On character with Xhaka + Wenger not worried about Alexis

An interesting quote from Granit Xhaka to start us off today. After the 2-1 win over Swansea which saw us respond to going a goal down, the Swiss international said:

It’s the third time in a week that the team have come from behind to win, that says a lot about this team.

It really does, on a couple of levels. Firstly, you have to say that a team that keeps fighting, doesn’t let its head drop and comes back from behind does have character. It’s a quality that is perhaps easier to find in other teams, because the other side of that is that going behind with such frequency is clearly a bit of an issue.

I say it’s something we’d identify much more quickly with other teams because we wouldn’t really care too much about them letting in goals. We’d only notice another comeback and it would be frustratingly admirable. But when it’s your own side that is obviously a bit shaky defensively, it’s impossible to ignore.

What’s also clear is that a large percentage of the goals we concede come about because of errors on our part. Whether it’s careless passing, lack of concentration, getting caught on the ball, they are issues that have plagued us this season. And I realise that many goals come from teams capitalising on the mistakes of others, but our always seem to be that more glaring than anyone else’s.

Character is one of those things that is really hard to define. Is it the ability to respond to a setback, or is it being strong enough to ensure those setbacks are much more infrequent? Is it about winning games against beatable opposition after making life difficult for yourself, or is it how you play when you go up against the big teams?

Some might even say character is about gouging the face of an opponent while grinning like some kind of maniac, but I can’t possibly expand on that one. Ultimately, it’s one of those important intangibles. We know it when we see it, we’re aware of when it’s lacking, but it’s not something that’s always easy to turn on and off.

Anyway for now we have some of it, until the next time a game doesn’t go the way we want and then we won’t have enough of it. At the talk in Melbourne this week we spoke about the Invincbles side and what set them apart, and one of the things you always hear is about the spirit within the team and its incredible character. They simply refused to beaten, and there’s no doubt there was something special within that group.

There have to be other factors here though. You could find 11 blokes with great mental strength who aren’t very good at football and no amount of will or desire will make up for that deficit. The talent of the 2003-04 side was obvious; it had quality of the highest level and experience to help some of the younger members through.

It also had a very defined system, a style of play that was obvious to everyone, and it meant that when some of those outside the ‘first XI’ came in, they knew exactly what they had to do and how do it. If you mention the name Pascal Cygan to Arsenal fans, they might turn their noses up at him and dismiss him, but he made 18 league appearances for us that season.

He wasn’t the most important member of that squad, but he was still important, and it becomes more apparent to me, at least, that having a solid system plays a much greater role in a team’s ability to win games. If that system then makes it easier to show character in difficult circumstances, then that’s an added benefit.

This current side obviously doesn’t have a Patrick Vieira or a Thierry Henry. It might have a Pires and a dollop of a Bergkamp here and there, but if it had the first two would we be discussing character as often? Probably not, because we’d also have the quality to avoid some of this season’s most depressing results. So, the simple solution for Arsene Wenger is just to find exact replicas of two of the greatest players this club has ever seen. Simple.

Meanwhile, the manager says he’s not worried about Alexis Sanchez playing against Man City on Sunday. We all know that they wanted him this summer, and he may well have signed for them had we not left it way too late to try and bring in Thomas Lemar. Inevitably, given that situation and the fact he’s into the final 12 months of his contract, questions have been asked about his commitment, but Wenger doesn’t seem concerned at all.

He says:

I am not concerned because I am not suspicious of the performances or the desire to win of a football player. When you are a football player, you have a social contract with the rest of the team and I never question that. Once you don’t respect that, it’s difficult to say that you play football.

If you look at the way City are going this season, Sunday’s game against them may well even provide Sanchez with some extra motivation. They don’t look like a team that’s lacking anything, not least in terms of their forwards, so he may have to produce something special to remind them they should continue their pursuit. A highly idealistic outlook on my part, I grant you, but there you go.

Right, that’s it for this morning/afternoon/evening – whatever time it is – and James and I will have an Arsecast Extra for you later (assuming my internet connection holds up!).

Until then.


  1. If Alexis goes to City he is going to spend 50% of the time on the bench. There’s not one member of that City team you can see getting benched for his some good-some bad input, right now. And then he’s going to be even sourer than usual. Bad move.

  2. It’s a sad indictment we are hoping for our wantaway players to perform so they can get their move to the club we’re playing against! But I agree with that. I’ll take it.

  3. Kolasinac, one of our best performers this season, cost us zero, nowt, nada, nothing. What sort of transfer fee would he have commanded, what sort of agent fees and add-ons. The door swings both ways in that respect. As Transfer fees rise, players seeing out their contracts will become more prevalent.

