Posts Tagged ‘Reaction’

Next year, we’ll be better.

Next Year, the board will allow for spending or force Wenger to spend, depending on who you believe.

Next year, we’ll buy the players to fill our needs.

Next year, those players will FINALLY be available.

Next year, Wenger will be more tactically aware.

Next year, we’ll make that zonal marking work.

Next year, we’ll shoot more, as a result – we’ll score more.

Next year, the players will self-motivate or Wenger will be a better motivator, whichever comes first.

Next year, Leicester won’t be as good or we as bad.

Next year, Aguero’s hammy will definitely give Pep fits.

Next year, Tottenham will go back to their “normal”.

Next year, no way do United, Chelsea or Liverpool improve.

Next year, our forwards will finish Mesut’s chances, if Mesut decides he’s ready for another year.

Next year, Theo and Giroud become World Class.

Next year, Alexis won’t play 25 matches before October.

Next year, we won’t injure our own players by overusing them.

Next year, we’ll allow players to warm up properly on cold weather days.

Next year, our title bid won’t fall apart by December.

Next year, we won’t scramble in January to sign a player at a position everyone knew was a need in the summer.

Next year, the supporters won’t create a “bad atmosphere” – haha, imagine the nerve of that.

Next year, we’ll definitely do better against “lower teams”.

Next year, we’ll be better in the London derbies.

Next year is almost here. Are you ready?

Up the Arsenal…

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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.

 

August 31st, 2011; Just three days after being humiliated by Manchester United 8-2 at Old Trafford, fielding a team that included Traore, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Djourou and Miquel, Özyakup, Lansbury and Sunu on the bench, Arsenal went on a Transfer Deadline Day spending spree that saw the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, Santos and Benayoun join the club.

It was a busy summer that saw a lot of movement in and out of the club. Short term it was a step backwards, but could yet be looked upon as a turning point to better times, but I digress.

The departures that summer were big names like Cesc and Nasri and lesser names such as Clichy, Eboue and Traore. The arrivals were Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamberlain, Park, Toral, Bellerin, Olsson, Gnabry, Campbell, Eisfeld to add to the names mentioned earlier. It was definitely a turbulent time.

I want to focus on two players that Arsenal acquired that summer and that are under scrutiny by pundits and supporters alike – Mertesacker and Arteta.

There are a multitude of positives that these two have in common. Character, professionalism, experience, an ability to “read the game”, and most importantly, what was so desperately needed at that time, in conjunction with all previously mentioned, leadership ability.

The short journey for both players has been a bit different but for me, they are both at the same point in their careers and exhibiting the same weaknesses. Let’s break it down by player.

Arteta:

Arteta isn’t a DM, holding midfielder, etc. , whatever you want to call it. That’s just a fact. He played a more forward position at Everton and was in fact a play-maker and sometimes scorer. Upon his move to Arsenal, where he took less money to play in bigger matches with a bigger club, he also took on, at 29, a more defensive role. He did it as best as could be expected given the age at which he switched positions, the demands of the position given the style of system he was thrust upon, the upheaval in personnel he had to endure and the pressure all of that entailed. In summary, the man sacrificed what was left of his career to go to a bigger club and do what they needed him to do to get on the pitch and contribute. It was utterly professional – selfless even; A rarity in sports.

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For the first 18 months, he was AN answer, just not THE answer at the position. For the last 18 months, it has been rocky, to say the least. The issue with Mikel is simple; Playing deeper, in the position he was/is asked to play, he’s being tasked with covering the back four, particularly the CB’s who are left exposed by the attacking FB’s, against players much faster and stronger than him. With his diminishing physical abilities (most noticeably pace), he simply isn’t able to do this task effectively. It was admirable to watch in the first half of his Arsenal career, the effort, the organization, the leadership, all on display, that helped us grind out results. His experience and ability to read the game allowed him to be relatively effective against most teams (top clubs excluded) and his clear passing talent allowed for some opportunities in the attacking end. It was a “bend don’t break” approach and it was OK given the transitional nature of the period. It isn’t what is needed now however, with the talent acquired by Arsenal these last few years.

Midway, since his arrival, whether it be age, the physical toll of the position or simply that the opposition knew they could – Arteta has been overrun in midfield. Where as before it was by more talented opposition, the deterioration of his physical abilities has allowed for less adroit teams to take advantage and run roughshod over the Arsenal midfield. Long story short? Arteta is getting old, is slower and has less of a motor. He was never meant to be the complete answer at that position but has been plugged in to stop a leak, but now the damn has broken – the water found a way through as it always does.

This isn’t new news, it’s been easy to see for quite some time. What was at one point admirable, is now cringe-worthy most times. There is a reason why in the last two summers there has been SOME effort to replenish the ranks at that position. I say some effort because if there was ABSOLUTE effort it would have been accomplished. Arteta can’t help getting older, getting slower and being played there despite obvious flaws for the position.

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Mertesacker:

Mertesacker had a bit of a tough transitional period after his move. The rigours of life in the EPL are immense to deal with and it showed with the big German. He was even confused by pundits with Metzelder who briefly played for Real Madrid; what’s in a name ey? Slowly but surely, he became (still is) a fixture in the side. Like Arteta, Per is a true professional that embodies all that is right in sport. Just like Arteta, Mertesacker is not exactly blessed with physical prowess, although he’s a tower of a man. Despite this, he was able to use his vast experience to be at the right place, at the right time – most times.

The similarities of the decline of their physical attributes is especially intriguing given that both arrived at the same time.

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Mertesacker is a mountain of a man, but funnily enough doesn’t use that to his advantage. He is a more technical player that uses positioning to ward off attacks. Since day one, where he has struggled has been his lack of pace and power. More physical forwards can out-muscle him and more pacey forwards can outrun him. Players that possess both attributes absolutely destroy him – Lukaku for example.

Although the above scenarios do occur, they have been offset by the dynamic pairing with Koscielny and were limited to exceptions rather than norm as the pair became better acquainted. Experience and great positioning coupled with physicality and grit – A great duo.

Yet, I am concerned with the deterioration of Mertesacker’s decision-making and positional awareness versus attackers that have one or both of the attributes mentioned before. Simply put, whereas Arteta’s decline can be attributed to physical limitations, Per’s is more mental. That’s not to say Per hasn’t “lost a step”, but never being fleet of foot before, the decline there is minimal and surely can be compensated for. The mistakes where Per misreads match situations have gone up considerably over the last months of last season and into this year. As an example, there has been much praise for Debuchy on his arrival, due to his “sweeping up” of play – coming behind attackers to dispossess them or make the final tackle to save the defence. Although some of that was with Chambers beside him at CB, some of it was also with Per there, that’s never a good sign when coming from one of Arsenal’s most experienced players.

There have been times during this period (end of last year – beginning of this year) where replays show Per knows where he needs to be and is unable to get there or something out of the ordinary happens; a fall, an off-side trap poorly executed, etc. There are also times where he is just physically outdone. Such was the case of Lukaku’s goal a couple of weeks back where, although fouled, the BFG was simply tossed aside. Is it rust? Is it a player in decline and if so, is the decline mental or physical?

Better yet, is any of this fixable?

Remember, we’re talking about Arsenal’s captain and vice-captain here, as well as a major portion of the spine of the team!

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What does this all mean?

So, after giving my take, and in the end that’s all it is, what does this all mean?

I have been waiting for Arsenal to get a proper holding midfielder for the last 6 years. It has cost the team time and again. There is a need for a player with technique, power and pace to compliment the creative talent in the side. There are players available, the funds (also available) have to be spent to acquire one!

For this position, Arteta isn’t going to suddenly get faster, stronger, meaner, etc. The physical attributes will continue to deteriorate. He is 32 going on 40. I like Arteta, I really do. I have said it time and again. He can be a squad player, he can continue to guide younger players, he is a great leader and a wonderful professional. He just shouldn’t be Arsenal’s main choice for holding midfielder. The solution is clear and has been for some time – Arsenal need to sign a holding midfielder!

For Per, I have a lasting hope that he can improve on his present form. The BFG just needs to be more aware of his surroundings and adjust for the opposition faced. There needs to be better communication across that back four and the team in general. The mistakes have gone up, yet hopefully can be curtailed as the season progresses and the partnerships with new players grow. The need for Arsenal to address proper CB cover is still an issue with or without Per’s issues or improvement.

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Football is a funny game. Nothing happens as you think it might. On that August in 2011 when Arsenal went “bargain shopping” as some called it, to fix the many issues at the time, the club ended up with these two players that brought stability, professionalism, pride, work ethic and class when it was sorely needed and missing. They have been the embodiment of professionalism ever since and I don’t think you could find anyone associated with the club that could speak ill of either player.

But this is sport, sentimentality is in short supply. Football teams and players are in the business of entertainment, results, and money. Will Arsenal do what they must to take that next step? Or will we as supporters be having these same discussions next September? Questions about how the summer was a missed opportunity to get on even footing with the elite? Time will tell.

For me, it’s clear what needs to happen as I’m sure it is with you. Will it happen is another thing altogether. Those decisions are left to those that know better than us.

They do, you know – “know better than us”, that’s what’s so frustrating.

Up the Arsenal!

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This piece never made it to this site, originally written the 9th of July – so here it is.

Information. It’s what everyone wants.

We connect to Facebook, Twitter, every football site imaginable to get those precious bits of information. The problem is, that “information” is usually anti-Arsenal, late or altogether wrong. I imagine a scenario in “football journalist’s” (I use that term loosely) offices in which they have several dart boards up with team, players names and fees. They have pre-written scripts that have blanks ready for those missing pieces and all they have to do to finish off the often times predictable story is to throw those darts to get the appropriate info for the next mash-up.

It really is that desperate and that ridiculous. Phantom players, phantom teams, phantom fees and in the end, what is it? Phantom news.

So, we as football supporters struggle with what to believe, what sources to read, who to listen to.

So, when I got a message in mid June that read, “We’re signing Alexis Sanchez.” My first response was, “get the f%@# out of here”. Why? Well, Josep Bartomeu (Barca’s president), had a press conference two days earlier where he said they were not letting any of their top players leave. So my thinking naturally was, “Alexis is a top player, no way he’s going.” (Cesc was sold days later, so much for his word!).

So I messaged back, “Are you sure?! Really? How reliable is the source?”

He messaged me back, “Reliable. Trust me.”

Trust.

Trust is a funny thing, it’s earned, not given. Did I trust the person sending me the text? Absolutely. You have to understand, this is a person that has never claimed to be in-the-know and doesn’t want credit as such. This person, well, they had no reason whatsoever to lie or any track record of it with me. So I began to get excited. Should I tweet it? Should I shout it? What could I do?

Then came the next message, “Nothing about this online please.”

So, there I sat, mid June, one of the bigger AFC transfer stories about at that moment and I’m asked not to say anything online. What do I do/say?

“Ok, you have my word.”

Given the origin of the news, I knew the request didn’t extend to the podcast members with whom I regularly speak with, so naturally my next text was to them:

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As you can see, I wasn’t the only one that was told, there where others who also knew and also kept this to themselves, as asked, until it was official.

So the countdown began and so did the inspection of some of the most notable ITK’s on Twitter. Finally there was something I could measure to see what outlets and who was reliable. Besides Geoff, you know Geoff, not one of the ITK’s got it right. One very arrogant ITK, who loves a fight, on the same day tweeted that Liverpool were given the go ahead to bid for Sanchez as Arsenal where only after Draxler only! Laughable.

It went on and on and on. As if any of us needed any more proof. There are but one or two reliable ITK’s or better yet, people with accurate info from time to time, on Twitter. They can be wrong sometimes, but that’s because situations may change, but their track record over time speak for themselves.

We all know Twitter is filled with supposed ITK’s. They have Google Translate on a separate tab at all times. They follow every journalist from every country, every sporting news outlet and they pretend they know how reliable these outlets are. They take anything Arsenal related or relevant and plop it into Google Translate and then tweet something along the lines of “I was told/I heard today that xxxxxx would happen.” You know these lot. When they are proven wrong later, they blame the journo or outlet. When they are “right”, they pump their chest out and tell everyone how right they were, but never telling you the person who “told them” was or that in fact that they read it…these lot are a disgusting, self-absorbed, attention seeking bunch. I won’t even get into the Indykalia’s and Fairthorne’s of the world.

So there I sat, day after day, knowing what was happening and seeing it take shape. So, I decided to do what I always do. I took local news from radio, tv and print and passed it on; I translated it properly (I’m a native Spanish speaker) and sent it out to followers on Twitter and listeners on the podcast.

“What are our chances John?”, I was asked. “Looks good.”, I replied; or something to that extent. I got slated a few times for things I posted:

All locally reported and passed on, along with other similar posts. These reports coincided with what I already knew. All the meanwhile, all the lads from the pod who were privy to the info and I just chatted and saw how everything was taking place and we all commented on the evolution of the story. Over time, something became apparent and we all came to the same realization, the reporters haven’t a clue either.

They may get news earlier and some have better contacts than others, but for the most part, they are grasping at straws, much as we do. They get bits of info and they connect the dots given past experiences and relationships with the clubs they follow and report on. In the end, they are only slightly better informed then we are. It’s not eye-opening really, we kind of knew that didn’t we? But “kind of knowing” and “actually knowing” are two different things.

How do so many get it so wrong so often? The journalists at least have an excuse, they are working with what they have and if what they have is almost nothing and other outlets from other countries have some info, they try to piece things together. It’s their job, after all, to print stories. They call it rumour/gossip and move on to the next “story”; a successful job as long as it gets hits – So the bigger the story or rumour, the better. Do I agree with it? Nope. Do I understand it? Yes.

But why do these wannabe ITK’s do the same? What is the motivation to dupe people? Is it the followers (of course it is)? What is the necessity to lie about their intentions and their “news”?

Very simple. A lack of attention. They are very bored or very ignored. Take your pick.

I have been wrong many times, not as often as I have been right – but I always hold my hands up in those cases; Cesc moving, hell, even Alexis! Way before I got THAT message – “We’re signing Alexis Sanchez.” Why? Because I only pass on local news and make educated guesses. Nothing more or less.

ITK’s, real ITK’s are never wrong. They know what’s happening. Real time, real info, all the time.

Are you ready for this? THERE ARE NO REAL ITK’s ON TWITTER, ON FACEBOOK or ANYWHERE else. They covet their jobs or the jobs of those that give them info too much. There are people who may get info from time to time and pass it on, but anyone that knows anything, will not share it 100% of the time for fear of losing their position or having their contact lose their position. Be happy with those few credible sources that tell you “we have bid x amount for this player, will it happen, I don’t know.” You are already ahead of most journos having those tidbits of info.

There are some people on Twitter and other social sites that want a higher standing or want to pretend to know things and people they don’t. Pity them. They are a needy bunch, they are easy to spot. You know their names, you know their “style”. You know who they are. Call them out, they need a reality check. They make those “If X happens, I will deactivate!” tweets and promises. They will never do it, but hold them to it! We would all be better off! (The most they will do is change their display name, we know this, but let’s make it inconvenient for them at the very least).

Conversely, there are people who want to give you hints and want you to know the small bits of info they get. Be grateful. Stop the abuse. Use time and past revelations to see if they are legitimate.

For the first time in June, I got info ahead of time instead of a detailed explanation after – I was briefly “ITK”. Guess what? It wasn’t fun. It was so hard not to yell it from the top of my lungs, but I gave my word, so did other’s and we just smiled – that was enough for us!

The person who gave me the info doesn’t want it shared who exactly he is, but some of you know. He has taken a lot of heat for views, but he is someone not after attention of this nature. Funny how that is. The ones with the info want none of the credit/attention and get most of the hate. The ones with lies get most of the attention and praise and continue to operate despite their obvious deficiencies and lies.

It’s a game. It’s horrible. It’s ITK tic-tac-toe and like the real game, you only win by enjoying the game, not being right/wrong as it often ends in a draw.

Enjoy this summer Gooners, it’ll end up being a memorable one once you get to look back on it. At the end of the day what matters is the club, our season and where we can go from here. Now that the restrictions of the past have somewhat been lifted, we can build upon the success from last year and take that often talked about, “next step”. The future is bright, and guess what? We all win as supporters – Isn’t that what matters?

Up the Arsenal.