How Arsenal will do this season and why there is no “winning mentality”.

The 10 key factors that seem to me to be of prime influence as we enter another season.

by Tony Attwood

1: Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott

Last season Thierry Henry was reported by part of the media to have said that Arsenal needed a “top, top striker” to win the league.  The newspapers chimed in with the notion that Giroud was not good enough to win the club titles.   The hysteria built and suddenly we needed “three world class players”.

Forget the debate about developing your own players, about finding hidden gems.  If we didn’t buy x [insert flavour of the month] we were doomed.

What the debate forgot was that as always, there are many ways to solve the same problem, and just as the Premier League evolves all the time, so do players, so do clubs, so do tactics – with Arsene Wenger usually at the spearhead of change.  Indeed if things didn’t change we’d still be looking at big English centre forward thugs who strike fear into the namby-pamby foreign defenders with Corporal Jones on the terraces shouting “they don’t like it up em” as we play 3-2-2-3 in the style of Chapman.

But for a more intelligent 21st century approach how about a scenario in which for some games Theo starts at number 9 and Giroud comes on, on the hour?   And in other games (depending on the opposition) Giroud starts, and Theo takes over near the end.

And yet other games in which Giroud starts as number 9 and Theo starts on the wing.

Then imagine a forward line of Alexis Giroud and Theo in which each takes it in turns to play number 9, with Alexis and Theo moving in, swapping sides, and Giroud occasionally dropping back, going for a wander, taking a dimwitted defender who can’t get the hang of it but has been told to “stick close to Giroud” but a semi-house-trained dimwit manager, with him.

Remember, opposition coaches are given the Arsenal line up one hour before kick off, after they have announced their own starting XI to the ref.  Keeping the opposition waiting is never a bad idea, especially when you have genuine variables in the team.  Imagine being in a side that for a week has been drilled on how to stop Theo as centre forward, only to find he’s not playing or is back on the wing.

One almost feels sorry for the poor saps.  Almost, but not quite.

2.  Team Spirit; Team Surprises 

There is something in the way Arsene Wenger is looking at the camera and talking about the team at the moment that suggests that it is not just that all is ok in the camp but rather than there is something hidden that is about to surprise everyone.  Confidence and unity seem to ooze through everything we see.

We saw this 10000% in the Unbeaten Season; everyone worked together.  When Petr Cech said, “I’ve found the team spirit quite extraordinary,” it probably is true.

After all many of these players have been together quite a while now, and so friendships and understandings have had time to develop.

3.  Winning mentality

“Winning mentality” is the sort of phrase that journalists throw into their chatter when they can’t think of anything else to say.  What does it mean?   What exactly is it?  Who knows?

It is in fact one of those odd phrases that people repeat without actually thinking, “how would I know it if it came up to me in the street and slapped me round the face?”

Does Aaron Ramsey have a “winning mentality”?  Well, to know that, I’d have to know exactly what it is, and then still give the guy about 40 hours of intensive psychological one-to-one analysis.  And then ask for a second opinion.

But maybe a better turn of phrase is “mind set” which indicates how much we genuinely believe we are going to succeed, how much we focus, how much we work at the singular task, how easily we are put off by set-backs…

Everyone’s “mind set” is variable, although most of the time fixed within a generalised framework.  But it is affected by all sorts of things like what is happening in your personal relationships, whether your young child is ill, if you are having a feud with the neighbours over a barking dog, if the crowd are on your back.  Players focus, of course, but the mind can and will always play tricks.

These things take individual players up and down, but when the whole team is winning together game after game such worries can be pushed away and everyone works together even more.   It becomes not the “winning mentality” of an individual player, but the collective belief of the group.

In such circumstances it is highly beneficial to have a settled squad, and where the team changes, the changes involve players who already fit in and it looks like we have this.   Winning mentality remains a meaningless concept invented by journalists with nothing to say.

