They Got The F.E.A.R.
For everything a reason
Fear may have brought Ian Brown some reward but according to Cesc, it is holding back Arsenal, stopping them taking the leap from also-rans to Champions. More accurately, the captain has observed that Arsenal do not channel their fear in big matches, using it as a positive inspiration, focussing instead on the negative, trepidation taking hold.
Fábregas said after the visit to Old Trafford,
Sometimes we seem scared of losing these big games – we don’t really go for it and we’re tempted to drop back and see what the opposition do. We look to see if we are capable of beating them by what they are doing and how good they are on the day, instead of us going forward, causing them problems and dominating the game ourselves.
Nobody would argue with his observations. They echo those of Patrice Evra whose comments beforehand had unleashed a wave of bile, an indication that a raw nerve had been struck.
Forget everything and remember
That a player has been honest enough and spoken about what many supporters believe is refreshing. It makes a change from the usual platitudes we hear, no matter how much the player(s) in question may believe them. It may have been cathartic for Fábregas to speak in such tones but talk is cheap; the squad must act on them which is easier said than done.
Firstly, they all have to agree that this is the case, recognising that irrespective of whether they believe that they are good enough to win matches against Chelsea, United and other big sides, they have failed to do so and become stuck in an unenviable rut along the way.
Acting upon it is an altogether different matter for it seems that they are unable to resolve the issue internally, the effects of repeated defeats in big matches becoming more deep-seated than they may care to admit. This is the domain of sports psychology and Arsenal’s favoured one needs to get to work quickly on this. It might be something as simple as winning two or three such fixtures – simple in that the solution is relatively straightforward yet practically a difficult task to achieve.
F*** everything and rumble
Arsenal are often accused of having no ‘Plan B’, no variation to tactics when the passing game does not work. The defeat last week highlighted how success can be achieved, in the terms of a 90 minute game, with a different approach. Apparently. Except United’s breakthrough did not come as a result of the repetitive long ball to Rooney, that singularly failed with Arsenal gobbling possession easily.
Success came as a result of scoring and defending compactly, assured in their roles in the team, pressurising from the front. In this respect, Arsenal need to acquire the habit of clean sheets, revisiting the first half of Wenger’s reign. A common complaint – naive and dismissable – is that no work is conducted defensively on the training pitch.
Solidity at the back ought to breed confidence. Since The Emirates opened, visiting teams have with few exceptions come to pack the midfield and defence, denying opportunities through volume of numbers. It is not always successful but the seemingly high proportion of home draws gives evidence that scoring once at Arsenal allows you the chance of a point. Arsenal need to be more diligent in defence to build attacks with confidence. Individual concentration needs to be collectively harnessed; too many goals can be pinpointed to one moment of laxness (although that could be said of all goals) which undermines an otherwise decent display.
Final execution and resurrection
The squad are on the cusp of winning their trophy, three games and the Carling Cup is theirs. In itself, it is the least important of the silverware on offer yet it could be the most important. Whilst the team which participates in the competition is not the strongest, lifting the trophy relieves a burden to some extent as well as providing motivation for non-playing members of the squad. How could the ‘seniors’ let the ‘juniors’ be the only victors? Emulation is a powerful competitive instinct.
Of course, the dismissal of achievements will continue until the Premier or Champions League is won and that is motivation enough in itself.