Of Television Sets, Marriages, And Football Teams

If your TV isn’t working you can go out and buy a new one. As long as the cable connection exists, you just have to plug the new one in and it starts working. In short, you can spend money and fix the problem almost instantaneously.

There are a lot of things in this world that work on the same principle. You could buy a new phone, a razor, pretty much any product. In some marketing classes I read the concepts of a consumer’s willingness and ability to spend. As long as those two exist, the salesman’s job is not too difficult.

But what if your marriage isn’t working? Can you just discard the old one and go out to buy a new one?

I’m just short of my third wedding anniversary but have had enough experience to say that making a marriage work is not easy. Even when both parties are madly in love, want to do the right things, and try hard to live for each other; there do come moments when things get rough. Often it is due to unforeseeable circumstances and external factors beyond one’s control. In other instances it is due to complex issues beyond one’s understanding.

For those who aren’t able to make it work, it’s not often a case of being blind to the issues, or of missing the obvious, or of being too stubborn or arrogant. Sometimes things don’t work despite one’s honest and best efforts. People are not stupid but things go wrong in virtually everyones lives.

Even if one has the ability and willingness to spend whatever it takes (time, money, etc), can they simply get rid of one marriage and find another. What is the guarantee that the next one will be better? How long will it last? Will it actually bring the level of happiness that the heart desires? How many times does one have to try to get it right? Not easy questions to answer, are they?

These thoughts came to me while reading some of the pollution on the Arsenalsphere.

Many people seem to think that football teams work in a plug and play fashion. Pay good money for new players to replace the old ones that are not functioning as desired and everything will improve instantly and dramatically.

It is a logical way of thinking no doubt. If something doesn’t work – fix it. But as we saw with the two examples above, something issues are easy to fix while the others are not.

This is precisely the reason why the likes of City, Spuds and others have spent hundreds of millions without going past Arsenal. It is not easy to buy players and make a great team. Some transfers work while others flop. If someone actually analyzes the success and failures of transfer, it is quite likely the number of flops will be higher.

In the Arsenal context, Déjà Vu is a two way street as well. I have never denied the fact that many of Arsenal’s errors have been repeated far too often and it can get annoying. I’d say I truly understood terms like ‘gut-wrenching’, ‘mind-numbing’, etc. only after certain horrendous bloopers by some Gunners.

At the same time, it’s been four or five years now, perhaps more, since I’ve been hearing comments like “Next season Tottenham will spend more and go ahead of us”, “Aston Villa are improving and will go ahead of Arsenal next year”, “City will continue spending and will overtake Arsenal”, and so on. Every year there is a different kind of Déjà Vu when these statements are proven wrong.

It’s not that these teams don’t have the ambition, ability, or willingness to improve. They give it their best every year but it doesn’t work.

It just highlights the fact that creating a football team and taking it to the pinnacle is not the same as buying products off the shelf. This is corroborated by the fact that there are millions of fans and pundits with an opinion on the game but barely a handful who can actually create and manage winning teams.

Real Madrid have spent insane amounts in search of glory. But even they had to come looking for a manager who hasn’t won a trophy for a long, long time. Why didn’t they go to the likes of Alan Hansen, Emmanuel Petit, or scores of other pundits who seem to understand Arsenal’s problems better than Wenger? Surely if they know more about Arsenal than Wenger, they’ll make better managers than Arsene, no? Perhaps, they did so because they understand the difference between having an opinion and actually achieving something? After all, they’ve tried hard enough with all their might/cash.

One obvious reason for the dearth of quality opinions and actual understanding is that too many people rehash the same lazy statements. To be fair, very few have the time or the resources to look at all the details but at least they should temper their opinions to acknowledge this. Very few actually do.

In this wonderful piece 7amkickoff analyzes some telling stats. It busts quite a few myths around Djourou and other misconceptions surrounding Arsenal. Unfortunately, most people will just continue to propagate the misguided notions till the point their universality seems like proof that actual facts are wrong.

Of course, players and pundits are just as guilty of this as the fans. After the West Brom game Mulumbu repeated the tired line that Arsenal lacked mentality. He went on to claim that Manchester United would have come back to win the game but Arsenal couldn’t.

It comes down to mentality. Manchester are very strong. In a game like Saturday’s, I think they could come back and equalise and then win the game. I believe that’s what Arsenal is missing a bit.