4: History don’t mean a thing

If it did, in football, the number of times a club wins the league three times running would be far higher than it is.  History can influence how the players feel, and reduce levels of nervousness when approaching a big event, but otherwise…

So it is better that we have won six games in a row at Wembley than not, better to have the Community Shield than not, and certainly better to have won the FA Cup twice in a row than not.  But it is better still to feel that this team now, is a team that can and will win things.

Not because we have a winning mentality, but because this is what we do.   We go out there and put on a really good show today.   There needs to be drive and realism, because if there is no realism, at the first set back everything falls apart.

5: The future is not the past

Arsenal won the league with Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, Ted Drake… and if we don’t have one of those then the idea is that “we can’t win the league without that type of leader”.  But each team is different.  Each finds its own heroes.   Reading the future as a re-write of the past always leads to false visions and lunatic generalisations.

What actually links Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry is that they were each the right man in the right place at the right time with the right team.

So the issue is to look at the Premier League this season, look at who we have in the squad, and then think, does this group work together, do they believe in the project, are they talented enough.  If yes, we have a chance.

And onto that we can throw in a new belief.

Arsene Wenger said that the Invincibles could go through a whole season unbeaten, and they immediately lost the next match.

But then did go through the following season unbeaten.    Once that roll had started they just believed.  And the more Sir Alex F Word said that “Arsenal will lose this season, that’s for sure” the more determined the squad was.

And then, on ending the run of 49 with a refereeing display that should be shown at the start of every season to every ref as an example of how to do everything wrong, Arsenal fell apart.  Having beaten Villa 3-1 to make it 49 unbeaten, Arsenal won only two of the next eight, and threw the season away.  Hell, we even lost to Bolton.

6:  Conviction and creativity

Alongside belief we have conviction.  But that is not enough, because in sport, as in the arts, one also needs creativity.  So forget the winning mentality – what wins the season is conviction and creativity (alongside fair-minded referees of course).

So we have a belief that we will not lose, and a view that we can be more creative than ever before, and thus having the knowledge that no matter what we can come up with something so extraordinary it will win a game on its own.   We do the creativity of Bergkamp and Ozil to imagine the impossible, and then do it, and for that we need.

7.  Everyone to take centre stage

Aaron Ramsey wants to play in the centre.  So does Ozil.  But taking centre stage is more than that.  It is about having a team where, depending on the game, lots of different players could stand up as the match winner.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain did it last week.   Theo did it in the first half of the cup final.  Ozil can do it with one pass.   Alexis did it in the second half of the cup final with a goal so wonderful that Villa players looked as if they were saying, “we’re not going to play if you’re going to do that”.

Bellerin took centre stage when he was given his chance to shine last season.   So did Coquelin with a series of calm, simple interceptions and passes which made me want to sing “Are you Gilberto in disguise?”

Keep the conviction and creativity at the same time, and then you are set.

Throw in the fact that the referees know we are watching, and will continue to watch and publicise their every move and we might just have done our little bit to give Arsenal a few points that would otherwise have been stolen from them by Type III match fixing.
And on injuries – we won’t avoid them, but let’s try and avoid having every single creative midfielder injured at the same time.   On the positive side let’s have one of the current crop of brilliant young players emerge like Bellerin and Coquelin last season.
All the planning has been done.  I rather think this season it will work.
6 August 1983: Robin van Persie born.  According to Jonathan Northcroft, a Times journalist, Van Persie joined SBV Excelsior’s youth squad when he was five, but left at the age of 15, due to the relationship between the coach and his mother, and signed for Feyenoord.

48 Replies to “How Arsenal will do this season and why there is no “winning mentality”.”

  1. Another great read, Tony. You’re right, ‘reading the future as a re-run of the past’ is a mistake. We are lucky that in Arsene Wenger we have a coach who can analyse the past and shape the future. What a squad we have now!

    You also emphasise Untold’s continuing role in highlighting referee performance. Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Thanks Tony , am hoping that the team not only be positive and creative , but also to evolve and grow together .

  3. Tony, brilliant analysis as always. If we could just add a Benzema to the mix and give Arsene a bit more selection headache. But, whether we do that or not, I think we have a fighting chance this season if we can have a fit squad.

