Stone Cold Friday: Defensive Pessimism Is A Bigger Problem Than Injuries
Wayne Rooney may think his life is in crisis with recent revelations but that was nothing compared to the distress which befell Darius earlier this week. Floods everywhere. Of tears that is and the tantrums, the like of which have rarely been seen. Why? Not Theo’s injury, oh no. Nothing so trivial. His wife forgot to put his Cornish Pasty in his lunchbox. He’s recovered and he’s here now…
Last night, I was watching an episode of NCIS, one of my favourite drama shows. In this particular episode, an elderly lady was caught up in a dubious murder of her fiancée, and it also turned out that her daughter and grand-daughter had been assassinated by a Mexican drug cartel.
The plot thickened when it also transpired that her son-in-law was the investigating officer. Naturally, the NCIS team started speculating about whether the woman was cursed like the Kennedy family or the Monaco royal family who had people dropping out left right and centre. Were the deaths coincidental? Or was it possible to be so cursed that everyone around you took a dirt nap sooner than they needed to?
It kind of reminded me of Arsenal’s situation. Are we cursed? Did we do something in a previous life? What is it with the injuries?
Take a peek at the Arsenal blogosphere and you’d think that there was a credible case for such a dodgy argument. This alongside other theories that Arsenal intentionally sign players of “Elijah’s” ilk from the movie Unbreakable; or we don’t steam their vegetables enough; or we train them too hard; or that because they’re mostly foreigners, they’re not ‘ard enough for the Premier league.
Panic stations take over when there’s the customary outcry about the depletion of our squad as the injuries pile up. Someone yesterday even blamed the Arsenal medical staff for causing the injuries while the players were on international duty.
Which begs the question? How many players and reserves are enough for us to ensure that we will never get an injury? 2 people for each position? Three, four, five – or maybe six? Should we be exempt from the 25 man squad rule because clearly, we have issues with injuries and we need more players?
Take the example of the Van Persie injury. How can you legislate for a full-on challenge of the “let him know you’re there variety”? And more importantly, in the forward position that Van Persie plays, Wenger started the season with the Dutchman, Chamakh, Bendtner and also Emmanuel-Thomas in mind. How many front men can you have in a team?
Questioning whether we are well equipped for the season is like demanding that for every position, we have players who are either immune to injury and suspension, or who will never get tired. It’s like there’s an expectation that before we even start the car, the driver put on a helmet, a seat belt and also double check that the top of the range air bag is in working order, just in case we have an accident. And even when we have our expected quota of accidents, we still complain that the driver should have worn thermal underwear.
To tell you the truth, I was baffled and bemused in equal measure about the anxiety and doomsday scenarios being perpetuated around the web about Arsenal’s perceived vulnerability following the injuries to Walcott and Van Persie.
Statements like “we’re one injury away from a 5 ft 4 inch pygmy leading the line” make you wonder whether there are fans actively willing Chamakh to notch up an injury for good measure.
A few months ago, Axis, a regular contributor on ACLF introduced the angle of defensive pessimism, an art form that a group of Arsenal fans seem to have perfected.
Defensive pessimism can be defined as a motivated cognitive strategy that helps people manage their anxiety and pursue their goals. Individuals who use defensive pessimism generally set low expectations, and play through extensive mental simulations of possible negative outcomes as they prepare for possible disappointment.
They spend their time and energy looking for every little thing they can criticize to rationalize their extremity and refuse to accept to work with what’s in hand.
Injuries are an occupational hazard in football. It’s frustrating as hell, but we get to work with what we have. Last time I checked, Arsenal was well equipped to soldier on with the campaign. I would go as far as suggesting that we have more strength and depth than our title challengers in this respect. The noise about ‘being one injury away’ from whatever doomsday scenario makes the mind wonder.
Teams like Chelsea have to resort to “crying wolf” when it comes to injuries just before an international break. How many times have we come across Lampard and Terry being injured just before teams break up, only to be fit and fighting just after folks come back from the international break?
Some call this Chelsea tactic ‘smart’, but it just stinks of a team that know they can’t handle their squad being stretched and have found cynical ways to protect their old age pensioners.
My take is that shades of defensive pessimism within the Arsenal ranks are more dangerous to our season than injuries that occur as a natural result of a contact sport.
We can’t stock pile players ‘just in case’ we get an injury. We already have a strong squad that will stand us in good stead for the season.