Social Media: Football’s rude awakening to the modern world

Following Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Twitter faux pas, Alex Vryzakis discusses how social media can influence perceptions in football. 

Logging into Twitter and Facebook may seem like a mundane, everyday task for many but as a figure in the public eye, the same luxury cannot be afforded to footballers. These pampered stars seem to have everything, but a slip of the finger can be more dangerous than previously thought.

Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was thrust into this reality last weekend as he apologised for accidentally ‘liking’ a tweet by the infamous YouTube channel ArsenalFanTV, calling for Arsene Wenger to step down as manager. It may seem inconsequential, but his mortification is understandable. In any other job, no one would even have noticed, but football is a global brand constantly under the microscope.

Managers and players are tossed aside so often that it simply isn’t worth keeping count anymore. Wenger is the exception. Having withstood incredible scrutiny during his topsy-turvy career at the London club, even he is reaching the point of no return. He is the symbol of a footballing world that gave managers a chance and as we plunge further into the age of 24/7 live coverage, it’s hard to see anyone replicating his incredible feat.

Nowadays, it’s interesting to think how fan vitriol on social media can cause a club to sack their head coach, while the past has proven that the clubs who truly thrive and grow are those that have consistency.

Take Sir Alex Ferguson, an icon in Manchester and the world football as whole. After coming to the club in 1986, his first years were spent building the foundations of a team who could challenge for the First Division, and subsequently dominate the Premier League era. When United won their first League Championship title in 26 years in 1993, it was Ferguson who was shown to be the genius behind their rise.

Had Ferguson taken the helm in 2017, it’s likely he would’ve been cast aside by the end of the season – just another faceless figure in the revolving door of wannabes. Every man and his dog would’ve had an opinion about his tenure on Twitter, as if their insight is a priceless bible to be treasured and taken as gospel.

What a strange world we live in. A world which insists the shinier the new addition, the better. A world which sees witless ‘fans’ bring hateful signs emblazoned with crass insults to games before their team has even kicked a ball.

Now, 127 years after First Division football began, in earnest we must pause and take stock while accepting the realities we are being faced with. Wenger may be reaching the end of his time at Arsenal, but his feats are to be applauded and learnt from, not denigrated.

Who’s to say a Wenger-less future is necessarily bright? Who’s to say changing the manager is the key to success?

Just ask United fans.

Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexVryzakis

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