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Do Arsenal players care about the club? Are they properly prepared for each game? Here’s how you can tell.

By Tony Attwood

Do Arsenal players really care about the club they play for?  Do they care about how the results go?  Are they properly prepared for each game?

Or are some of them a bunch of highly paid guys who really couldn’t care less, and who simply turn up and go through the motions?

Even to ask such questions seems a bit odd: it is really possible to play football at the highest level in front of large crowds who are not slow in letting the players know their feelings, and not be bothered about how well they perform?

It would seem unlikely, since surely no body would welcome the sort of opprobrium that is levelled at Arsenal players on a daily – one might say hourly – basis.  Does anyone in a competitive sport not care about winning?

In my younger days when I used to play table tennis each week at a local club at a level so modest it isn’t even listed on the modest level charts, I tried to win and was happier when I played better than when I had a game where I was even more useless than normal.   Otherwise, what is the point of competing?

But now it seems, judging by a lot of comment of late, it is felt that some Arsenal players don’t care, and additionally are ill-prepared for a game.  And we can tell this by… ah now that is the issue.  How do we know this?

It seems that a lot of people “know” this through the evidence of their own eyes.  The “if it walks like a duck” sort of approach.  This vision of reality is based on an interpretation of body language (that most weird vague indicator without any clear evidence to prove that the conclusions drawn from the way a person looks and moves is actually a reflection of exactly what is going on in the person’s head).  It is closely linked to the “you obviously think that…” school of argument.  99.999% of people who have ever written that about me on Untold have been wrong.  And I know, ‘cos they are my thoughts.

Of course body language can on occasion tells us something – there is such a thing as a sad look and a happy smile – but just because a player walks off the pitch with his head down at the end of the game does not mean he is miserable.  He could be exhausted.  He could be fed up with the negative comments from what he considers a bunch of ill-informed morons shouting at him.  His knee could be hurting….

But now there is more.  Apparently we can tell how a player feels now also by what he does with his gloves after a game.

And apparently we can tell a lot about his attitude, and how much he cares about a club, from his celebration after scoring.  Giroud is a self-centred plonker because he celebrates after pulling Arsenal back from a three goal deficit, Alexis is a dedicated hard working man because he doesn’t celebrate but picks the ball up and runs back to the centre circle where he puts it down ready for the match to resume.

Except on this basis Giroud ought to have run around the pitch three times after scoring the winner against Preston to use up more time and stop Preston re-starting the game quickly.  He could have even taken a card for time wasting – that would have showed how much he cared.

Now in all this body language interpretation stuff what you really must not do (if you are a real believer that body language and associated behaviour tells you anything much) is look for any evidence to back up your claim that you know what is going on inside a player’s mind.  You really must stick with “it’s obvious” as the justification for your knowledge.

But, since I don’t believe that body language tells us much (probably because I worked as a musician in the theatre for a number of years and saw actors turn from person A into person Z in a split second) I tend to look for evidence.   Since the body linguistics experts claim celebration is linked to delay, which you may or may not want, I want to know how long it took for the game to restart in various situations.

It took 63 seconds from the time Giroud’s goal against Preston was scored, to the moment Preston kicked off again.

It took 49 seconds for Bournemouth to kick off after Arsenal’s second goal.

It took 45 seconds for Bournemouth to kick off after Arsenal’s first goal.

But it only took 43 seconds from the moment Giroud scored against Bournemouth to the restart of the match by Bournemouth players.

What this suggests is that the more one rushes the ball back to the centre spot after scoring in order to speed up the restart of the match (as per Alexis), the longer it takes the other side to re-start the game.  The reason for this is that team A never does what team B seems to want them to do – quite simply because the teams are clearly in competition.  We don’t always act in our own best interests – that is a fundamental finding of psychology.  We are not logical beings.

Humans are emotional.  Just think of the situation in which a woman tells a man that she’s leaving him because he’s such a bully and so dominant, and he shouts abuse at her – exactly the opposite of what is needed in the situation if he wants her to back down and stay.

