I recently watched “The Dawn Wall”, a superb documentary about one on the most epic sporting ventures of recent times. A truly inspiring watch.
Although I’m not into free-climbing at all, I found it quite inspirational and started thinking about the two main psychological aspects of this adventure: belief and hardship.
The goal that these two young climbers set for themselves was deemed impossible to reach by their peers and other experts, yet they believed they could pull off their unprecedented stunt.
They believed and they worked hard, they tried numerous times, they faced failures countless times but kept going. That’s because they had the belief and also the strength to embrace hardship, instead of shying away from it.
I feel that our own belief, as a Club, is fading away.
There were times when the manager, the team and the fans seemed to believe that they could take on the world and overcome any obstacle, no matter the team selection, tactics or venue and boy, that was a truly magnificent feeling!
Maybe it was because I was younger, more naive or maybe because football had a larger place in my life, but I was convinced that the team could really pull something unexpected – and special.
The most difficult was the task ahead, the bigger was my belief.
I was always extremely nervous before cup finals or knock-out games where we were favorites but, in contrast, I was excited when the Arsenal was playing against big Clubs, superior opponents.
It was more than a simple “I’ve got nothing to lose” attitude, I truly believed that the team was able to produce something special – even if they rarely did, in fact.
There was this belief in the air and, despite some very hard falls and countless disappointments, I always felt this belief around the team and around the Club. No matter how frustrating the last result was, I was looking forward to the next game because I believed the players would pick themselves up and turn things around.
Today, this feeling has gone. There was a time, at the beginning of Mikel Arteta’s tenure, when this belief was coming back: there were clear signs of improvements, especially in big games, and a couple of great wins in the FA Cup that really made me think “we’re getting back”.
The team selections and tactics were refreshing, often difficult to read for other managers, and the Arsenal became the surprise-package of the bunch so I thought “hey, I like where we are going…” but all of that looks quite distant, today. Everyone in the Club and especially Mikel Arteta seem to have lost some of the edge that lifted us, so the belief has gone.
That kind of belief is going to be key in the next couple of seasons, to avoid wasting some of the good things that Edu and Mikel Arteta could put together: in Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Folarin Balogun, Kieran Tierney and Gabriel (hopefully Emile Smith Rowe too…) we have a nice bunch of very promising players who are about to hit their peak years, all tied down until 2024 or 2025.
It is going to be vital to make them believe that, in a couple of years, they will be challenging for the honours they are aiming for and their talent merits. If they believe it could be possible, they will be willing to work hard for that and take on whatever challenge that will be thrown at them.
If they don’t believe, they will all pack their suitcases and go somewhere else, where they will be allowed to play for the Premier League and the Champions League and we will have wasted a golden opportunity to go back to the top. Could we bear to see another group like Fabregas, Nasri and van Perise, leave to match their ambitions?
Mikel Arteta must make sure that the belief is strong and lead these players to believe that we will be challenging for the top prizes; he must show them that the ambitions are big, even bigger than the actual ability of everyone involved or we will be destined to settle for less.
To work with some of the words of philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who described pain and pleasure as the sovereign masters of human life, we must be ready to suffer in order to fulfill our biggest ambitions and if we’re not willing to do so, we will downscale them until they fit our current state.
That would signal the end of any hope to climb to the top of the domestic and European football pyramid and those players will go. Mikel Arteta must avoid that at any cost, opportunities like this don’t come around very often. Although intermittently, he showed that he could be the right man to help the club forward but it’s time to take action. One good patch of performances and results here and there is not enough, we need to start gathering pace and momentum.
There’s too much at stake in the next 24 months to allow any form of self-indulgence, so if there’s even the smallest doubt that Mikel Arteta is unfit to sell and deliver an ambitious project for and with these players, we should be looking for someone else to do the job. The idea of seeing Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli or Kieran Tierney leaving because we could not meet their ambitions is simply unbearable, as much as looking back and realizing that we wasted one of the most promising crop of young players who emerged from the youth systems in the past 30 years.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.