Now if we look at the facts, this season Arsenal and United have both won 9 points from losing positions. More interestingly, Arsenal have dropped 9 points while winning whereas Manchester United have dropped 14!

If mentally could be accurately ascertained from dropping or gaining points, not that I think it can, these stats would contradict the popular opinion. But it does show that those who think the games like the ones against Tottenham or Newcastle show Arsenal’s weak mentality haven’t paid much attention to the relevant details.

I guess these perceptions get built over time. If a team has been winning regularly the perceptions about them will tend to be glorifying. It probably comes from the human tendency to put the winners on a pedestal. Similarly, if a team has been struggling or has been thereabouts without actually being ‘there’, the negative opinions gain strength. These aren’t always based on facts and don’t really offer practical and usable insight, but they do have the strength of popularity.

In the case of Arsenal one could also say the negativity in the media is driven by other factors like xenophobia, jealousy, etc, while that of the fans is fuelled by a fixation with trophies and the banter of their mates who support other clubs.

There is a lot that can be said on this topic but as I’ve said before I don’t have any interest in making people change their opinions. It’s a futile exercise and I’d prefer to put my time to better use. And since I don’t want to spend every day going around in circular arguments there will be fewer articles on the blog during this international break and the coming weeks. Arseblogger and some others do a fantastic job of covering the daily happenings and I can’t add much to that. I’ll post only when I find something worth discussing.

Have a good one…

21 Responses to Of Television Sets, Marriages, And Football Teams

  1. MSL says:

    I don’t want to talk about winning mentality but Arsenal are not greedy enough. Out of three competitions and a lot of doubt but when you have one thing going on and you have a good shot- you need to be greedy. I can understand after all that happened in the last couple of weeks its hard to keep you chin up but thats when you call the Leprechaun inside of you. We didn’t get rolling till the second against WBA. In that sense what is winning mentality for one is greed for another.

    Arsene does have few blind spots. We turned down VDS and Cech before they went on signed for our major rivals. We all agree we need a new defensive coach. But the argument for an experienced player is that he can organize people around when defending. It is very very useful and I don’t see that side of communication from our defenders very often. I saw Squillaci and Miquel do it sometimes.

    Adaptation is another one of our weaknesses. We don’t plan specifically for a side. We need to because in a 60 game season we need to organize and distribute work to get the best out of the players.

    Stop whining. If we don’t win the title its first and foremost our fault. Not the referees, not Sauron’s minions like Pulis and Big Sam. Us- lets be the most accountable party.

    We do have soft spot in defense. I would love to see the goals conceded/ per min of opposition’s possession and see where we stand. Wigan, Newcastle and Spurs games are a one time-off too many to say we have a good defense.

  2. Wenger Boy says:

    Fantastic article and a highly apt analogy. I feel that is very essence of divided opinion among Arsenal fans.

  3. Phv says:

    ”Now if we look at the facts, this season Arsenal and United have both won 9 points from losing positions. More interestingly, Arsenal have dropped 9 points while winning whereas Manchester United have dropped 14!

    If mentally could be accurately ascertained from dropping or gaining points, not that I think it can, these stats would contradict the popular opinion.”

    You are partially right.What you are missing is that Man Utd are first while we are 5 points behind. This is what matters in the end.It does not look like we are going to win the title. I would love to shout ”in your face!” to all the haters, pundits etc but it is not going to happen.It hurts but Wenger must stay.

  4. arsene-al says:

    Love your articles, fantastic job

  5. Greencard usa says:

    In the last couple of days I have contemplated my last response on this blog largely on account of what you call “the pollution of the arsenalsphere”. When I first stumbled on a blog I could really look forward to and engage in conversation with reasonable and wise people I was elated. Then like a scourge, the vile swarm of ‘locusts’ descended and began a systematic stripping of all that has been wholesome and left behind lumps of desecration. But your current blog gives me cause to pause.

    I understand the analogy of marriage and agree with its sentiments and intent; but I think something more insidious yet familiar is afoot. Arsenal like other clubs easily sheds its players without much compunction: no need to list. So ‘divorce’ is not so hard, really. I think the issues are more aptly delivered by considering the corporatization central to contemporary sport. Wenger himself often speaks of personnel, business, and has no problem with the corporate culture. In the cut-throat thrust of this culture there is no concern over tradition or deep social relations. In this culture ceo’s and performers are changed at the drop of a hat in order to stay ahead of the competition. Largely, the clamourous fans, driven by the trophe fixation reflect perfectly the contemporary corporate capitalist culture. They are remarkable reflections of the success of the dominant media.