Much of the time the notion of body language is nonsense.  We act emotionally, and in accordance with habit and indeed habitual actions (both emotional and physical actions) are the dominant factors in controlling how we behave day by day most of the time.   Yes we all of us can change our habits over time, but it takes months of hard work to do so, as anyone who has seriously tried to change a long-term habit will attest.  Habits are easy to pick up and hard to get rid of.  (There’s a good survival reason for this, but I’ll not get distracted any further on this for now).

Rather, I’d like to note that it took an Irish newspaper (the Irish Independent) to come out and say that “It’s unlikely there’s another club in the Premier League who could fight back from 3-0 down with 20 minutes remaining away from home against a well-regarded opponent and find themselves criticised for not getting the ball back quickly enough to win 4-3.

“Liverpool, for example, played very well for 70 minutes against Bournemouth but lost 4-3. Arsenal were dreadful for the same length of time and managed to draw 3-3 in what is meant to be a results business.”

They also make the point that it now seems that HOW Giroud celebrated one goal (in a way that resulted in the game restarting more quickly than might otherwise have been the case which was what Arsenal wanted) has become more important in defining who he is and how he thinks than the fact that he is scoring vital goals regularly at the moment – or that a quick start was to Arsenal’s benefit.

Body language has become so central to the thinking of users of Twitter that it is now the way of seeing all reality.   Alexis good, because he runs back with the ball (and as a result actually delays the kick off), Giroud bad, because he celebrates (even though as a result speeds up the kick off).

If you know your Arsenal history you might remember Johannes (renamed Johnny by English people who think foreign names are silly) Metgod who worked under Tony Adams at Portsmouth before going on to be first team coach at Derby.  When asked how foreign players could impress the crowd in an English club he famously said, “Get a haircut, wear a suit and yell a lot in training.”

It’s a great comment because it emphasises the trivial way football is analysed by pundits and fans.

Now from here we can go on to the post match interview.  The players were asked if they were surprised by the level of commitment of the Preston players.  This is a bit like asking Shakespearan actors after a performance at the RSC to kick a ball around the stage.  Interview technique is at best an after thought in the footballers training and will never turn them into deep thinkers if they are not that already.

But still people want to take the answers seriously and literally for some reason.  So if Ramsey says yes he was surprised by the level of commitment everyone goes bonkers at Wenger for not preparing the team properly.

So what should he have said?  “No,” would leave to the question about “then why did you not react or adjust” which wouldn’t have helped the interview along any more than “Yes”.

The best answer would have been, “the issue in the first half was not a lack of commitment but was one of dealing with the full-on devil-may-care approach Preston adopted.  Many of the Preston players were playing the game of their lives in this match, not long after a game in which they were utterly shamed by having two of their own players sent off for fighting each other.  Of course they were going to throw everything at us.  But in this situation it is very easy either to have your leg broken, or get an elbow in your face because of the level of their physical approach, or to get drawn into a physical confrontation which will heighten the intensity still further and not help us win the game.  The way to win in such circumstances is take the sting out of the game, which involves us trying to slow it down while they run out of steam without maiming anyone.  There is a risk of course, and indeed they did score, but better that than have two of our team off the pitch with injuries that could take them out for weeks.  As it was Gabriel had to be stitched up.  Thank goodness he is tough.”

But the men interviewed (one of whom did not have English as his first language) were there because of their football skills not their ability to express themselves or their degrees in psychology.  So it is no wonder that they just said, “Yes”.

Body language, and what players say after a game, are both very poor indicators of what is going on, as should be evident to anyone who thinks a lot about the game.  But of course Twitter doesn’t encourage thought.  Indeed Twitter has a lot to answer for.

New from the Arsenal History Society –

The index of all the major articles on the site about Arsenal players is now complete.  It comes in two parts:

A to K

L to Z

We have around 1500 articles on this site, and a fair number are specifically about individual players who played for Arsenal.  However this is the first time they have been fully indexed.

