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Being paranoid helps when supporting the Arsenal

By Walter Broeckx

Maybe some will call me paranoid.  That could well be the case, but this year’s fixture list is a bit strange to say the least.

To play your major rivals for the first four places in four consecutive matches is something we never have witnessed before.  In fact I doubt that it has ever happened before in the PL that a team gets so many tough games in so little time.

But one could say: Okay those things can happen and maybe the PL didn’t pay any attention to it when they made the fixture list.   That could well be the case but then there is another strange thing that I would like to bring to your attention.

Two seasons ago, remember Hleb and Flamini still playing with us, we had a great run until this time of the year. We then got vital players injured for long spells like Van Persie, Rosicky and the terrible injury with Eduardo. Those were not only physical blows but also mentally we cracked and the way we lost Eduardo could have cost us the title that year.

It was hard for those young players to witness such horror scenes and it could have slipped in to players mind and that you get a little bit more cautious when you step on the field. But it was in this period of the year we lost it and got hit hard.

Last year we didn’t have a good start and had some disappointing defeats early on. We then lost Cesc in December but the boys did their best to cover him and we went on an 19 games run without defeat.

But in that run we had, and again in this time of the year and the season, a rather difficult spell. We found it hard to score goals, and we played too many games that ended 0-0. I particularly remember the last weekend in January when we drew 0-0 with West Ham when I was sitting in the Emirates in the freezing cold.

So it was clear for all to see that for the last two seasons from halfway through January until the end of February it was the most difficult time of the season for The Arsenal.

So lets just presume that is was a coincidence that the fixture list gave us the last four games in a row. (You see I’m not that paranoid after all).

But what is the chance of those 4 games just falling in the period that every football follower knows is our most difficult time of the season and this for years now?

I really wonder how the thinking was in the committee that makes the fixture list. Was it : “They always struggle in that period, lets give them games against their rivals and they will fall again?”  Or was it : “They will be out of the top 4 according to all the pundits, so lets give a helping hand and give them a difficult list of fixtures in the time of the season when they struggle the most in recent years.”

I’m not a great mathematician but I really wonder what the odds are to come up with a sequence of fixtures that we had right now in this time of the year.

And yes it proved to be difficult. We got 4 points out of possible 12 in the last 4 games and like Wenger said: “You can not believe how difficult it was for us mentally to get over the two defeats”. I think everyone who knows football knows how difficult it is and how important confidence is for a team. For a young team like ours it is even more difficult to overcome defeats like that. Our game is build upon players who play with confidence in their skills and self belief.   And losing games in a row is not good for the confidence.

But those four games are behind us now. We face a six point gap and I’m sure yesterday’s win against Liverpool has done the lads a lot of good. The way all the players fought hard was heart warming to see in a rather cold looking London.  (Too right it was cold Walter, my car was covered in ice when I got back to it after the game – Tony)

Remember Arshavin battling, with great determination, around his own penalty area in the first half helping out defence when required? Remember Song keeping Gerrard quiet for most of the game apart from taking free kicks but other wise he bossed him? Remember Diaby running around with big strides helping out where ever it was necessary be it in defence or in attack?

Remember the best defensive tackle made this season from Gallas when he blocked Ngog’s attempt in the second half? Remember the front man chasing the Liverpool defenders during most of the game? They all did what they could to secure the win.

And maybe there should be a special word about our captain. I think he suffered the most from the two defeats. Some bad decisions by his team mates had angered him in those games and yesterday he still looked unsettled when the game started.

He made some bad passes unusual for his standard but what he did was fight, fight and lead the team by example. I think there wasn’t a square meter on the pitch where he didn’t set a foot to lead the attack or to help the defence.

When we were 1-0 up he even did things that we hardly ever saw before from him. Every free kick Webb awarded to Liverpool was followed with Cesc making some kind of trouble to delay a possible quick restart of the game. Asking the ball to placed on the right spot, doing a bit of arguing with the opponents and the ref. It even got him a yellow card at the end.

But it showed his commitment in a game when he didn’t play at his best but he did what he could to help his team to a vital win.

What looked an impossible big gab on Tuesday has become a “well you never know-gap” after yesterday’s game.   It does look possible with the games we have to play and which we can win if we are at our best we now have the easier run in on paper. The other top teams have to play each other and will drop points in those games.

Remember August? What were they saying then? Arsenal out of the top 4 for sure. Arsenal maybe not even qualifying for the Europa League. Arsène Wenger had the faith, the players had the faith and we over here on the Untold had the faith. Well this Gooner still has the faith and is enjoying the ride so far.  Not every single game but the season in the whole, yes enjoying the lads proving the critics wrong.

12 games to go. 36 possible points to win. Still a long way to go. Anything can happen as yesterday’s results have shown. Come on Gunners give it your best shot. Let’s just concentrate on our own games and just try to win them and then we will see what happens come May. It isn’t over till its over.

————————————————-

THE IN’S THE OUT’S THE SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT’S

(and other whatnot from the edges of reality)

  • Arsenal 100 years ago – read the rather amusing and quite adventurous MAKING THE ARSENAL novel  click here
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40 comments to Being paranoid helps when supporting the Arsenal

  • IndianGooner

    Couldnt have put it any better, Walter.

    I too feel the Eduardo injury took a lot out of the team. They took 8-10months to recover from that when Eduardo started to walk again. It would have taken huge amount of talk from Wenger and Dudu’s smiling face to get the belief back in the team. That belief got stronger and stronger during the unbeaten run which if I remember correctly is 21 games. The belief has grown a lot since den and even the defeats to ManU & Chelski havent dented it.

    But this year, something has changed and it was more evident yesterday. The team were working their socks off and when the goal arrived, the celebration showed how much it meant. This team wants to prove Arsene right and also for the stick Arsene has taken over the past couple of seasons. Long may it continue..

    I’d told my cousin few months back that this season is going to be one hell of a ride. It has proved right till now. And I’m looking forward to the final third of the season.

  • tim

    Walter, I can always count on you for your optimism and perspective. Thank you.

  • CS1

    just want to say great blog, i love reading this blog mainly because it is not negative like the other Arsenal blogs. Keep it up.

  • LRV

    Yes Walter, It has been one hell of an enjoyable ride. Bumpy in places, yes, but very enjoyable and intriguing nonetheless.

    “Untold” is to Arsenal, what Arsenal is to “Untold”! Kudos.

  • heffy

    great read. noticed the cesc, or un-cesc behaviour too. i thought it was about time arsenal learnt to do these things. henry and pires always had little innovative tricks up their sleeve that i enjoyed, like when they started to roll the ball into corners and stay there and just pass it to each other. i remember the commentator being a little confounded at why they just hung around the corner…hahaha…until he realised they were time-wasting LEGALLY! hahah. loved it. oh n that botched “passing” penalty!

    btw, the chances of the top 4 challengers to arsenal should be the same as any order of any team, assuming there’s no bias in the fixtures program. the chances are still slimmer than giselle bundchen’s body anyway. it’s 6.25 * 10^(-6). or 0.00000625

  • Zack

    You know what? I had the exact same idea floating in my head too… It’s definitely a fix-up. But I didn’t notice the part about Arsenal doing badly during this time of the season though, so great point noticed there Walter. In fact, I even tried calculating the odds of playing Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool in a row in any given season.

    P (Man U) x P(Chelsea) x P (Liverpool) = 1/19 * 1/19 * 1/19 = 1/6859

    Since this could occur in any order, (i.e. Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea/ Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool/ Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U/ Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool/ Liverpool, Chelsea, Man U/ Liverpool, Man U, Chelsea)

    The chances of Arsenal playing the other 3 “Big Four” in a given season would be an astronomical 6/6859 chance…

    Oh, did I forget Aston Villa who gave us so much problems last season….?

  • Excellent article Walter. You are closing in on Tony it seems! We must keep faith, & keep collecting points. Who knows, God may after all, be a Gooner!

  • JohnW

    Actually, if we can now treat each match as a final, then we have a chance. I like the way Arsene talked of concentrating on the next game, that can give us a huge momentum if we can click. With the Arsenal out of the FA cup, it means that when weekend games start, we will be a little bit fresher than would have been. In fact, the coach can now afford to rotate. I only wish we go as far as the Semi (or even the final) in the CL

  • Zack

    Oh my bad, I got an error in the calculations. It shouldn’t be 1/19 x 1/19 x 1/19, because you can’t draw the same team again. It should be:

    (1/19 x 1/18 x 1/17) x 6 = 6/5814

    In other words, a whopping 0.10319919440660474….% chance. Gotta love that fixture computer.

  • I think there is a real benefit in not having a game this weekend. Maybe Eduardo and Arshavin will then be fit for the next match.

    Tony

  • Arselicked

    @ Zack

    … and (in hindsight) just after that; a very important ECL game night.

    Comment of the day by The Lord AW:

    on accusations that Gerrard dived to win a penalty…

    I leave that controversial side to you [the reporters]. I am sure you can make something out of it but do it without me.

  • Toby

    Great article as usual Walts!

    Good maths here everyone, but sadly, it’s not the whole truth. Read this article before the season started and managed to dig it up again.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulfletcher/2009/06/secrets_of_the_fixture_compute.html

    It’s a lengthy process taking everything from public transportations, security issues and games played in different leagues into consideration, and of course the usual suspects of cup games and things.

    Good read, recommend it!

  • walter

    Vrey intresting link Toby.

    And remember after all the computer only puts out what people have put in it before.

  • Zack

    There we go. It’s definitely not by chance then. In that link by Toby:

    “At this stage only Thompson sees the list, as he adjusts and tweaks it until he comes up with a calendar that he is happy to take to the Premier League and the Football League.”

    Randomly generated until one man is happy with it?

  • ryan

    but you should multiply those odds by 4 because there are 4 teams who can be tasked with playing the other 3 big 4 so to speak. as in for chelsea it would be arsenal, utd, liverpool etc.

    that still leaves roughly 0.5% so very roughly 1/200 odds of any top 4 team drawing that.personally i’m not so sure,i mean you could just as well argue that by getting the toughest games (defeats and draws) out the way during the toughest period we are left with easier games when we reach better form and the league is won vs the weaker teams not the top 4. last year utd finished bottom in the top 4 leaguew and i think we finished second or something. also people win the lottery and that’s a hugely smaller chance again so it’s certainly not too big a deal in my opnion. when it comes down to it you play all the other teams twice, so what order they come in is *roughly* irrelevant. sure after a hard game or a defeat confidence could be lower for the next hard game, but similarly if we had beaten villa and utd i bet we’d have gone to chelsea and at least got a draw, so it can work both ways. i’d be much more inclined to call a conspiracy if we got these strange fixture lists with regularity, but like i said, i actually think the easier run in is preferable in my opinion. if we get through in the cl we will progress to the later stages without fearing too many nightmare league trips along the way which can only be a good thing i guess.

  • critic

    tony………ur blog is publishing too many articles…please slow down…..it’s like arsenal playing 8 days a week….and u know what happens if any club play football consecutively without break….quality goes down……

  • critic

    r u fan of dragonball z???”it is not over until it’s over”….hats off to ur and wenger and team’s faith……

  • RVP

    Great blog and article Walter, keep up the good work.
    In Arsene we trust!

  • Mark

    The chances of getting Bolton / Stoke / AV / Chelsea / MU / Liverpool

    i.e two premiere butcher teams followed by the top 4 is 1 in 2 million.

    I can’t remember the circumstances behind the reorganized Bolton fixture, but if that comes into play,

    then it is a 1 in 26 million sequence.

  • walter

    Critic, I don’t have any clue what “dragonball” Z is ?

  • Phil Gregory

    I have to be honest, knowing the complexity involved in calculating the fixture list, I very much doubt this is the case. We should also consider the positives:

    We have easier fixtures now, when the number of games start to bite on the top four, and so we can perhaps get away with more rotation.

    easier fixtures also means less risk if we rest players prior to tricky Champions League ties, so arguably the fixture list will aid us in our CL campaign too!

  • tony

    heffy u just gave me memories u know. henry, pires on the left corner teasing the opponent. remember pires diving against pompey to keep the unbeaten run going? i love bobby and not in a gay way. how he made goal scoring look easy and the strange way he run. almost afraid to get stuck in. he once sed the penalty box was like a boxing ring in england. good stuff. i just hope that in time i’d have fond memories of fab and his troops the way i do pires henry viera DB10 and all the wonderful players we had then. i was especially sad when he wasnt given the 2yr contract because he was over 30. hope gallas isnt treated the same way. rules are rules but a bit of common sense always comes in handy.

  • Arsne's nose best?

    I think the era of contract policies is coming to an end as evidenced by the resigning of Sol. Gallas deserves a 2yr deal so that the defender we SHOULD get next season will ease into a partnership wit TV5.
    As for the fixture list, it’s now to our advantage. Top of the table by end of march (wanna bet?!) UP.THE.ARSE!! In a heterosexual way;)

  • Phil Gregory

    regarding Gallas, I’m sure Wenger has said recently that he will bend his rule according to position of the player. A 30+ forward is more like to slide dramatically than a 30+ centreback, for example.

  • don't believe the hype

    Unless something has changed Arsene was talking about breaking the 30+ rule to keep Gallas.

  • Hamad

    Walter, I enjoyed reading this article. Your optimism is contagious, which I must admit :).

  • MOMONEY

    Chelsea have no hard fixtures during the AFCON but then we have this streak. I dont think we did terribly though. We are still in it

  • 0.9 Calibre

    Great read Walter.. yeah it IS a fix up and everyone but us hate The Arsenal, but I guess fix up or no fix up it would be unfair to quote this as an excuse as they say nothings fair in love,football and war! But an interesting read nevertheless.. it was great to see a coupla gunners calculating the odds.. @ Zack: Mate you havent included the factor of playing the top 3 at this time of the year.. Should you include that as well then you’d be amazed as to how small the probability could be.. but am too lazy to calculate that so i’ll leave it to you… @ Walter: Dragonball Z is a Japanese anime series with lotta cheesy dialogues.. Yeah its not over until its over lol :)!

  • tim

    Gentlemen, before we get too carried away w/ the conspiracy theories (which I believe many to be true), Everton has had a similar fixture list from hell: Liverpool, Chelsea, Man U, Totts on the trot.
    This is why I have become a short-term Everton fan!

    (Although I wouldn’t put it past the FA cronies to try to screw over BOTH Everton and Arsenal).

    If it smells like sh&t and looks like sh*t…

  • Aussie Jack

    No doubt about it there`s a conspiriacy ,they`re out to get us ,all those fixture goons not to mention the referees with their twisted and warped minds. There`s got to be saboteur`s in our midst how else can you explain the team bus having flat tyres every time we go to West Ham, Chelsea or Fulham. Then there`s the `spuds` but they`re known terrorist`s so we`re not surprised and I`m not paranoid, `twitch` – `twitch` , `nod – nod`, `cough`- `cough`!

  • walter

    Tim, On Everton I can agree when you name Liverpool, Chelsea and MU on the trot is as difficult for them as for us. But to include the Totts in that list…. this I really can not agree on. 😉

  • Ham

    San Siro, Goodson …….. Interesting to sit back and watch.