    But there are significant moments where media propagation of the corporate cultural ideals clash with Wenger’s philosophy. Wenger does not wholly and uncritically embrace the corporate ideology. He tries to marry the productive in that culture with good old fashioned traditional values of goodness in social relations. This is largely manifested in the sublimation of the ‘beautiful game’;$ his loyalty and commitment to club and careers of players; and, of course his powerful and expansive humanity. This, the superficial minds of corporate goons and stooges in media, football managers, football bodies, and referees cannot condone and so they often come after Arsenal in multiple ways. Of course, there is a limit to what they can actually do. They would like Arsenal to abandon its headstrong ways and become the good corporate style club that is epitomized by Chelsea, Man United, Man City, etc.

    So when fans seek to pollute the arsenalsphere, stop a while and consider whose interests you further beyond your own petty ones.

  6. Kushagra India says:

    I will defo reference ur article whenever I get married ,about winnning mentality the problem is we haven’t won anything for an aeon so it will be always questioned whereas manure have won trophies left right and center over the last few years ……good read

    On another note do you think in absence of Fabregas we should switch to 4-4-2 we look more potent…..

  7. AP says:

    Ah! there’s a smell of tiredness in the ole crusader’s words…Here’s to renewed vigour after the international break!!!

  8. Shard says:

    I agree with your sentiments almost completely. I did try and change people’s opinions and as you say it is futile.. However, one thing I’d like to ask, why is the Spurs match clubbed with the Newcastle one? What relevant details did I miss? Because I seem to remember that loss as pretty much all of our making.

  9. Pistol says:

    By far the greatest blog Desi. I have wasted far too much of my time reading unbelievable CRAP about out team on other negative and hateful blogs I no longer visit – including online gooner & legrove. On these blogs, angry people spread crap and believe they have the authority to talk uninformed rubbish, ranting about the manager/team simply because they are a well off season ticket holder.

    They are not true supporters and infact, I get upset because they are unstoppable and I truly believe that blogs like le grove and online gooner are partly responsible for the negative and flat atmousphere at the emirates. Just wish they spent more time on here!

    This might sound dramatic but when I see fans getting on Arshavins back, Bendtners back, Eboue etc I honestly feel embarrassed to be a gooner,and believe that many who do get on the players backs do so based on opinions formed from these mindless rants.

    This blog is absolutely fantasically well thought out and researched, offers objective analysis taking all factors into account and provokes thought among your readership. This can be seen in the thoughtful comments posted underneath rather than the hateful spiteful comments found beneath onlinegooner & legrove articles.

    Great work, I now only read blogs from here, arsenal column, 7am kick off and arseblog as I cant stand the crap that gets put on the internet by others.

    I suggest everyone does the same and takes them down!

    Thanks Desi and keep up the great work


  10. kel says:

    @ Desi
    And this is the point every one affiliated with Arsenal have developed a huge taste for excuses.
    No one is saying go buy players for 50 and 60 mill but subtle buys that will give the team the edge it need to win consistently.

    Facts: What have we won in the past 6 years??? (Nothing)

    Facts:What has change at the club in the last 6 years???

    (Very Little)

    And your trying to tell me to be objective, how much more time do we want??? people are even sorry for us that they want us to win. So while i take some of your points your arguments have no spine because the facts speak volume.

    It is almost a decade to much excuses.

  11. Claver says:

    ‘More interestingly, Arsenal have dropped 9 points while winning whereas Manchester United have dropped 14!’

    Very, very interesting Desi. In my opinion, there is no clearer indication that Arsenal are THE better team than that.

    That speaks of guts, determination and desire on the part of OUR team. Long may that continue.

    I no longer feel despondent that Arsenal are out of 3 competitions. Such is life, suck it up and move.

    So what if ManU have a path lined with obliging Refs?

    I’d rather support Arsenal. I am prepared to wait for a trophy.

    When we do get it, noone will savour it like I will! Not even the players, because perhaps I would have waited longer for it.

    So to all those fakers, those moaning about 6yrs without a trophy, here’s one to up yours: I can wait another 70yrs if GOD permits me!

