Stone Cold Friday: When Maturity Is Mistaken For Desperation
“There are two kinds of spurs, my friend. Those that come in by the door; those that come in by the window.” How wrong you were Tuco, how wrong you were. There is a third type. Those Spurs always finish below Arsenal but hopefully will do us a favour by beating Manchester United tomorrow. To keep you going, here’s Darius
There’s a vicious rumour doing the rounds that Arsenal is so desperate to win a trophy, they’ve become outright flat track bullies in the Carling cup. While every team now uses the league cup to blood youngsters and give fringe players a chance for some pitch time, Arsenal are being ungentlemanly by unleashing a full strength side.
The irony of all this is the fact that not so long ago, Arsenal was being berated for not taking the cup seriously and bringing the game into disrepute. You have to ask though, that if Wenger makes 9 changes to a team and still ends up with a formidable starting 11, isn’t he fielding his under strength team?
So are we that desperate?
You need to get past the smoke screen of the most quoted statistic in English football – ‘…but Arsenal hasn’t won anything in 5 years’. You need to climb over the mountain of lazy clichés and shameless bias of commentators who tempt you to throw your TV right out the window.
You need to get past the intellectual masturbation unleashed on us by pundits and hacks as they fumble in search of a plausible explanation as to why they think project Arsenal has failed. You need to get past the vocal rabble that is a minority of anti-Arsenal Arsenal supporters who seem hell bent on sending Wenger and a few players to the gallows if we end up with another barren season.
For only when you get past this muck, do you realise how far this team has travelled on this audacious journey to greatness. Not enough credit is given to Wenger, and to individual players for the continuous development that has seen this team grow right in front of our eyes.
Granted, our patience has been tested many a time, but that is the price we have to pay to see this vision through. It’s unfortunate sometimes that this 24-hour – give me what I want now culture has thrown the concept of patience out of the window. Few people seem prepared to build things any more, a quick fix being the order of the day.
What the Carling cup is showing us is that Arsenal has a formidable squad that will challenge on all fronts. It’s a squad that has been brought together by a painstaking and meticulous process of a youth development program tempered with a sprinkling of experience. It’s a squad that is developed to stand us in good stead for a long time to come.
What was also interesting this week was the revelation of the psychology that Arsenal applies as part of the development process. It was always rumoured that the Professor demanded intelligence in his players, but a rare glimpse of the hoops players have to jump for the right to wear an Arsenal shirt was fascinating.
The psychology in part, provides an explanation as to why Wenger only signs certain types of players as opposed to the regulation short-list provided to him by the tabloids every transfer window. This season has seen the introduction of Koscielny, Squillaci and Chamakh – all of who are playing like they’ve always been part and parcel of the Arsenal setup.
What is also becoming more evident is that Arsenal’s impending – and in my view inevitable success is a fact that has started to sink in for many in the establishment. I know that as fans, we tend to get aggrieved by the sometimes criminally biased representation that Arsenal gets in the media. The ‘last kick of a dying horse’ comes to mind when you reflect soberly on the begrudging acknowledgement we occasionally get.
The job is not yet done, but to use one of Wenger’s nuggets, the ‘ingredients’ are there. It’s also noticeable that we’ve collected a few more along the way – like the skill of diplomatically applying the dark arts – for the good of the team.
The team’s mental strength is not an issue for me – we have it in abundance. The rub of the green has also become a familiar bedfellow in recent times. What has been most impressive for me though is the patience and maturity that the team has shown when it has been called for.
You can see it in the way we close out games, or the way we grind and wear down teams with pace, stamina and Wengerball – before licking them to submission.
Teams are also ill-advised to consider Arsenal a soft touch, a myth that has become conventional wisdom if you believe some commentators. The boys are consistently showing that they can ‘take care of themselves’ to use a common euphemism for having a no-nonsense approach or response to teams attempting to bully us off the park.
When people talk about desperation and a clamour for the Carling cup – I think they totally miss the point that Arsenal has become a different beast – one that is also the best at making beasts look beautiful.
The team know what they have to do – and they’ll take it a game at a time. The prizes are not being handed out yet, contrary to the procession being prepared down the Kings Road. The least we can do is enjoy the ride – it’s going to be a fascinating one this season.