Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Sir Winston Churchill.
Our high expectations are a cocktail of being one of the biggest teams in England; our historical successes, but even more importantly, our recent successes; the completion of a brand new, state of the art new stadium, and the raised expectations that come with this; and having a manager at the helm who has delivered so much for us in the past.
In the meantime, the Premier League has experienced a massive and very nasty, paradigm-jump: the sugar-daddy clubs, who operate, paradoxically, completely outside the ethical and economic laws of both socialism and capitalism. Chelsea, initially, and now joined by Manchester City, are happy to make enormous losses in order to buy titles. They tell us they have a long-term strategy, and will make profits rather than losses in the future, but let’s not be fooled: owning a football club that ‘wins’ silverware is very big ‘bling’ for those who live in bottomless abundance. They have got to do something with themselves to counter the unbearable lightness of their being – to feet their insatiable egos.
We have to live with this, at least for now. Some, including me, are keen for Arsenal to stick to its self-sustainability model, whilst others are desperate for Arsenal to compete on an equal basis with the Oilers, and as such, have pinned their hope on our own, desperate-for-recognition billionaire: Usmanov – whatever the long-term consequences of this could be for our club.
For the foreseeable future, with regards to the way the club is managed, nothing is going to change, whether we like it or not. It is a fact.
Maybe it is time for us to lower our expectations now, in order to find some peace of mind with the given situation – maybe it is time to start the season with a glass half empty attitude, with a reality-check.
This should, by the way, not be confused with a lack of ambition by the writer of today’s blog.
Recently, I read a great article in the Guardian Weekly that might give us some advice on how to deal better with our expectations, and subsequently become a lot happier: ‘Failure can be inspiring’ by Oliver Burkeman.
The bit I thought particularly interesting from the article was the view held by psychologist Carol Dweck of how we appear to look at talent and ability. Burkeman summarises Dweck’s theory as follows: “….our experiences of failure are influenced overwhelmingly by the beliefs we hold about the nature of talent and ability – and that we can, perhaps quite straightforwardly, nudge ourselves towards a better outlook. Each of us can be placed somewhere on a continuum, Dweck argues, depending on our “implicit view” – or unspoken attitude – about what talent is and where it comes from. Those with a “fixed theory” assume the ability is innate; those with an “incremental theory” believe that it evolves through challenge and hard work.”
The principle idea is that those with an “incremental” mindset are more prepared for, and more resilient against things going wrong, and are more likely to achieve sustainable success: Those with a fixed mindset believe strongly they will succeed and find failure “especially horrifying”. Burkeman puts it as follows: “The incremental mindset is the one more likely to lead to sustainable success. But the deeper point is that possessing an incremental outlook is a happier way to be, whether or not it leads to any outstanding success”.
Although the above statements are aimed at the individual, I can see a strong linkage with the way we, collectively, view our beloved Arsenal. Is it fair to say that over the last few years we, as supporters, have started to believe our club’s ability is innate, simply a given; that we are so good and so big that we simply should win silverware constantly, and that anything less means unacceptable failure? Have we perhaps, consciously or subconsciously, been overrating our ability, whilst wilfully ignoring what has been happening around us?
It is about time for us to drop this idea that we are simply entitled to success and to start again from a more humble base.
We need to accept that the challenge ahead is a daunting one; that we need to work very hard, and work towards success incrementally: step by step. We need to give ourselves time and take into account we might not win anything major in the foreseeable future. And we need to find our peace with this.
Many Gooners will be going into next season with very high expectations once again: some because they simply demand success after seven years of ‘failure’ – anything else is not good enough, others because they are glass half-full people.
But this time round, not this Gooner.
I am going to be realistic with regards to our current qualities and ability, regardless of whether we sign some more players or not, and will adjust my expectations accordingly. I will also try to refrain from my natural instinct towards unwarranted ‘glass half full’ thinking at the start or during the season, as this is deemed to lead to disappointment in the future.
I believe Arsenal still has a chance to win the PL or CL, even this year, but it is a relatively small one. I am not going to count on us winning anything major this year, but will remain hopeful. Because with Arsene at the helm, there is always hope.
I like our squad, I believe in Arsene, and through an incremental approach by all involved: some healthy humility, hard work on the training ground and on the pitch, aiming constantly to get the very best out of the players, and concentrating on just one game at a time, and of course, a lot of luck, something magic might happen next season.
But more than this, as a supporter, I will be taking every game as it comes, try as much as possible to enjoy the positives and aim to share my experiences with those of fellow Gooners as much as I can. And I cannot wait till the season starts again: I am as excited as ever!
By collectively letting go, at least for a bit, our sense of entitlement to silverware, caused by a romantic clinging on to the past and a denial of the new reality which was forced upon us recently; and instead, work our socks off in all areas related to our football, we should be able to enjoy Arsenal’s football a lot more the coming seasons.
Paradoxically, by no longer expecting to win something, we might actually still end up victoriously.
Written by TotAl.
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
Sir Winston Churchill.