It matters not if we play Iwobi rather than Perez or Coquelin instead of Ramsey. This is an experienced squad who until the Everton/City setbacks were going well. Not a steam roller – not flattening the opposition or running up big scores but showing an all round solid performance week in week out. We were up there on merit.
And then two defeats which give cause for concern. As we all know we were ahead in both matches and then lost. Frustrating, puzzling and wounding. It takes a lot to keep our nerve – we the supporters, not the players. We are pummeled by the ferocity of the Wenger Out brigade who parade their nasties as soon as a bad result occurs. Two bad results and they are out in force. So be it. That is life. That is democracy. That is their right. A few have something to say that is constructive and should be listened to – but more are prejudiced and can be disregarded.
I have a view that we lack a fist waving, oath uttering Captain. This captain person is not all blood and guts but is able to give quiet encouragement to a player who is suffering a loss of confidence. Shouting the loudest is not evidence of the best Captain – we need a man for all seasons who has the maturity and the personality to know when to shout and when to whisper. A captain who can create a reaction by the ferocity of his intervention and one who knows that with a hand round the shoulder he can re-instill confidence and assurance in a player who plays safe because of failure.
Some say that such captains are a thing of the past – that society has changed and the blend of character and personality belongs to an earlier era. Is that right? Is there something in the make-up of society that has affected the ability to produce leaders? Or are there other reasons. Let me suggest two.
First, the manager may select players in his own image. According to his old players Wenger is not a shouter – he says little at moments of high emotion preferring to wait until the storm has passed and quieter times prevail. Does he choose players of similar make-up? Is there a danger that the team reflects the mind set of Wenger? This is nothing to do with him not wanting to be challenged but all to do with him wanting around him players whose temperament is in harmony with his own.
But a team is an orchestra and he is the conductor. He needs the blast of the drums and cymbals but he also needs the solo beauty of the oboe and the clarinet and the hard work of the violins and the trumpets. It is a blend – a mix. There needs to be tension and even vying for position. Some instruments need to be caressed by the conductor, brought to a peak by his encouragement and sensitive awareness of their musical talent and beauty.
A dressing room is the same. It is a mix. Some who are artists and some who are labourers. Some who can create sinewy passes and others who can make strong tackles. Some who are quiet and some who are explosive. Some who are close to turbulence and some who are slow to rise. They need to rub up against each other. It needs tension all the time to produce the right result.
If everybody is the same it is no good. We do not want a team of professors any more that we need a team of delinquents – we do not want a team of teachers forever discussing any more than we need a team of street fighters forever brawling.
So has Wenger got the mix right? Is the balance there? Do we have too many quiet ones and too few noisy ones. Judging by the Everton result we seemed to lack spirit and determination and a willingness to take the fight to the opposition. We also seem to lack concentration – a tendency to switch off – to become a viewer and not a participant.
These are big questions. Why does industry spend so much time on the need for Diversity? Why do top companies spend millions of pounds on training on this very issue? Football may appear different just because the product is a ball and not a laptop but it isn’t. It is all about teamwork and maximising the quality of the product by re-arranging the inputs and in a soccer team the blend of personality and character is everything. You want the nasty little sod and you want the quiet professor. But taken together – all have to fight for every minute they wear the shirt.
Another associated point. Is it the case that touchline coaching by over-aggressive coaches has marginalised the role of the captain on the pitch? If the coach is always providing the answers why have a captain who has to captain. Now Wenger tends not to prowl the touchline like Klopp and Mourinho but you get my point. The manager was always on the bench.
OK – enough for today. So looking forward to today’s game. We are due a New Year gift – three up at H-T with more to come in the second half. A pig just flew past my window.
A Happy New Year to us all
My name is Graham Perry and I have been a lifelong Arsenal supporter since 1952 when I saw the ten men in red shirts hold out heroically until the 84th minute at Wembley.
The Arsenal thing was confirmed by a meeting with Alex James during Easter 1953. As with most of us it is a family thing with my father always waxing eloquent about the Chapman years.
I am married with four children and five grandchildren. I have been a solicitor in a legal aid practice and have just stepped down after 13 years as an Immigration Judge.
Arsenal is in the blood. The goals and the excitement matter but so does the Community thing and sharing Arsenal with friends and family over so many years.
Want nothing more than to see Wenger hold aloft the Premier League Trophy again.