Arsenal’s misery continues but furious fans give Kroenke a glimpse of what’s to come
Match statistics: Arsenal 0-1 Everton
Sometimes the game just doesn’t really matter.
It doesn’t happen often, but that’s how it felt at Emirates Stadium on Friday night.
Arsenal played Everton and they lost 1-0 – but as the match meandered on, the main event was still taking place outside the ground.
Throughout the first half you could hear the chants rippling through the crisp north London air from the thousands of Arsenal fans who had spent the past two hours protesting outside against the ownership of Stan Kroenke.
“Kroenke Out”, “We want our Arsenal back”, “Stan Kroenke, get out of our club.”
It was an ever-constant hum, punctuated from time to time by the sound of police sirens or fireworks being set off amongst the crowd.
This was the biggest protest seen at Arsenal in years. The fans wanted their voices to be heard – and they were heard loud and clear.
“Tonight the Arsenal fans made me so proud,” said 61-year-old Arsenal fan John Williamson. “Thousands demonstrated against the owner without a hint of trouble.
“If Stan Kroenke could hear us from his ranch 3,000 miles away, he’d be in no doubt that he isn’t wanted.”
Whether Kroenke listens is another thing. But if Arsenal’s billionaire owner is sitting over in the United States hoping that tonight’s scenes were a one-off, then he would be wrong.
This was just the start. There will be more protests, more pressure put on Government to introduce legislative change when it comes to owning football clubs in this country.
It feels like a movement has started at Arsenal and the momentum that has built up during the past chaotic week is not going to fall away any time soon.
This was the first real chance for Arsenal fans to have their say following the Super League debacle.
A select few left Josh Kroenke in no uncertain terms about how they felt during a fans forum conference call on Thursday afternoon, but this was an opportunity for the masses to get involved.
They started to arrive from 5pm onwards, three hours before the Everton game was due to get underway.
Within an hour the numbers gathered outside the stadium had made it into the thousands.
Flares were sent up in the air and fans clambered on top of the roof of the Armoury Megastore. This was their chance to make a stand and they wanted to make sure they took it.
Mikel Arteta had said in the build-up to the game that it was his job to keep his players focused despite all the distractions that were going on outside.
The Premier League may be playing second fiddle to the Europa League for Arsenal right now, but this was a game he desperately wanted to win to build some sort of momentum ahead of Thursday’s semi-final against Villarreal.
But while the fans protested outside at mistakes that have been made off the pitch, the on-field mistakes that have littered Arsenal’s season once again cost them dear against Everton.
This was a game they should have won. They were comfortably the better side and had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette been fit, you feel one of them would have stuck away one of the chances that came the home side’s way.
But they weren’t and having failed to take advantage of their dominance, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot in customary style 14 minutes from time.
There seemed to be little threat as Richarlison skipped his way towards the byline, but as he sent in a tame cross towards Bernd Leno, the German keeper somehow managed to throw the ball through his own legs and into his goal.
It was enough to give Everton the win. The fact that Leno’s clanger came soon after Arsenal had seen a penalty awarded for a foul on Dani Ceballos ruled out for the slightest of offsides against Nicolas Pepe will have done little to improve Arteta’s mood.
Arsenal have now lost 13 league games this season and they could end the weekend as low as 11th in the Premier League.
While their fan base is full of momentum when it comes to their protests against the owner, the team has none of it ahead of their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal.
That’s a tie which will make or break Arsenal’s season. On the evidence we saw tonight, Unai Emery will not be overly worried ahead of his return to the Emirates on Thursday night.
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