Of course there are many other sources of articles on Arsenal players but I do like to think that the articles here add a lot more detail, and have often found stories and issues that have been missed in other reports.  I do hope you will give us a try.

29 comments to Do Arsenal players care about the club? Are they properly prepared for each game? Here’s how you can tell.

  • Laos gooner

    Would have been a great article Tony if your body language was right.

  • TONY,
    most of these pundits are former liverpool,manu,leeds and all these other clubs who usually set the agenda on most talk shows.but I think they just can not understand how arsene does it,building the emirates,budget restrictions,top 4 finishes(which by the way both manchester teams might not achieve) and ozil dropped the boom yesterday about arsene’s contract.
    I just think they are paranoid,then again we have aaa

  • Vijay

    Poor Giroud! nothing he does ever satisfies any of the Fans. But that can only be good for Arsenal, he is a fighter and everytime his back is against the wall you see him performing like he did against Bournemouth. The celebration was a bad Thing he should have restarted the game instead of celebrating it, but lets give him the due credit he was involved in all the 3 Goals and it looked like we will lose this game for sure. so, letting out a celebration for the equaliser is more an emotional reaction. Lets Forget about it and Keep critising him for more better Performances. One more Thing, I read an article where it said Arsenal will lose ist international Appeal if they don’t win EPL in the next 2-3 years. Come on guys, Liverpool has not lost its Appeal yet and it how Long?

    http://www.caughtoffside.com/2017/01/09/disappointing-arsenals-appeal-will-fade-until-they-win-major-trophy/

  • MickHazel

    I was walking my two golden retrievers in Effing Forest and I bumped into Sanchez who was walking his two golden retrievers. He was in a foul mood because his dogs didn’t come back to him quickly enough on recall. He was so pissed off he threw his dog lead on the ground in a fit of anger and stormed off muttering to himself.
    I could tell by his unhappy mood that he will never sign a new contract no matter how much money we offer him.

  • insideright

    Fans and pundits seem to be impressed by managers who rant and rave on the touchline. But I always remember a comment from Martin Keown (while being a pundit as it happens) that you should never trust a manager who does this as it probably means he hasn’t worked hard enough during the week.
    Many of us fans cheer the wrong things – the fist pumping encouragement or the hoofed clearance that relieves pressure (for a second) or the long range shot which gives away possession. And we seem not to learn from the experience of seeing those things go wrong but from the even more ignorant fan sitting behind us.

  • MickHazel – spot on. Thank you. Really made me smile.

  • Xhaka'spassing

    I sincerely that the players care about the club and want to do well.

    I will say that as well as getting physically tired after a ridiculous run of games players can also get mentally fatigued and lose concentration.

    Having said that the performance of our defence in the Bournemouth and Preston games particularly in the first half did indicate that we weren’t prepared properly. We looked all over the place. Our central midfield looked non existant from a defensive perspective and our defence looked as if they hadn’t seen each other before and there was mistake after mistake.

    In the Bournemouth game Mustafi looked extremely rusty and Bellerin had the worst game I’ve seen him play.

    Against Preston it is unlikely that Mustafi and Gabriel would have trained together. Throw in young Maitland Niles and one could understand a bit of uncertainty but not to the extent where we were carved out time after time by a championship side.

    I’m hoping that these performances are the result of the high number of fixtures we’ve had to play and the lack of time we’ve had to work together as units. If things carry on like the last two games with such slow starts we are likely to come a cropper.

    I’m hoping this week we’ll be working on team defensive shape or the press if we are to use it. We can’t afford for Xhaka and our two cbs to be exposed like they have been. If we can tighten up our defence then we will win a lot of games as we’ll always get our fair quota of goals.

    We must start games totally focused and concentrate on our defensive shape. The start of the last two games has been unacceptable

  • ARSENAL 13

    @Vijay,

    Instead of criticizing him, honest support would pay better dividends.

  • Stuart Bailey

    Good column, and talking about people knowing what others are thinking makes me wonder whether BT Sport has a crystal ball as Savage and McMannaman are forever telling us what players were trying to do with the ball. How the he’ll do they know?

