I have often questioned the mentality of our squad in recent years. by Dan Smith
The pressure of a top 4 race was too much for the majority of our dressing room to handle last season when we simply didn’t show up at Spurs or Newcastle.
Arteta has tried to improve our mental strength by bringing in proven winners from Man City.
One of our few leaders for a long time has been Granit Xhaka, often not credited due to how he lost his role as permanent captain.
In many ways though, the way he has defended why he threw down the armband, his refusal to be pressured into an apology and his belief in his own convictions, forcing the fanbase to look at themselves, all show his strength of character.
The midfielder’s reputation was enhanced by the All Or Nothing Series, the documentary showing how he was one of the few vocal members of the dressing room.
The 30-year-old is again leading by example, immediately joining Arsenal’s tour of Dubai, choosing not to ask for any rest after the World Cup.
Clearly rest is an option, as it’s one Tomiyasu said he was taking after Japan were knocked out. That’s despite our defender starting just one of the possible 4 fixtures compared to Xhaka who started all of Switzerland’s fixtures in Qatar.
Xhaka has also played the majority of our games this campaign unlike Tomiyasu.
Given how he’s always played for us, Tomiyasu was one of the last Gunner’s attitudes I would ever question.
It’s a worrying sign of his mindset that the 24 didn’t feel the need to return to the Gunners immediately.
Of course, I’m not trivialising how adversity representing your country can impact your mental health.
Losing on penalties will haunt you more than Xhaka’s experience of a 6-1 drubbing. Ones easier to process then the other.
We will never know if it was just emotion talking and the full back saw sense the next morning or if his employers insisted, he got on a plane immediately and joined in with our mini winter pre-season.
At the very least, he can then have a face-to-face chat with his manager who can access his mental health.
I don’t want to hear players asking for rest though.
As a Gooner I want to know they are excited to put on the shirt and want to play because they don’t want their 5-point lead at the top of the table sacrificed by too many of the squad resting.
I blame the likes of Jürgen Klopp for this who has constantly told English Football how hectic the schedule is, even before the World Cup was played in November.
He’s such a high-profile voice that he’s impressionable on young fans and even players.
There is a generation of supporters now who think it’s a good thing if their team go out of the domestic cups, because it gives them a couple of weeks off in the calendar.
If people are making excuses for you constantly, do you start to believe it in your own head?
This whole ‘rest’ depending on what stage you come back from Qatar is a myth.
It’s not like any other year you wouldn’t be playing; you simply are spending December playing every few days for your country instead of your club.
I say play.
Martinelli’s played once in the last two weeks and Saliba hasn’t played a second for France nor has Ramsdale for England.
I would be disgusted if those names are not at the very least on the bench for Boxing Day.
Even if Saka played in the Final, unless there was adversity like a penalty miss (and the repeat of the racist abuse he got post Euros) I would want him available for West Ham.
I would be worried if that’s not what he wanted.
Being English, I might forgive him if the reason is he spent the week partying having lifted the trophy.
In all seriousness, Mikel Arteta speaks about principles and not accepting anyone who doesn’t follow his ethos.
I think he would be disappointed if anyone asked for a rest.
Let’s get back to work, give ourselves the best chance of three points at home to the Hammers, and send Man City to Leeds 2 days later 8 points behind us!!!!
A Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Seaman, Keown, Viera, Henry …. these were men who wouldn’t need a rest after international duty. Especially when their next competitive fixture is over two weeks away.
They knew the expectation of that shirt and that their peers would not have tolerated such an outlook.
Well done Xhaka for leading by example.
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