Fulham “Preview” and Mounting Disappointment
We are facing Fulham today in our final season game for 2010/2011. Many will see us as being up against ourselves more than the opposition and, really when you think about it, that’s a hard position to argue against. All season long we’ve shown so much promise, talent and ability only to have thrown it all away, along with the decent chances we’ve had to win the Carling and FA Cups. There’s something not quite right about this side that hasn’t been the fault of any one player. Sameer, a thoughtful gooner from the Twittersphere, has posted recently about this mysterious element that negatively impacts our game:
Ah yes. Mental strength. Arsene and Arsenal’s fabled “mental strength”. How sad it is that one of our supposed qualities touted most by the manager has completely evaporated since that fateful February day at Wembley. The problem with mental strength is that it is intangible and cannot be quantified. However, we can use some stats to illustrate where it is clearly missing – since we last won a trophy, we’ve lost 40 leads that we’ve held in matches. For me, this depicts a lack of mental strength. While I don’t have the comparative figures for Man Utd and Chelsea at hand, I can bet my bottom dollar that it is nowhere near that number. This season alone we’ve suffered the horror of losing two separate two-goal leads against our deadliest rivals, the notoriety of being the first Premier League side in history to let slip a four-goal lead, and being the only team in living memory to score a 97th minute “winner” yet somehow contrive to not win the game .
We’ve not done well when the pressure is on. Even though we are out of the title race and are fighting for fourth and an automatic qualification for the Champions League, I would say the pressure is still on some of these players. They know the fans are upset, let down, or just plain angry and maybe they’re so afraid of failure now that they’re too uptight, unable to play with focus. Some players know the sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads and are already destined to leave the club during the transfer season. Denilson, it has been said, wants to go and Arsène is happy enough to let it happen, showing that Arsène can make a decent transfer decision after all. The Brazilian is a player who I feel has contributed to this lack of mental strength in the side. His attitude hasn’t been there for much of this season, knowing he’s wanted to leave, and that can rub off on other players and influence how they play. Arshavin, while still scoring 10 goals and a creating many more, hasn’t been as good as he can be and it’s his attitude and effort that supporters have been criticizing most. Just look at this video of the man when we was new to the club and tell me where has this Arshavin gone:
I don’t want to go too far into individual player problems in this post (there’ll be plenty of time for that over the course of the summer), but it is important to note that if everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, in the side are not firing on all cylinders than we haven’t much hope of doing any better in the future than we have the last couple of years. Even our brilliant players can’t do it all themselves. I mean with any other sensible team with a goalscorer in form like van Persie there’d be no question that they’d be top of the league. As I see it right now, the current side, with the exception of Wilshere, Song, Nasri, Cesc, and Sagna, isn’t good enough for Robin’s caliber of play. If we had players effective at crosses or taking corners then he’d probably have scored even more this season than he has already and the same applies to our other goal scorers.
So, a preview post about Fulham that has hardly mentioned Fulham at all. I don’t hate them as a team, in fact I rather like them, but to be honest, there’s not a lot of interest for me in whatever they bring to the pitch today; it’s more about what we bring. Supporters have been yanked around quite a bit this season whether it be crushing disappointment or increases in ticket prices (“six percent, you’re having a laugh”) and it’s in the hands of the players, the manager, and higher-ups at the club whether they take this disillusionment seriously. It has to start first with the players today, the have to show they can get their act together for 90+ minutes and put aside all the mental funk they’ve been carrying around this season. It must be hard for a player like Wilshere, so full of hope and love for the club, to see some of these other players putting in a fraction of the effort and concentration he does. Jack is a treasure, we want to keep him around for a long time so the best thing we can do is encourage a positive environment in which he and other players like him can train and work.
I’m expecting nothing less than the best from Arsenal today. Anything less will be disastrous for us and the club.