CAN WE STOP LYING TO OURSELVES? AT LEAST FOR ONCE? by Usmanov
There is a little caveat to this piece: It is that I do not in any way claim that I know exactly what is the entire cause of Arsenal’s problem(s). Neither am I privy to the inner workings of the club. I am only an observer from the outside.
When Arsene Wenger closed business in the summer transfer window with only Petr Cech as his addition to the team, he sent out a clear message to the world: Arsenal football club is fully prepared and ready to perform to expectations this season. And It was obvious that we were self-aware of being one of the biggest favorites to win the EPL title this term. However, Fast forward to about 6 months later, and we would have been far out of the title race, had it not been for the fact that the other big clubs have been very inconsistent themselves. Whether this season is turning out to be a major failure, we will only know come season ending in May. But it is a statement of fact the team is terribly under-performing at the moment. And this is symptomatic of a big problem at the club.
However little an observer from the outside is able to know, he still can discern when the club is having persistent problems -when there are recurring issues with the level at which they should be playing and competing. It is called the “eye test” –what and how you see the team playing on the pitch on match day. Sometimes also, you get comments from insiders (i.e players and officials) explaining what they know to be the problem.
CASE IN POINT
Arsenal has been under-performing for the past couple of months leading up to the woeful performance at Old Trafford. Amidst the inevitable global outrage that followed, I can remember some people who kept on repeating the mantra that it was only just “a game we lost to Manchester United”.
“It’s not like the season is over”, they said. And yes that is correct. Even the reaction that followed may have been unnecessary. However, what this class of “optimist” failed to see was that; it wasn’t so much about the loss as it was the manner in which we lost the game and the context in which that game was played.
From the Manchester United game, it was easy to see what the problem –or at least a part of it- is: Shortage of self-belief and fighting mentality.
And as if to further confirm this, after the subsequent immediate loss to Swansea at home, we heard Alexis Sanchez -an insider at the club- come out to explain to us what he knows the problem to be: Shortage of self-belief and fighting mentality.
It’s all good for us to try as much as possible to remain “positive” about the whole situation; to think that the problem isn’t such a big problem and that we shouldn’t over-exaggerate and worry too much after all. But I’ll tell you what – we will be burying our heads in the sand if we think like that. Why? Because the problem is real, and it is a huge monstrous lingering problem!
Players have come and gone. We’ve even made upgrades in the last three seasons. But this same problem has remained a characteristic of our teams for about 10 years now. The two FA cups we won recently gave some of us hope that this problem is gone for good. But almost unsurprisingly, the same problem has resurfaced in a familiar way.
It is a popular idea that the best approach to solving a problem is to admit first that the problem exists as a real problem, and identifying the root-cause of the problem itself. So rather than making excuses for under-performing, rationalizing or glossing over the issue and wearing rose-tinted glasses, I suggest we accept the fact that there is a problem and we need to completely solve it as quickly as possible. Once and for all!
But then, how is the club going to solve this problem? I do not know.