Nov 092010

Every football fan hates to see his or her team lose. And every football fan is entitled to criticise the manager or the players for whatever they feel led them to that defeat – doing so does not make you any less of a supporter, despite what some will have you believe. We all have frustrations, decisions we cannot fathom, players that we do not rate as highly as others, and for those reasons the life of a fan can be one on the edge.

What is new is the innate cynicism that seems to plague fans these days, at least of certain clubs, of which Arsenal are undoubtedly one. We may mock Spurs fans for their blind optimism (yes, we will finish above you this year) but it seems a huge swathe of Gooners go in completely the opposite direction, taking any opportunity to write off the entire club based on the actions of one day.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we lost at home to Newcastle on Sunday, the second promoted side to come to the Emirates and win this season. Liverpool then beat Chelsea to offer us an olive branch, or compound our frustration, depending on your point of view. But the fact remains that we are five points off the lead with 27 games to go.

But according to many, we are out of the title race. That’s right, we have no chance to overhaul a five point deficit when there are 81 points left at stake. It makes no sense. Doubting our capacity to win the league is a completely different thing, and a lot more understandable – if we keep repeating the WBA and Newcastle performances then we will get no closer to ending our trophy drought, but you cannot write us off at this stage. You couldn’t even if the gap was wider – we closed a far bigger one last season with a greatly depleted team.

It seems to be a modern myth that only perfect teams win the league. We look at champions from the past few years and all we see is flaws in our own team. Perhaps that is a by-product of the Invincibles, perhaps our expectations of a title winning team are too steep and sit forever in that great team’s shadow. But Chelsea are aging and have a comparatively small squad, a fact that may undermine them in the latter half of the season. United have been poor so far, yet somehow remain unbeaten and in contention. And the rest are not likely to be contenders. The league is wide open.

So what do we really have to fear? There are certainly enough vulnerabilities in our rivals to believe we have the chance to capture silverware this season, the only obstacle appears to be our own inconsistencies. And while many will point to the fact that we’re already off the pace as evidence that we will fail, I would happily take a five point deficit at Christmas because it would mean we had navigated the trickiest half of the campaign and remained in contention. Remember that Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Everton and Villa all have to come to the Emirates in the second half of the season in what is a freakish coincidence. That is essentially the league’s top eight excluding Spurs. And they got their once-a-decade victory over us out of the way last time out.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we will win it. What I’m saying is ease up a little – practically every time Chelsea have been tested this season, they’ve been found wanting, while United keep relying on late winners to take three points they scarcely deserve. As for us, we are hugely inconsistent, so all three teams should look at each other and realise that a good run of form could see them seize the initiative. There is no reason for it not to be us, particularly given the players returning from injury.

If we are still in the hunt at Christmas, we have a real opportunity. We could go on to throw that away with more listless performances, or we could repeat the heroics of the 1997/98 team, who were roundly written off following a 3-1 home defeat to Blackburn in December, before embarking on a long unbeaten run that clinched the title.

Either way, it would be an opportunity. What more can we ask for at this stage?

  27 Responses to “Overreaction becoming the norm but don’t write us off”

  1. agree completely-always said if we’re half a dozen points off the top come xmas-we;re in with a shout-but talk about making the task diff..typical arsenal-do it the hard way!that being said=we’re in “black november”where we traditionaly balls things up-newcastle at home being a shining example & we’ve two tough physical matches away coming up-if we don’t man up in these games xmas might be a bridge too far..

    • November isn’t great, and it will only get tougher. But then Chelsea lost to Wigan last year, United to Burnley. If that had been us (it was us with Wigan, in the end), the reaction would be ferocious.

  2. Thank God, finally a sane Arsenal fan.

    I’m pretty sure most of the ardent whingers associated with the club will have killed themselves in a fit of rage after Sunday’s game so hopefully the moaning should be at a minimum

  3. This is a very well written and reasoned article. kutgw

  4. Fans overeact because after five seasons of disappointment. Moreover there have been too many false dawns.Wenger has flattered to deceive.

    • Has he? Or has he just raised expectations that are almost impossible to fulfil given the changes in financial climate and the new stadium restrictions?

