Posts Tagged ‘Ramsey’

This is the third blog looking at Arsenal from a scientific angle. Following Schrödinger’s Arsenal and Wenger’s Room I felt compelled to add a third for a trilogy of entries, those that know me well will know why.

After having tackled Schrödinger’s Cat and Mary’s Room, I scoured for another theory or thought experiment that could be applied to Arsenal when I stumbled upon a psychological theory that was very intriguing and thought-provoking.

The theory I encountered was the Yerkes-Dodson Law. This theory, in layman’s terms, states that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal (stress). Very simply put, at a certain level of induced stress, people perform better. But if stress goes well beyond this level, performance decreases. So it’s all about finding that sweet spot to achieve optimal performance.

The theory is often times better shared using the following illustration:

stress

Now, when performing intellectually demanding tasks, the level of arousal doesn’t need to be high to achieve peak performance, as the lower level of stress will allow for better concentration. For physically demanding tasks, a much higher level of stress is needed to hit peak performance.

So, how can we apply this to Arsenal?

Having followed the club we all know that Wenger is a man that coddle his athletes quite a bit. Time and again we see the likes of Rambo, Theo and many, many more, continue to get chance after chance after poor displays or less than stellar runs. We see the squad, quite often, start off matches in a surprisingly docile manner, with a lack of urgency which leads to comments like, “Same old Arsenal starting slow. Well, we’ll get going in the second half.”, etc. How many times during a season do you find yourself saying, “Where’s the urgency with this team?!” My suggestion is that the squad, at those times, doesn’t find itself stressed enough to hit peak performance.

On a player level, places are pretty much guaranteed as there are limited bodies – regardless of performance, there is little threat of losing one’s starting position. Even if wanting to make a change, depth of quality is limited at many positions, but we’ll leave that aside for now. The calmness some often praise Wenger for could actually lead to a lower stress level which would be detrimental to achieving optimal performance levels in athletes. Of course, as stated earlier on, you don’t want to go beyond that sweet spot of arousal or you end up with a decrease in performance, much like we saw last year with Mourinho and Chelsea.

What’s the sweet spot for Arsenal? How is it achievable on a constant basis? We can all agree that it won’t be the same for all players. Some will have a higher tolerance for anxiety than others. That’s where man-management comes in. This is where I believe, more than anywhere else, Wenger has lost the edge. In the past, when he wasn’t able to get the best out of X or Y player, he had leaders (Keown, Adams, etc.) that could certainly up that stress level and increase that urgency to get the best out of those players. This current team has a lack of leaders so Wenger doesn’t have that luxury anymore and hasn’t for quite some time.

Now, I’m not saying Wenger needs to be like Conte or Simeone on the sidelines or throw boots about in the dressing room like Fergie, although many of us wish he would adopt SOME or MOST of those methods from time to time. But he HAS to be more ruthless and instill a sense of urgency in this team. He needs to bring in quality bodies to ensure no player is comfortable in their position, ever. If you don’t perform, you ride the bench until you show you can, or until your replacement doesn’t perform. This would create the right level of stress for the squad to fulfill their potential. We’ve seen this squad start slow, uninterested and without urgency far too often for a top team.

In the end, the majority of supporters want Wenger to find the balance he once had. Every detail matters in football, man-management is what sets apart the good teams from the great and Arsenal need Wenger to be a great man-manager again, to find those levels of stress to get the best out of the team as whole, if that means hurting some feelings along the way, and that’s okay.

Up the Arsenal!

 

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There is a thought experiment in quantum mechanics called Schrödinger’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.

Schrödinger 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 Özil, 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.*

Listen, let me start by saying I never abused Rambo. I criticized him for his run of form as most did and the rest should have. I’m not a woman or a fanboy so the boyish good looks means nothing to me. I am a football supporter, I’m a Gooner and that’s where my allegiance lies.

Before I begin in earnest, let me say this. If you are one of those “I never doubted him” or “I never criticised him”, let me say this. I call bull%&@€! If you truly support the club, there had to have been a point during this time that you thought about having the lad on loan or sitting him for a while. Either that or you are one of the above, a fangirl/fanboy OR you are blind, in which case you are forgiven, you didn’t get to see the truly dreadful performances he managed at times.

There were times when Aaron’s play made me scream and cry. There were times were another shot or ten of Jack Daniel’s wasn’t enough to erase the missed back-heels, the sloppy passes, and the wayward shots. I wasn’t shy about saying that I backed the lad, but that he needed a loan move to cure his bad form. I was quick to say he needed to be a lot more like Song at Barcelona and make his acquaintance with the Emirates bench and often. You see, for me, it seemed that the trials and tribulations the club were having with Rambo working out his kinks on the pitch with Arsenal instead of with some other outfit on loan wasn’t an ideal situation.

