Posts Tagged ‘Champions League’

After having written Schrödinger’s Arsenal, it was a natural continuation to take another thought experiment and introduce Arsenal variables to see if it could stand up to scrutiny. There were many experiments that were intriguing, but then I stumbled onto one in an old textbook and knew right away there was no need to look any further. It was a perfect fit for the one subject that all Arsenal supporters weigh in on, almost on a daily basis – Wenger.

 

The Theory

Before delving into the actual experiment one must understand what it is trying to disprove, mainly the theory of physicalism. This philosophical theory states, broad strokes view, that mental processes are the result of, or can be reduced to, physical processes in the brain. There are many unique theories both philosophical and scientific that stem from this but all contain the same notion, that there is only one substance with a place in ontology, the physical. For the moment this is all we need.

 

The Thought Experiment – Mary’s Room 

This variation is quite modest and tackles one example of a multi-layered argument first made by Frank Jackson in 1982. It’ll do for the purposes of this entry. Mary’s Room is a very simple thought experiment that means to prove physicalism false, specifically the branch of physicalism that claims completeness of physical explanations of mental states.

Mary has been confined her entire life in a room which purposely lacks any colour. She’s never seen colour although she does have the ability to see it. Through books, also devoid of colour, black and white monitors and other colourless media, she is practised in neuroscience to the point where she is an expert on the subject. Mary is educated on everything possible about the perception of colour in the brain and all the physical facts about how light works and the process necessary to see colour.

After Mary’s education is complete she is allowed to leave the room. This is when, for the first time, she experiences direct colour perception. She sees the colour yellow and just by seeing it, learns something new about colour perception; what the colour yellow looks like.

Jackson concluded from this simple thought experiment that if physicalism is true, Mary would have gained all the knowledge about colour perception through her education, but since she learned something upon leaving the room, physicalism must be false. He goes on to explain:

“It seems just obvious that she will learn something about the world and our visual experience of it. But then is it inescapable that her previous knowledge was incomplete. But she had all the physical information. Ergo there is more to have than that, and Physicalism is false.”

Got it? Good. Now, what does this have to do with Arsenal? I’m glad you asked.

 

Wenger’s Room

For the purpose of this entry, we’ll say that Wenger’s 10 year trophy-less time was his period in the colourless room.

Wenger, for all intents and purposes, was severely restricted for most of those ten years. In theory he had a transfer budget, but it wasn’t what it had been upon his arrival. I say he was restricted for most of those years as it was obvious from the expenditures the last few years that the restrictions were lessened by the end of the drought.

So Wenger in this white room, had to educate himself in financial restraint. Selling off top-end assets, acquiring lesser assets to combine and attempt to replace the originals for the sake of qualifying to the CL year after year. Maintaining that status quo and paying off the stadium debt became paramount and winning titles, or at the very least truly competing for them, was something that was lost in the bargain. Legends were replaced with boys with big dreams, big demands and no backbone. Wenger during this time became a good businessman, but as a manager was unable to mould those kids into champions.

Lesser managers would have seen the club drop out of the top four, sat with a new stadium and increasingly less attractive product on the pitch and in financial turmoil. Better managers, wouldn’t have stuck around under those restraints. Wenger taught himself rather well and was able to push the squad on year after year. Sometimes underachieving, sometimes overachieving, but always in the mix near the top. The football, whilst not title-winning, was attractive, until, ironically enough, the restrictions began to lift and there was more money available. Wenger was finally let out of the white room, but had he lost his mojo from the early years at Arsenal? It certainly seemed so. Attractive football with memorable matches were replaced with laboured wins and forgettable losses.

The club seemed behind the curve in things like training methods (one example), that were once hailed as revolutionary. The time in the white room seemed to have dulled Wenger’s ability in the one thing us as supporters care about the most, the product on the pitch. Take all the things mentioned and add the increasingly bizarre way that Arsenal, year after year, climbed the injury table you could easily come to the conclusion that he had “lost it”. Was it fair? Absolutely not. Was it likely. It appeared so, as there was no evidence to the contrary bar the annual trips to a competition Arsenal had very little chance of winning but needed to stay ahead in the financial game. Even when the restraints were slowly lifted the team lost players and signed the likes of Squillaci. Even with good times around the corner, there still were/are, some growing pains. There was an increased rate of turnover as “Project Youth” came to a halt and there was a greater effort into recruiting more mature, experienced players that were indeed, more talented as well. Wenger was seeing colour again as if for the first time, learning something new…or re-learning.