  4. If you don’t surround yourself with positive people, where will you get your motivation from?

  5. Once any definite major purpose is clearly held in your mind, the tangible manifestation of plans for achieving it are merely a matter of time and persistent effort.
    ‪‎Napoleon Hill.‬ ‪

  6. Getting rid of ‘them’ for good will enhance our season and the well being of all AKBs.

    “You don’t ever have to feel guilty about removing toxic people from your life. It doesn’t matter whether someone is a relative, romantic interest, employer, childhood friend, or a new acquaintance — you don’t have to make room for people who cause you pain or make you feel small. It’s one thing if a person owns up to their behavior and makes an effort to change. But if a person disregards your feelings, ignores your boundaries, and “continues” to treat you in a harmful way, they need to go.”

    — Daniell Koepke

  7. Tony, Why can’t Danny W start as CF sometimes?
    Having 3 of them competing for the place, OG in one style, TW in another and DW as a bit of both +, can only be a good thing.

  8. Well done Tony. Hopefully the thrust of your article also applies to the fans. We need to have that collective belief that the Arsenal is great and good for any silverware that we are challenging for.

    As the team does not have a First Eleven, the Gooners do not comprise only the 60,000 or so in the Emirates for every home game. We are here, there and everywhere.. Just as Ramsey will be this season. I have that belief!

  9. “winning mentality” trips off the tongue more easily than winning “mind set”, but as you suggest later a team that has become accustomed to success collectively gains the confidence and belief to continue as a group which values each member’s contribution.

  10. How first hurdle in this new invincible season is wet spam,

    To night wet spam play in the Thursday league away to FC Astra Giurgiu. It is a game they must win in order to continue in this competiton.

    Who? Where? and What? FC Astra Giurgiu

    This Google map link will help you find them. From Bucharest go straight south until you come to the river and there is FC Astra Giurgiu.

    The river, surprise,is the Danube.,26.5951541,9z?hl=en

    Bucharest is 2590 ks from London or in English a little over 1600 miles.

    The game can be got on a stream or if you have Digi Cable live on one of the sports channels.

    It is possible that wet spam could come to us out off europe before we have palyed in Europe this season

  11. Point 1) “Last season Thierry Henry was reported by part of the media to have said that Arsenal needed a “top, top striker” to win the league.”

    Not either of these I hope !

    Or this:

    Or this:

    If Giroud had done any of those he would be slaughtered and labelled ‘unfit for Arsenal’.

    Oh, I forgot, he did and he was.

    But of course despite Giroud having similar statistics to both of them we all know to be good enough for Arsenal you have to be perfect.

    Well that’s those 2 out of the equation then !!

  12. ‘Mentality’ equates to attitude. So the positive mental attitude of success also has a position in descriptive. Personally, I prefer ‘hunger’. It describes the pit of the stomach that we all have.

    This Arsenal squad has a hunger for success. Winning is the satisfaction of some of the hunger. Being the best is the true satisfaction of the ‘hunger’ this squad has. So do I.

  13. @colario, I predict a tired wet spam (took me a while to understand what it is) this Sunday, as they will give their all to play in Europe. And trying to get used to the time zone from a place so far away is crazy.

    And Chavs are in a sort of striker crisis. With the bad as ever Falcao and what’s his name (the other striker on their books), it seems that 2 games against better opposition they couldn’t score without Costa.

    We have enough people around to offset the Wilshere injury. Hope no one else gets injured.

    As much as we hate the refs that gave our team such a bad time, this season what they can do is outscore the opposition. I remember the last time we went 49 games unbeaten and a full season unbeaten. Most of the matches towards the end of the season were tough to watch as one loss and we will not be able to get back our swagger easily. That’s why we struggled to find our feet after the manu** loss then.


  14. And when can the s*** churners stop churning KB stuff? Its neverending that its looking like they have nothing better to do then churning out cr**.

    Sorry guys for blasting here. I wish to get more views and get everyone go against the nonsensical people.