      That’s an open question, but I look at so many other clubs that have spent so much more than us, and regularly finish below us, that I’m glad we have what we have.

      Perhaps that makes me overly optimistic, some will say so, but I would rather be that, frankly.

      We have had a dearth of trophies, but the way the media talk you would think five years was a lifetime, whereas in years gone by we went far longer, and slipped further into mid table. That’s what I mean about Wenger – we expect to challenge every year because of him, yet that is a stick he is beaten with.

      • What is all this “5 years of disappointment” bullshit anyway? So what we have been doing other more important stuff. Like making sure we have a future!

  5. i don’t think it is overreacting, fans are frustrating because they see the same problems over and over again and manager that refuses to resolve them.

  6. as it happens our run of lack of trophies is the longest is 25 years, so don’t think fans have been unreasonable. he however has created that problem by ignoring the domestic cups for the past five years and has created this monkey for his own back. thankfully he has finally woken up and seen that the fans are unhappy.

    no ones expects to win the league, you can hope,but what you do expect is complete commitment and that has been sadly lacking in all too many games over the past few years and never seems to get better.

    • I understand your point and frustration – at times it does look like the players lack the requisite effort, specifically in games like Newcastle and West Brom. But I’m not sure if you can blame AW alone for that problem. Isn’t he the same man who turned a group of basically mid-table talent into champions in 1998? And the same man who basically constructed a new, “invincible” team in 2004 known as much for their grit as their skill. There’s no way you can say either of those teams lacked effort or commitment, and they were led by the same man who many are now condemning.

      Do you really think Wenger’s methods have changed that much since that time? Do you think he lost his desire to win since 2004? Has he forgotten what made him, and his teams, succesful? I personally refuse to believe any of those statements.

      For me, the difference lies in the players themselves, and too much importance is tied to the manager. Yes, he is primarily responsible for bringing those players to the club (although he has been limited financially because of the stadium move), and it is his job to get his message across to the players. But can you name another manager who you honestly believe would be as succesful in the transfer market on a similar budget and could tactically and emotionally lead that team? Because I can not.

      It’s too easy, and lazy, to say that Arsenal continue to make the same mistakes. There are so many variables, and when you factor in luck, results are not always reflective of a team’s quality, nor do they always lead to neat and tidy conclusions. For example, Clichy has made two high profile mistakes this season, which have both cost the team goals and points. It would be easy to say, “Clichy hasn’t learned from his mistakes” or that “Wenger doesn’t teach them how to play defense”. However, Evra has made far more mistakes than that this season, but since United have been more able to overcome those mistakes you don’t hear people saying, “Evra will never learn”, etc.

      This has gotten far too long, but my overall point is this. We have a team with one serious flaw – a lack of consistency. Consistency is achieved through experience, something AW has been forced to forgo in his player acquisition philosophy because of financial restraints. There are two ways to correct this problem: 1. Buying experienced players or 2. Allow the young players to build their experience together. We may be approaching a point where option 1 becomes a true option, but until then we will have to live with the growing pains of a young team. Given time, it is a problem we can overcome, and I think a CC trophy would go a long ways towards improving the players’ self belief, but until that time we as a fanbase should realize that we will continue to see inconsistent performances, learn to not make blanket statements and draw conclusions from individual matches, and most importantly, realize that success will taste so much sweeter when it is achieved.

      • wenger changed everything. we went from a team of tall, strong athletic and experienced players playing a 4 4 2 system for years, to a team of slight, very skillful inexperienced kids playing 4 5 1. he is responsible for it all. he runs every aspect of that club and takes the plaudits when they do well and should take the criticism when they don’t.

        • I have to say agree with that – managers are ultimately responsible and if the players aren’t going to show the mental strength to overcome mistakes, it is the manager’s responsibility to replace them.

          Of course that isn’t easy in our case, we can’t do what Chelsea and City have already done – buy tons of players, let half of them go the following year when it doesn’t work out, but we are missing in certain areas.

          One thing I don’t think has been lost in Wenger’s desire to win – if you think it bugs fans that we haven’t won anything in a while, it is nothing compared to what he feels about it.

