A bold General may be lucky, but no General can be lucky unless he is bold

Kolo Toure has launched what can be called a robust defence of the squad and its attitude following on from Saturday, basically telling us that they are professional and know they have to improve in order to secure third spot. Arsene is doing the same, telling all and sundry how conscientious the squad is and they are working hard to put it right to win all of the home games and a couple away which ought to be enough, he believes, to finish third. Which is all well and good but the sea-change in the level of performance required is huge. Since the end of January, there have been two genuinely good performances, at the Reebok and in Cardiff. The other ten games have ranged from average to appalling, and brought just three wins and three draws, hardly inspiring form and with the result that third place is all the team have to play for when at the start of that spell, they were in with a chance in three cup competitions.

There have been horrendous injuries and suspensions in that period, a time when most squads would have been at their most threadbare under similar circumstances. This is something that cannot be planned for without having a squad of fifty players; in the short term, the weakness of having to pursue a youth policy has been exposed. That is not to say the squad will not deliver in the future, they just cannot fulfill that promise right now.

However, it begs the question as to what else Arsene can do. This week he has to motivate a team and restore confidence. In this months WSC Jonathan Wilson wrote the following on an article about England in Israel,

A confident player is more likely to score, or to make the defence-splitting pass or the crucial challenge, than a nervous one. And that is where we come to the crux of England’s problem. At the moment their mentality is such that they are not maximising their chances

Substitute the word England for Arsenal and you have the same scenario. If you look at the games which have been lost, only the Liverpool match stands out as an abhorrence. Otherwise, Everton, Chelsea and PSV have all nicked a match by the odd goal, games that in all fairness should have been won or at the very least, drawn. The passing and movement in those matches seems to indicate a confident side for the most part. The finishing and some of the defending indicates otherwise. These aspects can be worked on during the week but a match situation is entirely different, no chance at London Colney to recreate the pressure that exists in the ninety minutes that count. He cannot, of course, make a striker hit the back of the net instead of the corner flag but he can instill confidence in them. It is then down to the individual to transfer that to the pitch.

So what is wrong? More than anything I believe Arsene is having what could be called ‘bad luck’. Look at the wider picture. What else can the serious injuries to your two lead strikers be called? Careless? Hardly. Henry perhaps at a push but Arsenal tried to nuture him back from the World Cup only to have the French scupper their plans. The volume of football required of the player due to success at club and international level is the cause, as well as a stupid carelessness and stubborn pride from his national team manager. RvP’s foot? What else is that but bad luck?

A manager can only influence a game in so many ways, such as the tactical formation and certain aspects of fitness. He is at the whims of the fates in terms of the way in which a ball breaks from a tackle or how the elements are on a certain day. He cannot control if the opposition collectively or individually ‘overperform’. And even if the manager gets one part of his gameplan wrong, that does not necessarily mean it is doomed. Look at the Villa match; awful performance, one lucky break, one goal, three points. The margins between success and failure are fine. If anything, Arsene has ‘lost’ the bold approach to football. Flowing football is the expectation when facing Arsenal this season. Perhaps mixing it up with directness at times would be a change, an unexpected turn of events to unsettle the opposition. There is nothing wrong with adding that element to your game provided it is not the sole basis of your attack. A quick ball forward can be as effective as a passing game if used judiciously.

The current run is not ‘nice’ but it is a test of faith. Journeys that are ultimately successful are rarely smooth. The bumps along the road define faith in achieving the objective and right now it seems to me that too many have little belief in that end goal being achieved. So ends todays sermon.

Posted on April 3, 2007, in Arsenal, Football, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Have faith in Wenger. He will get the team ready for next season and with a few wll chosen additions Arsenal will be challenging again.

  2. Franny Jeffers

    We’re on a good losing streak.

    1) Lost Carling Cup Final
    2) Out of FA Cup
    3) Out of Champions League
    4) Out of FA Youth Cup

    And my predictions are:

    5) Not gonna be 3rd
    6) Gonna lose unbeaten streak against West Ham
    7) Gonna lose Champions League spot

    Anything else we’ve got left to play for that we will lose?

  3. Good article!

    Don’t forget the numerous draws at the Emirates that should have been wins: Villa, Everton, Middlesborough, Newcastle and maybe Potsmouth; normally we wouldn’t expect to lose to Man City and West Ham either! All points lost, when, with a little luck it would have put us in contention for 2nd place and with that, our confidence would have been higher.

    Hopefully the malaise that appears to be running through the club will be sorted out with points against the Hammers and Newcastle and a stronger attitude throughout. The players that delivered some good results this term are not bad players overnight (a cliche but true!).

    All we can do is trust Arsene and hope for an up turn in fortune!

  4. Franny Jeffers? Name seems familiar – another loser!!

  5. Franny Jeffers

    I was a legendary striker who wasn’t given the real chance to shine at Arsenal.

