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Senior member of Arsenal’s medical team subject to outrageous attack by journalist

By Tony Attwood

There is something delightful about watching the nation’s media writers making total idiots of themselves as they respond to an Arsenal defeat – and something inevitable about the way the anti-Wengerian camp followers will pick up on the theme.  But the way in which they overtly seek to mislead the public is far from delightful, and is nothing short of scandalous.

Here’s one from the Telegraph after the Watford game.

Arsenal’s failings are all too familiar – yet club psychiatrist was meant to help overcome mental fragility

It is an interesting point and it makes certain assumptions, one of which at least is rather disturbing.

The most obvious assumption (obvious because it happens all the time) is the belief that everything relates only to the last match, and everything can be fixed at once.  Arsenal lose one match, and the manager needs to be sacked.  Amy Lawrence does this a lot in the Guardian as with “Arsenal stuck in self-defeating cycle as they head for Chelsea showdown”

Second that fixing issues is easy.  Arsenal need a new manager – get one, and he is bound to want to come to the club, his existing club are sure to release him, and indeed Arsenal are bound to be better under him.  The recent failings of Manchester City and Manchester United to make much improvement immediately under new high profile managers has clearly not dissuaded anyone from this view.

But third, and perhaps most disturbing, is the notion that Arsenal are actually using a psychiatrist.

The reason I make this point is the psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who are allowed by law to prescribe medications that are not available over the counter, and they spend much of their time with patients on medication management as a course of treatment.

Of course we can start out by arguing that the writer of this article, and his editor, don’t know what a psychiatrist is – in which case it would be good if the Telegraph admitted it.  I don’t think this is true.  Last time I was there they had dictionaries, Google, and some fairly intelligent people around.

But let us follow this…   If Arsenal are using a full time psychiatrist to work on prescription drug management with the players, this is indeed concerning.  Of course when people have a psychological condition medication can help, although in recent years the move has been very much in favour of talk-based approaches in which the patient uses speech in order to re orientate his/her own world-view and come to see what has been perceived as a highly negative and disturbing situation as one which they can handle.

It is an approach that people who have not experienced it can find it hard to understand, because from childhood we are mostly taught that the world is real, and not something cooked up inside our heads.  But we only have to look at different people’s reaction to the same situation to see how different world views are.

Although I chose not to publish them, we had one person on Untold after the Watford game hurling obscene abuse and threats at a large number of other readers in a long string of repetitive comments.   Blacksheep and I, on the other hand, went home a bit fed up, but then got on to talking about other things.  Same situation, different responses.

Anyway, after talking about Arsenal’s failings in the Telegraph article, Arsene Wenger was “strangely talking about how his players were not “mentally” up to the challenge of facing Watford.

“Given Arsenal are employing Dr Ceri Evans, the psychiatrist who worked with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby union team, to overcome the mental barriers they have faced in the past it is even more disappointing that fragility has emerged yet again at a key stage of the campaign.”

The implication is indeed clear – Arsenal are using a drugs based approach to football, which is quite possibly illegal.

Now it is true that Ceri Evans (himself a former international footballer) is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.  He also studied experimental psychology as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, has a career in forensic psychiatry and worked as a sports psychologist with New Zealand Warriors.

If you untangle this a bit a sort of pattern becomes clear.  Dr Evans has studied both psychology and psychiatry – and this is quite common.  I am not sure that any psychiatrists have not first studied psychology – but if there are some they are exceptions.   Dr Evans has also worked in both forensic psychiatry and psychology.

Now forensic psychiatry is not sports psychiatry.  It deals with the assessment and treatment of mentally disordered offenders in prisons, secure hospitals, and the community and I am sure that the chief football correspondent of the Telegraph is not suggesting that Arsenal players are serious offenders, and have dangerous medical conditions.

So it is self-evident, even without a knowledge of psychology and psychiatry that Dr Evans is not at Arsenal for psychiatric reasons.  The use of drugs for performance enhancement would be illegal, and the players unlikely to be stable enough to handle the results.  No, he is working as a sports psychologist with Arsenal – and Arsenal have employed sports psychologists for at least 20 years.  Indeed I would be surprised if any of the major teams in the Premier League try to exist without such people. Most top sports people, and indeed most top level performing artists, have psychologists working alongside them to enable to them to give of their very best every time.