        • I’m pretty certain that he didn’t buy them because they are ‘slight’ build. He buys the best that is available for the money available. We could have a squad of tall championship players but instead we have a team of predominantly (but not totally) slight champions league players….
          If you know any tall, strong, athletic, experienced and skillful players that are actually available and at a sensible price, then I’m sure he’d be interested.

  7. i think JET should start to be used more against smaller teams i know he’s not the answer to all our problems but he definately offers something different. a bit off point here but did antone notice joey barton emerging from the tunnel with his arm round nasri in a ‘little brother’ sort of grip. i’ve no doubt that it was all friendly words but i think subliminally he was letting him know ‘yeah you got one up on me last time and i aint forgot about it’ it was intimidation and we need players like viera, bergkamp, henry, keown who would have reversed the mind game and let joey know that he’s small time compared to us.

    • Not sure JET’s the answer just yet – questions over his attitude seem to be the main problem. His talent is unquestionable, but given his need to apply himself properly the likes the Bendtner should remain ahead of him.

  8. jet, not going to happen, we have lots of forwards and he isn’t going to drop any of them for JET

  9. The chavs may be aging but they don’t lose at home to the likes of westbrom and newcastle,united have got a weak team by there standards and they still have not lost yet this season,you can never ever expect to win the league when you lose at home to the likes of westbrom and newcastle,

  10. Dan has summed it up perfectly.
    We want a team of fighters who always give their all.
    It has been a while since we last won a thing, we have been patient but is is disheartening to see our team make the same mistakes over and over and over again, and worst of all, not giving 100% to earn the honour of donning the Arsenal shirt and justify their pharaonic wages.
    It’s the lack of fighting spirit and winning mentality that hurts the fans the most.
    Now, that said, I agree that many people overreact, but that’s not just an Arsenal thing, nor is it even a football thing, it us today’s society, the age of real time information and instant gratification that makes some of us react that way. This is humanity in 2010.

  11. I think everyone is tired of the lessons that arent being learnt. The goalkeeping issue is one that still crops up. That goal should have been dealt with, Chamakh shouldnt have been marking Carrol. Clichy should not be making silly mistakes anymore. Players should be having pops at goal more often and stop trying to walk the ball in the net.

    The positive note is that we actually look defensively quite stable but when our offensive play doesnt come off it puts the defence under pressure.

    Its frustrating as it was like watching that Hull game from 2 years ago all over again. I hoped we would have learnt from those games and would know how to beat these teams as we proved last year but still we are the nearly men.

  12. i will not be heart broken if we dont win the title.we dont work hard enough to earn it.I will only accept 3 more defeats and no more,ie,chelski,man U home and away.that’s it and no more non-sense.A top 3 finish will be ok. Cesc said,”we dont study how other teams play,instead we only concerntrate on our own game”.This means we are not bothered by taking advantage of other teams’ weaknesses.This also allows other teams to target our weak links with success.I just hope we win something,even the carling cup or FA cup.the champions league will be a big ask for our boys.

  13. mates i feel arsene is way 2 stubborn 2 win the league,with vemelen out we need a good replacement fast n we also need a good goal keeper and one experiencd midfielder the thing with having a bunch of young players is they are not always at there best and crack underpressure

  14. Arsenal, in all their history, have NEVER been a consistent team. Games have been lost when plucked from victory and games won against all odds.
    Since the late 1930’s, whenever the team has been English champions, they have NEVER retained the title.
    These limitations must be accepted by fans who should realise that the team’s peaks will invariably be followed by troughs. We can enjoy success but temper it with care.Supporting Arsenal has never been for the faint-hearted.

  15. Any great teams can lose at anytime. Watch Chelsea or ManU every time they lose a match. They fight hard and give the opponents a difficult time. Now, watch the way Arsenal lose a match. See the difference. That’s why we never win anything. The players may be technically good, but mentally they’re not and never will be winners.

    • That last sentence is the sort of thing that bugs me, and exactly what I’m talking about: ‘never will be winners’. That’s a ludicrously over the top statement – players grow up, get better, mature.

      It seems too often we see a poor performance and write their entire future off. Do the lessons not get learnt? How many wrote off Song?

  16. Re Dan,
    Unbeaten for one season in over 70 years……..Boy! that’s real consistency, that is!!!!

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