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Arsenal's Arsene Wenger Claims Social Media is Causing Problems in Football

The Standard
On any given day, if you type 'Twitter' into Google and then hit the news tab, you'll start to see sports related material almost immediately. Be it football, tennis, formula one, competitive hamster hurling or whatever other sport is enjoying the limelight at that given moment, you can be sure that Twitter will be the epicenter of post-game reactions. It's hard to characterise it as a good thing or a bad thing, but some have started to view it as the latter, most notably Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

On Sunday The Gunners played Stoke away, with the game resulting in a goalless draw. Under the circumstances (and due to the uniquely convoluted nature of the Premier League), that was a good result for Arsenal. Last time the two teams faced each other, it didn't end so favorably. They ended up losing the fixture 3-2, which resulted in Wenger and the team being accosted at the train station by a legion of angry fans after the last match.

Wenger was questioned about the incident in an interview on Saturday, and in his response he cited social media as a big part of the problem. “Before, your opinion was a bit more isolated. Today it straight away becomes a stream. People think the same way and it becomes a force.” He said. “Maybe with social networks everyone’s opinions are strengthened with other people who have the same opinion."

He's far from the first person to flag up the association between social media and negative fan responses, and it's far from unique to football. At the end of the last week, the first round of the NFL playoffs went down, and one particular game incited a blizzard of controversy. The record-breakingly cold Minnesota Vikings/Seattle Seahawks match-up was a low scoring, defense heavy affair which up until the closing minutes seemed to be going in favour of the Vikings. Later in the game the Seahawks began to catch up and in the closing seconds, with the score at 10-9 to Seattle, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh lined up for a 27-yard field goal. It should have been an easy kick, but it sailed wide left, resulting in heartbreak for the Vikings and a barrage of abuse on Twitter.

Happily in that case, the rage was offset by an adorable video of a class full of Minnesota kids writing open letters to Walsh to make him feel better about the missed kick, but the fact remains, others were howling for his blood. What social media has effectively heralded is an age of permanence for knee-jerk reactions. Before, you would just yell at the TV, complain about it for a few days and then move on, but now the rage is forever carved into the Twitter tablet for all to see. It also makes it easier for those people who are responding adversely to find and support each other, and before you know it, pack mentality overrides everything.

Angry football fans are nothing new, and it would be naive to suggest that social media is to blame for that, but what Wenger is suggesting is that what would have been a fleeting, impassioned response is bloated so heavily by trending culture that it ends up having a far greater impact on the team, and the sport. The problem with that, for my money, is that it drowns out real criticisms and makes it frustratingly unclear what supporters actually want from their team.

It's effortless to make a statement about a sports team now, whereas before you had to turn out for the matches and show your dedication in person. It's hard to know what to do about a problem like this, but many teams and athletes are taking steps to distance themselves from social media, and Wenger's remarks make it easy to see why.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Arsenal's Arsene Wenger Claims Social Media is Causing Problems in Football Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 Rating: 5

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