Thus we come to the question of whether Arsenal have mental fragility and if Dr Evans is failing in his job.

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever on either point.   There are of course people who deny the need for psychologists, suggesting that it should be an honour to play for Arsenal, and that self-evidently everyone should be doing his best in each and every situation.

This view comes from the notion that psychology is a nonsense, that the world is common sense, and that how we see the world is how it is.  If that is how people see the situation there is little that can be done for them, until they are ready to change and their belief in their viewpoint is absolute.

On the other hand the current estimate is that 17% of the world’s population have suffered a mental health problem in the last week.  That is not a misprint.  In the last week is correct. 25% of the population suffer from a mental health problem each year in the UK.

Now these are figures for ordinary everyday people who have regular lives.  Footballers at the top level are not ordinary everyday people.  They are subject to enormous pressure, hero worship, huge levels of abuse, massive levels of expectation, and little in their background and upbringing to help them cope.

But even if Arsenal gave every single player his own personal psychologist watching over them day and night (which I can’t imagine the players would accept) for many of them that would still not guarantee the team being 100% focused and ready for any random event in each match.

While rocket science is (contrary to the commonplace expression) dead simple (push a load of inflammable gas into a container, make a small opening at opposite end of the container from which you wish it to travel, and then ignite the gas so it expands and open the vent) psychology is phenomenally complicated because it deals with the most complex area of organic material by far, which appears to work in subtly different ways for each individual.

Of course the rather appalling Jason Burt doesn’t bother with such matters. For him it is just another throw away line to knock Arsenal.  That I expect, but beneath it is something that does need pointing out, in my view.

It needs point out, just as I spent time showing why Amy Lawrence’s comment in the Guardian about Arsenal having only two players last season whose goal tally was in double figures.   That was not untrue,  but it was either a case of gross negligence in terms of research or a deliberately misleading statement suggesting in the sentence’s construction that Arsenal were unusual in this regard.  As I have pointed out only five teams (one of which was Arsenal) had two or more players scoring in double figures.

Burt is likewise misleading his readership either through ignorance or deliberately, suggesting incompetence on a gross scale in the Arsenal camp.  It is unlikely that someone as eminent as Dr Evans is incompetent, and indeed to suggest he might be would be a gross libel.  Nor is it likely that Dr Evans is staying at a club and allowing himself to be overruled by Mr Wenger at every turn.  Nor is it likely that Arsenal have employed someone as eminent as Dr Evans and then not used his professional abilities to the full.  Rather, given that Burt either deliberately or mistakenly confuses psychology and psychiatry, it is most likely another over and deliberate attack on Arsenal in order to make cheap copy without having to do any research.

One might ask, if Arsenal are in such a bad situation, if they are so incompetent and so useless, why do journalists have to make these things up.  As I said Amy Lawrence is at it again today.  But again, why if Arsenal are so useless does she have to set out deliberately to mislead.  Or really, do neither of these writers do proper research?


Woolwich Arsenal: 1893-1915: The Club That Changed Football by [Attwood, Tony, Kelly, Andy, Andrews, Mark]

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For full details please see here.


 

16 comments to Senior member of Arsenal’s medical team subject to outrageous attack by journalist

  • Goonermikey

    I would respectfully suggest that it is the DT (and their fellow daily rags) which requires the use of a full-time psychiatrist rather more than AFC……………..their certainly appears to be a lot of delusional people in that industry for sure

  • OlegYch

    not quite sure why you think psychiatrist necessarily prescribes performance enhancing drugs (or any drugs for that matter)
    any medical doctor can prescribe drugs, and there are plenty of those who do at Arsenal or any other sports team, or even large organization
    telegraph seems to have pulled down that article btw, but the title is still in the url for an article which doesn’t mention psychiatry
    perhaps they realized that confusing psychiatry and psychology is laughable

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I think Arsenal were a little bit complacent to take beating Watford for granted in their last game against them at the Ems. The Gunners came into that game with the overconfidence they were going to beat Watford irrespective of whatever game Watford has offer with the presumptions in their minds Watford game will be inferior to theirs. But as soon as they conceded the 2 goals to Watford early in the game largely due to defensive blunders committed first, by Cech howler and by Arsenal’s defence-line who were caught napping as they were out of position to clear the ball when it ricocheted to Denney who slotted it in, the Gunners were taken aback with these two early goals they’ve conceded and also by the high playing level of the Hornets in the game after they’d scored the two goals.