  • Goonergerry

    Great blog Walter.
    Just the way the cookies crumble or is it? This is a punishing year- Man U are heavily reliant on one man, Chelsea may not be as great as they looked against us- so we cannot be totally discounted as this stage. Neither can Man City.
    Much depends on injuries. Just take every game and play as a team as we did against Liverpool- against a good Liverpool team.

  • tim

    Walter — Haha. Very true. I wonder how ‘Arry’s day in court went…

  • walter

    Arry could do a “Manuel” : I am from Barcelona I know nothing…

  • tim

    ‘Arry is either one of the dumbest and luckiest men on Earth or one of the trickiest and most corrupt. Either way, I hate his guts and hope he gets jail time (I know Portsmouth fans certainly do!).

  • Tone

    I love you Arsenal I do, I love you arsenal I do, I love you Arsenal I do, Oh Arsenal I love you.

  • Sean

    In answer to the original question:
    It’s a good job you are then!

  • brilliant as always. yeah, I was a bit paranoid myself, when I saw the fixture list..but now, I’m quite happy. surely chelski and united will drop some points later, It’s still pretty much opened.
    you might like my Gunners: Believe video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL_FnzXM6uY

  • Rhys Jaggar

    There’s an interesting take in this article about what ‘breaks’ a team in a particular season. I think if you look at 2007/8 season, there were three things at once at Birmingham: Sagna’s brother dying in the week before, Eduardo breaking his leg, then losing the lead in the last minute. Then the Press lambasted Gallas. He didn’t kill anyone, but he need to blow emotionally. So he did.

    He wasn’t able to contextualise the result on the day: sure it was a pain in the ass, but the Arsenal were still 6pts clear at the top. He wasn’t able to hold it in until they got to the dressing room, or until he got home. So the world knew how he felt and his fellow players maybe didn’t agree with it. And gradually the plot was lost…….

    Maybe from that, we saw that Arsenal didn’t truly, truly think deep inside that they were going to do it? Lessons there, but no crimes.

    This season, to date, there were three sets of big defeats: September, the autumn and January. From the first two, good responses. If the response this time is the same, then the team can kick on to the end of the season.

    I said in 2002 that ‘if the lessons of 1999 were learned, that at this stage of the season, no mistakes are allowed, then they could win the league’. I said Arsene wouldn’t get a better chance to show that he wasn’t a fast starter who faded in each job and that’s exactly what he did. And I signed off my metaphorical team talk by telling the team to ‘Right: go and get on with it’. Through 606 of course! They went off and won 13 in a row. Nothing to do with me, naturally…..just a coincidence…..

    What I say now is this: if the lessons of 2008 were learned, namely that to win the league, you must accept what is thrown at you without submitting, without despairing and without thinking ‘it’s not fair’ is an excuse, although you can use it as a spur to greater performance, then they can still do it. It’s not entirely in their hands, but it is in their hands to aim to win 12 games by focussing solely on winning the next one. Oh it won’t be easy: Spurs at the Lane won’t roll aside for sure. City at the Emirates might be make or break for them too. Stoke are a tough proposition at the Britannia. And any team in the league can beat anyone else on their day.

    But the fixture list says Chelsea and Utd might well slip up enough for Arsenal to be top dogs, although that’s not the most likely scenario right now.

    A week is a long time in football.

    Three months is an eternity.

    So keep faith fellow Gooners – and remember this: nobody thought Derby could win in 1972 and they did. No-one thought Nottingham Forest could do it in 1978 and they did. The Blue half of Merseyside were nowhere in 1984 but won the league in 1985. Leeds did it in 1992. And most doubted Arsenal at Christmas 2001. Wrongly.

    Arsenal can still win the league. That’s not saying they will.

    But if they get more points at season’s end that Utd or Chelsea, then who cares that we got thumped by both? That’s not the rules of the League. That’s the rules of a Cup.

    No need to be guilty for how you won the league. If you won it after 38 games, then that’s it.