Do Players Need To Like Each Other?

Bear with me… this is, indeed, a Post about the current Arsenal team (it will get there eventually).

Way back in the early 1990s an ex Arsenal lad who had moved to pastures new was tearing up the Premier League, scoring goals for fun.

I refer to one Andrew Cole, who had two great seasons at Newcastle from 1993 to 1995.

Such was his form and prowess at the Barcodes that he earned an England call-up under Terry Venables. He made his debut as a late substitute against Uruguay – replacing a certain Mr Edward Sheringham. As Sheringham left the pitch he offered nary a glance towards the debuant; not a handshake; nor even a quick word of encouragement, far less a pat on the back. He just acted as if Cole did not exist.

The perceived insult wounded the tender soul of young Andy and he vowed never to forget it.

Fast forward a year or so and Cole signed for Manchester United where, playing alongside Eric Cantona, he continued to thrive.

But in football, as in life, fate often has a way of putting chewing gum on your bus seat and, sure enough, in 1997 Eric Cantona left United and they replaced him with Mr Edward Sheringham.

As Cole put it some years later: “In the summer of 1997, after Eric Cantona left Manchester United, Sheringham arrived. We played together for years. We scored a lot of goals. I never spoke a single word to him.”

And during that period United were certainly successful.

So does it mean that relationships between players don’t matter? That team mates can hate each other with the sort of loathing that a Totteringham fan has for bathwater?

Well, there are certainly other examples beyond Cole and Sheringham (who, let’s not forget, went to Man United but was still a runt). The Bayern Munich and Germany midfielders Lothar Matthaus and Stefan Effenberg would each have happily seen the other fed slowly into a wood chipper; and in the days of the Wimbledon Crazy Gang (younger readers, be thankful you don’t know what I’m talking about) John “Fash the Bash” Fashanu shared mutual antipathy with Lawrie Sanchez.

In fact it got so bad that Fashanu and Sanchez decided to “sort it out” during a training session. As a black belt in karate, Fashanu was expecting to teach Sanchez a lesson – but I remember Tony Adams once described Sanchez as the hardest man in football (a bit like the Pope describing someone as the holiest person on earth).

Fash’s memoirs take up the story: “Sanch gave me a shot and, give him credit, it wasn’t a bad shot. But I thought, don’t hit Sanch, don’t mark his face, and my mind went back to when Muhammed Ali fought against the martial artist in New York, and the martial artist just kicked the back of his legs until it broke the tissues in his calves and he submitted. So I thought I’d teach Sanch a lesson and gave a sweep of the legs, but Sanch has calves like most people have thighs and he didn’t move. So I gave him another couple, but Sanch came back at me. So I thought, I’m gonna take this guy out, and I hit him with one of the best shots I’d been training with – BAM! Take that, Sanch! – right in the solar plexus, a shot that would supposedly knock a horse down. And still he stood there. Then Terry Burton came over to break us up.”

Happy days.

Anyway, this question of whether it’s better for players to like their team mates occurred to me while watching our game against Liverpool on Saturday.

You will remember the chance that Luis Suarez had towards the end of the match, as Liverpool were struggling to fight their way back from the firm slapping-down which we had been administering.

Suarez profited from a mistake by the BFG and bore down on goal from Liverpool’s left side. He tried a shot which went across the face of goal and wide, not troubling Szczesny. Daniel Sturridge had been racing into the right hand side of the box and felt that Suarez should have passed to him rather than shooting. Whether or not Suarez should have passed is neither here nor there. What happened next was fascinating: Sturridge threw his arms out and back, like a child trying to be a superhero; he jutted out his chin, his eyes bulged and he donned the time-honoured countenance of the mortally outraged (think Stephen Fry being told that – no thanks – no-one was interested in his latest anecdote).

All this was directed at his team mate, Suarez. It was not a brief, understandable moment of frustration of the kind any player can be prone to: Sturridge held this tortured pose for many long seconds. His suffering began to take on Jesus-like dimensions. Poor old Suarez glanced his way but chose not to engage.