  • Norman14

    This could be a conundrum:

    1. Mesut will ONLY sign if Wenger stays
    2. Alexis will only sign if Wenger leaves

    Choose!

  • markyb

    Vijay, I think I have seen evidence that the restart was slower when Alexis hurried the ball back to the centre after the second goal? than it was after Giroud scored. The fact being that even if we hurried it back the Bournemouth players would ensure kick off was delayed. In other words a load of fuss about nothing. Find a negative is the media agenda

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Hmmn, this is interesting. But overcealose celebration or no overcealose celebration that had led to time wasting the time to restart the game, and body language and no body language that showed a Gunner’s unhappiness in the changing room of the outcome of the match he has just finished playing in, Arsenal will in this season’s campaign overcome whatever be the hindrance that is being hindering them from re-lifting the Premier League title for the past 12 years. That’s what I sincerely believed has happened in the future of 5 months to come from now.

  • John L

    I also suspect that some players (particularly Bellerin) were suffering or recovering from some sort of virus (memories of 1988 Cup-final against Ipswich). After all, half the population seems to have suffered in some way over Christmas and it has been reported that Mesut had had flu for several days.

  • HenryB

    The question, ‘Do Arsenal players care about the club?’ is an interesting one, and without copious caveats almost totally impossible to answer, wither in the negative of the positive.

    To try and answer in a pluralistic way is to try and infer all Arsenal players think and act in the same way, and history shows that is just not the case.

    Players initially seek to be well rewarded for their efforts, both for the club and the team, but they also want to win trophies during their careers for the satisfaction of achieving personal and team success, and to be honoured by their manager and the fans.

    But none of this gets close to answering the question, other than to lead to the inevitable response, ‘I do not know’.
    Players by the very nature of professional sport are, by and large, mercenaries, who nevertheless can care or feel loyalty towards the team and or the club after a career devoted solely or almost exclusively to a single club — but those who are frequently transferred probably do not attach such personal considerations to one club over another.

    The result of the above thought process is that I can only return to the answer that has any validity – ‘I do not know, if Arsenal players care about the club, tho some might, others might not.’

  • Zedsaunt

    The first chapter of the new book by Michael Lewis, ‘The Undoing Project’ answers Tony’s questions brilliantly.

    What happened when the Houston Rockets hired a computer analyst as general manager to database which basketball players should be chosen for the Houston Rockets and why.

    When you can construct models to analyse performance levels in any sport, and you can collect data to be analysed in every sport, and you can study for degrees in ‘behavioural economics’ at Harvard, and you can get computer models to analyse the bias in the human mind when it comes to making predictions of performance, then there is an absolute clear divide between evidence based analysis of football and bullshit.

    Untold, in making this divide so tangible, are to be congratulated and warmly thanked.

  • The answer is yes…. What was the question?

  • Leon

    If it was me and I was offered the kind of money that I’ve been reading about to play for a Chinese team for a few years it would be a no brainer. I’d take the money every time. Club loyalty? Meh!
    Axel Witsel has to be admired for his honesty for saying why he’s going, after deciding to play there..
    It looks as though the Chinese authorities may be introducing some sort of financial capping to prevent the outrageous cash on offer to some of the world stars.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Just seen the first goal at Preston from Ramsey. He didn’t celebrate, ran straight to the centre circle again: he doesn’t care, he’s off… 😉

  • Gord

    Yeech, we are away

    Southampton/ Norwich v Arsenal

  • Leon

    Not the match we’d have chosen, I’m sure.

  • John L.

    Let’s hope that we can repay Southampton’s League Cup defeat.

  • para

    Body language can probably only be correctly read on truly honest people.

    AW said:
    ““If you do not go into the 50:50s with complete belief, complete commitment, you are second best – and that’s what happened in the first half. We were there but at 90 per cent. Even today against a Championship team that is not enough. You have to be absolutely at your best to qualify. That’s what we did in the second half.”

    Complete belief, complete commitment, this is all the fans ask for, and when they do not see it, they turn on the players.

