Villains arguably make a story.
Would Die Hard be as epic without Alan Rickman’s star turn as the super-slick Hans Gruber?
Would Anchorman be as complete without poor-man’s Ron Burgundy, Wes Mantooth?
What about the scene-stealing antics of Bricktop in Snatch?
A bad guy gets the best lines, a bad guy evokes emotion.
The same goes for sport, and those players that you just love to hate.
Gary Neville in his playing pomp used to play up to the Liverpool fans. He was Public Enemy Number One in the red half of Merseyside, and he loved every minute of it.
Our fanbase however, have taken this and gone into overdrive.
It is but a portion of Gooners that have chosen to concentrate their ire on one player.
The problem with this is that it is one of our own.
Football needs candidates we can boo and hiss at, those that as soon as they pick up the ball, we let them know in our own inimitable way, that they aren’t very welcome round these here parts.
To do it to one of our own players though, is simply ridiculous.
First it was Shkodran Mustafi who was the subject of vilification for his performances in red and white. The German’s propensity for high-profile boo-boo’s meant he was an easy target for mock-up’s, meme’s and general anger.
Now, criticism is part and parcel of being a fan. We are allowed to bestow compliments on those who do it week in and week out for our team, and the same goes when highlighting how erroneous a display has been.
If a player is dipping far below what is expected of them, then it is moronic to say we cannot hold them up and say “this is far from good enough.”
The same thing can be said for the treatment that has been doled out to both Mustafi and Granit Xhaka.
Now Mustafi is out of the side, a portion of our fanbase needed another punch bag to aim their vitriol at. Step forward Granit Xhaka, and some out of context stats that show the Swiss star in a terrible light.
So far this season, he has been dribbled past the most, been tackled the most and his rash tackle on Son that gifted spurs a spot kick in our last North London Derby was yet another example of the weaknesses in Xhaka’s skillset.
It does hide the fact that when he doesn’t play, we so often lack a bridge between defence and attack and how prolific he is in sparking attacks from deep.
This article is not an affirmation of Xhaka for the first team. It is merely intended to highlight the awful critique he and Mustafi have to deal with from our own ‘fans.’
It goes far beyond ignorance. You can overlook the benefits of both players – Mustafi for example had better tackling and aerial battle stats than £80m man Harry Maguire last season – but the negativity aimed at both from people who purport to be Gooners?
Criticise, show that they have screwed up and we should play alternatives from now on – but when they are in our shirt, we must support.
That is the very essence of being a supporter. Through thick and thin, through awful players and soul-crushing losses. We continue to stand, to shout and to sing.
We represent the club, and at the moment, some of the hate that is directed toward our own players is at times shameful.
Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi obviously have their own failings and they are perhaps below what we need in our team right now.
But they both give their all for us and, Xhaka especially, continue to be picked by coaches that know far more than we do about the minutiae of the sport.
If they make a mistake in the future – and we all fear that there will be more to come – can we put a stop to the threats and hatred?
We have a squad that is capable of lifting us above the level we have been at recently. Let us unite behind our men and give them the support they need to elevate themselves further.
Players need backing just like we all do.