Arsenal Football Club, also known as ‘The Arsenal’, have been the 4th best team in England since 1972. They’re one of my favourite teams to watch (they play dreamy, silky-smooth passing football) and their stadium looks amazing in HD, but the best thing about the club is their vast number of mentally unhinged fans. After a win, every player is world class and this will be their year. After every defeat the knives come out for half the team, the coach, and the owners.
Youtube is full of videos called ‘Arsenal fan meltdown’ or ‘Sobbing Arsenal fan’s hilarious call to radio phone-in’. Look at the titles of these videos on the infamous Arsenal Fan TV:
So that’s Youtube, but what about podcasts?
I decided to listen to as many Arsenal podcasts as I could stomach and find the best ones. How do I define the best one? Well, I had two target audiences in mind:
- The best podcast for Arsenal fans
- The best podcast for people who enjoy the misery of Arsenal fans
And why do I feel qualified to comment on Arsenal Football Club? Because I wrote the hit management game ‘Arsene’s Window – The Arsene Wenger Transfer Window Simulator‘, which while a few years old is still amazingly playable and relevant. I’m also the grumpytits behind ‘The Best Football Podcasts’.
Based on what I knew of the club and their fans, I expected the following elements to play a major role in my analysis:
- an irrational dislike of Aaron Ramsey (one of the best midfielders in Europe)
- thinking the coach (Arsene Wenger, a genuine legend and best coach in Arsenal history) should quit/be fired
- frothing of any kind
- calling co-hosts ‘fam’ or ‘bruv’
What I learned from many hours of listening was that all Arsenal fans love talking about ‘soft tissue injuries’ and some are mad Walter Mitty fantasists.
The Best Arsenal Podcasts
|1||A Bergkamp Wonderland||Joyously Nutty||Anti||Champions (2004)|
|2||Arseblog||Rational||Reluctant Anti||FA Cup Winners|
|3||Gooners in the USA||Slightly Nutjob||Anti||4th place glory|
|4||Arse America||Rational||Pro||Early Europa exit|
|5||Arsenal Opinion||Full Nutjob||Anti!||AFC post-Wenger|
|6||The Gooner Ramble||Mostly Rational||Anti||Solid mid-table|
|7||Arsenal India||Rational||Pro||Solid mid-table|
|8||Full 90 Gooner||Slightly Nutjob||Anti||Climbing|
|9||The Daily Cannon||Rational||Reluctant Anti||Battling relegation|
Here’s what I listened to, in the order I listened, with iTunes links and my opinions.
The Daily Cannon
This one is… weekly? There was no intro so I don’t know who the people are and they didn’t bother with any kind of ‘today we’re going to talk about X’ bullshit. No time for that! It was a British guy and a foreign lady (Matthew and Anita). The audio quality on her side wasn’t great and she kept trailing off – I missed about 20% of what she said. The dude also gets mumbly.
When you CAN hear them, they are both very reasonable people. They praised the referee from their last match and said that while he got things wrong, it’s understandable why he got them wrong. They were positive about the players and team. If I got stuck in a lift with them, football would be a tolerable, though maybe a bit bland, topic.
But I’m looking for something a lot more deranged.
- Unhingedness – 0/10
- Reasonableness – 10/10
- Mumblage – 7/10
(3 weeks later I dropped back in and the whole cast was different. I guess they come from this website.)
A note about the sound quality – Stephen needs a pop filter. It’s VERY tough listening to him.
Interesting name. I’d love to see a breakdown of their visitor analytics.
As you’ve probably guessed, this is an Arsenal podcast with an American host, but the guests on the episode were all British. Maybe other episodes have more of a yankee flavour.
The theme tune has snippets of moments from the club’s history. The first mentions Ray Parlour, which I presume is a way of saying ‘yes I’m American but I’m a true Arsenal fan, goshtarnit’.
The first guest was a journalist, and the host asked him a couple of questions and let him go on a monologue. That’s very polite and all, but it was almost too much. I wanted a bit more back and forth. Bit more heat. It was lacking a bit of what you might call the Flamini spirit.
- Frank, almost violent, exchange of views – 0/10
- Politeness – 10/10
- Knowledge – 9/10
- Likelihood of getting a yellow card four games on the trot – 2/10
A Bergkamp Wonderland
Why do so many podcasts have such off-putting starts? It’s seriously like they want 90% of people to turn off in the first two minutes so they only have to deal with the ‘real’ fans. This one, named after the second-best Dutchman to play for Arsenal, had my finger twitching over the ‘delete’ button at first, as some lads ladded out some ‘lad talk’ – basically Nelson from the Simpsons.
