But no, he’s [Gascoigne] not thinking about going back into football, either as a manager or as a pundit. He says he’s not got the constitution for it. “I’ve been told when a player’s playing well praise him, and when he’s having a bad game fuckin’ slaughter him, and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t bring myself to slaughter someone having a bad game because I know he’s got to sit with his girlfriend or his wife, he knows he’s had a bad game, his kid probably thinks, ‘Oh, my dad’s shit.'” He shakes his head. “Couldn’t do it.”
Expectations are usually high when a CM has the ball in the centre of the opposition’s half, with a promising situation in front of him. If the CM delivers a good defence-splitting ball the crowd will be pleased – if not, it will quickly lead to a collective sigh of disappointment, especially if and when Arsenal is not in the lead. If the latter happens a few times in succession, the confidence of the player can get affected, depending very much on the thickness of his skin. Nothing new there: as long as football has been played in front of a crowd, players have had to deal with both the disappointment and elation of the fans present. But nowadays, players have to deal with so much more. Not only do they have to put up with a large number of journalists who do not bother to write about the truth, but whatever it is that its readers want to read; they are also now regularly subjected to vitriolic blogs and direct fan-communications via Twitter etc. It takes a lot for a modern-day, young football player to stay strong and believe in himself and the support he gets from his manager / his club is absolutely crucial.
We, the supporters, also have an important role to play: we can make or break football players and we all know we have made, but also broken, a few in recent times.
A lot of weight on Aaron Ramsey’s shoulders:
Creative Midfield play is without any doubt the toughest job in football. If CM’s are really good they are often referred to as conductors, magicians, creative hubs etc. They always get microscopic attention of the crowd, especially at Arsenal where the fans have been exposed to the very finest of CMs. As a result there is a lot of weight on the shoulder on whoever is brave and talented enough to take on such a pivotal role. After the master Fabregas sadly left for Barcelona, his most likely successor – the master in development, Jack Wilshere – sustained a nasty injury. It left a hole in the ‘hole-position’ the size of the Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles combined.
Wenger has been struggling to replicate his beloved 4-2-3-1 system, in which the midfield dominates our play to a large extent. I have posted before about the ‘Wall of ARS’: how Arteta, Ramsey and Song are multi-talented and multi-disciplined midfielders who can play in any position and can perform any midfield function to a high degree. We are now playing a 5/4-3-3 system, where ARS is a ‘mini-team’ in itself, and if and when all three are firing on all cylinders it is a joy to behold: the games against Chelsea, Marseille and Dortmund particularly spring to mind. It appears that Wenger has given ARS the freedom to perform various midfield duties as they see fit and sort things out between themselves, as in who does what at any particular point of the game. Ramsey has been the most advanced player and therefore has had most CM-responsibilities, but others have chipped in as well, notably Song has had many fantastic assists this season. However, even with the ARS at its best, something is still missing.
I am not sure whether the most advanced midfield position in our current 4-3-3 system is the ideal position for Ramsey. I think he would perform better in Arteta’s position, next to the more defensive minded midfielder Song (at least on paper). Nevertheless, Ramsey has been giving his all in this challenging position, and has been making good progress. I expect Jack Wilshere to become first choice for the more advanced position, once he is fully recovered, but Ramsey could still claim the CM-role on a permanent basis in the next few months.
The essence of ‘Victory through Harmony’
I have no doubt whatsoever that Aaron is a super-talent who will develop into a top class player. In order to get there, however, confidence/trust in his abilities by himself and the supporters is absolutely paramount. A number of fans have been highly critical, and in some cases, outrageously abusive about Aaron’s performances recently, and for a player like him – in this difficult position and at his tender age – this can be very detrimental.
If we are not careful Ramsey will become another victim of a negative ‘fans fulfilling prophecy’:
- A couple of (perceived) under-par performances by Ramsey leads to;
- Unhappy crowds and unhappy bloggers etc;
- Once Ramsey becomes aware of this (and how couldn’t he) it’s highly likely that his confidence gets affected;
- Ramsey might easily start making more mistakes, and as a result, will take less risk and might even start hiding during games;
- Leading to more unhappy crowds, bloggers etc, even less confidence and worse and worse performances;
- Before you know it, we have ‘unsupported’ him into a failure.
I just cannot understand why somebody who calls him/herself an Arsenal supporter can severely criticise a player beyond the technical performance in a particular game. If and when a player has a below-par game, there is nothing wrong with pointing this out. But when fans start saying that Ramsey is rubbish and should be dumped, when he is solely blamed for a game lost by Arsenal, or even worse, for all that has gone wrong with Arsenal this season, when fans start introducing silly, derogatory terms such as Ramilson, when even a few idiots start wishing him all sorts of diseases, and worse, then fans are starting to harm the very thing they say they support.
By all means, if a player is lazy, has a calculated commitment to the club and does not care for Arsenal one iota, criticise him as much as you like: he deserves it.
But any player who gives his all, who cares about Arsenal and wears the shirt with pride, is one of us and should get our full, unflinching support: that is what Victory through Harmony stands for. Ramsey is such a player and we need to stand behind him.
It is a question of attitude, and before you know it, we will actually experience a case of positive fans fulfilling prophecy, in which we help a player reach their full potential. Let’s stand behind Ramsey, let’s encourage him and support him, and before you know it we have another world class player in our midfield.