Some mornings I feel like an old car. It takes my fingers a little while to wake up, the first few paragraphs of the blog take ages to write becuase of all teh tpyos, but once I get moving I’m all right.
It’s a kind of the clam before the storm (that can either be a typo or an amusing image, take your pick), as we wait for team news and the previewing of the weekend’s game against West Brom. The importance of that match can’t be understated and it’d be fair to say we got into it in kind of fragile shape. If you envisage the team as one thing, in this case a dog, we have gone, at least in my imagination, from a robust but slightly skittish Boxer (solid but capable of moments of mentalness), to a coat-wearing, bug eyed Chihuahua, wearing a teeny-tiny cone of shame who looks like they’d get blown away in a stiff breeze.
We’re like what Manimal would have been if his powers weren’t so awesome. He would transform himself into a falcon or a panther, but what if he’d been ill and instead could only change into a sickly marmoset? Not much good for fighting crime, let me tell you, and nigh on useless for winning top level football matches. And while there are clearly issues with our squad and all that, the fact is that with the players we have we should be doing better than we are. Tomas Rosicky reckons it’s down to lack of confidence. He says:
It is a matter of confidence. You can see there are more back-passes than we used to do. You have to gain confidence by winning the next game. Maybe I can bring calmness – sometimes we don’t keep the ball as we used to.
Most of the time I hope to contribute. I still think we have some very good players and we are better than what we are producing. We are good enough. We are not happy about things and we have to sort it out quickly.
It was interesting to note on Tuesday night that after one Olympiacos attack, as Arsenal pushed out, you could see Rosicky coming forward but checking behind him and waving his arms frantically to ensure the team moved out together. Obviously things like that are more noticeable when you’re at a game, TV gives you a view but not a perfect one, but it stuck out because it’s rare to see that from any Arsenal player at the moment. Some leadership, some organisation, they are things we’ve been missing.
I’d be interested too in seeing if the stats back up that contention about passing backwards more (maybe one for @7amkickoff and a By the numbers piece). But which two periods would we look at to get the data? It’s hard to say that Arsenal have had a consistent period of good form – perhaps the 7/8 game run after the Sp*rs game last season, which included the 3-0 over Milan in the Champions League. Rosicky also refers to those games when he talks about how the players need to win back the fans:
I can understand the frustrations, I am an Arsenal fan as well when I am not playing, The performances we produced against Tottenham and AC Milan you could feel the great atmosphere at the Emirates. Without doubt that was the best atmosphere I have ever played in.
We have to win the people again, that is the challenge. It will be difficult but we are capable of doing it again. If we are all on board, Arsenal is a great place to play football.
At the moment it feels like something of a vicious circle. Fans are frustrated with the team and the results, that leads to atmospheres which are somewhat flat, the team are aware of that, it leads to performances which are cautious because nobody wants to make a mistake which leads to poor results which bring us back to atmospheres. Arsene Wenger spoke last month about how the team has to lift the fans with their performances and ultimately that’s what it will come down to.
Why was the atmosphere so great for the games Rosicky references? Because Arsenal played well, bar the opening half and hour against Sp*rs (and even then the goals were somewhat against the run of play). But after that there was a feeling that the team – perhaps with little left to lose – went for it with abandon. Rambunctious, devastating, attacking football which essentially derailed the old enemy for the rest of their season and almost turned around a 4 goal disadvantage against Milan (only for the Dutch Skunk to mess it all up when he had the chance to make it level. Never rated him, pfff).
Maybe we’re at that point again, where there’s nothing left to do but go for it. If it clicks it clicks, if not then at least we tried. It might be one of his most often quoted bits but I do agree with Wenger when he says confidence is the easiest thing to lose in football and the most difficult to regain. It’s easy for the fear to get inside a team, sapping them and preventing them from playing the way they should. Which again is not to overlook the other issues we have but simply to suggest that these players, as a whole, are capable of more than we’re getting right now.
We need to transform. The sickly marmoset won’t do it this weekend against West Brom, but even if we mutate into a half panther, half falcon which is half roadrunner, we might see something approaching the Arsenal we know we should be.