Archive for February, 2015

There is a thought experiment in quantum mechanics called Schr√∂dinger’s cat, born out of the need to explain the complex nature of theories in quantum mechanics and how they would play out (absurdly so) ¬†in everyday life and how under the proposed theory of the day published in 1935, a quantum system such as an atom could exist in multiple states. These¬†multiple states all corresponding to different outcomes, this was referred to as quantum superpositions. The theory of the day known as the Copenhagen interpretation, stated that a quantum system existed in this superposition until it was interacted with or observed by the outside world. At this point the superposition would fall into one of the definitive states possible.

Schr√∂dinger developed his experiment to show how someone could create a superposition where a large-scale system was dependent on a quantum particle in said superposition. Hence the cat in the box. He wasn’t out to prove the Copenhagen interpretation right, he was out to show how ridiculous the current (in that time) view of quantum mechanics where when applied to everyday life.

There have been different interpretations of this thought experiment throughout the years, some more elaborate, some less, dependent on the audience, but in essence, here is the theory;

A cat is sealed inside of a¬†box. The cat is not alone in this box mind you, it’s sealed along with a contraption built out of a Geiger counter connected via relay to a hammer and a tube of hydrocyanic acid. The last piece of the puzzle is a small piece of radioactive substance. Over the course of an hour, the radioactive substance could remain stable and the cat remains alive or the substance could decay. If the substance decays, it would cause the Geiger counter to go off, setting off the relay that would free the hammer to smash the tube that contains the acid that ultimately kills the cat. Under the Copenhagen interpretation and the view of quantum mechanics, the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Arsenal? Well, let me explain.

First we have the cat. The “cat” for me is achievements; wins, progression in competitions, cups, etc. Then we have the system, the “system” is everything at the club; players, manager, etc. Then finally we have the small substance in a superposition state, that’s Arsenal’s performances. The time allowed for the experiment is the time between matches, where anything and everything is possible, the time where Arsenal exists in multiple states. The opening of the box, the observation from the outside world to see what state Arsenal is in, would be the performance and/or results on match-day Follow me?

We as supporters all throw out different scenarios for any given match. The box is closed. The cat is very much alive or very much dead, we don’t know. We hope it’s alive, we wish above all else it remains alive, when it comes to match-day we cheer it to be alive still, but more often than not these days, we have no idea if we should get the cat food out of the cupboard or go online¬†to shop for burial services, such is the inconsistency surrounding Arsenal.

The nature of the inconsistency is mind-boggling. Let’s take the Monaco match as an example. Arsenal have reinforced, not to the best their ability, but have done so nonetheless. Most of the key players are healthy, the majority of the team has the experience in the Champion’s League thanks to the year in and out of qualification. Finally, after a fair number of years with difficult ties to progress, a seemingly manageable tie was on the cards against an undermanned team, and yet – capitulation ensued. Leading up to the match, after a good run, with the only blip being the NLD loss, one would have thought this was a statement match, yet there was no urgency, no passion, from top to bottom.

Now, Arsenal face a crossroads. It isn’t a crisis as some may have you think. It’s a chase for identity. For so many years, especially for those teams led by Cesc and Co., they were chasing giants and legends of football. Now, this team, with the likes of √Ėzil, Sanchez, Cazorla, Ramsey, they need to make their own way, their own legend, and they are somewhat struggling to come to grips with the label of being a “big team”. You see flashes of it, what Arsenal “could be”. Then you see flashes of what Arsenal were, in those years after the Invincibles, “also-rans”. This current team is dealing with one of the worst cases of multiple personality I can remember in sports. On their day, with the talent available, they can beat anyone, yes, anyone. But on a bad day, they can lose to anyone, yes, again, anyone. The box is closed.

What makes the difference in one match to the next? In a wonderful performance and meltdown? One would say opposition, but that’s not necessarily the case. AFC has beaten good teams and lost to mediocre teams as well. Sometimes week to week. That is not the trait of a settled team, that is not the earmark of a team pushing to be elite, or being pushed?

I hate to say it, but I must bring it up. For 10 years Arsenal were trophyless. There are many reasons, but the truth remains. There have been talented teams that¬†underachieved and so-so teams that may have overachieved. The one constant has been Wenger. There is no denying he was a great manager. I don’t think you can find many that would dispute that. The real discussion is – is AW still one now? He was innovative in tactics, nutrition, etc. Is he still now? Has Arsenal stagnated by clinging on to the past or is this the period where the team is built for the next big run. Are we all fooling ourselves thinking as much? All hard questions. None of us have the answers. That damned box!

For my part, I believe that Arsenal will take that next step, further reinforce, become more consistent. Whether Wenger is a part of that or not remains to be seen. Taking that next step doesn’t guarantee any more success than now though, it just guarantees a better shot at it. Teams like City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, PSG, etc. will all continue to spend money on the biggest names. Arsenal will have to become more consistent whilst they close that gap, it won’t be easy, but it can happen, will happen I dare say. For that to happen,¬†there has to be some accountability. If that includes replacing the manager or certain players, so be it. As long as it’s good for the club.

In the meanwhile, there really is nothing to do but support who is on the pitch and who is guiding them from the sideline. There will be no additions and there won’t be a managerial change from now until the end of the season, so there is no point bringing negativity to the party. The first step to cleanse the atmosphere from the loss on Wednesday is Sunday versus Everton. A sign of a good team is being able to bounce back from adversity and Arsenal have managed that over the last few years, giving us all hope. Certainly if Wednesday was meant to be a statement match, after the result, one has to think Everton has now become one as well, more important even.

This is the chance for the players to take a step forward and show what they’re made of. This is a chance for the manager to make changes that signal mediocrity will not be tolerated. For a great many reasons, this match on Sunday could make or break the spirit of this team for the remainder of the season.

I for one back them to make that statement, what about you? Right now, Arsenal exists in multiple states, anything is possible. What will be the outcome? Will the cat be alive or dead? Sunday at 2:05pm we’ll open the box and find out.

Disclaimer

*It must be said that my understanding and knowledge of quantum mechanics and all the attached theories is very basic. I am explaining it to you as I have come to know it, which is to say, how a college professor taught me, a failed athlete that was half paying attention in class when this was taught. I also took the liberty to brush up with web searches, naturally! To those with extensive knowledge on the experiment or this field, my apologies if any mistakes were made.*