    It’s not that we Arsenal fans are waiting for a trophy, it’s that the trophies are waiting for us!

    The most illustrious name on those trophies will be Arsenal.

  12. Kushagra India says:

    albo says:
    March 23, 2011 at 22:20
    But I do think a HUGE amount of negative feeling over the past few years is based on an inaccurate picture of our finances – partly bred by the club itself in its (understandable I suppose) desire to be seen to be posting excellent financial results.

    The bottom line is that, despite all the profit brought about by the new stadium and player sales in the past 5 years, right now we still only have £40 million set aside for squad investment (really not a big number in the greater scheme of things).

    Now, when you consider that we have been getting financially stronger every year and that total will have been slowly building, that surely means that for much of the past 5 or 6 years we really haven’t had much more money to spend than we did spend.

    How many Arsenal fans do you think would be totally behind Wenger if we had been honestly told in 2004 – ‘there will hardly be any money available and we are just going to have to make do for 5 years while we build for the future’. After all, most Everton fans (and media pundits) absolutely worship David Moyes for the job he has done on a BIGGER budget than Wenger has used.

    Personally, I think Wenger has been the victim of his own classiness in just getting on with the job without letting on how hamstrung we were (and to some extent still are). Compare that to Benitez (for example) who constantly bought fan favour at Liverpool by shifting the blame to the owners despite their making huge sums available to him…

    a comment worth discussing from other blog…

    • desigunner says:

      I have covered this issue before but it’s been a while.

      There is no doubt Arsenal have some money. I agree with this comment and expect it to be around 30-50M. But it isn’t an annual budget of that size. It is there only because it hasn’t been spent. If Wenger spent it, then Arsenal would only have what they can generate from sales and perhaps 15 odd M per year. These figures are only my guess.

      I’ve said before that when a club has hundreds of millions to spend they can risk a couple of 30M flops. Arsenal cannot afford that. That is why the manager cannot risk more than 15, at most 20, on a player. And he can’t do that on too many at a time.

      Selling many of the current players and getting others will also lead to instability and the problems that the likes of City and Spuds face.

      These and similar issues make buying and selling players a very complicated task. And the fact that Wenger is by far the best at this shows how much effort he puts into analyzing the relevant details. It’s the reason I trust his judgment.

      And this doesn’t even involve situations where Arsenal want to buy someone but the other club or the player rejects it.

      The simple point of it all is that this is a very complex process that involves multiple angles that most fans can’t even begin to comprehend. Sell X, Buy Y is the dumbest argument and perhaps the oldest one in the history of the game. Again as I’ve said before, this is the reason there are many successful players in Football Manager but very few top class managers in real life.

  13. richie says:

    Desi after any kind of set back, be it dropped points, individual mistakes, bad substitutions, or the perenial “we need to change managers because Arsene won’t spend money on quality players” or like “how can Almunia be Arsenals 3rd choice goal keeper”? “All the big teams have better 3rd choice keepers” “Don’t They”?

    I return to this a proper Arsenal blog after first trawling through the plethoria of absolute xenaphobic trash, written by “suposed” Gooners about our club, our players, and about our manager. Thankfully you offer perspective, insight, and analysis in what I would like to class a proper British style.

    You know expressing values that we all hope to aspire to like a sense of fair play, innocent until proven guilty and a sensible logical analysis of actual events not perceived ones. I know your article above “Of Marriages TV sets and Football Teams” will fly over the head of way too many of “our own” because I fear its way too intelligent for many. I base my assumptions not on the Gooners I meet but on those who post all the vitriol on other “Supposed” Gooner blogs. Your stands out as a sanctury of reason. If only some of the others could see the wood for the tree’s.

  14. Zerin Rahiman says:

    It is interesting to see the cycle you are going through

    There is a very thin line – the one of an impassionate neutral analyst. But then a neutral will not have time to watch every detail with so much passion

    There are always a vast majority whose opinions are swayed by the fluff around the essence. Only very few people have the need and passion to delve into objective facts when the expected objectives are not being met

    When you are in a marriage it is very difficult to know whether it is worth making it work and being patient. Fergie took 7 years to win a trophy.
    Houllier had 6 years. Rafa had 6 years. I still feel from very deep objective analysis that we should have stuck with him. However I am happy in the new marriage with old sweetheart Kenny:)

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