Losing Faith In Arsène

This post was written by the inimitable RockyLives on October 23rd 2012. It’s worth another look, not only for the superlative nature of the writing but also the sentiment. Read until the end else you’ll miss something. Ah, Rocky. 

Saturday’s defeat at Norwich affected me much more than is normally the case with our setbacks and I have spent the last couple of days trying to figure out why.

Usually in the wake of a bad defeat (or even a depressing draw, like the 4-4s against Newcastle and Totteringham) I am able to keep things in perspective.

But on Saturday evening perspective was nowhere to be found: it was off cavorting somewhere with Lord Lucan and the Loch Ness Monster.

In yesterday’s Post Kelsey said: “That was one of the worst team performances I have seen for many a season.”

I would go further: it was the worst performance I can remember from Arsenal since Arsène Wenger took charge.

Casting my mind back to earlier horrors, there was always either an extenuating circumstance or something positive to grab hold of.

Collapsing 8-2 at Old Trafford? Well, we were a club in turmoil with a team comprising mostly youths and reserves.

Drawing 3-3 at home to Norwich during the run-in last season? The defence may have gone missing but at least we scored three.

Going from 4-0 up to finish 4-4 in the debacle at Newcastle? Again, we scored goals. Plus Joey Barton behaved despicably to get one of our players sent off and Phil Dowd gave the worst refereeing performance that this spectator has witnessed in more than 40 years.

I could go through many more examples (sadly) and there would always be some crumb of comfort to take away from the mess. But not on Saturday.

On Saturday we were so poor that the only crumbs were little bits of broken dream, dissolving dismally into the East Anglian turf.

Going forward, we were as toothless as a granny with gingivitis. At the back, we were as impregnable as an Essex girl on a Saturday night. And in midfield we made so many backwards passes we might as well have been playing rugby.

The three pillars of successful football – Skill, Passion and Determination – were absent without leave, away with Lucan and Nessie.

Of course, as you probably know, the disappointment hit me harder this time because I truly believed that we had put those sorts of performances behind us. Not that we would never again have bad results – that happens to everyone – but that there would be no more examples of just not turning up for a game that was  there for the taking.

In recent seasons I have felt that these kinds of showing were down to an inherent psychological weakness in the squad – one that also always manifested itself in our traditional late-season collapses.

And the weakness I blamed on the fact that the balance of the squad was wrong: too many young players who did not know what it took to win the big prizes. And that we also had players who were disruptive to good team spirit (like Nasri and Adebayor).

This season no-one can say we don’t have experienced, mature players throughout the squad: Mertesacker, Arteta, Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla for starters. And there seems to have been a good sense of camaraderie among the players so far. The only potentially disruptive factor has been the on-going saga of Theo’s contract, but you just don’t get the sense that he is someone who would cause trouble in the dressing room.

I know we have a lot of injuries, but when I saw the starting 11 for Saturday’s game I was happy we had a team capable of bringing home the points.

So when we lost in such a timid fashion, my train of logic went like this: here we are again with another abject surrender; but we now have mature players; we no longer have the disruptive elements… so it must be down to the manager and his team.

I do not for one second believe we lost because we were tired from international travel; or that we were complacent. Other teams also had many players on international duty and they did just fine. And we have had so many bad results to lower placed teams in recent seasons that the complacency thing doesn’t wash.

What was lacking, I felt, was any sense of motivation from the team. And the man ultimately responsible for motivating them is the manager.

If you look for a link between all the bad performances of the past five or six years, it’s not the players: the personnel have changed so much that our current team is barely recognisable from even two season ago; it’s not even the silent whipping boy of some supporters, Pat Rice. Pat has left and the man everyone wants to replace him is now in his position; the only link is Arsène Wenger.

In my post-Norwich doldrums I started to realise I was losing faith in Arsène. And that’s why this defeat hit me harder than any previous one.

Losing faith in Arsène is like falling out of love with your wife. It can creep up on you and before you know it, you’re looking at someone you have known for years as if they are a stranger.

The things that were so appealing, so charming – the windmilling arms, that way of drawling “weeellll…” at the start of every answer, the silly knee length puffer jacket – suddenly look silly. Unattractive even. But that’s enough about my wife. A similar effect was starting to happen with my view of Arsène.

In a marriage you can go to a relationship counselor who might just make you realise that the woman you always loved is still there, it’s just that current circumstances have got in the way of you seeing her properly.

In a football relationships, there are no counselors but there is good counsel to be found. And I found it here in the comments of Arsenal Arsenal. I read a litany of disappointment and disbelief. But, as the shock of that awful performance wore off, I also read many comments putting it down to “a bad day at the office.”