    But why were the Gunners not mentally up to the challenge to beating Watford after recovering from the initial shock Watford had inflicted on them early in the game, and knowing fully well at the back of their minds what a win by them in that game could mean for them in the table if Chelsea stuttered at Anfield? This is the big question that needs answering by the Gunners who played in that game.

    I think Arsenal are mentally weak when it comes to winning games on consistent basis. As soon as they beat Southampton 0-5 in the FA Cup, and with that euphoria of a big success at the back of their minds, they dropped in mental strength as they took on Watford as they take beating them for granted despite Le Prof was telling them that every PL game as from this stage in the season should be taken by them as a big game henceforth with.

    I think the Gunners must by now have learnt from the mistakes they committed in the Watford game and seriously guide against repeating them in their Chelsea game on Saturday if they are to beat them which they MUST to save our title bid from derailing. The Gunners should not have a slow starts at Chelsea but a quick or fast start and be mentally prepared to play at fast tempo to hard press the Blues in game to breaking points. And they shouldn’t give the ball away or make mistakes in dangerous places in their half that could lead to the Blues scoring. The Blues wing backs of Moses and Alonso must be stopped by our midfield base duo. But if any of them escape them, our defence-line MUST take a good marking of them to prevent them from assist to score or them scoring without giving away a penalty.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I think Arsenal were a little bit complacent to take beating Watford for granted in their last game against them at the Ems. The Gunners came into that game with the overconfidence they were going to beat Watford irrespective of whatever game Watford has on offer with the presumptions in their minds Watford game will be inferior to theirs. But as soon as they conceded the 2 goals to them early in the game largely due to defensive blunders committed first, by Cech howler and by Arsenal’s defence-line who were caught napping as they were out of position to clear the ball when it ricocheted to Denney who slotted it in, the Gunners were taken aback with these two early goals they’ve conceded and also by the high playing standard of the Hornets during the first half of game after they’d scored the two goals.

    But why were the Gunners not mentally up to the challenge to beat Watford after recovering from the initial shock Watford had inflicted on them early in the game, and knowing fully well at the back of their minds what a win by them in that game could mean for them in the table if Chelsea stuttered at Anfield? This is the big question that needs answering by the Gunners who played in that game.

    I think Arsenal are mentally weak when it comes to winning games on consistent basis. As soon as they beat Southampton 0-5 in the FA Cup, and with that euphoria of a big success at the back of their minds, they dropped in mental strength as they took on Watford by taking beating them for granted despite Le Prof was telling them that every PL game as from this stage in the season should be taken by them as a big game henceforth with.

    I think the Gunners must by now have learnt from the mistakes they’d committed in the Watford game and seriously guide against repeating them in their Chelsea game on Saturday if they are to beat them which they MUST to save our title bid from derailing. The Gunners should not have a slow starts at Chelsea but a quick or fast start and be mentally prepared to play at fast tempo to hard press the Blues in game to breaking points. And they shouldn’t give the ball away or make mistakes in dangerous places in their half that could lead to the Blues scoring. The Blues wing backs of Moses and Alonso must be stopped by our midfield base duo. But if any of them escape them, our defence-line MUST make a good marking on him to prevent him from assist to score or him scoring without giving away a penalty.

  • Norman14

    Mike Dean needs a psychiatrist. He made another complete howler last night. Awarded a goal to Burnley after Vokes handballed.

    How long before the media take HIM to task?

  • ossasa

    What is your problem with Amy Lawrence? She is a sound pundit and a good football writer and the audience she has would prove it. Perhaps you are taking the 3 points wasted too far yourself. Win against Chelsea and the fight is back on. Have more faith and be calm like Arsene.

  • Pat

    Be fair, Tony, some of the best psychiatry does not involve drugs at all. It involves talking to people, giving them advice about aspects of their life that could be changed, possibly giving them the opportunity to discuss their problems in a group, listening to what they have to say, helping them understand their own physical and mental reactions, and so on. Maybe this is the sort of help Arsenal players get from the Arsenal psychiatrist.

