By Tony Attwood
Situations are complex. Virtually all situations are complex. Some are incredibly complex.
Of course the brain simplifies them by putting habits in place and skills in place so we don’t actually have to think how to move the muscles to put one foot in front of the other, but that just hides the complexity of what we are doing.
Because I learned how to touch type as a teenager I look at the screen as I type this and my fingers do the business, without my even having a thought about it. Anyone can learn to do it, but it is a phenomenally complicated operation. The benefit is of course it doubles the speed of your typing.
Same with footballers – they don’t think before each move and each kick – if they did they’d probably fall over before getting anywhere near the ball. And because they don’t have to think, there is less chance that the defender will know either.
And where is this leading? To the simple fact that when you ask anyone to change a part of their behaviour it is difficult. Ask eleven people to change something that they do for a living all day long and have been doing for quite a long time, and you get chaos.
The question then becomes, is the chaos worth it? The answer is yes if it leads to us shooting up the league, and having the sort of 10 match unbeaten run that was commonplace in the last 22 years, and ultimately win a cup or three.
Thus if we take it that there never has been a chance of Arsenal going from 6th to 1st in the Premier League in one season, then a fair bit of changing and mucking around with the system and the way the squad is used to playing, could be the sort of pain that in the longer run is worth it.
And maybe loyal supporters will take that and stay with it, knowing that booing the team, and writing negative articles about them, will most certainly not make anything better happen. (Incidentally there is medical evidence that people who moan a lot are more likely to get cancer, so there is a benefit in being happy). (Actually I just made that up – sorry slipped into journalist mode there for a moment).
Anyway, change takes time and during change lots of things go wrong. Try getting an emergency plumber on a Saturday morning in time for you to make it to the train to get to Arsenal.
So, you’re just lucky then (or you’ve never tried to get an emergency plumber). But change for most of us is chaotic because our habits are broken. It’s a bit like me trying to type on Walter’s computer which is set out in the Flemish style. After the first words came out “cialmb 0 kekj= 2kx” I knew this was going to be hard work.
In a changing situation managers tend to be quieter than normal, especially those who don’t speak the language very well. Mr Wenger always spoke to the journalists and answered every question with humour and grace, took the abuse, and moved on. Mr Emery is still learning his way around, but he did a good one when asked, “When you spoke to Özil on Thursday about what you wanted to see from, did you plan to play him in a different position?”
Mr E replied “Maybe,” and in my book that is 1-0 to the boss. But of course the press decided that a hand movement made around about the same time spoke volumes – in particular the volumes they wanted the gesture to speak. They could read the boss’ mind. The hand spoke of tension, breaking points, arguments, screaming. Oh yes and unnamed sources.
So when do we know journalists are making it up? Well, most of the time, but particularly when they interpret body language like that. Mr Emery is being set up by the media as the fall guy, the man who can’t handle the top player. And yet this is the man who handled Neymar. Odd that.
The fact is that at Arsenal the manager is changing the style, and we have problems with two leading players: Özil who is missing games and Ramsey who won’t sign a new contract. Put those three together and life is going to be difficult enough without snide journalistic comments like, “Özil may want to leave his sickbed as soon as possible,” and comments which actually when you work on them a bit make no sense at all such as “Unai Emery adds to uncertainty over Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal absence with hint of positional change.” Mr Emery said the man was sick – which removes uncertainty not the reverse.
I think the change to the pressing style will take a couple of months to get sorted which means that we should have it done by the time the major cups come along which in the broader context of new manager, new approach, new style, new players and rabid journalists, is fair enough.
But that’s just me. I find being positive makes life, well, just a bit nicer.
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