And while there has, perhaps, been a reassessing of expectations for this season, many commenters also pointed to the optimism we felt after the West Ham and Liverpool wins; to the quality of our performance against Man City. Surely the team that did so well in those games can not have vanished overnight?

There IS a link connecting all our poor performances of recent years. But it’s not Arsène (or at least, not a failure on his part to motivate players). The link is the changing economics of football.

This link forced us (rightly) to build a bigger stadium, with the period of austerity that it inevitably brought; it meant that when sugar daddy owners came on the scene they could skew the market for players to such a degree that even a club like Manchester United can no longer compete equally; and it meant a club like Arsenal, running itself sustainably, would suffer defections of key players at bad moments.

That’s the link that has left us now with a team in which several regular starters have only been with the club a few months; a team, therefore, that will inevitably stutter occasionally as it gels together; a team that has lost the EPL’s top goal scorer and player of the season; a team that gets lambasted by the ignorant press for not adopting the sort of Gordon Gekko economics that have bankrupted the entire nation.

No manager could have produced a title winning team during that period. In fact, no manager could have kept a team in the top four throughout all those crazy years.

Except that one man did: Arsène Wenger.

My faith wobbled, but it has come back stronger. We may win nothing this year. We may not even finish in the top four. But Arsène is still the right man at the helm and the tide in football finances is turning ever so slowly in our favour.

And I have a funny feeling that this version of Arsène’s Arsenal is going to surprise us all.

Written by RockyLives

Advertisements

34 Responses to Losing Faith In Arsène

  1. Eddie says:

    sorry it’s not about the post – do you really have trams in Notts? I LOVE trams, when I go to Warsaw I spend hours just going in circles on trams 🙂

    going to read Rocky’s post now

  2. Eddie says:

    Rocky wrote more than 5 years ago: “So when we lost in such a timid fashion, my train of logic went like this: here we are again with another abject surrender; but we now have mature players; we no longer have the disruptive elements… so it must be down to the manager and his team.

    I do not for one second believe we lost because we were tired from international travel; or that we were complacent. Other teams also had many players on international duty and they did just fine. And we have had so many bad results to lower placed teams in recent seasons that the complacency thing doesn’t wash.

    What was lacking, I felt, was any sense of motivation from the team. And the man ultimately responsible for motivating them is the manager.

    If you look for a link between all the bad performances of the past five or six years, it’s not the players: the personnel have changed so much that our current team is barely recognisable from even two season ago; it’s not even the silent whipping boy of some supporters, Pat Rice. Pat has left and the man everyone wants to replace him is now in his position; the only link is Arsène Wenger.

    In my post-Norwich doldrums I started to realise I was losing faith in Arsène. And that’s why this defeat hit me harder than any previous one.”

    Could have been written last Monday. Shame he then goes into the economics, because that argument is not valid given Spurs excellent season. Still, I wish we still had Rocky to write such brilliant reports

  3. chas says:

    Yep, trams.

  4. chas says:

    Yes, Eddie, I was surprised at how not much has changed.

    I also thought that revisiting the post after such a good result on Thursday was better than after one of our shabbier performances.

  5. Eddie says:

    timeless piece! So good to have it posted again.

    We will never know, of course, but I wonder if we would have been in a better position if Wenger left say 5 years ago. I don’t normally bother in thinking along the lines ‘what if’, irrelevant and speculative. But I cannot help thinking that we are where we are because of Wenger working his magic for Kroenke.

  6. Eddie says:

    narrow streets, old buildings and trams – just like Krakow, I love it

  7. LB says:

    Wow, what a great post, and wow again, how that man can write.

    I used to write quite a lot of shite before Rocky arrived, I must admit that I was so in awe that I felt slightly intimidated.

    Rasp told me once that he was able to write posts of that quality in a matter of minutes, anything I wrote took around three hours.

    Still, here we are and I still really enjoy reading, what has evolved into being, Chas’ Morning Mag.

  8. GoonerB says:

    Great post to put up Chas. Before commenting I would say that I really enjoyed the Milan win and hope we can win this competition. I would note though that Milan are nowhere near what they once were and I could still see areas of our play that a team with more prolific attackers would have exploited, but still a massive welcome boost.

    The end of Eddies comment at 9.12 is spot on for me. I don’t dismiss the economic argument as if it has no effect at all, but to place all our failings at its doorstep is way off for me. I think it has some effect but only about 10% of what is not allowing us to be title challengers if I was to put a subjective estimate on it.