  6. Disaster!

    Now, Flamini want to leave in the summer…..


    By the way, I think he should leave……

  7. Like someone said, this medley of losses maybe a blessing in disguise by highlighting our inherent weakness which will prompt AW the board to release money. With Liverpool and Manure getting a huge war chest we need to do something lest we will not even be the poor cousin coz we will not be among the top teams.

    Iam amazed that no one saw what a monster Mascherano was against us and wonder how no one saw his quality to be ignored leaving Benitez to nick him under the nose of everyone. With him in the team, he frees Gerard to roam and do damage- watch out for Pool next season.

    For us however, we need a central defender to pair with Gallas now that he has shut up his gob. Toure’s shortcomings are becoming clear coz he was good compared to Cygan. Goalie and a Striker plus a midfielder

  8. It does not matter how much money you have, it is how you spend it. Typically, if a club is perceived to have a large transfer fund, they will pay over the odds for players they want to buy.

    The press have reported £40m for Liverpool. Two observations:

    1. Let’s see if they actually have that much
    2. According to the same reports, Carragher Gerrard and Alonso’s new contracts have to be paid for out of the same pot. So, it is not that much bigger than the money AW is reputed to have available this summer.

    However, despite all of the comments in recent weeks about who we need and what positions need to be filled, it is worth remembering that two players will not make the difference to many positions.

    Look at it logically.

    Goalkeeper: The only reason AW will buy is if Lehmann leaves. If he stays, you can be sure that AW will not buy an established ‘keeper. It will either be a promising youngster or no-one.

    Defence: Unless he lets someone go, I do not see the need for another defender. He has two RB’s, two LB’s and four CB’s. There is versatility within the defence so that Hoyte, Djourou, Gallas, Toure can fill other positions if needed. Plus Connolly coming through if we get into the crapper like this season.

    Midfield: A wide left sided player will be all he signs unless someone leaves. Then he will replace them directly, depending upon who it is. Flamini wants to go? Well, he never really cut the mustard in midfield. Is OK as a replacement but over time has never produced consistently high levels of performance unless he was at LB which he apparently hates. If he is replaced, which I doubt, a younger player will be brought in.

    Forwards: My guess is he will sign another forward, allowing JA to leave. This is on top of JB and Bendtner returning. That leaves him RvP, Henry, Adebayor, Bendtner, Baptista and ANO.

  9. You are right about Toure, I would like to see him and eboue played in midfield. Also play Dojourou or Senderos at the back with Gallas. Gilberto will be off in a season or 2 and we need to replace him. I think it is shame we did not sign the 2 argies that went to West Ham. If we are a big club we must sign big players otherwise we will always be playing catch up with the other 3 teams.

    And the other thing we need to do is become tactically aware. Some games we are not going to win and a points is ok and some games we don’t have to win and should be able to play out a game.

    Flamini will be missed but it looks like we are becoming a feeder club for other teams, pennant,sidwell,bently, song. How many more of the current squad will be on their way?

  10. Gooneroon

    A Feeder For Other Clubs? Ridiculous. Pennant to Birmingham, Bentley to Blackburn, Sidwell to Reading, Song has gone on loan. Of those, only Pennant has gone to an equally big club in Liverpool. These are hardly the action of a feeder club. More its an indication of players who were unable to make the grade at Arsenal, principally because of the players ahead of them in the squad. Football’s history is littered with cases such as these and there will be more in the future.

    You are right about seeing games out. That unfortunately comes with experience and needs the older heads to keep calm, leading the younger players by example.

    As for Tevez and Mascherano. Well, Mascherano will adapt to England, there is no doubt. Not sure about Tevez, although one goal in 19 games means he is a prime candidate to arrive at Arsenal in the summer. Seriously though – do you want the club to own a third or half of the players registration rights? I don’t and that could yet bite Liverpool squarely on the Arse.

  11. I seriously believe Aliaidiere deserves a chance up front with Adebayor. Have a look at my blog for my argument on this. Don’t be afraid to chuck rotten tomatoes at me!


  12. Flint McCullough

    Confidence is absolutely the key issue, specially with a young side.

    The Carling Cup became a big peak & they have had a big fall since then. It was a pity that the crucial games came so soon after & had to be played with depleted squads.

    However I am still convinced that the performance at Cardiff will eventually prove worthwhile because it showed that these kids can live with anyone & eventually will win trophies.

    What is happening now is just a natural depression that we will come out of.

  13. Good point Flint

    Lots of people are also now saying Cesc and Denilson shouldn’t play together as they are too similar – but weren’t they both on the pitch at the same time for the Carling Cup final, and didn’t our midfield outplay the Chelsea all-stars until Terry’s head connected with Diaby’s foot and upset our rhythm?

  14. The midfield is a very pivotal area in a fooyball game. And getting the balance right is very important. That’s why Fab and Silva blend together well or Sissoko and Alonso or Lampard and Makelele. Need I go on?

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