So now, over the past few years with lessened financial restraint, the boss has reinforced the squad with the likes of Özil, Sanchez and just recently Petr Čech. Obviously unshackled Wenger has found his stride with two FA Cup wins in two seasons and partial runs at the title derailed either side of Christmas due to injury. Has the old man learned something he was missing or just back to basics now unburdened with having to be cheap as opposed to just prudent? For me, I would like to think it’s a bit of both. Wenger came out of this period with a more hardened sense of truth. He saw boys he groomed into top players turn their back on him and betray his trust. This definitely had an effect on him, you can see it in his shrewd decision-making of late. Sitting Vermaelen, as captain, benching Szczesny in league play for Ospina, etc. I could go on but I think you catch my drift. The reinforcements he’s added and is seemingly continuing to add show the restraints are now a distant memory. The youth that is now being given a chance have a deeper sense of loyalty as well. Lessons lived, lessons learned.

All in all, whether we like it or not, Arsenal went through this period and the face of it, the embodiment of it was Wenger. Through thick and thin the man stood there and took his shots, deserved or not, and for that he deserves praise. The juggling act he performed to maintain the status quo certainly hurt the rest of his duties, denying that is just folly, but the man, like the club, persevered and learned from it. Now we can watch a revamped side push on and truly compete for titles, with a few more additions and a bit of luck! The journey is not complete, when is it really ever complete in sport?

The lesson’s learned IN the room in this case are just as important as the lessons learned and actions taken once free of it. The club is in an enviable position to push on now and for that, we should all be grateful.

 

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Arsenal are set to play a very important three match stretch. A lot of people believe this stretch is important due to Chelsea making the CL final,  if they win; that eliminates the 4th place team and takes them into the Europa League, should Chelsea finish outside the top 4. While there is no doubt that securing 3rd place is the safest bet for Arsenal to punch a ticket to the CL next season, there are a lot of outcomes to this situation and it’s better for the club to focus on their results instead of others. This is a critical stage for creating the atmosphere needed within the team for certain players to make decisions about their future, and to finish the season in a strong display to set the stage for a busy and productive off-season. If Arsenal take care of their matches, the other situations will resolve themselves. So let’s take a look at the teams involved, their current standing, and their remaining schedules.

Arsenal –

Currently – 3rd Matches Left – Stoke(A) Norwich(H) West Brom(A)

These are not the toughest matches, but they won’t be a cakewalk either. Stoke away is always tough, Norwich give everyone problems and can be very dangerous if given too much space and West Brom on the last day seems to be the more manageable of the 3. The team needs 6 points out of this last 3 matches to secure 3rd place. 9 points would be great, but 6 will do nicely. Arsenal’s goal differential as it stands is +24; 13 better than Newcastle and 6 better than either Tottenham or Chelsea. The trio of NUFC, THFC, and CFC all have a match in hand over Arsenal, who would still hold on to 3rd should all of those clubs win those matches. Arsenal would actually be tied with Newcastle on points, but their goal differential would see them remain in 3rd. My prediction is 7 points out of the last three matches, with the toughest contest being this Saturday away at Stoke. If Arsenal win that match, I believe 3rd is wrapped up with ease. Final position? 3rd place for our Gunners!

Newcastle –

Currently – 4th Matches Left – Wigan(A) Chelsea(A) Man City(H) Everton(A)

NUFC currently sit 4th with a match in hand. The slimmest of margins separates Newcastle and Arsenal, but certainly the Magpies have the hardest run-in, add to that the goal differential and it’s a clear advantage to Gunners. Make no mistake, Newcastle deserve to be where they are and have done a masterful job in the transfer windows to secure signings that have been both economical and outstanding in performance. That said, it is hard for me to see how they will secure more than 6 points out of their remaining schedule. They face a resurgent Wigan team that will not be easy to beat, as Arsenal can attest. Chelsea will not rest on their laurels and will be looking to make a surge for the 4th spot. City, dependant on the outcome on Monday, may still have title aspirations and Everton will look to finish the season strong and as always, are tough at home. I see NUFC getting 6 points out of these matches, but even that may be a stretch, as 3 out of the 4 matches are away from home. I firmly believe Newcastle will retain 4th position.