At the time I thought: “these are two players who don’t like each other: two selfish goal-grabbers who are in this only for personal glory.”  If you feel your colleague should have passed, you talk about it later – you don’t try to humiliate him in front of millions

And despite the examples mentioned above – of bitter feuds festering in successful teams – it cannot, as a general rule, be good to have disharmony within a team.

Look at Arsenal in recent years.

There is no question that we’ve had some troublesome individuals in the dressing room: Samir Nasri, who could probably make the Dalai Lama swear; Emmanuel “all about me” Adebayor; William “Slightly Deranged” Gallas.

And one of the factors in our gradual improvement has been the clearing out of the disputatious types and the forging of strong bonds between the players who remain.

There seems to be a good, mutually supportive vibe among the YBCs (the Young British Core), but experienced, level-headed foreigners like Arteta, Giroud and Mertesacker have also clearly been instrumental in creating unity and fellow-purpose.

It may be easier to say during the sort of successful period we are currently enjoying, but I really feel our squad of players like each other and are playing for each other rather than for their next big money move elsewhere. No-one exemplifies this selflessness better than Olivier Giroud, who seems as happy when he assists as when he scores.

So, to sum up, Sturridge and Suarez will continue to score goals, but football success is often down to fine margins – and not being united on the field is one of those things that can have a slight, but significant, negative impact.

Over the course of the season I would back our Harmonious Heroes to do better than ‘Pool’s Fractious Forwards. We will see.



56 Responses to Do Players Need To Like Each Other?

  1. gus says:


    We had a title winning team in 08 but squad disharmony stopped this. That’s my belief anyway.

  2. LB says:

    I don’t even know where to start to praise this Monday morning’s offering.

  3. Rocky a fine post sir, I was watching MotD2 yesterday (still no Hansen or Lawrenson which was a shame) and they were playing the Goal of the Month competition, which Jack/ArsenalSexyFootball won.

    Sturridge’s celebration for his chip told me all i needed to know about the player, his glare towards the touchline as he booted a ball out of touch from the 18 yard box after Suarez’s missed pass said even more.

    As for us you are right, we seem to have a balance of experience and maturity and youthful exuberance, coupled with what appears from the outside a collective unity. I guess the truest test of collective spirit is players prepared to sit on the bench when not required. If they sit and sulk something is not right, if like say Carl Jenkinson they jump up and celebrate every goal and kick every ball from the dug out then we know spirit is good.

    There is nothing i hate more than cutting to the dugout to see subs looking disinterested in the game.

  4. gus says:

    We’ve got good people not just good players (this hasn’t always been the case in recent times)

  5. gus says:

    GiE, we can’t know for sure, but that’s what it looked like from the outside. That and Eduardo getting his leg broken.

  6. JanMan says:

    Rocky: Interesting post with some very valid points. I think that in the past there were also some issues with TH14 and Reyes! For those of you traveling to Germany, be safe and you had better brush up some more on your German as the earlier examples were a gramatic disaster 🙂
    I think we will do well against BVB as we seem to be a little more relaxed away from home in the CL. However, I would be happy with a 1-1 draw.

  7. GoonerB says:

    Excellent post Rocky, I didn’t see that one coming on that subject but great credit to you. I am not sure whether complete squad harmony directly parallels success but it must surely have some bearing. Maybe each case is individual. One could argue that squad disharmony will historically have caused a deterioration of team performance in certain cases, but maybe in other cases the variable factors mean that it has less of a significant impact.

    On to us though and I do particularly like what appears to be a great squad harmony at the moment. It is a genuine pleasure to watch the players embrace each other and smile. They all, to a man, seem so pleased when one of their team-mates has done something exceptional for the team, and that selfless delight at one players individual moment of genius, but more importantly what it does for the team, is truly magnificent to see. I almost have a bigger smile on my face and a greater satisfaction watching the reactions of the players, after a quality goal, than I do for the goal itself.

  8. GunnerN5 says:


    It’s a real treat to read your Monday morning musings, you have an incredible gift for finding unique topics and then portraying them in a very humorous and readable manner.

    it simply does not suffice to only say thank you but nevertheless I thank you over and over again.