    Absolutely pointless moaning about our players who are going down the same road as Kolasinac.

    • Can’t say I see the logic in that.

      Schalke supporters were livid that Kola left for free.

      The door does swing both ways but it could hit us in the dick, twice, come july.

      • You’re French so understandably you don’t understand logic. Without wanting to over simplify it for you. If you’re happy to take advantage and sign a player on a free, you really shouldn’t bitch when a player wants to leave on a free.

        Unless of course what’s sauce for the goose no longer goes with the gander

        • That doesn’t make more sense if you say it twice. We can take advantage of it if another club fucks up, but that doesn’t mean we have to do the same.

          You moron

          • Blogs can we do something about this xenophobe please? That’s twice in a row now.

            Gooner4life, 1) stop being a d*ck 2) surely it’s better for the club if we can buy low and sell high right? If you doing know it’s called competitive advantage but you’re so logical right?! and 3) what was that about goose sauce?

          • I’m not a xenophobe. I just take the piss out of puffster and he knows me well enough to know I’m not serious.

            I’m an equal opportunity pisstaker, regardless of nationality, colour or sexual orientation.

            So kindly don’t impugn me.

            Oh by the way YAG!!

    • Couldn’t agree more.Captain Adams (incarcerated) in H.M.P Chelmsford for 1 shandy too many and then proceeding to drive. 3 point deduction for “Battle of very Old Trafford “. We went through entire league season and lost only ONCE, won title at a canter and 1st ever F.A Cup semi-final at Wembley. Talk about character ! That side had more characters than the cast of Ghandi.

  4. Going to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Anfield, The Etihad and WHL (Wembley) and getting a win, that shows character!

    Coming from behind against an awful Everton team, a championship team and Swansea at home are a minimum requirement. The fact that we go behind against this type of opposition would suggest that we lack character.

    I almost find it insulting that one of our players is suggesting that there is something special in the nature of this team because we have turned things around against weaker opposition.

    Get a win at The Etihad next weekend, followed up by beating the spuds at home and then we can start talking about character!!

  5. So this is what he meant by ‘cojones’ : Being a scumbag, basically.

    Inbreeding + alcohol = Troy Deeney.

    Fuck him and anyone who looks like him.

    • Does anyone know if the rumours we actually wanted to sign him we’re true? Doesn’t exactly seem an Arsenal player but Wenger does have a history of some weird signings I.e. Jeffers, park chuyoung, Stepanovs, Silvestre. Think Deeney would have taken the biscuit.

  6. Love blogs’ stuff. One of the more clear-eyed, more objective Arsenal commentators and this is a group of generally good commenters (save for the occasional troll).

    Good thoughtful post by blogs, as usual. But the bits about character and Patrick Vieira or a Thierry Henry; in my opinion this is part of the problem. These two players were once in a generation. Bergkamp is from Mars … he’s once in a lifetime. Yes, good days and all, and every supporter wants to those days back, but they aren’t coming back. Probably ever. Folks need to accept that. The league is different, the sport is different. Expectations need to evolve. I always see this wishing for the days of Bergkamp and Vieira and Henry – or comparing a completely different set to players to them – and that is just insane. That was a once in a lifetime, not a birthright or a standard. Arsenal supporters act like that should be every campaign. As long as folks act like that is a thing, the Arsenal TV nut jobs and the haters will still sabotage this club and hold it back. And make anyone who supports Arsenal look like a total fucking tool. That Piers Morgan jerk off is a perfect example.

    Club supporters should want success, win the league and compete in the CL. No one’s saying otherwise, but FFS let go of the past.

    Where ever I watch, there’s always some snobby A-hole running on about Vieira, or Bould and backbone. Or Henry and finishing. Rarely do I see a supporter enjoy a victory or gritty grind out. Recent FA cups are 3 rare exceptions. Its kinda sad.

    Now; go ahead and lay into me for this comment, but before you do take 5 mins. and think first.

    • The team of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Pires and the rest may well be a once in a lifetime super team but that doesn’t hide the fact that the current team are under performing and underwhelming. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a club with our resources and fan base should be challenging for The Premiership and the UCL.

    • If Wenger pulled out a miracle and won the League, F.A Cup and the European Cup, his naysayers will still say “Now it’s time for him to leave on a positive” and so on. He’s in a lose/lose situation. These people will not be swayed and will jump on every single negative to back up their views. But without a change from the top down a simple “change of Manager” will probably leave us in a worse position as the new guy settles in.

      I fear things will get a damn lot worse before they get any better.

  7. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have AW’s scouts keep an eye out for big, strong, no-nonsense type of CM in the mould of Vieira. At least that was my understanding of what Blogs was saying anyway. The trick is to spot them early before they become famous playing for some other club though.


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