  15. TailGunner

    Interesting read and should be an interesting watch.
    This little gem caught my eye:

    “West Ham, I believe, have got a good deal, but we have got a really good solution to make sure that we bring billions of pounds of economic benefit into the area.

    “We have an arrangement with West Ham where they pay a fee for using the stadium, effectively serviced, and that’s the basic structure of the agreement.”

    So robbing a bank is fine as long as you send a ‘goody bag’ to all the local residents ?

    And I thought Robin Hood was a work of fiction.

  16. Jambug
    I’ll have to wait for the iplayer version as I don’t get BBC London. Hope to see Karren Brady squeezing Boris’ nuts.

  17. OT – Wet Sham getting paid to play at the Olympic Stadium!!! BBC documentary tonight. Corruption at its peak!

  18. For JK sorry JK I should have written ‘wet spam(West Ham)’

    The time difference is two hours ahead of UK time. Flying time is about 2 1/2 hours.I don’t think it will make too much difference to their sleep time.

    Lets hope both games are a nightmare for them.

  19. Just before the season, Arsenal went unbeaten, a lot people including ex-players at that time openly said Arsenal need to sign more top quality players to win the league. AW went and bought just Jens Lehmann and the rest was history. Football is a team’s game so buying eleven world class players won’t necessarily win you everything. Despite of what Mourinho said about Arsenal playing defensive, AW still played more attacking players than Chelsea. That’s shows the whole team is ready to fight for each other.

  20. It’s not nice to see medja articles about Arsenal “fans” giving Gabriel a hard time for accidentally cracking Jack’s fibula in training. Dex, you one of them?

  21. Stupid, Gabriel is even getting death threats over this. Find the twits and throw them in jail for 6 months (or more). If nothing else, Arsenal should ban them from Emirates Stadium for life.

  22. @Gord -August 6, 2015 at 4:40 pm – Arsenal fans – I think not . Probably an agent provocateur from far , far away.
    Good response by the true fans .

  23. Interesting analysis Tony.
    I think Arsenal will do very well this season mainly because for the first time in a long time we have a ” complete” squad of players. Coquelin and Cech were the two players that made it so for me.

    Since Coquelin’s reintroduction Arsenal cut their goals conceded by almost half, and I strongly believe Cech will further improve our defensive output.

    As for the “winning mentality” question – in simplest terms – pay attention to players’ body language when under adversity, like after conceding a goal.
    Some players will try to get the ball back quickly to a center circle , others will slump their shoulders looking around for answers.

    Winning mentality usually comes from winning things , but not always.
    Players like Fabregas or Alexis Sanchez had it before they ever won anything.
    Other players have won planty you but you still question their winning mentality.
    Ozil is one of my favorite players, but when the chips are down he’s not exactly the player you would put money on coming through for you.

    In the end it’s the balance within the team between players like Sanchez, Coquelin , Koscielny or Wilshere, who are fighters, and the creators like Santi and Ozil that makes for a successful side.
    Sanchez of course can create as well, so that’s an added bonus.

  24. Gord

    I think Dex was being sarcastic because if memory serves he is one of the posters that doesn’t subscribe to the theory that we get kicked off the park on a weekly basis.

    I’m sure Dex will inform me if I’m mistaken.

  25. The NY Times has a nice long article about Arsène Wenger.

    He is going into his 20th year at Arsenal, the next most in the EPL is Rogers at Liverpool (3?)? I think there was a story about the manager at Exeter actually being the next longest serving across the 92 teams of football league at 10 years recently.

    A little blurb about the Members Open day (Jambug and others were there, did you see this?):

    > When players and fans took part in a friendly competition to try to shoot a ball off the crossbar from about 20 yards, Wenger stepped up to demonstrate and drilled the bar on his first attempt. The fans roared. Wenger shrugged and smirked.