    Us supporters, who have managed to stay loyal to our team and upper management group over the past trophy less years, have been saying that we are a team in transition and that we show incredible potential. Well we all know that the potential has just simmered and the transition has been a long path covered in broken glass.

    Could this possibly be the season when all of our hopes and dreams come to fruition? Nobody knows for sure – but the signs are very good.

    By the way did I say thank you?

  9. RA says:

    Hi Rocky,


    I do not think it matters at all whether or not players like each other, with the proviso that it is made clear they play for the club and the fans, and their personal animosity does not enter the field of play.

    Any decent manager would not and should not tolerate any personalized vituperation between them, with the penalty for any transgression being one or both getting the boot out of the club.

    I am sure you will have come across people at work that you would not want to socialize with, and yet have co-operated with successfully. 🙂

    Personally speaking I do not think you are anywhere near as bad as some say.

  10. TT says:

    Good reading, RL. I think it is too much to expect players to refrain from showing their frustration with the perceived missed opportunities. Heat of the moment, etc. Witness all the instances of players pointing with spread hands to their feet. Arsenal players are certainly guilty of this behaviour plenty of time.

    Also, although I agree with you that there seems to be some undercurrent to the Sturridge/Suarez display, who knows if this apparent competitive edge between the two isn’t a good thing for Liverpool. It might just drive the two players to give more.

    In the end though, you are right that such behaviour would not fit the comradely, team-oriented approach of the “Harmonious Heros”.

    p.s. Ozil in particular seems to be getting a honeymoon period. Around the 75 min mark in the Liverpool game when Ozil shot instead of pass, A relatively open Giroud was ready to do that spread hands pointing gesture. Then he thought better of it. After all it would have been Ozil he criticized. 🙂

  11. RockyLives says:

    Thanks for the comments – very much appreciated.

    Football is a game for great individuals, but above all it is a team game and I feel a team that is united will, in the end, do better than one that has fault lines in it.

  12. arnie says:

    Fantastic, Rocky. What more is there to say? Three smileys here to stand for three cheers!!! 😀 😀 😀

    There is a lot of talk on chat shows (like 606 hosted by birthday boy (Ian) Wright yesterday) and the blogosphere regarding the Sturridge show on Saturday. Juvenile to say the least, and lack of RESPECT, even if it shows a certain degree of passion and keenness. I feel that public shows like this is another form of the “ME SYNDROME” that we debated a few days back. In some ways, the Mouninho show of trying to deflect attention from Torres after he had scored a goal, was similar!

    I would take a harmonious squad that enjoys playing with each other any day, even if it means a modest deficit in ruthlessness on the field. Even if we have not won anything for 8-9 long years. But maybe, that is just me. Football is a team game, and the beautiful brand of the game is played by a team in constant harmony with each other. The gif of Sagna posted yesterday (I think by Chas) says it all!!!

  13. GunnerN5 says:

    Just look at how harmonious we all are on AA –
    Never a single cross word???

  14. Big Raddy says:

    RL. Another fine read.

    Anything which brings opprobrium to the hideous Edward Sheringham and A.Cole works well for me.

    When I ran businesses I found it very hard to work with people who disliked each other – thankfully this didn’t happen often but a happy ship is more likely to be successful in my experience, so in true hippy-dippy style we had meetings and discussions and tried to find harmony (ommmmmmmmm).

    Then someone would be fired 🙂

  15. RA says:

    Listen, all this stuff about working together does not take into account the need to address every problem that faces you with extreme care.

    There were these three guys who died together in an accident and go to heaven. When they get there, St. Peter says, “We only have one rule here in heaven…don’t step on the ducks.”

    So they enter heaven, and sure enough, there are ducks all over the place. It is almost impossible not to step on a duck, and although they try their best to avoid them, the first guy accidentally steps on one and yells ‘fcuk that duck’.

    Along comes St. Peter with the ugliest woman he ever saw. St. Peter chains them both together and says “Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this ugly woman!”

    The next day, the second guy steps accidentally on a duck, and along comes St. Peter, who never misses a trick, and with him is another extremely ugly duck of a woman. He chains them together with the same admonishment as for the first guy.