This is a thing in football known as ‘banter’ and I suppose the hosts feel like it’s expected of them.
So far, so irritating. But even that was an improvement over days 1 and 2. There was a bit of energy in their voices. A bit of swearing. Weirdly, the first bit of unladded content was an update about all the Arsenal players who are out on loan to other clubs and how they are getting on. Now that’s a great topic, and the dude who gave the updates also ranted about the point of sending players on loan to clubs where they don’t get in the team. Enjoyed it. Good section!
At this point I noticed the episode was over 2 hours long. Seemed excessive. Then it happened – the entrance of a voice called Clive. Clive was interesting, had a soft voice that could read bedtime stories to rich perverts, and his analysis of some tactical issues was interesting. More Clive, please!
Then more new voices. How many people are on this show? It felt like 6 or 7 but somehow they didn’t talk over each other.
Half an hour in came what I was waiting for – a thoroughly enjoyable, frothy rant. Super! That was followed by more classic Clive mellowness. The smooth-talking scoundrel said he had his own podcast. I hope it’s him reading bedtime stories. Please be that.
From about 45 minutes in, for a good hour, this podcast really hit its stride and its annoying opening was long forgotten. Opinionated people, thoughtful analysis, a healthy dose of passion, but also very civilised. Holy shit – this is actually an amazing podcast!
I can imagine listening to this quite often in the future – every time Arsenal beat a top-6 team, and every time they lose to Swansea.
- Rabidity – 8/10
- Laddishness – 9/10
- Invincibility – 8/10
- Mentions of Soft Tissue Injuries – Countless
(At some point there was an INSANE rant about a media consipiracy, and I really wanted to get into that. Sadly, I didn’t write down which episode it was from. Shame – it was world class nutjobbery.)
This is from Arseblog.com and I guess it’s a writer from that site who hosts it. He started with a monologue then interviewed a guest – very much the David Letterman format. His accent is super weird. At first I thought he was American, but it slowly morphed into Irish. Apart from being a bit uncanny valley, the voice is quite radio disc jockey sounding – in a good way. It’s sonorous. Timbrous.
There was a sketch in the middle of the episode, and the whole thing is gently amusing.
Fine FA Cup Winners
2018 Update – I just came here to edit something and can’t believe I didn’t rate this higher. I now realise it’s in the top 2 podcasts. I like the variety of voices you get on ABW but Arseblog is top quality and every other podcast references it.
- Swansea 0 – Arsenal 4
At this point there was actually some football, and I watched Arsenal thrash Swansea 4-0 in a sumptuous display of control, skill, and top-level interplay. Maybe I should have timed this project to coincide with Arsenal’s yearly capitulation to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, which I assume is when you get peak Arsenal fan angst.
The Arsenal India Podcast
In that Swansea game, Arsenal’s talismanic Chilean Alexis Sanchez was substituted (to give him a rest with the team winning comfortably) and he went mental – kicking water bottles, throwing a strop, and generally acting like a chocolate-denied toddler.
Episode 20 of The AIP was entitled ‘We Like It When Alexis Gets Angry’. It’s hosted by a British dude, Darren the Delhi Gooner, who is presumably from Shrewsbury or some other hotbed of Arsenal support. Everyone else involved, including the listeners who write in with questions, are Indian.
I found it surprisingly listenable. My main complaint was that the host and his co-host didn’t really interact – one spoke and then the other one spoke and there wasn’t any genuine connection. Since Arsenal are all about teamwork and collectivism, that’s a shame.
Still, it’s good.
- Passing – 3/10
- Fear of Spurs – 8/10
- Arsenal 5 – Southampton 0
- Watford 2 – Arsenal 1
At this point in the project I got super busy with other things and in the meantime Arsenal were involved in some extraordinary games of football. Leading 1-0 against lowly Burnley, they conceded a penalty in the 93rd minute. Despair. Coach Arsene Wenger was sent off for whingeing. They then scored a penalty of their own – 8 minutes into added time. Huzzah! Wenger was given a 4-match ban for his antics. The following game saw a mesmeric 5-0 win over a talented Southampton team. They THEN followed THAT by losing 2-1 at home to a struggling Watford.
I went back to A Bergkamp Wonderland and it was perfect – the guys went through the 5 stages of grief live on air – listening started to feel cruel. They followed it up with a supplementary episode a few days later and both their rage and resignation had grown. One Welsh guy had problems breathing because he was so worked up about it. He seemed on the verge of man-tears and I felt uncomfortably close to a fellow human’s emotions.
