A Saturday loss damages the remaining part of the weekend. I for one took off from the television and twitter. Did various random things to get away from the football. I had no doubt in my mind that the moment we lost and dutchie scored, the media pages and twitter world would be absolutely scathing of Wenger and of Arsenal. I was not disappointed. I know that the loss was huge, in terms of challenging for some respectability on the football ground.
So what is that Arsenal is missing?
· Pace on the flanks?
· A more reliable left back?
· An accomplished finisher?
· More than one of the above? All of the above?
Or is the answer off the pitch? Is the problem Wenger and the club management?
The answer is something we are debating to death. A team which got us excited pre-season and at Anfield cannot have deteriorated in quality over a month. After all we got our wish of seeing Jack Wilshere, partnering Arteta and Cazorla. It was the dream midfield we were craving for. The back four except for a few issues has the names which we were desperate for a few seasons back. For me the team we put out against United at Old Trafford comes close to our best in terms of personnel. So the performance shouldn’t have been far from the best. But the performance was nowhere near the quality of the team
Clearly the issue for me is not the personnel. Yes, a quality winger wouldn’t harm us. But the issue is something else.
My time off football and twitter was spent for some reading and watching some clips of cricket on YouTube. I started co relating a bit between attitude and ability in cricket versus football and I think I found my answer.
Different sport similar dynamics
Australia was touring West Indies in 1995 and it was at this time the mighty West Indies were coming to an end of an era of domination. This was also the series when the shift in power took place. During the second test at Trinidad, Curtly Ambrose was running in full steam bowling to Steve Waugh. Not many batsmen in cricket at that time had the courage to look at Ambrose. The intention was more to survive and save your knuckles. Scoring was a bonus. It was with such background, Steve Waugh stood up to Ambrose. Steve Waugh was not dominating Ambrose by any stretch of imagination. But all of a sudden, Steve Waugh let off a few words which were to the effect “What are you staring at? F%&@# off”. Anyone who has seen Ambrose will first tell you that his stare is one of the most dangerous and it would look like he would cut your head off. You don’t mess with a 6 foot 7 bowler. It took Richardson the Windies captain and Umpire David shepherd to calm Ambrose down.
So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is how Steve Waugh managed to get under the skin of arguably the most dangerous bowler of that time. Steve Waugh was not a gifted cricketer. He was poor compared to his twin mark Waugh. But what he lacked in cricketing ability, he more than made up in mental strength. Steve Waugh set up a decade of Australian super dominance in test cricket. Because of his grit and astuteness with which he set up many a win, he became one of the hated cricketers (captain) for opposition fans. He was the best contender and everyone hated how strong he was. Of course once he retired many players professed a respect for him. It only proves one thing, till the time you are good in sport, you won’t find many admirers.
Arsenal fans don’t like Rooney, Hazard or Mata. We know they are good players. But we will never have great respect for them, till the time they are retired or move out. Need a better example? Drogba ? Till the time he tormented most of the teams, not many praised him. Sure the odd word of respect etc.. But the moment he left, everyone in the league sang praises. Cazorla and Wilshere will not be liked many fans around the premier league. They know they are good.
Now the converse, it’s easier for opposition (ex Arsenal) players to respect Arsenal till the time we don’t compete. That is what Arsenal will have to change
Now, coming back to today. For me this is what is missing at Arsenal, not today, but for a few seasons now, we have been the good boys of the league. What we need is Steve Waugh like grit and ruthlessness.
There are a couple of instances which showcase this point.
1) The pre match build up in the tunnel when dutchie came greeting our players. Nice gesture, but I would have expected one of our players to give him a cold stare. A stare to tell him “F&*^% off – we are better off without you and don’t care what your intentions are”. Sagna who was behind vermaelen gave him half that stare. It’s not personal. Just before a big game, there is little need to be paly with an opposition player.
2) The second instance has received the highest attention. It really shocked me. Why Santos had to walk up to dutchie and ask for his jersey is absolutely beyond me. Here we were, shorn of confidence in the first half. Santos should realize, he can still be friends with whoever he wants to. But such a crucial game, where he himself had arguably had the weakest displays , it would have been expected that he focused more on improving his performance than running for an opposition shirt.
Throughout the game, there was a lack of passion and determination. Quality is something we have in abundance. I cannot understand why our players were nervy for majority of the game. It seemed to have an effect on the game. Like they say, driving with the hand break on. Vermaelen’s clearance was nervy and so was his performance for the rest of the game. I never expected that from Vermaelen, he is one of our strong characters.
The biggest performance from an Arsenal side came off the pitch. The away fans were magnificent. Some of the chants were vile and a majority of the supporters are ashamed. But that aside the passion is outstanding. I wish the players really get around understanding this. How much these passionless performances hurt fans.
On the eve of the United game there was blog post from James Wareing which touched upon the rivalry. If the rivalry is still the same as it was in the years of Henry, Viera, Bergkamp, and Campbell? If you have not read, you can read it even now here at 1nildown2oneup.net . Probably it will be easier to answer now.
If you want a comprehensive analysis of the game , there’s not many better than this guy. GoonerDesi
Not all about mental strength
It is not to say the only issue was the state of mind. There have been many tactical analyses done to show how Ramsey was ineffective on the right, Santos poor in positioning at left back and how Arteta was kept quiet by Rooney. All correct. The injuries to Diaby, Rosicky and Oxlade Chamberlain couldn’t have come at a worse time. But being so dependent on an injury prone player and a teenager is not a great position to be in.
If you have been reading blogs, most of the guys have advocated a change in formation. But tactics don’t seem to be a Wenger thing. Like Rocky Balboa didn’t want to go southpaw in Rocky II. He said “I don’t need no tricks”. It’s good to believe in your team and have an ideology. But to keep pace with the competition, a change in formation and fresh ideas are desperately required. I really thought, if not the change in formation, the least Wenger could have done is play Arshavin, instead of Ramsey and then introduce Theo later. The players too need to hold their end up. We cannot afford to concede silly goals in a league where competition is at this level. Two goals united scored were both defensive lapses again. United fans may say they should have scored 6, but they couldn’t Our keeper plus a bit of luck was on our side. How many times do we say that?
I may be in the minority but, I do think our performances will turn around. We need to convert the quality on paper to performances on the pitch
Oh the Ambrose and Steve Waugh incident
Ambrose did give Steve Waugh, the sweet chin music making him hop around the crease. Steve Waugh got away with it. Though Aussies lost that game, they won the test series and rest is history. West Indies have not been able to ever recover. Not all Waugh’s doing, but he did play a very small hand. If you are interested in seeing the whole incident, check it out here