Stone Cold Friday: Learning To Mix The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
If cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you make too much money, Darius is his way of telling you that I’m a skiving bugger who is taking today off.…
I was intrigued when watching the Barcelona v Internazionale second leg semi-final tie this past Wednesday. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was surprised by how Barcelona let Jose Mourinho’s warriors suffocate them.
If we’re to believe the statistics, Arsenal actually played better and more engaging games in both ties against the Catalans than the men from Milan did. But here is the cruel thing, Inter get to spare Real Madrid’s blushes after stopping the pending humiliation of Carles Puyol and his team lifting the European Cup under the very noses of the natives at the Bernabeu.
I found myself asking – ”what is it about Internazionale that is so ugly yet so admirable?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fully paid, card carrying member of the ’Give me beautiful football every day of the week and twice on Sunday’ society, and ordinarily, I would find Mourinho’s tactics distasteful at the best of times.
Yet as I watched his 10 men battle and gallantly execute the job they went to Barcelona to do, I was left admiring a character trait that I feel we sometimes miss at Arsenal.
Inter didn’t go to the Nou Camp to play football; far from that. They went to stop Barcelona getting to the final. Perhaps that’s the subtle difference in tactics that seems to elude the Arsenal at key moments when the good, the bad and the downright ugly have to be brought together in the spirit of pragmatism.
Mourinho captured his team’s determination by simply saying that when the chips are down, they’re prepared to leave blood and not just skin on the pitch.
One of the hallmarks of any great team is its ability to learn, innovate and adapt. It would be extremely vain, even arrogant of Arsenal to assume that we have nothing to learn from the teams around us. On Wednesday night, I found myself wishing that we had more of that ’you’re only getting past me over my dead body’ attitude that the Inter side showed.
One thing to say though is that there is a subtle difference between Arsenal and the Italian champions. Apart from Wesley Sneijder, all the Inter players were over 26 and had a hell of a lot more mileage than the core of the Arsenal team. That perhaps counts for the experience and nous displayed by Inter that in recent times seems to elude us at key moments.
My sense is that we have to accept that inconsistency is a by-product of youth, and we can hope that the learning curve of our players is a very short one if you take into account the individual and collective experience they already have under their belt.
The more difficult dilemma is that of getting the balance between Barcelona’s lethal and entertaining attacking instinct, and the pragmatism and defensive nous that Inter displayed in abundance. But isn’t that always the case in life? If you could pick this and that from here or there and marry them together, oh what a perfect life it would be.
It was clear to see from Wednesday’s game and tactics that when we played the Catalans, we gave them too much respect and the horse had bolted by the time reality checked in on our part and we tried to shut the stable door. Wenger is intelligent enough to know that he has to do something to improve our defensive fortunes. We can’t hope for example, to win any title by letting in nearly 40 goals in the season.
The manager avers that he will sign 3 players with his usual health warning of – “if we can find the right player”. That’s perhaps code for ”Chamakh is already on his way, I’ll need a goal keeper and there’s just room for one more in defence”.
Reinforcements are of course needed, but I feel the more important thing is that the squad builds on the gains made this season. Some of the core players who have come into the fore in the last couple of seasons – Diaby, Denilson, Song, Bendtner, Walcott just to name a few – have to step their game up and continue to prove that the faith the manager has shown in them, even putting his reputation on the line, is not misplaced.
The missing ingredient for me is a mental one and not necessarily technical or physical. Internazionale showed on Wednesday that it’s not just about being technically good enough; it’s about fighting like your life depended on the game. We already have players who have this mental strength, but we have to do it more often and more consistently.
It’s not acceptable for example, to be 2 nil up with 10 minutes to go and throw that lead away, let alone lose the match. It’s moments of madness like those which easily undermines the stellar effort the team has put in for most part of the season.
Wenger is not short of advice from hacks, pundits and wannabe football managers masquerading as disgruntled Arsenal fans when it comes to transfer targets. Everyone is convinced they know who exactly needs to come into Arsenal to bring the experience they say we still need. My sense is that if these folks were that good, they’d be managers themselves instead of arm chair idealists.
I believe what’s more important is that the squad who start the season acknowledge that the solutions are for most part within them. They must build on the gains made in the last few years, and cut out the Keystone cops episodes that have dogged the team in their moments of insanity.
For now, the team owe the fans a ’feel good pick me up’ moment, and spanking Blackburn Rovers isn’t a bad idea at all to lift the spirits.
Keep the faith people.
Posted on April 30, 2010, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Stone Cold Friday. Bookmark the permalink. 219 Comments.