  • ARSENAL 13

    @Walter,

    He celebrated Giroud goal though, hez definitely staying Then!!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I would suggest that our players counter the collective media stupidity and ignorance for showing them for what they truly are – unmitigated morons .

    They should either reply to the presses blabber by flummoxing them
    in Biblical , Vedic , Torahic , Nostradamic or even Aesopian parables and quotations .

    In short , they become fluent in the cynical practice of the sesquipedalian arts. So what is this sesquipedalian art? Glad you asked ! The word itself is defined as…..

    1. given to using long words.
    2.(of a word) containing many syllables.

    It would of course be even better if our players could speak with an upper crust and clipped English . And to avoid local slang, terms and cliches .

    Here is an example -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX45hc0aZt0

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sesquipedalian Expressions !
    It’s fun for English lovers.
    Try to guess before scrolling!

    1. Scintillate, scintillate asteroid minute.

    _Twinkle, twinkle little star_.

    2. Members of an avian species of identical plumage congregate.

    _Birds of a feather flock together_

    3. Surveillance should precede saltation.

    _Look before you leap_

    4. It is fruitless to become lachrymose over precipitately departed lactose fluid.

    _Don’t cry over spilled milk_

    5. Freedom from encrustation of grime is contiguous to divinity.

    _Cleanliness is next to godliness_

    6. The stylus is more potent than the claymore.

    _The pen is mightier than the sword_

    7. It is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuver.

    ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

    8. Eschew the implement of correction and vitiate the scion.

    ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child ‘.

    9. The temperature of aqueous content of an unremittingly ogled saucepan does not reach 212 fahrenheit.

    ‘A watched pot never boils’.

    10. Neophyte’s serendipity.

    ‘Beginner’s luck’.

    11. Male cadavers are incapable of yielding any testimony.

    ‘Dead men don’t talk’.

    12. Individuals who make their abode in vitreous edifices would be advised to refrain from catapulting petrous projectiles.

    ‘People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’.

    13. All articles that coruscate with resplendence are not truly auriferous.

    ‘All that glitters is not gold’.

    14. Where there are visible vapors having their province in ignited carbonaceous material there is conflagration.

    ‘Where there’s smoke there’s fire’.

    15. Sorting on the part of mendicants must be interdicted.

    ‘Beggers can’t be choosers’.

    16. A plethora of individuals with expertise in culinary techniques dilapidates the potable concoction produced by steeping comestibles.

    ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’.

    17. Exclusive dedication to necessary chores without interludes of hedonistic diversion renders john a hebephrenic fellow.

    ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.

    18. A revolving lathic conglomerate accumulates no diminutive glaucous syrophytic plants.

    ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’.

    19. The person with the ultimate cachinnation possesses, thereby, the optimal cachinnation.

    ‘He who laughs last, laughs best’.

    20. Missiles of ligneous or petrous consistency have the potential of fracturing my osseous structure but appellations will eternally be benign.

    ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’.

    21. Pulchritude possesses solely cutaneous profundity.

    ‘Beauty is only skin deep’.

    22. You are cordially invited to the theological place of eternal punishment.

    ‘GO TO HELL !’

  • WalterBroeckx

    Our players maybe could use number 22 when being questioned by the media next time around… 🙂

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ WalterBroeckx – 10/01/2017 at 8:38 am – I wouldn’t go that far ( although most of them will end up there !), but would rather like our players to ask them to shove the presses opinions firmly and right up ‘where the sun doan shine ‘ !
    And in their native tongue . And in its crudest form .
    Any takers here ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Here is my entry –

    ‘ Why don’t you propel (without gentleness) ,your presumptive assumptions and suppositions , so as to enable it to ascend up your inferior cimmerian orifice , where that great luminous celestial body around which everything revolves , shall never ,ever shed its benign rays !’

    Its rather apt too as merriam-webster’s definitions of Cimmerian are –
    1. very dark or gloomy
    2. any of a mythical people described by Homer as dwelling in a remote realm of mist and gloom