Then came the positional changes! Oh my!!!! Rambo on the right, Rambo on the left, Rambo as an AM, Rambo as a CM, Rambo as a DM…everywhere there was Rambo. The sloppy Rambo that we all saw and most commented on and some abused (never agreed with them by the way). He had/has a non stop motor that I admired but things just weren’t clicking. Looking back at it now, those are the times that have made him the player he is now. Short term suffering for long-term achievement yes, that’s why Arsene gets paid the big bucks and I’m sat here looking like a mug. At the time though, it seemed that this once promising player was being thrown to the wolves, out of position and being run ragged at the cost of matches and points and I hated it.

I was, like we all were, worried about league position and trophies. I wanted him or whoever Arsenal had in form at the moment to play to help the club achieve “things”. So for a good year to 18 months, I criticized the lad. In my mind rightfully so. As the months wore on, I had thoughts that the injury was too severe and that the player wouldn’t reach the level and beyond that he looked so capable of prior to the leg break. I doubted Ramsey. In my mind, once I have doubt, it becomes something that’s very hard to turn off. So, when the moments of great play last year began to become more frequent, I chalked it up to coincidence. It was late in the year, the other teams were fatigued, Ramsey was on decent form and the combination flattered to deceive. So went the narrative in my mind.

Fast forward to the summer, the flashes of brilliance continued, an air of confidence was more evident and those back-heels and touch passes were now coming off rather easily and more frequently. The ball was hitting the back of the net; and it continued well into the season. Despite a slow start after being “Taylored” vs Villa, Arsenal were heading into December fighting for the title and Rambo scoring goals at will. No extended summary was needed. I was WRONG. Plain an UTTERLY WRONG; but, as it benefited the club, I was happy to be wrong. Never been so happy to be wrong in my life. Then came the injury lay off that cost Arsenal the title. That’s how important a piece of the puzzle this kid has become. Let me rephrase that; that’s how important this man has become to the club. Arsenal where making do without Theo, without a proper holding midfielder, or a deadly striker. The club was making do with the likes of Podolski, Chamberlain, Cazorla, etc. out at certain times. Once Rambo and Özil were out, the run was in essence over. What a turnaround it’s been.

It all culminated in the FA Cup victory last week with Ramsey side footing a delicious finish and doing his best Charlie George impersonation lying face up on the pitch and letting the glory sink in. The comeback on the day was complete, but so was the comeback for the player. From terrifically talented youngster, to broken leg sufferer, to misfiring player, to one of the club’s most important players and finally – trophy winner. Doing what the likes of Cesc & RVP had failed to do, LEAD the club to a trophy.

Aaron, Mr. Ramsey, Rambo,

I was wrong. I am sorry, and from all of us, thank you for a wonderful season.

Up the Arsenal!

 

GK –

Szczesny – Our #1 GK is young, talented and confident, perhaps overconfident. The young Pole should perhaps learn a little humility as it would serve him to get better after having an honest assessment of himself. Keep.

Fabianski – Our #2 GK is unhappy about being just that. The problem is, every time he plays, he doesn’t justify being anything but. Time to ship him out and get competition for Szczesny. Sell.

Almunia – Why is he still here? Do I really need to say why we should sell or realistically, release? Sell.

Manone – The young Italian really hasn’t had a run of matches at any given point, although he did play briefly a couple of years ago and wasn’t half bad. Seems he has one foot out the door already, let’s make that loan a sale. Sell.

Defenders –

Gibbs – Gibbs has pace but is simply not reliable enough injury-wise to be counted on. He has loads of potential, but I don’t see him staying fit long enough to achieve it. Sell.

Santos – The Brazilian is a lot better than most thought. He is strong, great going forward and needs to be tweaked defensively. I think we have our first option LB in Santos. Keep.

Vermaelen – TV5 is a keeper, but he needs help, enough of these frail players in defense, we need real steel to help him out. Keep.

Koscielny – Kos, like TV5 is a keeper, really no more needs to be said as the Frenchman has improved and surprised everyone. Keep.

Mertesacker – Merts is not the typical big man that we all thought was bound for the Emirates this summer, but has steadily acclimated himself to the EPL after early struggles. Keep.

Djourou – After a fine campaign last year, where did Djourou go? He is woeful at the moment. He just signed a new deal so little chance of a move. Sell(voided by recent contract extension).

Squillaci – He’s been disappointing from the start, laughable even. He is in the same boat as Almunia. Why is he still here? Sell.

Miquel – The young Spaniard will be one to watch for the future.  He needs a loan where he gets more experience and regular first team football in a competitive league. Keep.

