Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Arsenal's Mental Failure Has To Be Addressed This Summer.

It's come to that time of the season when Arsenal fans have been left feeling let down by their team yet again. In the previous few seasons Arsenal's late collapse has been put down to inexperience, or a severe injury crisis, but surely this season that cannot be the case. This season it would seem that Arsenal fell away in the Premier League because they simply didn't have the tactical nous, or the bottle needed when it mattered most.

Last season promised so much for Arsenal, but after their Champions League exit to Barcelona, their injury crisis was so bad that I put off my judgement on the team for another season. Even with all of their injury problems, the manner of their 3-2 defeat away to Wigan last season was a very bitter pill to swallow, and it showed up a weakness in Arsenal's defending which has become even more apparent since then. How does a team challenging for the league title lose 3-2 to a relegation threatened team, having led 2-0 with only 10 minutes left. It would seem that question was not addressed last summer, and it has come back to haunt Arsenal again this season.

Arsenal created a record in the Premier League this season, when they drew 4-4 away to Newcastle, having led 4-0 at half time. It was the best comeback by any team since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, and that also means Arsenal threw away the biggest advantage that has been thrown away as well. There were other games where Arsenal lost leads which the other title contenders would not have lost, and it's an issue which must be addressed this summer if the Arsenal fans are going to see some silverware next season.

It would seem the Arsenal players have found it very hard to cope with their last minute defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final. That match was two months ago, and exactly how it can still be affecting the minds of professional sportsmen is something I find it difficult to understand. Everybody has disappointments in their professional and personal lives, and it's how you deal with those disappointments that defines your strength. 

Is it possible that the Arsenal players are so molly-coddled by the management that they find it impossible to deal with the harsh realities of life, and the defeat to Birmingham was impossible for them to recover from. If that is the case then something fundamental has to change in the mental approach of the management and the players, as I find it personally insulting to think that the players were unable to recover from that defeat. They live in a world which is completely cut off from the harsh realities of life, and the current worldwide recession.

I wonder how many of the current Arsenal squad have had to take harsh pay cuts to keep their jobs, as their employer uses the current state of affairs to screw every last penny possible out of them.I can personally guarantee that none of them have suffered such a fate, but there are Arsenal fans all over the world who have. There are Arsenal fans all over the world who are saving their pennies to try to afford a pilgrimage to the Emirates to see their beloved team, and get a chance to watch their heroes perform live in action. There are Arsenal fans who are spending literally thousands of pounds of their hard earned money to renew season tickets, and travel to and from the Emirates up to 30 times a season.

Arsenal have an absolutely fantastic away support, which can be heard loudly and clearly on the TV each and every time they play away from home. Those supporters also spend large amounts of money which I'm sure they have to make sacrifices to come up with, but it doesn't stop them giving the team the kind of support which gives goosebumps to the fans listening at home. The Arsenal players will approach them after the game, applaud them, and maybe even throw their shirts to them too, and in my opinion it's no more than they deserve. However, they also deserve performances from the team which show how much that support means to them, and what it means to play for Arsenal.

As the current season draws to yet another disappointing conclusion, it's absolutely sickening to see Man Utd sitting pretty on top of the Premier League, and as good as through to the Champions League final. Arsenal are a better team than them in my opinion, but United's mental strength is something which Arsenal just cannot match, and it has cost Arsenal dearly. There are players in the United team who are very average in my opinion, but they know what they have to do when they play, and they are prepared to die for the cause if necessary. 

When Arsenal bring in players that are not quite part of the strongest team it seems to affect the performance, as the overall display slips. These players should be waiting for their chance to get in the team, and to put on a display that will make it hard for the boss to leave them out in future. They should be prepared to put themselves about on the pitch, and die for the cause, if it will bring the result that the team needs. All too often Arsenal players can be seen strolling back when the opposition attack, rather than busting a gut to help their team. The players who are not prepared to do everything to take their chance should be disposed of, and replaced with players who will do what is required.

The season is not quite over yet, as Arsenal still have four Premier League games to play, but I have a feeling the judgement on their inability to win a trophy this season will be a lot harsher than it was last season. The excuses are not there this season, and the blame has to be placed at the feet of the management and the players. Their inability to raise themselves when it really mattered has cost Arsenal the chance to win a trophy for the first time in six years, and something has to change or it's hard to see next season being any different.

I have suffered through much longer spells without trophies in the past, but those teams were not a patch on the current Arsenal team. The most frustrating thing as an Arsenal fan at the moment is that it's obvious Arsenal have the talent required to win trophies, but they just can't do it. The players need to be told this summer what is expected of them to take the team to a level which can see their talents exploited to the full, and the boss has to make sure the players he has are capable of doing that job, or he has to find players who will do that job.

He has put together winning teams in the past, and he has to know the mental attitude which is required. If he can do that I feel Arsenal can bring things to the next level, but at the moment the current team is teetering on the edge of being an abject failure, and that's something I would hate to see happen. I still have faith in Arsene Wenger, but I feel he has shown too much faith in certain players who have not repaid him, and he has to be ruthless with the players who are not prepared to do all that is required of him.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at how an Arsenal team with real mental strength performed.

See You Tomorrow.

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