    The third guy observing all this and not wanting to be chained for all eternity to an ugly woman, is very, VERY careful where he steps.

    He manages to go months on end without stepping on any ducks, but one day St. Peter comes up to him with the most gorgeous woman he has ever laid eyes on…a very tall, tanned, curvaceous and sexy blonde. St. Peter chains them together without saying a word and saunters off.
    The guy mutters under his breath, “I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to this beauty for all of eternity?”

    The woman hearing this replied, “I don’t know about you, but I stepped on a fcuking duck.”

  16. RA says:

    GN5 at 2:12,

    harmony is over-rated — doesn’t even hold your curls in place I find! 🙂

  17. gus says:

    We’ve had squad disunity in the past. Egos like Nasri, Adebayor, Song, Gallas etc are no longer at the club. We have people who play for each other. Look at the spirit between oxlade chaimberlain, gibbs, jenkinson, Mertesaker, Sanga, Arteta, cazorla, welsher, scszeszney… they’re all good people. they’re all good arsenal people. Something I love about this team.

  18. RA says:

    I guess teamwork is the better deal after all.

    When I worked with Rocky I remember his stirring call to arms at staff meetings.

    ‘Remember guys’ he used to say, ‘Pride, Commitment, Teamwork. THOSE are the words we use to get you to work for eff all!’

    But then there was more;

    ‘Teamwork is really important dudes, it means never having to take all the blame yourself, but for those who are slow to learn the team ethic, beatings will continue until morale improves!’

    Yep. That boy was a great manager!! 🙂

  19. Timmy says:

    Nice post Rocky,

    Did anyone noticed how Per and Kos embraced after the match. That for me shows the level of togetherness in the team

  20. Räsp says:

    Thanks Rocky, a refreshingly different topic to mull over since being top of the league is old hat now 😛

    I’m in the happy ship camp, my ship is half full 😎

    There has to be an occasion where two players don’t get on and in a fleeting moment one has to choose to create a goal for themselves or pass to the other for a tap in – perhaps it is at this time that not getting on could pose a problem. The converse could be that both players constantly try to outdo one another and so always put in a hardworking shift due to the competitive element. So I guess on a human level, being mates (anagram of teams) has to be best, but perhaps on the pitch it is not necessarily going to produce a better performance.

    What cannot be denied is that life in the dressing room and everywhere else socially must be a lot more fun when everyone gets on.

  21. RockyLives says:

    Thanks – I did not see the BFG/Kozzer hug, but I can imagine how they must have felt at keeping a clean sheet.

    There was so much hype about ‘Pool’s “SAS Attack” (I think it stands for “Selfish and Selfisher”) that our CBs must have taken great satisfaction from keeping them quiet.

  22. RockyLives says:

    Loving the duck joke 😀

  23. evönne says:

    Evening Rocky, thank you for another epic. I wish I kept all your posts in a scrap book, they are excellent and timeless. I could read them again when times are bad or when I am down, they always cheer me up. I enjoyed the story about Lawri Sanchez, didn’t know that one, will respect him even more now.

    I think it is great to see team players enjoying each other’s company. I was all gooey seeing Kozza and Mert walking of the pitch together with arms around each other …lovely view of our two great players.
    However, a small doze of animosity between strikers is not always a bad thing. Fergie loved conflict between his top hitmen and had great results from players competing against each other. Take Ronaldo and Rooney after the infamous sending off of Shrek and lady-boys wink – I didn’t think they could play together again. But Fergie must have been rubbing his paws, it was just what SAFlikes. And R&R did play together and achieved some formidable results.

    Most of us would like to see another CF arriving in January. Would that cause problems? Bloody right it would. Giroud is performing so well, because Wenger put all his trust in him (I am conveniently forgetting the £40,000,001 bid) and Olly is doing his best to deliver. Introduce somebody else and he might not like it.

  24. Big Raddy says:

    I keep reading in the “meedja” about how our squad is lacking depth etc etc

    What I cannot understand is how full-time paid journalists cannot know about our injuries. One twerp said that our bench was so weak on Saturday that we had two 18 y.o’s on it and that this was the reason we will not be top in May, conveniently forgetting that Theo, Gnabry (an 18 y.o), Jack, Ox, Podolski, Diaby and Flamini are all knacked.