    I also liked the fan on Arsenal fan T.V that VP put up yesterday. He said it exactly how I feel. Get behind the team and go from game to game, but small successes that should be embraced and enjoyed shouldn’t fully change any recognition of our failings, and the bigger picture looked at over a longer time frame, and what needs to be done about this. That is for the end of the season though.

    Like Dandan’s post I enjoyed the optimism and perspective of those two great bloggers, but I think when you consider when they were written, and that the problems they highlight have continued in subsequent seasons up to and including this one, then you need to start looking at the common denominator that Rocky started to try and identify at the start of the post.

    The definitive decisions should be for the end of the season and until then lets take a mantra from the most sensible fan to have appeared on Arsenal fan T.V…..ever…. and get behind AW and the team.

  9. Rasp says:

    Thanks chas, I remember that post very well …. but reading it again now I am still in awe of Rocky’s genius with words. We were very lucky to have him. I’d like to think that he still reads AA occasionally and approves of where we are as a site.

    LB is correct. On several occasions we’d be in need of a post and Rocky would email offering to knock something up quickly …. and it was ready to be published 5 minutes later.

    I’d like to know how Rocky feels about our current situation ….. so if you’re reading my rocky ……….

  10. fred1266 says:

    Longest post ever

  11. fred1266 says:

    Impregnable as as an Essex girl on a Saturday night?

    Should I be going to Essex on my next visit to England

  12. RA says:

    Oh, that Rocky always wrote tripe – Take two of the points he made; the first referring to AW’s idiosyncrasies,

    (1) “The things that were so appealing, so charming – the windmilling arms, that way of drawling “weeellll…” at the start of every answer, the silly knee length puffer jacket – suddenly look silly. Unattractive even. But that’s enough about my wife.”

    And then, throwing in appraisals of his girlfriends;

    (2) “Going forward, we were as toothless as a granny with gingivitis. At the back, we were as impregnable as an Essex girl on a Saturday night.”

    There was no justification for a blogger to write such brilliant prose with such comedic effect and then up and leave us gasping for more. Genius!! 😀

    Interestingly, Rocky, ever astute made a serious reference, in 2012, the year that he wrote that wonderful Post, to the previous 5 or 6 years before that. And having built a case for what had possibly gone wrong he then debunked it – and arrived at a different conclusion and then debunked that too.superb!

    (3) If you look for a link between all the bad performances of the past five or six years — it’s not the players: (it’s Arsene) – [Oh, no it’s not]. 😀

    I loved Rocky, that talented, intelligent man, and still do — in a very manly way, of course. He is probably a multi-millionaire by now.

    And to think Micky sat very near him at Highbury – another millionaire in the making!! 😀

  13. fatgingergooner says:

    Absolutely despise Ashley Young, but for me, he’s England’s best left back right now and should be going to the World Cup. He’s disciplined, works hard, and he can attack and play out like a winger. Just kept Mo Salah very quiet and not many have done that this season.

    Horrible little pleb, but fantastic this season.

  14. fred1266 says:

    Trams what exactly you love about it Eddie

  15. Ant says:

    Have you also missed the rugger today Micky?

  16. Eddie says:

    Brentwood (in Essex) festival for you fred

  17. Eddie says:

    fred – everything! trams are just the best form of transport. They don’t get stuck in a traffic jam, they don’t go underground like metro, they make distinctive noise on the tracks, they are usually dirt cheap and they don’t even hit any pot holes. Trams are amazing

  18. fred1266 says:

    When is this festival lol

  19. Eddie says:

    donno, ask chas, he goes to this kind of places, loves music you see 🙂

  20. chas says:

  21. chas says:

  22. Eddie says:

    match day!!
    I couldn’t sleep, cannot wait till ko. I think I will go there soon

  23. Eddie says:

    “Watford midfielder Tom Cleverley has returned to training following a thigh injury but this game will come too soon for him.

    The Hornets remain without injured quartet Craig Cathcart, Younes Kaboul, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success.”

    the above means that Troy bloody Deeney is fit as a fiddle

  24. chas says:

    Eddie
    I’m going to put the pre-match up in a few minutes.
    I doubt anyone else will be about and I have an early start.
    Please add any Watford team news you have again on the new one.

  25. chas says:

  26. chas says:

  27. Eddie says:

    ok, I will try, but I still have to do me hair, nails, walk the twins and i suspect my son may turn up with a tulip or two

  28. chas says:

  29. chas says:

    Ahhh, that’s nice him wanting to show how much he loves his mother.

  30. chas says:

    NEW POST

  31. Eddie says:

    yeah right 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: