Posts Tagged ‘Supporters’

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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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…

Sense of Entitlement

So, I support Arsenal, have done since 1991. That ought to be enough yeah? Been to Highbury, am a club member, buy multiple shirts yearly, etc. So all should be right in the world and any other Arsenal supporter shouldn’t be able to pull out the, “but you’re not local” or “high ticket prices – money spent” card right? Wrong.

The truth is, like any other big club, the majority of the supporters are actually NOT local. That global recognition is what allows for the growth and prosperity of Arsenal. It seems though that there is a local element that feels itself superior in some ways. I get it to some extent. I just don’t see how one can take ownership over it and say you are a bigger fan based on proximity, in this supposed age of information when everything is available at the touch of your fingertips; one has access to anything – anywhere. Although I do respect all local supporters as I would be involved in all things Arsenal as they are able to be; I do lament the fact that SOME, not all, feel superior to us foreign fans. Worse yet, that some feel the need to voice that superiority on a fairly regular basis.

Attending Matches

Well there is nothing I can do to have Arsenal come play in Barcelona every weekend, although at the rate with which we’ve sold them players in the past it was almost reality, but I digress. It is a wonderful thing to live locally to the team. One can walk, taxi or take the metro to the match, meet friends before and after for a drink at the pub, etc. Does that make you a better supporter than me? Well no, but some sure do seem to think so. That scenario makes you luckier than most and you should revel in that rather than use it as a point to win a baseless argument.

Ticket Prices

There is little you or I can do to change that as much as we would all like and some are attempting to do. The extra pounds spent on tickets do not buy you more “supporter points” with the football Gods. If you want to bring up ticket prices in comparison to trophies won over the last eight years go ahead – that’s a very compelling argument to make to the club. But what you spend on tickets doesn’t make you a better supporter over someone not local, sadly that’s not the prevailing opinion of some.

My Story

I feel connected to the club on several levels just like the next supporter. We all have something that hit home with us to connect us to Arsenal. I will share my personal story with you as an example why sometimes foreign supporters will go to extremes to watch the club in action. It might make you think before “going off” on a foreign supporter next time.

Some of you have heard this story before. I started following Arsenal in 1991. That year I met a foreign exchange student at my school and we became friends, as time went on she became my girlfriend. She introduced me to Arsenal and I was hooked. Back in those days there was no internet as we know it now. Cable and satellite services were ok but in its infancy as far as pay-per-view. So what where my choices? There weren’t many let me tell you.

In 1991 the option was tape delay and wrap-up shows as the EPL as we know it now would come into effect the following year. Starting in 1992 (and the subsequent 9 years) I could watch all EPL matches in a given weekend for $69.99 (if memory serves correct) or a specific match for $49.99 (that would later turn to $39.99 for every match). In those years the exchange rate for dollars to pounds ranged from $1.40 to $1.90 (so let’s call it a medium of $1.65), so on a weekly basis I paid 30£ to watch the Arsenal play via these services. Let’s not even mention getting up at 5-6am for early matches on a Saturday or Sunday (later matches were 8-9am so a bit better). Add the cost of midweek cup matches that cost the same, plus shirts being shipped over, etc. Well, all that added up to a pretty penny in those days.

Tickets could be had for as little as 8£ in those days if you remember. Obviously as the years wore on the prices went up but some tickets could still be had under the 30£ I was paying weekly to watch on TV. Some supporters will only go to home matches so that reduces the amount spent – while I spent 30£ minimum on every match, home and away to watch Arsenal. HUGE difference wouldn’t you say? I did this for nearly 10 years. From 2000/01 prices became more economical with better coverage, but were still a rip-off. I don’t even want to get into what it cost to fly from US to UK, hotel, meals and all the rest to watch the team play. But even all the money spent I mention doesn’t make me any bigger of a supporter than the next person and I very rarely bring it up. So why do some feel the need to try to rub the amount spent, matches seen live, etc. in others faces as proof that they are better?

Relax, Reflect, Adjust and Support

My point of all this detail, the pricing breakdown and the rest is very simple. I direct the next few statements to the supporters that think themselves “superior”. The amount you spend, the numbers of matches you see live, the fact you are local, etc., none of this gives you any reason to belittle or call yourself a “better” supporter over any other person that follows the team. In fact the more you beat that drum, the dumber you look. This becomes even more evident when a supporter can bring out a similar story to mine. Trust me, there are hundreds if not thousands like it.

Supporting a team is a very peculiar thing. We love sports as a society; it can provide an escape – a connection to someone or some time. Sports can make a bad day better and a great day fantastic. It can work in reverse too! Anything that can affect you so much shouldn’t be taken so lightly as to try to measure it in dollars, euros or pounds. Supporting Arsenal has left an impression on my life. Coming to Europe to visit during those early years of my adulthood made up my mind that this (EU) is where I wanted to move. The impression this club has left on me is something I can’t forget, I live it every day. My story is but one of a thousand similar cases.

So I caution the “superior” supporters for whom this entry was written – before you make a comment about how you are a better supporter for any of the reasons discussed; remember there are those with far more complex stories than yours. Enjoy the luck of being local to the team you support, you don’t know how enviable of a position you are in and how others wish they had the same luxury.

Everything mentioned doesn’t make you any better and it certainly doesn’t make their love for the club any less. I would suggest all this frustration and energy be directed into supporting the team and cheering on the lads as opposed to putting others down or competing with them to see who has the biggest ticket drawer.

Up the Arsenal!

If you are a foreign supporter and have a crazy story on how you became and Arsenal supporter I’d love to hear it! I will be making a permanent page for them in the near future so stay tuned!

I am not a fickle supporter. I will start with that. I am very much a staunch supporter in fact, I bleed Arsenal. I have a long history amongst my dear friends and family for supporting teams that have long languished in mediocrity. I am a Cincinnati Bengals fan, that in itself, should you follow american football, should say enough. I also support the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won a World Series since 1948. So basically Gunners, I am loyal supporter,I have stuck with the Arsenal through thick and thin since 1991. I have seen the downs, ups and now downs again. I have cheered and cried with you all, but enough is enough.

We have all seen that the recent profitable years have been largely based on the sales of our best players. The wages for some players, who are mediocre at best, is down right larcenous. All of this smoke and mirrors have made for a feel good spirit surrounding our beloved club. The feeling that we were doing it “the right way”. In essence, it seems we are all unwilling participants in a Ponzi scheme and the reality of the situation is just now being made clear right before the collapse. Check that, right in the thick of the collapse.

I understand that sports franchises go through ups and downs. I wrote a piece on that very subject last summer; here. I also understand that the professionals know better than us on how to run our club, or they should know better, as documented here. The reality is that the club’s so-called self-sustaining model is based on a number of factors that could change year in and year out; players sales, contract renegotiation, and tournament qualifications and/or progress. At the end of the day, our on field play will determine everything. At the moment, the football on display is dreadful, and simply can’t continue if we are to get back to where this club deserves to be. Better yet, to where we, the fans, deserve it to be. The highest ticket prices in the EPL being raised an additional 6%+ after a monumental collapse at the end of last year is rather ridiculous; combined with year after year of surplus in the bank to spend on much-needed talent going untapped. All this leads to the horrible realization that somewhere in this dream of 49 straight unbeaten, 15 consecutive years of CL football, and the building of the Emirates; the wool has been pulled, ever so slowly, over our collective eyes.

For every loyal Gunner there are countless more fair weather fans that will go and support another team when the shine wears off the cannon, be it ever so brief. That means we must be competitive, we must improve and we must get back to winning ways or quite simply lose the appeal for everyone except the die-hard, and that simply won’t do in this day and age of short attention spans. Is this the right way to function? It doesn’t matter what you or I think, it’s the reality of sports now. Supporters jump off one bandwagon to jump unto another, it’s the way of the world now. The new breed of sports fan is that brittle. We must adapt as a club or mentally prepare to endure many years as a mid table team. That’s the reality and it absolutely is astonishing how we got here.

This is a piece I wrote last summer. I believe it’s one that applies even now to some extent. This was before a lot of the goings on of this year had occurred. This was before learning of the smoke and mirrors routine by our board in regards to the books. This was before I became a skeptic on how quickly, if at all, we can turn this sinking ship around. There is one thing I will stick by, until, well forever; I am a staunch supporter and will support the club. That said, the outlook is grim. For us to be become competitive the current policies in place must change. How? That is for people smarter than I to decide. Give this piece a read and I think some of the die-hard will find it uplifting whilst some of the skeptics will find it naive. I find myself torn between the two camps.

Fair Weather Fans

You begin the year supporting “your” team, hoping they can do all they can. You wear your team’s kit for every game. Everything starts well; they do well in a slew of competitions.

Mid-season comes and the boys are poised to hoist some trophies and you now decorate your home with souvenirs here and there; perhaps a coffee mug, a scarf, etc. Then your team starts to slip, and the results are just not coming. You proceed to shelve the mug. More average results occur and the scarf gets “lost”. The implosion no one saw coming happens and you are now bitter. The kit that only a few months ago was a treasure is now only worn when nothing else is clean.

The end of the season comes and it is so sobering. The tough losses, the incomprehensible draws and the missed opportunities are all just too much! You look for someone to blame, and it’s easy, it’s HIS fault.

He didn’t spend enough, and what he did spend was in the wrong area or on the wrong players. ‘How could he be so stupid?’ you think to yourself. It’s all so easy and obvious; he clearly has no idea what he is doing.

Then you have an epiphany, maybe it’s not ‘him’ and maybe it’s them! Those greedy, money hungry, horrible players; they were to blame. Never mind that you worshipped them only months ago. They just could not stop the other team, and then they just could not score when it counted. Again, it’s all so simple. Even YOU could do it.

So now that you have the culprits in your sights, you know exactly how to get back at them. You will start a blog! Blame Arsene for his blindness in his dealings. Blame the players for running around the pitch with only pounds and euros in their eyes. You shall tell the world who is to blame for the missed opportunities of the season, and tell everyone that will read your opinion how easy it was to see and fix. That YOU have ALL the solutions.

How could you have supported the club these last few years? Forget the new stadium; forget the Champions League every year.  Forget the financial stability. Forget the future, who needs the future? It’s all about NOW, it’s all about trophies. Forget the possibility of being excluded from the Champions League due to non compliance with the Financial Fair Play, forget about administration for all those loans you may need and can’t pay back. You want names like Ronaldo, Torres, LLoris, no matter the cost! It’s only money, and THEY make plenty of it!

SLAP!

That’s me slapping you Gunners! Wake up…don’t be THIS guy.

We are all better than that. Support our team, cheer our boys, and back our manager. They will pull it together and make us proud. Criticising every move and pretending to know more than they do is just ludicrous. They are professionals, we are just passionate. Put your passion behind Arsenal.