Today Arsene will hold his pre-Blackpool press conference after a week in which the club has essentially gone into media lockdown.
Practically nothing has emerged. There’s been no ‘Dropping 2 points against Blackburn showed our mental strength’ or ‘We have belief in our belief that we believe in our belief’. Normally, on a Thursday, there’s a bit of early team news ahead of the weekend’s game but there’s been none of that either.
It is, I’m sure, quite deliberate. There’s a realisation that talking about mental strength and belief this week would go down like a curry fart in a spacesuit. You always got the impression Arsene used those kind of soundbites to help his players retain confidence as well as trying to comfort fans. Maybe this time, having seen the flatness of the Blackburn performance, there’s nothing that he can say that’s for public consumption.
Remember, Arsene criticising players, individually or even as a group, is extremely rare. So this week he’s said nothing at all that will make its way into the public domain. I suspect, however, plenty has been said behind closed doors. Of course I’m speculating but I can only assume that this has been a week where attitude and desire has been questioned. Where the reality of the situation was made very clear. This team went from having the title in its hands, in so far as that goes, to not, on the back of a performance against Blackburn which was frustrating in the extreme.
It wasn’t just the draw, our third consecutive stalemate in the league, but that the team didn’t look like one that was fighting for a league title. And I hope that’s what Arsene and his staff are stressing this week. That this team needs to give everything they’ve got in the final eight league games of the season. It’s got to be leg-trembling, lung-busting, heart-pumping stuff in every minute of every game, that nothing less is acceptable.
Of course you might well ask why it should be necessary to have that kind of a talk with professional footballers at the business end of the season but clearly it is. And the attitude I mention above shouldn’t be the sole preserve of the run-in, it should be something that is present in every game. From a cup game against relatively smaller opposition to playing the big boys at the top of the Premier League. You don’t need me to tell you it’s not, though, and as well as the all other issues that need sorting out this summer, that’s one that’s got to be addressed as well.
You will never, ever win anything without hard work. Someone connected with the club once told me that this current crop of players could learn so much from the likes of Henry, Pires, Bergkamp, Vieira etc. Not just from how good they were and how much skill they had. These were, without question, world class players with unbelievable talent, and I’ve said before on this blog how lucky we were to have them all at the same time.
A quirk of fate it might have been, but regardless of how talented they were, they worked their holes off for Arsenal Football Club. Every day, not just once in a while, staying behind for extra training, working on the things they felt they were weak on, giving everything in every game, they knew that for all their sublime skill and ability, without real effort they wouldn’t win a thing. Amazing players who became amazing not just through technique and the natural gifts they had, but because they strove every day to be better and to improve.
The contrast made was that this was a bunch who had a bit too much belief in their talents, as if that were enough to get them through, and what we’ve seen over the last few seasons is that when push comes to shove it’s not. If working hard is good enough for Thierry, Paddy, Dennis and Bob (so dreamy), then it’s good enough for this lot. Unfortunately, as Saturday showed, the lack of urgency, the lack of real fight, means this is an issue the manager is struggling to put right.
It may well be that certain players are coming to end of their Arsenal careers. It’s fairly obvious in a number of cases and those players probably know it too. Now, the manager has to figure out how to motivate them, and the group, so they can at least try and go out with something of a bang instead of the whimper they’re making at the moment. A rallying cry is needed from somebody, be it captain, vice captain, big name player or the coaching staff, to remind these guys that they’re playing with a cannon on their shirt, not a half-cocked blunderbuss.
If anyone needs to be mollycoddled at this stage of the season then leave them to one side and focus on the players who’ve got a bit of drive and spirit about them. We’ve got too many players who just go with the flow and too few who will try something and take a bit of responsibility. At this stage it’s all or nothing and we’ve got to hope that the guys who do have something about them can step it up and drag the others with them.
Let’s hope that Arsene has been reminding the players what the shirt means, what it stands for, what’s expected of those who wear it, and that they can respond starting on Sunday. We’ll look ahead to that from tomorrow.
Now, not a lot else happening so let’s go back to the midweek competition in which the prize was a 1971 keeper’s jersey signed by Bob Wilson. I asked you which grounds Bob would be visiting on day 6 of his cycle challenge and the answer is: Old Trafford, Anfield, Goodison Park and the DW (United, Liverpool, Everton, Wigan).
Lots of entries but the Random Number Generator chose only one. Congratulations to: John Powers. I’ll be in touch with you to get the prize to you ASAP. And remember, you can follow Bob’s cycle on his website. Best of luck to him, he sets off on Monday week.
Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast, and with me to dissect the last week of Arsenal fun is John Cross from the Mirror. Also in there Internet Joe and Mick Bendtner, plus a vague preview of the Blackpool game. There really wasn’t much to go on, in fairness.
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 (22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://arseblog.com/podcasts/arsecast_episode196.mp3]
Right then, that’s yer lot for today. The sun is shining, it appears to be a rather lovely Friday. I think you should leave the office early and go lie around in the park. Tell the boss I said it was ok.