    Another argument is that if OG gets injured we are doomed. Perhaps they overlook the facts that we score many goals from midfield and that last season Theo scored more goals than media darlings Rooney and Aguero

  25. RA says:

    Glad u liked the joke Rocky.

    I was so overwhelmed with the responses to my comments I thought I was typing with invisible ink.

    At least u make me think I was not ‘chatting’ to myself, as usual.

    Ta ra.

  26. Bayonne Jean says:

    On to Dortmund…..nice article on Klopp in the Guardian, and his views on the similarities and differences between him and AW:

    Let’s see AW sign an extension through 2018, when Klopp’s is up at BvB. He says he’s going to honor it through then, and you have to say that’s believable. What a character (and manager)!

  27. dhakka09 says:

    Excellent post, Rocky. Victoria Concordia Cresit 😀


    Excellent as usual Rocky.

    Our harmony is borne out through a couple of very important factors.

    Firstly, there is a desire/hunger amongst the players to prove themselves both as a team and of course as individuals. I dont think this feeling is as strong at the moment within Chelsea and the Manchester clubs

    Secondly, Arsene has done a great job building a unity by nurturing a pool of players based on development, improvement, and most importantly, faith in there ability.

    I myself am a great beleiver in inspiring those around you to fulfill there maximum potential

    Last year at work i gave the staff an impassioned speech how the acheivement of targets would reward them both financialy and personaly.

    Been succesful would enhance there well beign and seep into all areas of life. There increased confidence would give them an irisistable personalty bringing admiration and fullfuling sex life.

    Financial rewards would also be forthcoming to those that exceeded targets.

    At the end of the year everyone performed magnificently, best year we ever had

    Of course, i lied about the end results and kept all the extra money for myself, but the theory is sound.

  29. Oh Rocky, you old softy you, I love the idea that our gang would sit in the dressing room after the game high fiving and giggling together about how they had just taken three points from Liverpool.

    I think it’s really important that there is harmony in the camp – I’m loving each one of them 🙂

  30. arnie says:

    Raddy, and everyone else citing the journos, and this includes myself. One of the problems of modern society is that most people have to believe, religiously, in some mantra. In the case of the football “meedja”, the current mantra is that you cannot win anything, or even play a beautiful game, without spending loads of money. And football is flush with a lot of money because there are people who have to quickly convert their black money into white. So, in some ways, the journos will continue to churn out this rubbish until there is irrefutable proof that there is a different state of the world. And that some clubs, read Arsenal, can buck the trend and fight for that ideal, hopefully also winning trophies in the process.

    Personally, I do not think we need a striker in January, certainly not if we can continue playing the way we have done so far till Christmas. If good opportunities come our way, then fine, but why should we be hell bent to get reinforcements mid-season. We play a team game, and we have a relatively set team. I just don’t see the point! Beyond wishing that SK spends some of his profits. There is just not sufficient footballing reason. At least for me!

    The journos have got a bit quiet, and they will be silenced in time. Part of me says we should refuse to join the mad rush and follow the herd. Come what may, and even if we do not win any trophies. I am happy if we continue to play a beautiful game, maintain a fantastic atmosphere within and outside the field, and provide enjoyment. 😀 😀

  31. JanMan says:

    BR. Good point (ref your 5.25 post) While I believe another striker in the January window would be great, it is not the end of the world if OG was to miss out on a few games. Podolski is just about ready to return as is Theo, both of them are more than capable of playing up front so we do have cover right now for OG even though those players may have a different style and different strengths they are each very strong players in their own right plus as you stated, anyone in our midfield can score. While I admit we are lacking in depth it is not nearly as bad as many pundits make out. Even the great Tony Adams seems to be missing this fact when he talks!

  32. We need a post for tomorrow guys so if anyone’s got an idea they’d like to expand into a post that would be fantastic. It doesn’t have to be a thesis just something to start the day’s chatting off.

    Thanks 😉

  33. GoonerB says:

    Trying to see if I can get something going peaches.

