Our captain has come out with an interesting comment,
As a team, we need to be stronger. We can’t hide behind people saying we are too young or we have injuries. We just have to compete. People say you must learn from your mistakes, but you learn how to play football when you are 12, 13, 14, 15. You don’t learn these things when you are 25.
I call this interesting because there aren’t too many people who defend Arsenal based on age. I can think of only one prominent person and that is Le Boss himself. Now if I wanted to be sensational I would have given this a “Cesc hits out at Arsene” or some such twist. As most regular readers will know, that’s never my purpose so we will leave the “Fabregas is unhappy with Wenger/Teammates” angle out of this discussion.
Age of the squad is one of Wenger’s pet excuses. Some of the fans who are desperate for a title are probably sick of it. Even I am not a big fan of age as a reason for not winning especially when the manager was extremely confident we can win something this year. Since we have a lot to play for this season I will leave the title discussion out and focus only on individual games.
I am assuming El Capitan was reflecting on the recent losses when he made this statement. In contrast, this is what Arsene said after the defeat at Stamford Bridge,
Our average age is 23 years and Chelsea’s is 29 – I think that it showed in the decisive moments on the pitch.
The way I see it, Wenger might believe that the squad is good enough to win a title yet there could be individual games where experience makes a difference.
Cesc has a point when he says that one learns football at a very young age. However, I believe that is just the technical aspect of the game and that is something our players are good at. But learning never stops (something Fabregas has acknowledged in previous interviews).
I tend to divide mistakes into two kinds. One where you don’t know what you are doing and learn after the event and the other where you know what should be done but fail to do it. If the mistakes by our players had been in the first category Cesc would have been right. But the mistakes were not down to a lack of ability. These players have learnt in their early years that you don’t leave the post and go walkabout. They have also learnt the importance of positioning and coordination in defense.
At the Bridge our chief culprits were Clichy, Song and Vermaelen. These guys aren’t exactly novices but they aren’t in the same league as Lampard, Ballack or Terry from an experience point of view.
So experience of playing and winning big games could certainly be a factor. Winning on the big stage is never easy no matter how much talent you have. There has to be that instinct that guides you through the big moments. After all that’s what these games boil down to. Most of the play is in the midfield and wide areas and the crunch moments are few and far between. Unfortunately, we have not been able to stamp our class in those moments.
I like to think that within a big game of football there is a mini game of chess. It’s a battle of wits and patience. Two opponents with equal firepower move around slowly and wait for a mistake. Each tries to move the game towards their own strengths while hiding their weaknesses. This is perhaps where we have failed and this is what comes through experience.
The other aspect that comes with experience is belief. You know that you can turn things around. Unless you have done it before you can only think that you can do it. There is a difference between thinking and knowing. I guess most of us have experienced this difference in some way or the other. If not, I suggest watching The Matrix for a quick primer.
In that sense when I see that most of this squad hasn’t won anything, it makes me wonder if we lack that crucial knowing part of experience. Maybe Wenger has a point there that Fabregas has missed. But if Le Boss makes a valid point, then he’s also the one who’s supposed to find a solution!
Age might be an explanation after the fact but it should not be an excuse.