By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw, senior psychologist at the University College Hospital of the North Circular Road.
Forget Arsenal for a moment. Just think about winning the League. According to lots of supporters and a lot of people who make their money out of talking about football, argue that how one goes about winning the League is simple. They can describe it. They know what to do. And they could do it, given the chance.
The amazing thing is that these people who really do know about how to manage a team never get that chance, despite the fact that 60 League managers left their jobs in the 92 league clubs during the season 2017/18. Most of those who have left were dismissed. Only a few jumped.
So let us try an example of how things can go wrong. And what better place than to consider further the very particular case of a Mr A Sanchez, a gentleman of Chilean descent who is described generally as a genius.
When Alexis left Arsenal to go to Manchester United this was widely seen as a good move for Manchester United, a good move for Alexis and a bad move for Arsenal. Although not everyone saw it that way at the time. Goal.com ran the article “Why Arsenal have made a genius signing in brainy Henrikh,” and there were one or two others who thought the moves of the January window were particularly astute from an Arsenal point of view, but not very many.
Indeed I recall most writers hammering Arsenal for their incompetence in letting Alexis slip away. And yet today we see headlines such as “Alexis Sanchez, getting the best out of Paul Pogba and producing an attacking brand of football… what problems does Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho face this summer?” That was in the Mail. Paul Scholes also lays into Alexis Sanchez: ‘His performances for Man Utd must improve – they can’t get any worse’.” That was in the Telegraph.
And indeed this has been going on for a while as the Manchester Evening News wrote way back in March (which is a long time ago in football) “Manchester United reveal what is wrong with Alexis Sanchez”. Apparently it was the timing of the transfer although that doesn’t really explain Mkhitaryan’s success, nor why Man U fell into such an obvious trap.
Meanwhile the always exceptionally droll and amusing Jonathan Liew ran a piece under the headline, “What’s wrong with Alexis Sanchez? Atom and Humber attempt to explain his struggles at Manchester United” which opened with the lines…
It is an interesting twist on the view Untold has of that phrase. Mert is using it as a way of telling young players to check that one’s own life against the evidence out there of players who succeeded and players who failed. It certainly isn’t a bad idea.
My guess from the outside is that Manchester United saw nothing wrong with Alexis, and put the entire blame for any decline that they did see during 2017/18 before he signed, on the incompetence of Arsenal’s training procedures rather than anything amiss within Alexis. But sometimes it is worth checking all the options.
If you want to go further (and here it does get a bit freaky) there is a book by Carlo Rovelli called “The Order of Time” which argues that chronology and continuity are just a story we tell ourselves in order to make sense of our existence, and that actually time is merely a perspective.
All that exists is the process of transformation of one thing to another, from which it is possible to calculate possibilities and relations. We superimpose order on what we see, but in reality the world is much more complex and chaotic than we can allow for.
So we rely on approximate descriptions that actually ignore most of the other events, relations, and possibilities. Alexis is a great player but being held back by playing for a naff manager in a naff team. Give them Mkhitaryan.
That’s one translation of events. Another is, Alexis has got issues about being the top dog in the team and finds it hard to integrate. Mkhitaryan is a brilliant player who gets along with most people and particularly with Aubamayang. That’s another. There are many more.
Two simple but different interpretations of the same event. Only people who believe they are always right only see one of those two.
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