  34. Gööner In Exile says:

    Just listening to The Game podcast and Gab Marcotti asked the pundits why they are not talking titles for Arsenal, this was the mixture of responses:

    “Not one of us can say we saw this coming, so we don’t believe anything has actually changed it’s just luck of the order of fixtures”

    “They haven’t got the squad”

    “They haven’t played title contenders when they have played big teams…Dortmund and Chelsea. They have crumbled”

    This last fact was rebutted by one of the journos who wrote on the weekend that we have gained the most points in 2013, who also said that the key to the title is only down to games against the other top teams if you haven’t taken the points on offer elsewhere, something that Arsenal this season have done.

  35. LB says:

    There are a few lines in drafts, it depends how desperate you are.

    A big picture might pad it out lol.

  36. RockyLives says:

    I’m in NY for a few days… reminiscing about the strange and fine times we had here not so long ago 😀

  37. RockyLives says:

    Jealous of the German Contingent.

    Great game to go to.

    I won’t even be able to watch live as I’ll be flying back from NY 😦

  38. SharkeySuresGhost says:

    Classic Monday Corky Elvis …top quality !!!

    I too looked at that Sturridge moment, and thought, those two aren’t pals are they.

    I dont think I”ll ever be a fan of Sturridge, he’s too useless at so many of the basics of forward play, like hold up play, work rate and he is selfish beyond belief.

    I;m pretty sure that his ego will not allow him to recognise his true level compared to Suarez. Suarez is world class, no ifs or buts, whilst I’m not convinced that Sturridge is even good enough for Liverpool.

    I truly believe that he is in a (longish) purple patch and will not maintain his goal scoring, and if he doesnt score for you then there’s no point in him being out there. I really do think he’s that poor, and is entirely capable of dawdling and sulking his way out of a seat on that plane to Rio.

    Thats prob worth a bet right now whilst he’s still feted as a golden boy. I might go for a double with ‘loves to shoot can’t score Townsend’. Maybe even throw in that Townsend scores no more than 5 PL goals all season, and make it a treble.

    Could end up payying for my own seat on a plane to Rio 😉

  39. Gööner In Exile says:

    Sharkey that’s a very sensible bet 🙂

  40. mickydidit89 says:


    Don’t go and die or anything, because our Monday’s wouldn’t be the same. Cheers 🙂

    Great stuff. For me, two players not seeing eye to eye is not ideal, but clearly not the end of the world either. My personal dislike is the “big swinging dick” character, which is totally different from your “Mr Arsenal” type, that I like.

    I have mentioned before how impressed I was with Mesut’s first goal celebration. Said everything about the man. It could so easily have been “Yeehaaa, that’s what you get for forty mill”, but it was very much the modest team man acknowledging the supporters as much as anything.

    Clearly there is a great spirit about the camp, and I still find it curiously fascinating that Arsene put in a bid for a Suarez character.

  41. mickydidit89 says:

    testing testing
    one two one two

  42. mickydidit89 says:

    testing testing one two one two

  43. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Rumour has it that Theo will be back for the MU game. Can’t see it myself but perhaps a 15 min cameo.

    And where is Podolski? Injured in August and out until the end of November?

  44. mickydidit89 says:

    Motning Daddy

    Testing testing one two one two

  45. mickydidit89 says:


  46. Big Raddy says:

    Looking under the bonnet of AA I found that Micky has had problems with his comments going into trash.

    And a Sunday message from Kelsey wishing us good morning.

    And a long one from Ash which I will try to re-publish later.

  47. mickydidit89 says:

    one two one two
    still under the bonnet?

  48. What’s going on? Why are there comments from chas being held back?

  49. I’ve released all chas’ and micky’s comments so can you both try and come on again please while I’m here.

  50. Gööner In Exile says:

    Over sensitive Spam filter Peaches?

  51. Morning GiE

    Definitely over sensitive, kelsey only said ‘Morning’ 😉

    Sorry kelsey, hope you’re ok, come and say hello again.

  52. LB – thanks for your post, you have a wicked sense of humour, I’m just looking for a pic 🙂

  53. New Post ………………

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