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OF MICE AND MEN

OF MICE AND MEN….by Don McMahon

Walter…..as a fellow referee and having played at about the same level as you once did, I can state that officials get to see an unrestrained panorama of the football being played, like no player can.

I can remember officiating Morocco against our local provincial team in a friendly tournament and admiring the skilful, intelligent application of the laws and tactics that easily outwitted the less mature and mentally prepared locals. I spoke to the manager after the game and he graciously explained how they developed such tactical astuteness:

1) Certain set-plays and things like throw-ins, goal-kicks and the like were planned and prepared (as I know Arsenal do) for weeks in order to make them automatic. The players were left with a certain discretionary option in applying different approaches and there were never any formulas that had to be applied religiously. As he said, it goes against the fluid and creative nature of the game to restrain it.

2) He said he NEVER told any one player to do a specific set of things during the game, since he said that interfered with a player’s natural instincts and experience in a constantly evolving game situation.

What he also said was that he ¨coached¨ units of players (defenders+keeper, strikers, attacking midfielders, defensive midfielders) to work with each other and to follow certain broad guidelines to avoid trouble or to get out of trouble, or to cause trouble to their opponents.

3) He reminded me of Napoleon’s dictum that all planned strategy and tactics never survived the actual battles, or something like that. As he stated, chance and on-field conditions (attitudes, weather, field conditions, officiating, luck, etc.) soon put paid to the carefully laid plans of mice and men.

4)  He talked about the alignment of players (his team used a 4-4-2 formation that mutated into a 4-3-3 arrangement once they inevitably scored) and said that the captain was allowed to decide if the fullbacks could attack, if the attacking midfielders would or could switch with the defensive midfielders and who would take important freekicks or corners.

During my career I had the chance to talk to Sir Alf Ramsey and a few other top flight coaches and managers from Europe, including a German FA national coach, an Italian LaLiga manager and a Danish ex-national team coach.

I wanted to learn as much about football management as possible as I was trying to setup a women’s Football League where I lived and wanted to be able to talk to coaches and managers with a modicum of intelligence and insight.

The common thread they all seemed to repeat was that tactics and strategy are a constantly evolving thing and NOBODY who has never trained professional athletes, analysed prior top flight games and applied tactics and strategy in a top flight competition can possibly encompass or understand the difficulty of getting it right all the time.

Another thing that all mentioned was that blaming managers and coaches for a team’s poor performance is like blaming the weatherman for the foul weather nobody expected.

The AAA, the whiners,moaners, hindsighter and other unfortunate denizens of the underworld have got it ALL wrong.  Wenger is not the one having total responsibility for what has happened, there are also the players themselves, the fatigue factor, the injury issues, the transitional nature of the team, the stress and vicious circle of self-recrimination, the media onslaught, the fickle fanboys booing some players etc. Who must share in this collaborative misadventure.

When push comes to shove, we are either there for the team or we are there for ourselves, there is NO middle ground. We can doubt but we MUST NOT ever fail to shout on our team.

——————-

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36 comments to OF MICE AND MEN

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Don, thank you for this article which puts things and responsibilities into proper focus. I have been an engineer all my working life and what is built is never exactly according to the drawings – stuff happens and “Murphy” always turns up at some time. Those is site have to think on their feet to solve the issue. It is completely illogical to think that a fast moving game of football can be pre-planned to any significant degree

  • colario

    I agree 100% with your last paragraph.
    Arsene’s team plan was/is a fast passing/running front 4 from midfield. All 4 have been out at same time and so the cry is for Arsene to go.
    I have stopped following the ‘hindsights’. If I want to beleave sheep I will go to a sheep farm.

  • bjtgooner

    Don, a really great article, much appreciated.

  • Shard

    A fan-tastic article Dom. I have always maintained that no amateur understands tactics and what goes into the preparation even a fraction as well as a professional manager. That’s not to say that we can’t have opinions on the games or even the tactics, of course we ca and should. But to judge a situation with such certainty as to assigning blame to an individual, while ignoring the other factors you mentioned, is beyond foolish. Especially when that individual has a track record like Wenger does.

    Everyone reaches the end at some point and one day, Wenger too will go. But forecasting his demise, calling him names or saying he’s past it, is like proclaiming doomsday constantly. Some people will join you in your depressing version of ‘reality’, anything will be used as a ‘sign’ , and you can become a great prophet. Everybody’s trying to be the prophet.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thanks ,Don , very well written .Good job !

  • Quincy

    Another excellent article on UA that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

    In other news, the FA is considering a world-wide ban on staff betting:
    http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/26514715
    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/fa-propose-ban-on-all-forms-of-betting-from-next-season-9248892.html

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I first came across this story 40 years ago ,when we had to do English prose for my pre-medical examination and it left an indelible mark in my mind. I ‘ve often quoted it when someone asks for advice or has a doubt.

    The Parable of the Prostitute and the Priest

    http://www.enlight8.com/the-parable-of-the-whore-and-the-priest/

    A Hindu priest lived across the street from a prostitute. Each day as he was going in to do his prayers and meditation, he would see men coming and going from the prostitute’s room. He would see the woman herself greeting them or bidding them farewell. Each day the priest would imagine and ponder the shameful acts that were committed in the whore’s room, and his heart would fill with strong disapproval of the woman’s immorality.

    Each day the prostitute would see the priest at his spiritual practices. She would think how beautiful it must be to be so pure, to spend one’s time in prayer and meditation. “But, she would sigh, “it is my lot to be a whore. My mother was a whore, and my daughter will be one too. Such are the ways of this land.”

    The priest and the whore died on the same day and stood before Judgement together. Much to his astonishment, the priest was condemned for his wickedness.”

    “But”, he protested , “my life has been one of purity. I have spent my days in prayer and meditation.”

    “Yes,” said Judgement, “but while your body was engaged in those holy actions, your heart was consumed with vicious judgements and your soul was ravaged by your lustful imagination.”

    The whore was commended for her purity.

    “I do not understand,” she said. “For all my life, I have sold my body to every man who has had the price.”

    “You’re life’s circumstances placed you in a whorehouse. You were born there, and it was beyond your strength to do otherwise. But while your body was performing unworthy acts, your heart was always pure and forever fixed in contemplation on the purity of the holy man’s prayers and meditation.”

    The Parable of the Prostitute and the Priest

    by Marc on December 16, 2012

    in Body and Mind

    (featured photo by Bahman Farzad)

    A Hindu priest lived across the street from a prostitute. Each day as he was going in to do his prayers and meditation, he would see men coming and going from the prostitute’s room. He would see the woman herself greeting them or bidding them farewell. Each day the priest would imagine and ponder the shameful acts that were committed in the whore’s room, and his heart would fill with strong disapproval of the woman’s immorality.

    Each day the prostitute would see the priest at his spiritual practices. She would think how beautiful it must be to be so pure, to spend one’s time in prayer and meditation. “But, she would sigh, “it is my lot to be a whore. My mother was a whore, and my daughter will be one too. Such are the ways of this land.”

    The priest and the whore died on the same day and stood before Judgement together. Much to his astonishment, the priest was condemned for his wickedness.”

    “But”, he protested , “my life has been one of purity. I have spent my days in prayer and meditation.”

    “Yes,” said Judgement, “but while your body was engaged in those holy actions, your heart was consumed with vicious judgements and your soul was ravaged by your lustful imagination.”

    The whore was commended for her purity.

    “I do not understand,” she said. “For all my life, I have sold my body to every man who has had the price.”

    “You’re life’s circumstances placed you in a whorehouse. You were born there, and it was beyond your strength to do otherwise. But while your body was performing unworthy acts, your heart was always pure and forever fixed in contemplation on the purity of the holy man’s prayers and meditation.”

    ~

    The Parable of the Prostitute and the Priest

    by Marc on December 16, 2012

    in Body and Mind

    (featured photo by Bahman Farzad)

    A Hindu priest lived across the street from a prostitute. Each day as he was going in to do his prayers and meditation, he would see men coming and going from the prostitute’s room. He would see the woman herself greeting them or bidding them farewell. Each day the priest would imagine and ponder the shameful acts that were committed in the whore’s room, and his heart would fill with strong disapproval of the woman’s immorality.

    Each day the prostitute would see the priest at his spiritual practices. She would think how beautiful it must be to be so pure, to spend one’s time in prayer and meditation. “But, she would sigh, “it is my lot to be a whore. My mother was a whore, and my daughter will be one too. Such are the ways of this land.”

    The priest and the whore died on the same day and stood before Judgement together. Much to his astonishment, the priest was condemned for his wickedness.”

    “But”, he protested , “my life has been one of purity. I have spent my days in prayer and meditation.”

    “Yes,” said Judgement, “but while your body was engaged in those holy actions, your heart was consumed with vicious judgements and your soul was ravaged by your lustful imagination.”

    The whore was commended for her purity.

    “I do not understand,” she said. “For all my life, I have sold my body to every man who has had the price.”

    “You’re life’s circumstances placed you in a whorehouse. You were born there, and it was beyond your strength to do otherwise. But while your body was performing unworthy acts, your heart was always pure and forever fixed in contemplation on the purity of the holy man’s prayers and meditation.”

  • Shard

    Brickfields

    That story is like Ian Wright (the player not the pundit)

    So good you have to say it thrice.

    😛

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Shard – Damn ! This cutting and pasting is difficult after a few glasses of wine !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And bang goes his statue !

  • omgarsenal

    BG….What is an AAA cretin’s favourite wine?

    ¨Wenger out…I want Wenger out!!!¨

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Don , ah ,yes the right dose of immature sour grapes and stomped on by those sweaty ,hairy women with incurable crusting athlete’s feet ! At the ‘right’ time of the month of course !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Same people , different locale …..

    The Priest and the Prostitute

    A priest is walking downtown, when a prostitute yells out to him “How about oral sex… twenty five dollars”?

    The priest has no idea what she has said, so when he gets back to the convent, he asks one of the nuns… “sister, what’s oral sex”?

    The Nun replies…”twenty five dollars; same as downtown”

  • para

    This is exactly how the “invincibles” played. It takes a complete confidence in your abilities even when things go wrong, plus the ability to play comfortably in multiple positions. As said above, practice the different strategies for set pieces continually, then go and play dynamically.
    Fear is then eliminated, you just play, being in the game, everything else forgotten, and we have seen this from Arsenal this season.

    This is exactly what Arsenal and AW does, i come to see. The team was breaking out of it’s shell at the start of the season, even after the first attack of the “enemy”. Arsenal was burning, and even then still not on full flame, then the injuries happened to our KEY men.

    I think this team is there, and will be angry, ready to prove themselves now. They should all be aware of what is going on, and let the anger fuel their ability on the field. Only the class of Arsenal can now take us further.

    I hope AW gets the players he wants/needs in summer, but before then, the team needs to regain it’s form, even though playing against so called lower teams , but who can still cause upsets.

    Really hoping for a good end to the season for us ALL.

  • bjtgooner

    @Brickfields

    I hate to tell you, but it is getting close to dinner time & I am already regretting opening that link! Toast tonight I think!

  • Mick

    @Brickfields Gunners
    Your Parable of the Prostitute and the Priest ‘thrice’ surely got me going. I was 1/2 an hour comparing carefully the three postings of the same joke trying to find a subtle difference in the story, just like those spot the 10 differences pictures in childrens comics!

  • greencardusa

    Thanks for an excellent piece Don; hope the understanding it contributes can spread far and wide and result in more meaningful fan experiences of Arsenal’s performances and help in making a better fan community.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Brilliant Don, sometimes just great to sit down and read something like this. Sounds like you have had a few interesting experiences to do with football.
    I agree with you on this issue of tactics, but could not explain as eloquently as this. I guess some will come on and say that Jose’s drilled automatons have got the measure of free spirits, and at the moment they may be right. Wengers team building is not quite there, maybe it soon will be. He has a couple missing links before he can successfully impose his will on the squad, but if left to do so, he will again. Others recognise this as well, that is why some try to stop him at every opportunity.

  • Gooner S

    Brilliant. The “Wenger doesn’t do tactics ” mantra from some Arsenal fans really winds me up.

  • bob mac

    Excellent article which I endorse most strongly.

    Well done, and keep up trhe good work.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Anyone else get the impression roomer was ” stealing a living” in tonight’s game!
    Wonder if the press will pick up on his performance

  • bjtgooner

    Sorry Mandy, didn’t see it, but the BBC on line commentary was critical of Shrek.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Yes, Roon certainly was poor, lucky he is English and plays for Utd…and has a sore toe, or he would be getting the Ozil treatment from the press

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ bjtgooner – Vacation jokes as promised.

    Where is this place?
    A man and his wife were driving their Recreational Vehicle across the country and were nearing a town spelled Kissimee. They noted the strange spelling and tried to figure how to pronounce it – KISS-a-me; kis-A-me; kis-a-ME. They grew more perplexed as they drove into the town.

    Since they were hungry, they pulled into a place to get something to eat. At the counter, the man said to the waitress:

    “My wife and I can’t seem to be able to figure out how to pronounce this place. Will you tell me where we are and say it very slowly so that I can understand.”

    The waitress looked at him and said: “Buuurrrgerrr Kiiiinnnng.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Save the dead rabbit

    A man was driving along the highway, and saw a rabbit hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the rabbit, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of the car and was hit. The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road and got out to see what had become of the rabbit. Much to his dismay, the rabbit was dead. The driver felt so awful he began to cry.

    A woman driving down the highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong.

    “I feel terrible,” he explained. “I accidently hit this rabbit and killed it.”

    The woman told the man not to worry. She knew what to do. She went to her car trunk and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead rabbit, and sprayed the contents of the can onto the rabbit. Miraculously, the rabbit came to life, jumped up, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped down the road. 50 feet away the rabbit stopped, turned around, waved at the two again, hopped down the road another 50 feet, turned, waved, and hopped another 50 feet. The man was astonished. He couldn’t figure out what substance could be in the woman’s spray can! He ran over to the woman and demanded, ” What was in your spray can? What did you spray onto that rabbit?” The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said:

    “‘Hare Spray’ Restores Life to Dead Hare. Adds Permanent Wave.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Touring South America

    A tourist is traveling with a guide through one of the thickest jungles in South America, when he comes across an ancient Mayan temple. The tourist is entranced by the temple, and asks the guide for details. To this, the guide states that archaeologists are carrying out excavations, and still finding great treasures. The tourist then queries how old the temple is.

    “This temple is 1503 years old”, replies the guide.

    Impressed at this accurate dating, he inquires as to how he gave this precise figure.

    “Easy”, replies the guide, “the archaeologists said the temple was 1500 years old, and that was three years ago”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Travel in the far east

    Mueller is traveling with his wife and mother-in-law in a far east country. At a place of honor his mother-in-law makes a careless remark, which the native people take as an insult to the royal family.

    Mueller is dragged off to court with his wife and mother-in-law and are sentenced to corporal punishment. Each of them are to receive 50 lashes on the rear end with a cane. But because the royal family doesn’t want to appear hostile to foreigners, they grant the guests in their country a wish beforehand, as long as it is able to be fulfilled.

    Mrs. Mueller is first.

    “What do you wish for yourself?”

    “I would like a pillow bound on my rear end before the lashings.”

    “Okay, that shall be granted to you.”

    Mrs. Mueller has the pillow bound to her rear end and receives her punishment. But because the pillow is too small and the executioner also hits her back a couple of times, she receives a few blows.

    Next it is Mueller’s mother-in-law’s turn.

    “What do you wish for yourself?”

    “I would like a pillow bound on my rear end and a pillow bound on my back before the lashings.”

    “Okay, that shall be granted to you.”

    The mother-in-law receives her fifty lashes, but hardly feels the pain through the pillows.

    Then comes Mueller himself.

    “What do you wish for yourself?”

    “I have two wishes. Do you want to fulfill them for me?”

    “Because you are a guest in our country, we want to fulfill your wishes for you, as long as they are reasonable.”

