Arsene talks + Arsecast 199

After a week of nothing we’ve got a whole pile of something this morning. Arsene’s pre-United press conference took place yesterday but was only available for viewing late last night so I haven’t had time to watch it yet.

Obviously the agenda revolved around the end of season slump which has put paid to our title chances for another year. The manager has pointed to the Carling Cup as the turning point in our season:

I just feel that after the Carling Cup we continued to be absolutely spot on with our attitude, but we missed a little bit of that subconscious belief which makes you win – that frustrates you because you know that it is there and you want to fight against it.

I’m not quite sure what to make of that, to be honest. I think it’s a way of saying the fear got under their skin, that they knew the fear was there and because we’ve been down this road before, in ends-of-seasons past, it affected us so badly that we’ve won just one league game in our last seven. I totally agree that the Carling Cup defeat had a major impact on the season and the confidence of the team but it’s worrying that we couldn’t find a way to cope with that.

Our ability to make crap teams look good came to the fore. Birmingham in the final. With no due respect they are a very average side. Bolton, spanked either side of their win against us. There’s a psychological barrier that would probably have been smashed to pieces with a Carling Cup win. Losing it in the way we did only reinforced it and I think we’ve seen the evidence of that in the last couple of months.

Even then it was in our hands, and that’s another frustration:

If you look at all the numbers, it is the closest we have been. Just look at the last week – we could have had nine points quite easily against Liverpool, Tottenham and Bolton, in the end we finished with two. We feel more frustrated than ever because we are closer than ever to win this league.

Of the two trophies, the most important above all for me is the league – and this year we had the quality to win it.

I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. A team’s quality is not measured only on how well it plays on the days when everything goes right. It’s how you cope with the bad days, adversity, poor form and when it comes right down to it, pressure. When it was on, we choked. Bizarrely and spectacularly against Liverpool, even more so against Newcastle away, and we crumbled against Bolton. Chances to win were squandered before our brittleness handed them the game.

Even if you want to argue Arsenal possess the pure football quality to win the league – and I don’t think I’d agree with that either – you can’t escape the fact that we lack something in terms of the quality of our character. And it plays such a massive part in any successful team that it’s impossible to ignore when making any real assessment of our season.

Still, we have the visit of United on Sunday to show some mettle. After everything that’s gone on we need to see a response from these players. Maybe now the pressure’s off we’ll see a bit more freedom in their play. It wouldn’t be untypical for us to go through a week like last week and then beat them on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I want that to happen, I want that to happen a lot, and while it will certainly help lift spirits from the doldrums it might just compound the frustration for some, which is understandable too. More on that game in the days ahead.

In other news the AST have written to Ivan Gazidis re: ticket prices. A 6.5% increase across the board was always going to be a tough sell, particularly in light of what’s happened in the last little while (not that the two are related, really), and there’s some suggestion that there might well have been a re-think on the club’s part about the rises. We’ll wait and see what happens in the next week or so.

Thomas Vermaelen appears to have come through last night’s reserve game unscathed. Sunday is too soon for him to make a first team comeback but it would be nice to see him make a return to scathe opposition players before the season’s out. I know some might suggest we’d be better to rest him and get him ready for next season but he’s spent 7 months resting. If he’s ready he’s ready and I’d very much like to see him back.

The line-up for the Emirates Cup was announced. The visiting teams are PSG, Boca Juniors and the New York Red Bulls. That means a return home for Thierry Henry (more of whom below). Interesting teams. I’ve got no interest whatsoever in PSG, and assuming a match with TH’s lot is a shoe-in, it’d be interesting to see us against the South Americans, even if it is just in pre-season.

Jack Wilshere is set to be named in the England U21 squad on Tuesday. Boooo but not at all unexpected. It’s something we’re going to have to cope with at the start of next season though. I’m sure I won’t be alone in hoping for a group stage exit for England.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss the fun-filled events of the last 7 days is former Arsenal player, now journalist and podcaster, Adrian Clarke. As well as that you’ll hear from Internet Joe, Arshavin and there’s a competition to win anything you like from Arseblog Online Store.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too. To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (21mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://arseblog.com/podcasts/arsecast_episode199.mp3]

You can find Adrian Clarke as one part of the Red White and Blue podcast – and here on Twitter.

And that’s about that – only to point you in the direction of a brand new print in the store. As mentioned above it features that quite good player Thierry Henry (scored a couple of goals for us, I think). As well as that check out some of the new combo items which will save you money. And that’s always a good thing.

Bank holiday weekend awaits. Let’s hope the sun keeps shining. I smell BBQ and mint based cocktails. Till tomorrow.

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