The new Arsenal: focus, enthusiasm, togetherness, and a mixture of raw talent and calm experience
The interlull is almost over. Although it has been a boring period – from a footballing point of view – at least we did not have to endure again the spectacle of recent interlulls: in-fighting of fellow Arsenal fans. No, quietly the fans have gained considerable trust in this Arsenal team again and are more united now. And this makes a big difference on how an interlull period is experienced. Football is funny like that.
The reason for this renewed optimism is not only down to a run of good games/results. There is something within this new Arsenal team that makes it easy to indentify with again, to really love again, something that makes us feel good to support and believe in this team again with all our heart. It is like having a new girlfriend: she might be not as stunning as the previous one, and not everybody talks about you anymore, but she is surprisingly pleasant and enthusiastic and you feel you are getting somewhere again – a sense of hope and progress. And we can definitely say Arsenal is getting somewhere again.
So what are the key ingredients of this new Arsenal team? For me, they can be summarised with the word: FEETT. On a personal/work related level I have always felt that people with a lot of FEETT get furthest in work/life, and I believe this also goes for whole teams, or even organisations.
F is for Focus:
There is a new focus in this team, mixed with a healthy dose of humility. For a big part this is due to our awful start to the season. The sweet uses of adversity (Shakespeare) have been on display once again. Arsenal is well below from where it belongs in the league table, and the aim is to simply focus on one game at a time and win as many as possible, so we can climb the table and end in the top-4 at least.
The same goes for the cup competitions. This will sound a bit bizarre, but I have not seen Arsenal being this focussed as it has been this year, for a long time. Nobody believes anymore that we are special – at the moment – based on our recent history of superior, title & cup-winning football: no, for the first time there appears to be a strong realisation among the fans and the players that we need to regain that status through hard work and focussing on winning game after game. Wenger has also recognised this, as he stated recently that we need to be a bit humble and just concentrate on winning the next game (rather than talking about winning the title this year). Combine that with Gazidis’ announcement that not finishing in the top-4 would not be a disaster and you can see Arsenal’s tactics to release the tension a bit, and allow time to build another Wengerball super-team.
The paradox is that by saying we are not focussed on winning the title (at the moment) and not qualifying for the CL is not a disaster, we are far more likely to do well this season. This team is on a mission – it knows what it needs to do.
E is for Energy & Enthusiasm:
We have the right balance now between talent, technique and energy levels, and with the likes of Arteta, Jenkinson, Koz, RvP, Ramsey, Song, Szzesny and Vermaelen in our team we have plenty of stamina. The team works a lot harder now – collectively – and with a considerable amount of enthusiasm as well. Energy and enthusiasm are paramount for success, as it will help us to get over the difficult moments easier and faster (recent second half performances against Udinese, Sunderland, Marseille, and Chelsea especially, spring to mind).
E is for Experience:
For me, this is probably the biggest, and most positive, change from last year. The way the BFG and Santos recovered in the second half, from their disappointing first half performances against Chelsea, was very telling. With Vermaelen, the BFG, Sanya and Santos there is plenty of experience in our defence and the likes of Jenkinson, Szczesny, JD and Gibbs will all benefit from this tremendously as well.
In midfield, we now have the ‘arrived’ Song, Arteta, Rosicky, Arshavin and Benny who are all experienced enough to make a difference and the likes of Jack, Rambo, Frimmpong. Diaby and Coquelin will all benefit from this. Upfront we have the experience of RvP, our captain, Theo, Gervinho and Chamakh – on whom I refuse to give up on, at least for the time being. The likes of Ryo, the Ox and Park can all benefit from playing with our more experienced players, especially the Dutch Master. It is this combination of youth and experience throughout the positions which makes me so hopeful of the (near) future.
T is for Talent:
This Arsenal squad is bursting at it seams with talent in all four areas of the team. Szczesny and Fabianski are both fabulous goalkeepers and Manone is nor far off either. Gibbs and Jenkinson are very promising propests and so is Miquel. The midfield is overdosed with talent, and this is after the departure of Cesc and ‘the other one’. In attack, we have representatives from four continents and I cannot wait to see Joel Campbell play for us. He looks like a great prospect and so does Park, who needs a bit more time to settle in properly.
The final T is for Teamwork or Togetherness:
This new Arsenal Team really is becoming a solid, cohesive group of players who are ready to fight for each other and make things happen. There is a great spine from Szczesny – Vermaelen/Mertesacker/Koscielny – Song/Arteta – Ramsey/Wilshere/ Rosicky – RvP. These players, together with the FB’s and Wingers, and aided by a great reserve bench in most games now, looks more ‘together’ and resilient than ever: a proper team where everybody wants to work for each other and for the club, and with plenty of quality to make the difference when required. As many have pointed out, the recent, collective team celebrations have been a joy to watch and tell us a lot about the levels of togetherness within this new team.
So there is plenty of reason to be optimistic for the future. Clearly, we are not there yet and things could still go against us again, but this team is on a mission and all the basic components are there for a successful season.