting football, glamorous names, class and stability. They boast incredible facilities, enviable resources, and a colossal fan base. But sadly that fan base is developing an outlandish reputation.

The term ‘beyond parody’ is prevalent for all sorts of reasons in this remarkable age we live in. But it is particularly apt when it comes to the gradually more surreal actions of some professional Gooners. It is not a simple case of pro-Wenger versus anti-Wenger, but rather the dismayed majority and attention-seeking few.