Stone Cold Friday: Staying On The Arduous And Elusive Road To Success
Peter Crouch wants Tottenham to win on Sunday so that he can play leapfrog with Arsenal place. Leapfrog? He wouldn’t even have to jump to play that with the Arsenal squad. It would be like watching Inspector Gadget and The Ant Hill Mob. Anyway, it’s Friday and here’s Darius…
Acrimony has become a familiar bed fellow in recent weeks. It’s not hard to see how patience and goodwill has eroded considering that the last Arsenal win was recorded 35 days ago. Even then, it was a last gasp goal from Bendtner with the last move of the game against the 10 men of Wolves.
I get the sense that you can only use injuries and the inconsistency of youth so far before you start getting pot shots taken for not delivering. The absence of what someone recently described as ’pluck and spirit’ in Arsenal’s recent games is perhaps the biggest concern.
While we can accept the impact of the decimation of the squad through injury, it’s hard to swallow the lack of application and effort in situations where we clearly have the ability to do a professional job. If ever there was a time and place for understudies to stand up and be counted, it’s been the last few weeks. Any competent report card will question the quality of our collective performance.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that playing Barcelona and losing in the way that we did was perhaps the best thing that could happen to this squad; a watershed moment if you will. For a variety of reasons, Barcelona provided a benchmark that the current squad could aspire to and the experience was a clear indicator of how far the team still had to travel.
In this respect, something had to give, whether it was an internal adjustment, or whether the gains that this team has achieved over the years were to be augmented by a sprinkling of experience. Losing to the Catalans therefore served a significant purpose to aid the development of this team.
Though personally disappointed with recent results, not least because of the actual teams we lost to, I’m not surprised about how the team has responded to the disappointment of being shipped out of the Champions league in the way that we were.
You could argue that perhaps the bigger challenge has been to get over that disappointment, and the squeaky bums at the Emirates on Sunday will be a viable illustration of the impact of only collecting 1 out of a possible 12 points in games after the defeat to Barcelona.
The emotional investment that fans and players alike have made this season and the expectations and hopes that have been dashed have amplified the sense of disappointment all round. Changes are being demanded from all quarters, and as Arsène Wenger avers – ”it’s for us to pontificate and for [him] to do”.
I think the important thing is that while we seek to strengthen and prepare for the new campaign next season, we shouldn’t lose track of the significant gains made this season, as well as the individual and collective triumphs. Supporting a football team by design is a very emotive issue and the roller coaster ride that we’ve been experiencing over the last few years is part and parcel of the game.
Perhaps many are tired of dusting themselves off and jumping right back in when a new season starts without the guarantee of trophies. The truth is, even if we acquired a brand spanking new team and decommissioned the current cohort, there’s absolutely no guarantee that we will win anything. The solutions are a combination of internal adjustments and one or two changes to tweak the current setup.
Most will argue that this team has had enough time to rebuild and to grow and it’s time the fans got their justified return. I suppose that is one valid point, and it’s equally valid to question what time limit should actually be put on such a nebulous endeavour.
3 years? 5 years? 8 years? Is there a science behind the expectation, or are we just tired of being the butt of jokes around the pubs and water cooler chin wags?
The team is quickly running out of the licence to use ‘youth as a mitigating factor for falling short again and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I personally think that sometimes it’s a label that’s used as a rod for our own backs and we have players, regardless of age, who have significant experience at the highest levels of the game.
Suggesting that what we miss are ‘winners’ to inject a winning mentality is a falsehood in itself for you have to ask the question as to how many so called winners can be accommodated into a starting 11. Many more teams in top flight football have world class players who haven’t won anything, but do a professional job day in, day out for their club.
The fact that this team is actually growing together and playing together is critical and will stand us in good stead for years to come. More importantly, there is a system in place that ensures a good calibre of players are following suit from the academy and getting schooled in the Arsenal way.
I can’t help but feel excited about watching the likes of Ramsey, Gibbs, Wilshere, JET, Eastmond, Le Coq, Barazite and many more for years to come. Many will still argue about the ’NOW’, and I would suggest that despite another season without a trophy, we’re actually in a very strong position if you consider the internal and external influences the game is facing.
Whether it’s the impact of the new 25 man home grown player rules, or whether it’s the financial reality that is hitting football harder than Sachin Tendulkar can swing a bat; Arsenal are poised to straddle the footballing landscape for a long time to come.
The question I guess is whether we’re willing to strap ourselves in, hold on to our hats and continue this journey.
Keep the faith people.
Win A Stadium Tour
Who am I? I scored 49 goals in 179 appearances for Arsenal including a famous 111th minute strike.
Email your answer, name, age and contact email here. Competition closes at midnight, Sunday May 9th 2010. Any entries received after this date will be consigned to the electronic waste basket and totally ignored.
Best of luck.