Sagna – The most reliable member of the defense, but it pains me to say, looks to be lacking confidence and is putting out more bad performances then we are accustomed to. Get him help and fast. Keep.

Jenkinson – Jenkinson has a non-stop motor but is not ready for the EPL, full stop. Needs a loan to get a run of matches and get acclimated to this sort of competition. Keep.

Yennaris – After a couple of performances, it troubles me why we didn’t see him earlier. He seems to be a good little player, capable of backing up Bac. Keep.

Bartley – Big, strong player, looks ready to contribute. With the likes of Djourou not playing well, Merts hurt and Miquel not ready, you have to wonder why Bartley is not getting recalled. Keep.

Botelho – We have been waiting for Pedro for years to qualify for a permit, simply hasn’t happened. Have watched him play in Spain and he’s more MF than LB, that being said not up to snuff. Sell.

Midfielders –

Diaby – I love Diaby, he has a wealth of untapped talent. unfortunately he resembles Elijah Price from the movie Unbreakable. Time to move on. Sell.

Arshavin – I was a staunch AA supporter till December. He’s never gotten a chance to play his natural position. He has not lost his talent, he just seems disinterested in the project and could care less. Do you blame him? Sell.

Arteta – Best panic signing in a long time. That said, too slow and methodical to be paired with certain players on our team. Great for experience, but def a backup. Keep.

Benayoun – Yossi has hardly been given a chance and you have to wonder why we brought him in. He is not the type of player we need. Send back to Chelsea.

Coquelin – Impressive. That’s all I can say about this young player. He delivers no matter where you put him. Keep(and play him more often).

Eastmond – He was the Coquelin of yesteryear, but has since disappeared. Sell.

Eisfeld – This young player looks the real deal, may get a run of matches as we simply don’t have any creativity in our midfield at the moment. Keep.

Frimmpong – Frimmers is young, strong, but very raw. He will be a good solid player but needs an extended loan spell to round out the edges. Keep.

Henderson – Not good enough for our bench. Good young player, time to cash in. Sell.

Meade – Simply not up to the standard we need as a top european side. Sell.

AOC – Ox is one of the bright spots in our future. He should get a chance at Jack’s position as that’s his natural role anyway. Keep.

Ozyakup – Bright young player, needs an extended loan spell at a Championship side to really see what he can bring on a week in week out basis. Keep.

Ramsey – At 18 he looked the business. He was up and coming, but he has since plateaued. He needs to be sent out on loan as he’s simply not good enough at the moment. Costing us at every turn. Keep.

Rosicky – TR7 is getting back to playing good football, I sincerely hope and honestly think he will be back to his best soon. He has been much better than some that being said, if there is a clearout, he may have to go. Sell.

Song – Our enforcer in the middle and savior at times, it’s clear he is bing asked to do too much and decision-making on what to do when is clearly having an effect on his play. The kid has a lot of talent but needs to mature, has a superb touch for a defensive midfielder. Keep.

Wilshere – The young stud in the middle. We miss his temperament, creativity and motor in midfield. Hurry back Jack. Keep.

Lansbury – He has had enough loans and enough time elsewhere to show he’s deserving of a chance. Keep.

Denilson – His loan to Sao Paolo is a clear line to a permanent sale. Sell.

Aneke – A blossoming talent, needs a Jack type loan to fully mature, one for the future in my opinion. Keep.

Forwards

Walcott – He has been with the club for 6 years, hasn’t progressed much since early days and still thinks his pace will save him. The problem is, he doesn’t even go all out 100% of the time anymore. Plus he’s unhappy with contract. If he can refine his crossing and finishing Keep, if he continues to plateau Sell.

Chamakh – After a bright start, he has fallen sharply. To me it’s down to our style of play, it simply doesn’t mesh with what he is good at. We got him on a free and others want him. Would be great for both for him to move on. Sell.

Park Chu-Young – Why is he here? This move made no sense except to sell shirts in Asia. Bad all around, as the player seems to have some spark and a gift for goal. Do him a favor and let him go. Sell.

Gervinho – Well worth what we paid for him. My only complaint is his finishing, some refining and he should be fine. Keep.

RvP – The world’s best striker at the moment. He should be rewarded by better players being brought in to help him. Wouldn’t blame him if he decided to leave. Keep.

Ryo – Great pace, tremendous young talent. I could well see him as a valuable member of the team. How he develops from here will determine his contribution, a full year loan may serve him well. Keep.

Bendtner – We don’t need or want him, he doesn’t want us, simple. Sell.

Vela – The little Mexican is not happy at the Emirates and seems to be enjoying Spain. He has made little to no contribution and all parties must now think it’s time to part ways. Sell.

Campbell – By all accounts, the Costa Rican is doing well at Lorient. Let’s hope this loan gets him his permit for next year and see what the lad has got. Keep.

