Talking Reds by Kevin Whitcher
So once again, we reach that time of the year when I put the final issue of the season to bed. It’s always with a mixture of joy and regret. Joy because it means a mini-break of sorts for yours truly here at Gooner Towers (although the website will continue to be updated), and regret because it means another year has passed. All our yesterdays and that kind of thing. As for the football team you and I support, I write on the afternoon of the Sunday before the Wigan home match. Arsenal are favourites to finish third and a win against Roberto Martinez’s side would mean the odds of that happening will be even lower by the time this issue is released ahead of the Chelsea fixture.
There are two sides to how Gooners can feel about this season. And they are comparable to the attitudes about score draws your team achieves. By coming
There is definitely a place for younger players in the first team, but by nature, they cannot be relied upon from behind, a third placed finish, above Spurs, will feel like a triumph. The equivalent is a match you think you have lost but gets pulled back at the death by a late equaliser. The team that has scored the late goal leaves the pitch the happier. The 201011 season felt like the opposite, as the team, with a chance of winning the title, slumped badly and ended up in fourth. They still had a shot at the Champions League the following campaign (qualifier allowing) and were also above Spurs. But there was such a deflated feeling that the lap of appreciation at the season’s end (after the home defeat to Villa) was a controversial affair, with few remaining and some of those barracking the players. A horrible atmosphere, the like of which I don’t think anyone wants to see again. So that season was like being 1-0 up but being pegged back. The end result – on paper – the same. A draw is a draw, worth one point. A top four finish is a Champions League spot (unless you are Everton in 2005 or Chelsea win the thing this season). Yet, the feelgood factor is definitely back at Arsenal and optimism is high for next season.
Approximately 4,000 season ticket holders did not renew in the summer of 2011 – close on nine per cent. The price of admission though, had gone up, which may have been a factor, alongside the perception of the team’s quality. It is interesting though, that the former season ticket holders I know have no regrets about their decision to give up their place, and have attended four or five home matches using spare tickets. If you are organised, there are only ever likely to be one or two matches a season you cannot get into if you are not a season ticket holder. And you do not have to pay the premium up front either. As there is greater and greater awareness of this, so the need to hang on to that precious guarantee of admission that is gold (or platinum) membership becomes smaller and smaller. Granted, it might bite you on the bum if Arsenal make a cup final, but even there gold membership does not guarantee you a seat. Informally, a Club Level season ticket does, but that’s another story.
So what will be tempting existing season ticket holders to part with their money by the end of May (or in reality mid-July if you really need the time to find the funds)? Well, for starters, the announcement that Robin van Persie has signed a new contract would help greatly. For too long, Arsenal have sold their best players because the price has been right. It’s meant profits in the bank, but has not helped the team. For once, the club needs to make a statement. There seems little doubt they will break their wage structure to persuade the captain to stick around.