    “I would like 100 lashes instead of 50.”

    The executioner is surprised, but recovers again right away and replies, “Yes, that is a pious wish, it shall be granted to you. And what is your second wish?”

    “I would like to have my mother-in-law bound to my back.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Get me off this train.

    One day a man took the train from Paris to Frankfurt. When he got in he said to the ticket man:

    “Sir. I really need you to do me a favor, I have to get down this train in Mannheim, but I’m very tired and it is for sure that I will fall asleep. So what I want you to do is that you wake me up in Mannheim because I have to close a business there and it is very important for me. Here you have 100 francs for the favor. But I warn you sometimes when people wake me up I get really violent, but no matters what I do or say you got to get me out of this train in Mannheim. Is that clear?”

    So the ticket man agreed and took the 100 francs. Later as the man had said he fall asleep, and when he woke up he realized that he was in Frankfurt. He was so mad at the ticket man that he ran over and started yelling at the ticket man.

    “Are you stupid or something??? I paid you 100 francs so that you wake me up in Mannheim. And you didn’t, so I want my money back!”

    While the man was yelling at the ticket guy, two other guys that were also in the train were looking at them, so one turns to the other and says to him:

    Man 1: “Look at this guy! He is mad!”

    Man 2: “Yeah! He’s almost as mad as the guy they made get out of the train in Mannheim.”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Puking while drunk .In some countries dog meat is a delicacy .Just putting it into context you know .

    You Are Wat You Eat

    A woman goes into a bar with a little Chihuahua dog on a leash.
    She sits down at the bar next to a drunk. The drunk rolls around, leans over, and splat! He pukes all over the dog.
    The drunk looks down, sees the little dog struggling in the pool of vomit, and slurs, “I don’t remember eating that!”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    There’s something weird about this site today .There’s a parallel post with another article .I’ve posted this there too.

    Puking while drunk

    You Are Wat You Eat
    A woman goes into a bar with a little Chihuahua dog on a leash.
    She sits down at the bar next to a drunk. The drunk rolls
    around, leans over, and splat! He pukes all over the dog. The
    drunk looks down, sees the little dog struggling in the pool of
    vomit, and slurs, “I don’t remember eating that!”

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ bjtgooner – for some reason your comments on this site comes on and off . Be safe , walk towards the light ,but jump out of the way if its a noisy vehicle !
    Here’s to being healthy , wealthy and unwise (ok , bitchy if you insist !)

    http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/4550118/wulffmorgenthaler/

  • bjtgooner

    @Brickfields

    Thanks for that info – maybe the AAA have sabotaged my posts!

    Also, very many thanks for all those jokes, very much appreciated. I have just returned – was out of town for a while & enjoyed the additional jokes just now.

  • johnny

    Don’t believe everything Napoleon said. After all, he was the master of planned strategy and tactics. Obviously, in a fight (whether it’s war or only football) there’s always an element of unpredictability, so good planning must take into account as many “unpredictable” events as possible. Continuing the analogy Arsenal-Napoleon, I must observe that our last battle with Everton looks very much like the game between Napoleon and Wellington at Waterloo (away game for the French army). We had the better army and the better commander, but unfortunately some of our best generals were missing (Ozil, Walcott, Wilshere/Davout, Murat, etc.). Also, the morale of our troops wasn’t exactly high and we can say the same thing about French army at Waterloo. Enemy’s morale was high and they were also more disciplined, just like Wellington’s army. Also, our emperor Wenger didn’t have his best day and he committed the Imperial Guard (Ramsey+The Ox) pretty late in the battle when the day was lost.
    The biggest difference is that, unlike Napoleon, we still have an army and other battles to fight. Maybe Everton was the Waterloo of our title challenge (Lepizig being Chelsea away and Russia being Liverpool away), but we have other wars to win. Let’s hope our emperor won’t go to St.Helen at the end of the campaign.

  • Menace

    Strategy, tactics and judgement all lost to the whistle blown by the God in the middle of the pitch.

    PGMOL the providers of Gods in football. The media the blind leading the blind.

    Remember Hillsborough and how long it is taking to get to the truth. This will take longer.