In his press conference after the Braga game Arsene was asked if he expected Wilshere to play a central role so early in the season. In his usual forthright manner Arsene shared his wisdom,
Honestly, no. But football teaches you one thing – be open-minded and never have a definite opinion. You need to have opinions sometimes but you always have to have an open mind on players because you can never predict how quickly they develop.
While in the given context it seemed like a simple enough answer, if you think about it there is more in there. I was particularly intrigued by the words – “be open-minded and never have a definite opinion”.
How often have we seen players go from hero to zero in a game or two, and vice versa? Many scribes, pundits, bloggers, and whoever else talks about football seem to have a short memory. Some Arsenal fans are particularly guilty of knee-jerk reactions.
We’ve seen opinions change about Song, Bendtner, Diaby, and many others. Even established, dare I say ‘proven’, players like Arshavin and Sagna have had their ups and downs. Not as much on the field of play as in the public and pundit opinions.
By the end of 07-08 Sagna was in the Premier League team of the year. By the end of 09-10 he was useless, couldn’t cross, offered no attacking threat, and what not. I have a feeling by the end of this season he will be in the good books once again.
Often these changes aren’t even over the course of a season. If you doubt me, just ask Theo Walcott!
I think most gooners should pause and reflect on those words by Le Boss – Be open-minded, never have a definitive opinion. Once we form a definitive opinion, like “Almunia is Sh*t”, there is a good chance everything we see will be tainted and all our opinions irrevocably biased.
Is it a surprise that during the summer the internet went crazy about the need for a keeper at Arsenal? One almost got a feeling that we will be out of the title race within a month if we didn’t sign a keeper! Since the start though, Almunia has done really well. Petr Cech, on the other hand, has made some bloopers; same goes for Joe Hart, Pepe Reina, and other top keepers.
I don’t mean to say all those keepers are bad or useless. That would be another definitive opinion! The point here is that most of us are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Everyone makes mistakes. So why not do the same with our own players?!
I know the obvious argument against this is the number of mistakes. But I’d say look back carefully and more than half of those will be down to the fact that there is already a bias against the player in our minds.
For instance, some people blamed Almunia for the goal we conceded at Anfield. But if you watch the replay carefully it’s not hard to see that the pass from Arshavin was extremely casual and not the right one so near the penalty box, Wilshere didn’t do a good job of controlling it, Vermaelen was a few yards away from the striker and didn’t read the situation at all, and finally the strike from N’gog was powerful and really well placed.
This was another point that Arsene covered, this time in the shareholder Q&A.
It is sometimes easy to reduce that fact we dropped points [last season] to the fault of the goalkeeper. Normally in any goal you have four or five mistakes. But the keeper has the last.
Just as I wrote above, about the goal at Anfield, and as you’ll see in most match reviews on this blog, there are four or five mistakes in almost any goal that we’ve conceded. Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to brag that I’ve been saying this all along. This is not something I’ve discovered. It is just the nature of the game and I’ve learnt by listening to people like Wenger and some others who talk a lot of sense.
I truly hope some Arsenal fans will show a more open-minded approach this season. We’re bound to have some rough patches and some or the other player will have a few difficult games. The Keeper might also make a few mistakes at some point. These things are to be expected over the course of a long, hard season. I’m not saying it’s good but it is inevitable and happens to all the teams. For some it happens in a short duration, for others it’s spread out over the season.
Anyway, the purpose of this article is not to preach. Wenger often forces me to think and I like to discuss the issues. As always, I look forward to your views.