Is transfer 'aggression' really what Arsenal fans want or is it restored pride?

Arsenal midfielder and vice-captain Mikel Arteta expressed his excitement and anticipation that the club will make more ‘aggressive’ moves in the transfer market.

Arsenal – predominantly the board and the boss Arsene Wenger – have come under intensifying pressure in recent weeks, months and years to reinvest in their squad to improve their ability to compete on the pitch.

"The club have said they are going to be very ambitious in the market and have got the financial resources to get big players," explained the Spaniard.

"I think it's about time. When you compare us to the other top English clubs and the money they have paid, we are very far apart. The value of this club is the class and what it means is very difficult to match. Now, financially, they are very strong so maybe we will be more aggressive in the transfer market. There has never been a tradition at Arsenal to pay crazy, crazy money.”

"I am excited. They made it public that they are going to go big and the sort of players they have been linked with makes me happy,” he added.

Arteta’s clear excitement – obviously about the potential for top signings in the foreground – got me thinking about an underlying subtext in the background of Arsenal’s gradual decline from genuine title contenders and winners over the past 8 years to only just a top four club.

I hope that both male and female readership alike will forgive me this mere suggestion that perhaps Arsenal fans’ outrage at the sales of key players like Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, and Samir Nasri to name but a few is directly related to pride and, furthermore, perceptions of masculinity.

Sport is, after all, about competition – winning necessarily involves dominating another – and has, for that reason, replaced war as a favoured pastime in many ways.

That’s likely also why men’s sport is more popular than women’s sport and why a greater interest is shown in male athletes and sports figures traditionally – not because women don’t compete or they don’t dominate, it’s simply a less valued quality when they do, apparently.

The male ability to conquer and assert dominance is largely what his sense of masculinity is based on and, to put it bluntly, Arsenal have been allowing other clubs (rival clubs) to assert their financial dominance over them, whether by force or via their own reluctant compliance for a number of years now.

Subsequently, the media takes to shaming the club – it is seen as something of a humiliation that the club that was once ‘invincible’ is now being used as a ‘feeder club’ for it’s most valuable assets. No wonder the fans are angry and confused and have taken to in-fighting amongst themselves.

However, is it possible that they’ve been directing their anger at the wrong people in the wrong directions? Is the club itself to blame for allowing players to be sold to rival clubs if the players are refusing to sign new contracts and or are being offered vastly superior wages elsewhere?

Using my (albeit hyperbolic) rationale, the fans are unhappy that the club has been stripped of it’s best players and the pride that goes along with having them as Arsenal players – that is not really the club’s fault or the manager’s. I’m sure Arsene Wenger would have preferred to keep them.

That is entirely the doing of the clubs those players were sold to, the players and the agents involved and, understandably, for the fans, the money Arsenal were in receipt of is of little or no consolation – in fact some might argue it’s only further evidence of the club’s perpetuation of their own degradation.

It’s about pride – pride in the ability to compete on the pitch, firstly, but also pride in the club’s ability to assume control of their situation after having been bullied into submission by bigger more powerful clubs in the transfer market and, subsequently, on the pitch.

These are football fans who had to watch their star striker (whose name may well still have been written across their backs) score time and time and time again for Manchester United, formerly their most bitter rivals. They had to watch him score at the Emirates after publicly renouncing, doubting and belittling the very club that nurtured him. Then they had to watch him lift the trophy and discuss it as if it were the greatest achievement of his life as if the last 8 years of his career had been a trivial misfortune.

The fact that Arsenal may still not win a trophy next season, even if they buy a top quality striker like Luis Suarez for example, is actually of less importance to the fans at this stage than their demonstration of ‘aggression’ and ‘ambition’ to compete again – the equivalent of roaring and chest-thumping perhaps: the show of, first and foremost, non-submission.

The fans want to see the club fight with all it’s got and defend it’s own honour. They want Arsenal to reclaim it’s place as an Alpha-club in domestic and continental competitions and, of course, they want the trophies but more significantly they want to get back what trophies have always been the physical symbol of; pride and high status.

If Arsenal buy a player like Luis Suarez for £30-odd million, they will, if nothing more, restore their fans’ self-esteem and that’s okay. It’s perfectly valid. Just imagine how Tottenham fans feel all the time.

image: © wonker

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