Recently I conducted a Q & A with Arsenal fan, Moh Haider, who is well known for his interviews on ArsenalFanTV. Moh speaks about what drew him into supporting Arsenal, how he thinks Arsenal will go in the remainder of 2013/14 and why the 3% increase in ticket prices isn’t actually a bad thing for the club.
Jake Cohen: How did you first become an Arsenal fan?
Moh Haider: Before I said, ‘Mama’, I had already said Arsenal. I was actually born in an Arsenal kit, it was an unexplained miracle. But in all seriousness, I have no idea how it all happened. I remember being desperate for Arsenal to win the FA Cup & League Cup Finals against Sheffield in 1993. I was only 9 then and I think that’s the earliest football memory I have. I was already an Arsenal fan at that point, but I can’t remember exactly when I got the Arsenal bug. I didn’t have any Arsenal influence in my life whilst growing up, but I think it was connected to Ian Wright who joined Arsenal in 1991. I loved his goals, celebration, passion and energy.
JC: You’ve said previously that Ian Wright is your favourite Arsenal player of all time. Who’s your favourite player/s currently and why?
MH: Surprisingly, I don’t have any one particular favourite Arsenal player at present. There are a few favourites, such as Theo because he can really get you on the edge of your seat, Cazorla for his technical brilliance, Flamini for his heart and never say die attitude, Szczesny for his passion, Ramsey because of his journey- the way he has responded to such hard times is inspiring and Wilshere because he’s been at Arsenal since he was 9 and the fact that he’s the future.
I also love Mertesacker for the fact that he really seems to understand what a fan expects of one of their players. He’s a great professional that hasn’t let being a footballer get to his head.
JC: How do you see Arsenal going in the next month and a half in the three competitions? Would you focus on any competition in particular?
MH: To say you’re going to focus on one competition more than another is almost a defeatist attitude to me. I would prefer to play our strongest team in each and try to win them all. Of course, the squad has to be rotated and managed, but that is different to focusing on a particular trophy. I would never want to put out an intentionally weakened team.
JC: We have a very tough run of games coming up in March against Bayern (a), Tottenham (a), Chelsea (a), City (h) and Everton (a). How many points do you think we can pick up out of the league matches?
MH: We can win at Tottenham and Everton. At home, I have always said that we are capable of beating anybody. I don’t care who it is, at home, we can be unbeatable on our day. Combine that with City’s away form & again I think it’s a game we can win. The Chelsea game will be tough and a draw will be a positive result.
Overall, I don’t think we’ll get 10 points out of them 4 games though unfortunately. The nature of the games will take their toll on our squad and I think we will drop points. I would be happy with 7 points from the 12 available, I would tolerate 6 points but 5 points is an absolute minimum. Anything more than 7 points will be a fantastic return.
JC: Which position/players do you think Arsenal should target in the summer to strengthen the team/squad?
MH: This is the simplest question to answer: Striker.
Suarez/Costa/Martinez/Remy/Bony. There have been rumours of Balotelli, but I wouldn’t want the risk of having him at The Arsenal. He doesn’t seem to represent what Arsenal represents, but if he behaved himself and concentrated on football, then I would take him. The same could be said for Suarez, but it appears to me that generally he has cleaned up his act. He still throws himself about a bit too much and that’s not The Arsenal way, but I trust that Wenger can put a stop to these antics.
JC: Moving onto a different subject now. You have become famous amongst many Arsenal fans after you’re ‘You get what you pay for unless you’re an Arsenal fan’ video. How do you handle being recognised by so many Arsenal fans now?
MH: To be honest, I find it bizarre. I personally believe there are a million Gooners around the world that think and say the same things as I do, but I am just lucky enough to have a platform upon which to voice my opinions.
I don’t think I have a special talent to deserve any fame or fans for what I do, but saying that, I have more talent than Kim
Kallstrom Kardashian, and look how famous she is!
I have to say though; it is extremely flattering and humbling when fans from around the world take the time out to give you some positive feedback. The internet is often a place where interactions between people on keyboards consist of vitriolic hatred and abuse and to have received such an overwhelmingly positive response is really pleasantly surprising and heartwarming.
Being recognised at the ground is a strange feeling. I wish it was because I was a player, but I have to admit, it is nice. The first couple of times someone wanted to take a photo with me, I found it hilarious, but now I’ve become more accustomed to it and I try and be a bit more friendly & casual about it rather than my initial awkward & confused response!
If anyone ever catches me acting like I think I’m anything special, they are entitled to give me a harsh reminder that I am just one of the many million Gooners across the world. I don’t see that happening though. I don’t have the Bendtner gene.
JC: Your ArsenalFanTV videos have amassed over 400,000 views. How do you feel that so many Arsenal fans respect your opinions and see you as the man of reason?
MH: The sheer number of views is amazing to me, but I think that’s more related to the brilliant product, that is ArsenalFanTV. If I were to sit down and record myself speaking about the games or about The Arsenal, that number would be closer to 400.
ArsenalFanTV is a brilliant initiative and is just such a powerful beast. I genuinely think that it gives the club less room to ignore issues, because when things get really bad, there will be videos going viral and the world will get the real opinion of the average fans.
As for fellow Gooners respecting my opinion and seeing me as the man of reason, well I just find that incredibly flattering. I’m not scared to criticise the club and I never dilute what I want to say in order to be liked by people, but I do try and retain a sensible, objective & rational viewpoint as much as possible. The typical Arsenal fan that I have met in my lifetime is usually a loyal, passionate and well informed football fan and I think that is why the majority of fans tend to resonate with what I say. I’m just saying what a lot of fans are thinking.
JC: Finally, being in the finance industry, I know you wrote your piece about the 3% increase in ticket prices and were in support of this. How would you, if you were in the club’s shoes, market this to get the fans onside with the increase?
MH: This is always a touchy subject, but one that I am quite honest about, even though I don’t think the majority of Arsenal fans agree with me on this.
I personally am comfortable with the 3% ticket increase. However, I think this is a separate issue to the ticket price structure at the club. Ticket prices are too high. That is one thing I agree with.
In regards to the 3% increase, I am analysing that based on the increase itself. The increase and the ticket prices are two separate issues for me. The factors that justify a 3% increase are wider economic factors, such as inflation, rising costs and revenue growth etc.
If we take a base amount of say £30, and we compare this to the cost increases at Arsenal since the move to the new stadium against the rates of inflation over the same period of time- I believe it portrays that Arsenal have been fair in raising ticket prices since the move to the stadium. If Arsenal raised ticket prices according to UK inflation, a £30 ticket in 2004 would cost £41.05 in 2014.
With the ticket increases Arsenal have actually enforced, that same £30 ticket in 2004 will cost £34.39. This shows that we are clearly well under the rate of inflation that the club itself is subjected to in terms of its cost base.
Given the amount of home ties we have had in The FA Cup this year (Spuds, Coventry, Liverpool & Everton), I believe the club should now delay the 3% increase for at least a year, as each home game at the stadium will bring more revenue than the ticket increase will bring in.
Given the good fortune of having so many home ties in The FA Cup, the club can easily delay the ticket increase and I think this would be a great gesture to the fans. When you take into account the commercial deals the club has recently agreed, this only strengthens the case for the 3% rise to be postponed.