Watt – We’ve been waiting for this player to show that something special, but he’s just not quite up to par with what we need on the first team. Sell.

Wellington – We all have been wondering why Wenger signed this player. He’s immature, lacks real technical skill and has been at how many different clubs now? Time to cut our losses. Sell.

Afobe – Great young talent, needs time to mature, a loan spell at an EPL team will do him some good. Keep.

Manager

Wenger – El Prof has been fantastic for us. He has won us all but the CL, he led us to an unbeaten season, and assembled what is to me, one of the best teams ever in 2003/2004. He has an uncanny ability to spot talent and a mind for business. He has led this team to 15 years straight of CL football and with his great managerial skill has kept us in the top four and competed for honors when by all rights we should have dropped out. All this while helping the club build a new stadium, through his shrewd buys and selling on talent we acquired on the cheap for massive profits.

Ok now that that’s out fo the way, let’s get down to the reality of today.

Wenger’s tactics are stale, his decision-making questionable at best and his faith in some players misplaced. He falls in love with a players talent and overlooks their glaring faults. I believe he needs to change his mentality entirely or move to the boardroom or even just move on. The choice is for him to make, he deserves that much, but as a club and as supporters, we deserve more than what we are getting at present.

The Board

The lot need to resign. Full stop. They are more concerned with profits than with the football on display. That was fine when we played pretty and lost, now we just lose and ugly at that. To make money you need to spend money, it’s that simple. In this age, to make a good team you need to spend money. We need to get into debt, for us to get back to where we should be, and this board won’t do it. Time to go.

Who can help?

GK & Defenders

GK’s are a rare breed, as they must have short memories, but constant concentration. We need someone to push Szczesny to not get complacent. I would enquire about Adler currently at Leverkusen or Akinfeev at CSKA.

At left back I believe we have a solid starter in Santos, but he needs a solid backup and Aly Cissokho could be the man there. He is constantly linked to our club and could be the guy to give some nice versatility at that position. At center back I would go after two men, Chris Samba and Jan Vertonghen. Both will go relatively cheaply compared to their attributes and both could definitely add some much-needed depth and competition. One is a former partner to TV5 at Ajax and the other a proven EPL performer, not signing one would be a complete mistake. At right back I think we have our first and second options in Bac and Yennaris/Jenkinson and we know Coquelin can play there, so we should concentrate on other more pressing needs.

Midfielders

Ok, for the sake of argument, let’s say we stick with the antiquated 4-3-3. I know, I don’t want it either. That means we need solid backups for Song and Jack and some more creativity. I would first address a good backup for Jack, someone with an ability to make a run, defend, stick the ball in the back of the net, create for another player and have a non-stop motor. I can think of the perfect signing in Clint Dempsey. I wanted him in the summer, I wanted him in January and I think it’s obvious we could have used him yesterday. He would be a perfect off the bench impact player. Next I would get the obvious choices for creation in midfield, Marvin Martin and Mario Goetze. Both are viable options and both are younger players that will mesh well with our core team, needless to say they both have the skill necessary to make a positive impact on our squad. That brings me to a backup/challenger for Song and to me that would mean Yann M’Villa. I think Song is really good, I think that competing week in and week out with M’Villa would make them both great. You can deploy them one at a time or together in those tough matches. He would be an ideal signing.

Apart from those players you have a host of players currently in the Spanish league that would do: P. Hernandez VAL, J. Martinez ATB, S. Canales VAL, E. Granero RM, P. Leon GET, J. Navas SEV, etc.

Forwards

RvP needs help up front, someone to pair him with when necessary or sub for him when he needs a rest. There are several players that could be available this summer. Demba Ba is explosive, strong, and creates havoc when he plays, would be perfect to pair with RvP and give him space to do what RvP does. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is a name RvP is very familiar with and a player he plays alongside on the Dutch national team. Huntelaar scores and scores, and isn’t afraid to try to make things happen, perfect. Finally reports of late have signaled that Daniel Sturridge may be available and interested, if either of those are true, sign him and sign him now, he would be a refreshing addition of pace, power and creativity.

In addition to those mentioned there are several names that could be available: L. Podolski COL, G. Higuain RM, E. Cavani NAP, S. Kalou CHE, etc.

In conclusion Gooners, we have many young talented players in our squad, with a sprinkling of others that could be cast as world-class, but they are mostly surrounded by over-hyped mediocre, fringe players. It’s time to step up and make four or five quality player signings and save this sinking ship. We are so close and have managed so much with, in reality, so very little, how can the board and Wenger not see that a few additions has us challenging for everything rather quickly.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, to make money you have to spend money. To turn around this struggling team we need these signings, if not, I’m afraid to think of where we’ll be next year.