The key to enjoying Arsenal’s football is lowering our high expectations

July 27, 2012

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.

High expectations are a curse and ruining our enjoyment of supporting Arsenal.I have, in recent years, noticed a lot of dissatisfaction, in myself, as well as in many other Gooners, over the lack of silverware won by our beloved Arsenal. We have been so frustrated about not winning anything for seven years and counting now, that we run the risk of losing the joy of watching and supporting our team in the process.We are tense, we are grumpy, we are dissatisfied – we are a pain in the arse to ourselves, our friends and our partners. Our incredibly high expectations, based on an overrated belief in our abilities, are mainly to blame for this.

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.


Has Arsenal already appointed its next manager?

July 14, 2012

With the Dutchman announcing he won’t sign a new contract and the Giro-Pod flexing its forearms, hell-bent on destroying premiership defences with its bare hands, it’s easy to see how Wenger’s potential nomination of his successor may have slipped through virtually unnoticed in this turbulent summer.

Arsène’s contract runs out on the 30th June 2014. He was quoted last season as ‘wanting to see out his contract’. This was under heavy fire both from the media and from the Arsenal doom squad fans after the club’s worst start to a season in recent memory, but could be taken to mean that he probably won’t renew after this period. It makes sense, if this is the case, to appoint a successor before leaving, thus providing both stability and continuity in a footballing environment which currently has neither.

Stephen Andrew Bould is 50 years old this year and first joined Arsenal in the summer of 1988 for the princely sum of £390,000 (approximately two weeks wages for some of the current mercenaries plying their trade for the light blue oily team). He played for the Gunners over 11 seasons, making a total of 372 appearances and scoring a majestic 8 goals.

Here’s one of Bouldy’s goals from 1991 at 1:36 in this clip. He obviously enjoyed those rare moments!

He won 3 League titles, 2 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup in his Arsenal career. One of his outstanding highlights as a player came when he provided an Emmanuel Petit style pitching wedge of a chip to put his old mucker Tony Adams through, against Everton in 1998 which topped off a title-clinching 4-0 victory.

Bouldy moved briefly to Sunderland but was soon forced to retire in September 2000. He studied for his UEFA coaching badges and rejoined Arsenal, becoming coach for the youth teams. He was the head coach of Arsenal’s U18 Academy side whom he led to winning the Premier Academy League 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 and FA Youth Cup 2008-2009.

Summer 2012 arrived (well the summer months arrived anyway) and Pat Rice finally retired after 44 years at the club. Steve Bould is appointed assistant manager and immediately talk shifts to how Bouldy can reinforce the Arsenal defence which has shown a worrying trend of leaking more goals each season for the last few years.

When interviewed Steve Bould immediately gives off an air of calm and common-sense, in stark contrast to his old drinking buddy Tony Adams. He is steeped in the traditions that Arsene Wenger has laid as the foundations of the club for many years to come.

The next Arsenal manager? I think so.

Written by chas

Arsenal’s Dodgy Centre Halves – written by dandan

August 24, 2010

Written by dandan

As I contemplated the comments filling the blog with demands that we buy a big centre half, my mind was transported back through the years to a time well before blogs or bloggers existed.  In fact, thinking about it, many of the regulars on here hadn’t even been born.

Most of us who watched the Arsenal had never seen a computer and the ones who had, knew them as beasts that filled a large room or, insome cases,  an entire government building.

Naturally therefore, all our communication and discussions on match days took place on the terraces, in trains, buses and cars en route to the stadium, or in the pub and at work for the midweek games. Opinions were fuelled by newspapers that sold millions of copies and were the voice of the people. Reporters travelled with the teams and wrote for the back pages with an authority and honesty that would be hard to credit nowadays

We stood on the lower west bank in those days before all seater stadiums, and just like our computer literate offspring today, bemoaned the absence of a commanding lump of a centre half. Then, early in 1963, and to the universal joy of the papers, he arrived in a blaze or glory. Ian Ure, the perfect answer to every Gooners dream. A 6ft plus, blond haired Scotsman. A proven international who had taken his previous team Dundee (hard as it might be to believe today), to the semi finals of the European cup, before losing to the eventual champions Milan.

For us he was a disaster. He made 202 appearances and scored 2 goals. Unfortunately own goals are not listed. His error strewn lumbering was to torment Arsenal fans for 6 years, until the ultimate error, a miss hit back pass on the ploughed field that Wembley laughing called a pitch for the 1969 league cup final allowed Swindon’s Roger Smart to score the goal that had us chasing the game to extra time and the final humiliation delivered by a third division wing wizard called Don Rodgers. We lost 3 – 1 having lost 1 – 0 the previous year to Leeds United with Ure again in the side.  Don’t tell me about suffering, I saw them both!

The only justification I can find for those years of torment we endured, was the fact that we somehow sold him to Man Utd, a decision that in all probability helped end the career of their then new manager, Wilf McGuinness.

Fast forward to 1988. Another league cup final against lesser opponents that we knew we couldn’t possibly lose,  and another legend of a centre half, a home grown one this time.  We were 2-1 up with 7 minutes to go. Having enjoyed the majority of possession against a willing Luton town and despite having missed a penalty, we were coasting. Then Gus Ceasar made his move for eternal fame, he somehow contrived to fall over the ball while attempting a simple clearance from within the penalty area allowing an immediate scrum to form out of which the ball popped and rolled over the goal line.

Arsenal were nowhere, Luton driven by their resurgent baying fans were on the charge and with a minute to go the game was lost.

What is it with centre halves and league cups? Poor Gus was finished booed and heckled on the few times he appeared, he was soon sold.

His replacement was Steve Bould. A different kind of legend and later Andy Linighan. At last we had a centre half who would win me a League Cup.

So shall we have two new centre halves by the weekend? Heroes or Villains? Time will tell, but it is a position with form.

Is it time Steve Bould took over from Pat Rice?

August 5, 2010

How often have you asked yourself “Just what is it that Pat Rice does?”

Now, don’t get me wrong, he is a top bloke and Arsenal through and through, but is there an actual point to him as Wenger’s number two?

He just seems to mimic what Arsene does.  Arsene stands, Pat stands.  Arsene sits, Pat sits.  Arsene waves, Pat waves. Arsene shouts, Pat shouts, Arsene tells Pat to sit down.

To be honest I think it is more a reflection on Wenger than on Pat Rice. Rice has been at Arsenal a long time and being a loyal servant to Wenger but isn’t it time to freshen up? Many people will tell you that Ferguson is so successful because he brings in different number two’s every couple of years who have their own ideas and impact the squad and how the team play. Does Rice really have an impact on how we play or how we train?

One man who does have an impact and could have a bigger one is Steve Bould. Perhaps it would be foolish to move him from his post as coach of our Youth team but there are various reasons why he would be suited as Wenger’s right hand man:

  1. He knows the club inside out.
  2. He has worked with a lot of the youth players who are starting to break through: Wilshere, JET, Frimpong etc.
  3. He knows the Arsenal way.
  4. Maybe he can also teach our defenders how to defend…. just a thought!
  5. It could be a possibility that he could one day manage our club after Wenger leaves/retires.

Things are just a bit stale at Arsenal at the moment. Its hard to put a finger on just what it is, but when we look to change something it doesn’t quite stick. Like when we changed to a 4-3-3 last season and started defending from the front – it lasted about a month. Maybe if someone more vocal was beside Wenger he would stick to it and be told its a good idea.

The sad thing is Wenger doesn’t like being told what to do – maybe if it was someone more vocal than Pat Rice he might have to listen?!!