What is football without its fans? A question that commonly circulates the game on numerous occasions during the year. While we are all aware of what the game means to the spectators, it is perhaps less evident to see just what the support of the fans means to some players.
Iwobi credits Arsenal fans for his recent success at the club
Arsenal youngster Alex Iwobi recently spoke to the club’s official website following his run of top form in the first team. “It gives you an extra boost, an extra bit of confidence,” explained the Nigerian international, as he was quizzed about the support of Arsenal fans.
The morale in the stands is strong at Arsenal, with five consecutive wins in the Premier League, ‘Gooners’ have plenty to celebrate. While the fans' backing of the club is constant, support reached its optimum point just over a fortnight ago when the Gunners registered a memorable 3-0 win over their London rivals, Chelsea.
The sweet taste of a derby victory is still evident on the tongues of regular spectators, making the atmosphere around the club a positive one. In essence, the big win against the Blues just coincides with Arsenal’s terrific form, again contributing to the spirit currently in and around the club.
Iwobi commented on the pleasant vibes in the stands, and the effect it leaves on him as a player: “After the games I’m trying to go home but I see the fans almost breaking my car to grab a picture which is crazy. The connection I have with the fans is great.” The 20-year-old burst onto the scene when he scored on his Premier League debut back in March as a 19-year-old. “I’m young and most of the fans are young, so the connection’s there,” explained the Nigerian international.
Iwobi has been an integral part of Arsenal’s attack in recent times, especially in the absence of Alexis Sanchez, the pressure to step up was crucial. Iwobi filled the gaps that were previously missing when injuries hit the club last season, he was repaid with game time and added respect from the fans – something that he has not taken for granted: “I didn’t expect to be where I am today. I thought that I was going to be on loan a while ago, and probably getting experience there before getting first-team experience here.”
While Iwobi has received top backing from the fans at Arsenal, the story is contrasting elsewhere, telling the gloomy story of some players in the Premier League.
The ups and downs of being in the spotlight
No player wishes to be booed by their own fans, regardless of form. There is no surprise that players receiving criticism are unable to reach top form, some use criticism as an incentive to reach new heights. For example, while Theo Walcott endured a rough patch at Arsenal, some fans were calling for him to be replaced. In response he improved his form, rebuilding his trust with supporters of the club.
This reinforces the importance of fans in football, reflecting on the pitch in the form of the club and individuals. Elsewhere in the premier league, this is currently evident with the emergence of the effects that the lack of backing from some Manchester United fans is having on club veteran Wayne Rooney.
The Englishman’s wife took to twitter to support Rooney in his frustrating time and struggle to find form in this current United side. Having served the club for 12 years, it is no surprise that the lack of support from the fans is negatively contributing to his poor form.
The support in the stands goes further than supporting a club, as it would be assumed that Rooney’s confidence has been dented following such treatment. Some players thrive from the pressure, however resisting criticism from your own supporters is less of a practical dilemma to resolve.
Rooney has not commented himself on the situation, however time will tell as to whether he can recover his form in what would be assumed as his final years at the club.
Football is a game of passion on and off the pitch, support never goes unappreciated by clubs despite how the modern day game may communicate the importance of spectatorship – as a financial plus. Regardless, fans will continue to back their club, supporting and testing players individually and as a unit in tough and celebrated times.