    Looking at the URL, this article was written tomorrow. 🙂

  26. Henry did say clearly that Giroud was not good enough to take Arsenal to a league title win. It’s not in debate what he said and in this case the newspapers reported it exactly as he said it. He also said Arsenal needed four new players through the spine of the team and also questioned our training as the possible cause of our injuries. Its all on video and easy to find the actual footage.

    I don’t think he was right in everything he said, but I agree wth him on Giroud. Not good enough. Hopefully Alexis can have another stellar year, though it remains to be seen whether his extended holiday will impact how quickly he gets up to full speed.

    For this year another cup is likely our best outcome. With no top striker in the squad we are relying heavily on Walcott and Alexis to grab goals from out wide and stay injury free. I think it is another mistake by Wenger not to bring a striker in (if indeed he does not). When Wenger goes in a couple of years I think the club will move forward and challenge for top honours agin, until then I just don’t have any faith in his ability to challenge the big teams over a course of a season.

  27. Gord

    Indeed I was and indeed he did.

    Before the actual ‘competition’ started, and as the introductions where being made Wenger was just ‘milling around’, ball in hand.

    As the announcer was concluding Wenger dropped the ball, swung a leg, and struck the ball on the ‘half volley.

    It sailed majestically towards the goal and landed squarely on the crossbar.

    Wenger looked suitably embarrassed, but milked the applause (and laughter) to the full.

    A lovely moment.

    I must add I was a long way away, and was only half paying attention, but that’s my recollection of this stunning display of skill and dexterity from our illustrious leader.

  28. Jayramfootbal

    “With no top striker in the squad…”

    Sorry but that is just not true.

    I have produced on here numerous sets of statistics to show Giroud is a match for the 2 strikers we are most often linked with who we are supposed to get in his place.

    He scores as many goals per game as either of them against both lowly and elite teams, so I’m not doing it again.

    As I posted earlier:

    If Giroud had done any of those he would be slaughtered and labelled ‘unfit for Arsenal’.

    Oh, I forgot, he did and he was.

    I’m not trying to claim Giroud is as good as Messi, Ronaldo, Bale or Ibrahimavic etc. but they are a rare breed indeed and beyond us I would suggest.

    But he is as good as the Benzemas of this World.

    And I’m also not saying I wouldn’t welcome another striker either, to strengthen the squad ALONG side Giroud, but not to replace him.

  29. I am so glad to read confirmation that Arsene hit the crossbar at members’ day. I thought I must have imagined it because it was over so quickly and he didn’t make a big thing of it. Go on Arsene!

  30. The Independent has a story out, which in the headline says Jack Wilshere has a broken leg.

    Jack Wilshere does NOT have a broken leg. There are lots of people, who would be walking if they had what Jack seems to have.

    Many years ago, people would talk about bruises, people including doctors. Then doctors quit talking about bruises, and started talking contusions.

    You could talk about a cracked bone, which nominally means an acute injury, and there has propagated across some of the bone, a crack. And in propagating, subcracks could have formed that might have grown a little, or not at all. So, to say a bone is cracked could mean it has a family of cracks, all related to a single acute injury. Some people would have described that as a hairline fracture.

    It seems that at some point, the medical community tried to start using hairline fracture for stress frature. While a stress fracture also refers to a family of cracks in a bone, these cracks are not the result of a single overstress event. They are the result of fatigue (multiple cycles of stress). And as there are many events contributing, the body has been trying to remodel the bone while the stresses causing the bone to locally fail continue to happen.

    And yes, you can mix the two. Someone might be developing stress fractures in a bone, and then a single incident takes advantage of the reduced bone competency and produces a crack which runs a significant way through the bone.

    If the problem with Jack is due to a single incident, there is not that much damage to fix. If the problem is fatigue (in the materials science sense, many cycles of stress), there is more damage to fix.

    A “few” is supposedly between 3 and 7. So, a few weeks could be 3 or 7, or somewhere in between. A 3 week recovery from an acute crack is possible. A 7 (or slightly more) week recovery from a stress fracture is in the range of typical.