    Enjoyable article anyway!

  • Anicoll5

    This may be worse than you think Tony. If you check the General Medical Council register on which Dr Ceri Evans would need to be listed on in order to be licensed to practise in the UK ( and prescribe medication) you will find two. Neither however qualified in New Zealand, both work in Wales, one as a consultant in old age psychiatry in Cardiff and the other is about half way through his consultant training programme.

    The so called psychiatrist claiming to be Dr Ceri Evans who is pumping our brave lads full of go-faster pills is clearly a charlatan.

    I shall phone the Telegraph direct to unmask the swine.

  • Gord

    I’m not sure if it was psychology or psychiatry, but a recent psy experiment at a university was in the news here. Two young men were given HUGE doses of caffeine, and ended up in the hospital for dialysis. Someone goofed with a calculation, and gave them the equivalent of 300 cups of coffee, instead of 30.

  • Anicoll, while they are at it, maybe they could check on the coaching qualifications of that Dutch fellow who worked in Wales and who blames Mr Wenger for being the source of all football injuries.

  • Pat if that is the case, and it could well be, then the man employed is a psychologist.

  • para

    No one talks of the players, who in my opinion need a kick up the arsenal. Talk about being “1st” team when the “2nd” team is performing and then come and put on a display like that, is bad people.

    There is a certain element of player choice and positioning that upsets the team, and we do it over and over again, this causes our losses.

    Still, long way to go, and we still have CL to get through, plus FA. So don’t panic, we may have to pace ourselves. But i think it’s about time to start running players, start running for the fans sake.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Most people are unhappy sods , and they tend to spread this unhappiness unto their family and friends . Simply minding your own business and not commenting or getting involved in things that are above your head would help your well being .
    Here are some excerpts from medical articles that may be of help .

    ‘ A number of neurotransmitters such as endorphins,serotonin, dopamine and glutamate are also triggered by exercise.Some of these are well known for their role in mood control .
    Exercise in fact is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.
    Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and endorphins are two of the primary factors triggered by exercise that help to boost your mood,make you feel good and sharpen your cognition.According to a 2012 study published in the journal Neuroscience, the” secret ” to increased productivity and happiness on any given day is a long-term investment in regular exercise.And a little each day appears to go further than a lot once or twice a week.’

    SMILING -Discover the health benefits of smiling many times in a day :
    -A smile relieves stress and boosts your immunity.
    -A smile releases hormones like endorphins and serotonin that make you feel good.
    -A smile lowers your blood pressure and increases positive energy.
    -A smile changes your mood and makes you attractive.

    WALKING – The topmost benefits of walking are:
    -It improves your muscular strength and builds your stamina.
    -It strengthens your heart and lowers high blood pressure.
    -It is a great stress buster and promotes mental well being.
    -It decreases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer.
    -It is safer for your knees and joints as compared to running.

    YOGA- 5 amazing reasons to take up yoga:
    -Yoga brings about a balance in your physical, mental and emotional health.
    -Yoga keeps your body flexible and helps you lose weight.
    -Yoga helps to detoxify the body, improves immunity and relieves stress in the mind.
    -Yoga rejuvenates you, keeps you energetic and calm throughout the day.
    -Yoga helps you to enjoy better relationships, increases your awareness and enhances your intuition.

    So stop complaining , smile wide and get your butts moving !

  • John L

    Under the guise of being an Arsenal supporter, Amy Lawrence never misses an opportunity to make a cheap criticism. (She is a far more moderate version of Piers Morgan). The latest wisdom is the nonsense about psychological weakness in the team, simply because we don’t won every game. (Note also we have a massive points deficit on Chelsea; ie the same as Spurs, smaller than Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd, but apparently they don’t suffer from a major disorder, unlike our players>

    Yes, the Watford performance was poor and very disappointing and it cannot be attributed to bad / uneven / biased refereeing. However, the detailed ref reviews on this site do show that the points deficit can.

  • godwore10

    In the days before certain drugs were illegal, I believe Mr Chapman gave our players little white pills, probably benzedrine. They ran around very fast and lost the game, unable to sleep for a few days. The experiment was discontinued.

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