Stone Cold Friday: Time For Arsenal Boys To Become Men
Are you a journalist? Are you ‘Doom’? Are you ‘Gloom’? Lost your faith? Losing belief? Do you think that taking Rochdale from League 2 to winning the Champions League on ‘Football Manager’ makes you better qualifed than Arsene? Ooooh, he doesn’t like you. He is Darius…
‘Men vs. Boys’ is a tedious cliché. It is one that I will borrow from the lazy, sensationalist, headline-grabbing diatribes of sports journalists, who spend most of their time trying to shoehorn Arsenal into the also-rans pigeonhole, efforts which are wasted as it could not be more wide of the mark.
I admit that the article title is somewhat misleading if I’m then arguing that Arsenal are the ’nearly’ team, jam-packed with kids from the London Colney kindergarten. It is a myth that needs to be kicked into the long grass.
I’m taking a new course on “Presentation” and my tutor thought I could give articles cojones by trying out some sensationalism, hence the title. For the record, the notion that Arsenal is an inexperienced side which needs a few more years to become a championship-winning side is absolute nonsense.
Any statistical model out there will quickly illustrate that in their professional careers, the collective mileage Arsenal players have clocked in game time alone is obscene for their age. It totally ridicules any claim of youth equating to inexperience.
The key challenge for the last 5 years has undoubtedly been to keep the team competitive whilst carrying out an audacious rebuilding process that will stand Arsenal in good stead for decades to come. It hasn’t been a straightforward task by any means, nor was it supposed to be.
What is beyond dispute is that without the vision, patience and determination of Wenger and his staff at London Colney, Arsenal wouldn’t have remained on the current path of ascendency. It is a vision that has started to bear fruit. The majority of supporters, as well as observers from outside of the Arsenal fold, have begun to appreciate the method behind Arsenal’s and Wenger’s madness.
Of course, there is still a fair share of doubters with a myopic appreciation of the bigger picture. This lot will continue to scrape the barrel looking for any reason under the sun to moan and groan. Arsenal doesn’t hold the monopoly on having doom and gloom merchants but we should never let this tail wag the dog.
Wenger has already done his part by throwing down the gauntlet for his young team when he declared that this season, Arsenal will win a trophy. No pressure! I think there is a balance to be maintained between confidence and arrogance, and my sense is that Wenger would not make such a declaration without the belief that it was possible.
Unfortunately for the weak-spirited lot, titles and trophies don’t fall into our laps simply because we believe. The incumbents usually get accustomed to seeing the trophies neatly lined up on their display cabinets, rarely giving them up without a fight.
Arsenal has no divine right to win any game, let alone any title, but the journey this team has travelled in the last 5 years makes them well equipped to deal with this dog fight. The bitter truth is that until this team tastes its first silverware, until this team brings the inaugural trophy to Ashburton Grove, the players and supporters will continue to feel the pain of the vacuum in Arsenal’s trophy cabinet.
Wenger could not have put it better by stating that the only thing we have won thus far is credibility. This job has only just started. Topping the table at this point in the season has been a psychological boost for the Arsenal camp. The next 4 matches are going to be won in the mind and the players must show that they have matured mentally.
For me, the question in recent times hasn’t been about Arsenal’s physical and technical capability to win titles. I actually believe we have the most talented and technically gifted squad with a propensity to be anal about fitness. The last battle has been in the mind; showing the team had to believe that they possess the mental fortitude to last the distance whilst putting in the performances to get them there.
Key, for me, in all this is leadership. Captain Fabulous has already laid a marker down, leading by example. You cannot ask for more from the young Catalan. I still see a pivotal role for 3 other natural leaders in the team working alongside Cesc.
In defence, William Gallas is the most experienced practitioner we have. He has won titles and has the defensive nous to marshal the back line. Those who focus on the drama of his stint as captain ought to remove the pole stuck up their backside and let go.
The response in performance that Gallas has shown since he got relieved off the arm band is first class. Arsenal could not have asked for a more dedicated and professional athlete.
In midfield, Arsenal must draw on the experience and talent of Little Mozart. The Czech captain is a breath of fresh air and his uncanny ability to calm things down and add a creative edge to the team is vital for the team when games are tight. His last minute equalizer in the game against Everton and the rocket on Wednesday against Bolton are prime examples of what Tomas Rosicky brings to this team.
Up front, our pint-sized Russian national team captain provides an edge and unpredictability that many teams do not have and do not know how to deal with. Again, Andrey Arshavin’s individual skill and brilliance can unlock defences with more efficiency than a dodgy locksmith.
With the leadership provided by Cesc, Gallas, Rosicky and Arshavin, I believe the rest of the team will ooze confidence, maturity and determination. The skill and talent is already a given. Having reached the top of the league table just before the ‘fixtures of death‘, the team must now move to the next stage and hold their nerve.
The journey over the last 5 years has tested the patience of many an Arsenal fan. Now, more than ever, we have a reason to believe that the faith put in this young side is not misplaced. The team has shown admirable courage and fortitude thus far but the job is by no means over.
What has impressed me the most this season is their fighting spirit and ’never say die’ attitude. It was only 7 weeks ago that Arsenal were kicked into the long grass of the ‘also-ran’s’ wilderness.
It’s time for the Arsenal to step up to the plate and fight for what they believe in.