    The fibula is not typically regarded as a weight bearing bone, a guess is it carries about 17% of the load. Stress fractures are typically found on weight bearing bones. The fibula can see stress fractures, but the repeated load is coming from “traction” in doing things like not running in straight lines.

    It is ambiguous as to what Jack has.

    We need to wait and see.

  31. Congratulations to Arsene Wenger for in charge for 20 years ,and for the loyalty shown to his vision.
    I for one am looking forward to his next 20 years , wherein we should end up quite a few records and many more trophies.
    Up the Gunners ! An AKB for life .

  32. @colario, actually that was quite brilliant. Anyway they have many new players and a new manager who knows us inside out but we have aced the Chavs fight. So bring them on?

    @Gord, sometimes the media is making hell lot of stories up. But for this some hardcore fans or plastic fans made death threats. Normal fans like us will feel that this is only an accident, and hope that Jacko come back quickly in one piece.

  33. Yes, i love this article. It sums up Arsenal and all that supporters and fans are waiting for.

    “There’s natural mystic mystic blowing through the air”, Marley:

    🙂 All can feel it. 🙂

  34. jayramfootball

    I think Henri’s experiences was one that “if a player don’t perform, his team mates let him feel it”. This is apparent in the many times he and others from that great team spoke about this.
    So maybe that’s his way of saying to Giroud, you need to step up a level now, almost daring him, you know, a little motivation. 🙂

    At least this thought came to me this morning. I was surprised at Henri’s statements in the first instance.

  35. More on Jack Wilshere

    The above article quotes “the newspaper”:

    > … It’s a hairline crack in his fibula. It’s in the region where they took the screws off so I believe it’s a straightforward bone injury, which means there’s no surprise there.

    In a liquid, stress is called pressure, and is force divided by the area the force is acting upon. Because a solid can withstand a shear stress, the force is perpendicular to a surface, and the force acts in a specific direction on that surface. Which makes the math more complicated.

    If we have a plane (sheet) body of infinite extent in a state of uniform stress, we can observe that the stress in the region of a circular hole is slightly higher than far away from the hole. The amount the stress is higher, depend on the radius of the hole. This is called stress multiplication.

    In fixing the bone before, the surgeons drilled into the bone. As initially drilled, there is a sharp edge where the hole meets the outer edge of the bone. In precision machining, you will find that the machinist does a little extra at that point. They may radius the top edge of the hole, or they could chamfer it. If nothing is done, a careful disassembly will often find some fraction of the first thread region to have “failed” in assembly. But that is also a good location for a crack to start (due to the small radius of curvature).

    Whether the threads are formed when inserting a screw, or before hand, doesn’t matter. Where the outer edge of a screw meets the bone, is another small radius of curvature, which can see more stress multiplication.

    Some place on Jack’s fibula, was a place where a small radius of curvature was still present. Gabriel’s contact was not high enough to break the fibula, but when multiplied by the stress multiplication factor for this small radius of curvature, it was enough to start a crack and grow it a small ways.

    When the body remodels the bone, it can “ungrow” the crack and it can “bridge” the crack opening displacement. Small displacements are easier to work with than larger ones, which is why we want the crack closed up, and the two surfaces being good approximations of each other.

    Hopefully it won’t take long for Jack to heal this problem.

  36. If this is true:

    “It’s bad luck, purely accidental. It’s a hairline crack in his fibula. It’s in the region where they took the screws off so I believe it’s a straightforward bone injury, which means there’s no surprise there.”

    then surely that belies the notion that Wilshere is ‘injury prone’.

    This setback is a direct consequence of the original, unpunished foul. It is NOT a fresh injury.

    This ‘Wilshere is injury prone’ is all part of the propaganda, much the same as ‘The way he plays invites fouls’ is.

    It all leaves it open for Jack to be kicked off the park without fear of reprisals, because it’s all his own fault if he gets caught, and what’s more if he does get injured, well that’s only because he’s injury prone.

    The media gleefully propagate this myth, a myth that paths the way for Jack to be assaulted on a weekly basis, but never mind, he’ll be happily chatting away to them next week.

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