Humility is, by and large, a vastly underrated quality in sport. Having the resolve to reign-in celebrations, or in turn remain modest, when certain situations arise often escapes competitors in the heat of the moment.
The majority of the time that same unrelenting desire to rub it in the faces of unfortunate opponents translates to the stands, with supporters having invested money to bathe in the successes or commiserate in defeat. No truer an arena can this verdict be recognised than a football stadium, or, more broadly, football as a sport in general.
Football fans humility
Football fans are an unforgiving lot at the best of the times, and when their side is winning, or a player performing well, there aren’t many occasions in which the host of the outfit on the other end of the result are allowed to forget about it.
It’s an approach which can from time to time throw up a humiliating experience. The tables are turned, an unexpected dip in form, a shock loss; the fans doing the jeering can all too easily find the shoe falling off of their foot and slipping comfortably onto the foot of the opposition.
With this in mind I find myself unable to properly fathom the tirade of abuse and trolling Arsenal fans have dished out to their Manchester United counterparts over the past twelve hours or so. On a night where most Red Devils supporters would be viewing the Champions League clashes in a neutral capacity, given last season’s failure to qualify for the competition, the Arsenal faithful were delirious with celebration.
The Welbeck show
A 4-1 thumping of a not-too-shabby Galatasaray side allayed fears that their European journey was set for an embarrassing early failure - fears administered after a 2-0 opening group game defeat away to Borussia Dortmund. Yet it was the performance of Danny Welbeck which stirred the Gunners’ following into life on various forms of social media over the night.
The England international, who completed a controversial transfer from United for around £16million on deadline day, bagged a cool hat-trick to take his tally for Arsenal to four goals in five matches in all competitions. Cue rambunctious jubilation from the stands at the Emirates Stadium, and a great deal of supporters accusing United of stupidity in the transfer market.
The majority of the jibes are aimed at Louis van Gaal for his decision to let Welbeck leave, but they filter down to reopen the wounds that are still smarting for most United fans with regards to the departure of a homegrown talent.
To believe the papers this morning, and the praise being heaped on Welbeck, Arsene Wenger landed the new Thierry Henry for the relatively small amount of money he paid during the final hours of the summer market. Previous trepidations over his ability to consistently find the back of the net seem to have been swept under the carpet, and his goals against Galatasaray have shifted him into the category of players who were good enough for United, but simply not given a proper chance.
From a neutral point of view - I’m not a supporter of either side - I’d be quick to warn those who love Arsenal against placing Welbeck’s hat-trick at the centre of any arguments over his ability to suitably lead the line. There’s more than just one point which lends credence to the idea that he remains a risky purchase, and to save face before it’s too late, Gunners fans would be wise to read up on them.
Welbeck is, at this stage of his career, still a player of great potential. At 23-years-old he’s already a mainstay in the England setup and has played on the biggest stages for United, scoring important goals at venues like the Santiago Bernabeu and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. It’s dangerous to class him as anything other than a player of copious promise though.
At United his goal haul was never overly impressive, having only managed to find the net 29 times in 142 appearances for the Red Devils. When it’s considered that he was routinely pushed out of position to accommodate the more reputable talents such as Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie that stat becomes a little less significant, but there remains an undeniable fact; Welbeck isn’t proven as an out and out forward.
Without dwelling too much on an earlier point I feel the need to reinforce that I believe the ex-United ace is a player of incredible potential. His physical attributes and tender years means there’s plenty to be reaped if the seeds of development continue to be sowed correctly.
Heralding him as the signing of the season is dangerous though, and United fans only have to fire back the rhetoric that he’s not needed at Old Trafford to combat it. Van Gaal spent over £150million over the summer months to reshape his team in his image, and amongst the superstars to enter the fray was Radamel Falcao.
The Colombian hit-man is arguably everything Welbeck currently isn’t; proven, experienced and well travelled. Though he’s yet to find the back of the net there’s every chance his performance figures could heavily overshadow those of the man whose exit freed up the room for him to prosper at his new club.
There was always going to be a degree of hyperbole surrounding Welbeck’s future once he found his feet at Arsenal and now, following last night’s joyous showing, the expectation on his shoulders has increased.
Plenty of people believe he’s got the ability to do it; to become the player Wenger lost when Henry moved to Barcelona, and in truth there’s a good chance he might. Pushing the notion in the face of United supporters is a practise which must be guarded against though, because if he fails the last laugh will be on Arsenal’s bitter rivals.