Spurs –

Currently – 5th Matches Left – Blackburn(H) Bolton(A) Villa(A) Fulham(H)

Spurs have not been the same team since Arsenal took their spirits with that wonderful comeback in the North London Derby. The results of their last 10 matches? WLLLDDWDLL That streak has seen them go from 3rd place 10 points ahead of Arsenal and a stones throw from the top 2, to 5th place, 6 points behind us with a match in hand. Where there had once been talk about a run at the title hs now into a desperate fight to finish 4th. The matches they have left to play don’t seem tough, but Spurs have yet to win away from home in 2012, and have the look of a team in desperate need of answers. The fact that their top goal scorer and assist man is an ex Arsenal man who is on loan, Adebayor, says a lot about them as a team in my opinion. Even then, Adebayor has had a couple of run-ins with the manager and it has been reported he is unlikely to feature again for the team this year. With their current form, the matches left and their top goal scorer/assist man out, I see Spurs getting 6 points, if they are lucky, out of their remaining four matches. My prediction is that Spurs finish 6th.

Chelsea –

Currently – 6th Matches Left – QPR(H) Newcastle(H) Liverpool(FA) Liverpool(A) Blackburn(H)

Chelsea are a surprise entry in 6th place. This is unfamiliar territory for the Blues. The one saving grace in their season has been their run of form in cup competitions. They dismantled Spurs in the FA Cup semi’s and broke hearts in Barcelona to reach the final of the Champion’s League. Those runs aside, they have been underwhelming during the EPL campaign. In addition to having matches versus opposition in the relegation fight, they face in form Newcastle as well as Liverpool twice, with these 3 matches and QPR added, they face 4 matches in 10 days. QPR should be a win for them, with Taraabt out for QPR. Newcastle is an interesting match for several reasons. To make up ground, Chelsea must win this match, but it is a mere 4 days after the QPR match, but they also have the FA Cup final 3 days later. Will they rotate and play a weakened side for this match or lay it all out and sacrifice for the FA Cup final? Another question is, will they play their best available for both Newcastle and the FA Cup final and then trot out a weaker side for Liverpool away just 3 days later. So many possibilities. I see Chelsea stumbling in 2 of their remaining matches and securing a total of 7 points from them. I think they’ll win the match versus QPR and Blackburn and drawing either the NUFC or the LFC match. This brings us to the Champions League final. Should CFC finish outside the top four, which I think is likely, they MUST win the final to secure a CL spot for next year. Frankly, with the loss of Ramires, Meireles, Ivanovic and Terry for the final, against a Bayern team chock full of offensive fire power, that scenario seems unlikely, but not impossible. I believe Chelsea will finish 5th, win the FA Cup and lose in the CL final, leaving the top four to qualify for next year’s competition.

Arsenal supporters are very fickle on the social media pages of late. Every report, rumor and sensational bit of gossip can turn them for or against the team. The reality is this. At this late stage, Arsenal control their own fate. Win out or secure 6/7 points in the last 3 matches and maintain 3rd with no issues. With the players available, Arsenal should accomplish this task without much fuss. The worry over what every other team does is unnecessary in my view, the Gunners need to take care of their business and everything else will fall as it should. That’s what I expect to happen. I see the top four finishing with United as champs, again, with City, Arsenal and Newcastle following them. This is my prediction, could it change? Of course! But the constant in all scenarios I play out is Arsenal 3rd, I just don’t see the lads passing up the opportunity to finish this season off strong. There is way more character in this squad then there has been in quite some time and the likes of Szczesny, Sagna, Kos, TV5, TR7, RvP will not let us down.

So keep your head up Gunners, don’t let the media and the negative supporters bring you down. It’s been a tough haul this year, filled with ups and downs and everything in between. Even with all that has been thrown at us, we will finish the season with more points than last year, in a higher position, and with much better prospects for the year ahead.

See you lot on the weekend! Come on you Gunners!