My friend tipped me off about a podcast called The Tuesday Club, named after the famous drinking culture that existed at Arsenal before Wenger took over. The latest episode was called ‘Shit on your dreams’ which was promising. They were indeed suffering but it was confusing because I didn’t recognise the incidents they were talking about. Turns out that podcast was from last season (they don’t make new episodes?) and it just goes to show – this meltdown happens to Arsenal fans every single season.
- Chelsea 3 – Arsenal 1
Amazing scenes. Chelsea’s first goal was scored when their player leapt and crashed the ball into the net with a thumping header. At the same time he collided with an Arsenal defender who was out cold for a few seconds and was taken off the pitch. Was it a foul?
I tuned back in to A Bergkamp Wonderland to get their take, and their was an unintentionally hilarious and surreal discussion about it. One of the chaps was trying to explain the motion a human makes when he jumps, but in doing so (by the way dude, it’s radio so we can’t see you) he kept disconnecting his microphone. After realising his mistake and reconnecting, he launched back into his explanation and DID IT AGAIN. My girlfriend was on the sofa not really paying attention, and even she was laughing.
ABW is by far the best Arsenal podcast, but it had been a while since I found a new one. I went looking and discovered the existence of one called The Purely Arsenal Podcast. I could only manage a few minutes because the difference in volume levels between all the hosts/guests was so extreme that it was unlistenable. To give them a fair shake, I skipped forward 20 minutes to see if they’d fixed it. Nope. So I moved on.
This was pretty funny! I laughed out loud quite a few times in the first few minutes. Americans keep calling their shows ‘pods’ which is always a bit grating. They pointed out that Groundhog Day was only a few days ago and that Arsenal’s season is like a scene that repeats over and over. True!
Enjoyable discussion, everyone talking at the same volume – good podcast. One complaint is that a lot of stuff they were talking about was the same as on the other ones – Ramsey, Wenger, soft tissue injuries etc. Second complaint is the sound quality – sometimes it’s fine, sometimes it’s quite poor. I’m going to leave them high up my league table hoping they will sort those issues out.
“They swear a lot… for Americans,” was my girlfriend’s opinion.
They followed their discussion of the Chelsea loss with an interview featuring Taz, a fan of Sutton, the non-league team that Arsenal will play in the next round of the FA Cup – the hosts were interested and supportive without being condescending. Thumbs up.
Full 90 Gooner
Another American-based ‘pod’. Not as funny as the other one, and some weird noises at the start that I think were supposed to be jokes (episode 74), but once they got into their stride analysing the game, it was fine.
- Soft-tissue mentions: check.
- Aaron Ramsey discussion: check.
- Wenger Out discussion: check.
Yep, it’s an Arsenal podcast. It’s pretty good but not my fave American podcast in this list.
The Gooner Ramble
The first one of these I heard was an interview with former striker turned sports writer Alan Smith – that was a good episode with hosts Clive and Amanda leading the line nicely. It was nice hearing a woman’s voice after so many hours of dudes being in my ears. The quality of the discussion was really high and Alan Smith seems to be a class act.
Impressed, I went back to their post-Chelsea episode and there were 4 hosts (sadly no Amanda) and their discussion was good. I like Clive. WAIT A SECOND I TYPED THIS ONCE ALREADY. Clive was on A Bergkamp Wonderland! What’s going on? No wonder I get so confused doing all these listicles. People are on different podcasts! Is Clive a celebrity Arsenal fan?
The main problem with this podcast is some wobbly sound quality (guys bumping their microphones and harsh plosives coming through), but it’s a minor quibble.
“Pete, Alfred and Matt discuss the weekly goings on at Arsenal.” This seems to be an offshoot of a blog that was started in 2000. The main writer there is called Pedro, who I assume is the Pete from the pod. Both the blog and podcast are militantly anti-Wenger. The Chelsea foul/no-foul debate was likened to a collision in a Tesco car park.
More conspiracy theories! Here it’s about how the club want to ‘control the narrative’. Some high-functioning nutjobbery here, mixed in with enough real insight to make their message compelling. This is how cults start.
One guy wants the team to crash out of the Champions League and finish low down the league to hasten a regime change. Bonkers, but many fans will agree. If you’re one of those, this is for you.
Rating: thoroughly entertaining.
Warning – the outro music is 600 times louder than the rest of the podcast, so beware.