Vermaelen Touches Upon A Critical Topic had an interesting article today with some quotes from Thomas Vermaelen. In essence, the Belgian said that the Gunners have to leave the past behind and make a fresh start from scratch.

Everybody starts from zero and everybody has to start again.

You get a new chance and that’s always a good feeling when people give you another chance to win something. The past is behind us and it’s good to look into the future.

That’s what we do now – we start all over again with a new chance and we will go for it this year.

The words are alright. As is the sentiment. Players have to focus on the future and build from the ground up this season. But this is one of those things that is much, much, much easier said than done.

We live in a world where every moment on a football pitch is linked with trophy chances and in the case of Arsenal it tends to be extremely negative. If people can look at a couple of pre-season friendlies and predict disaster, one can only shudder while imagining the reaction to some set-backs that are bound to happen during a long, strenuous season.

On top of it, if my observations are valid, almost every media outlet is highlighting negative stories around the club. There is no doubt in my mind that ghosts of seasons past will be dug up the moment a game is drawn or lost.

It’s hard to say how much the players are affected by the noises on the web or the asinine dross in the press. I doubt any human being can remain completely unaffected by stories that are repeated endlessly. And this is where it’s going to get tricky.

Most, if not all, Gunners have been put through some sort of a psychometric test. They are undoubtedly strong minded and talented individuals who will focus on their training and performances. But what happens when someone makes a mistake, and there is no doubt someone will, sooner rather than later, because that is part of the game and happens to the best of players.

Will the seeds of doubt germinate in the minds of one or two players? Will it then spread to the others?

Imagine a situation when the team is defending a set-piece at a critical moment; say just before full time with a one goal lead. What if someone like Djourou of Koscielny is reminded of the past? Will that minor distraction be enough to drop the focus/concentration by maybe 5-10 percent? What if that leads to a goal?

I believe we have come at an interesting point in this discussion.

It would be easy to say this is definitely going to happen and there is no hope for this team. As I have said before such an attitude has zero constructive value.

Some could also say that these players are professionals and have to perform irrespective of the past mistakes. Ideally, that would work. Practically, it’s not that simple.

If you are the manager, how do you ensure the players will be able to keep the past mistakes out of their heads?

Will buying one or two players suffice? Is it necessary to bring in a sports psychologist? Does better and more intense training lead to enhanced confidence? Is better and positive communication the answer? Perhaps a combination of all these and more is needed.

I believe this year more than ever in the past, Arsene faces a massive challenge in keeping the squad together and the morale high. If the start is anything like the start in 2008-09 (5 losses out of 14), the season will be over before Christmas and all hell will break lose in the stands and the training ground. The damage could be irreparable.

Since I don’t have a solution I will just keep an eye out on the events as they unfold and read/listen to the interviews to see if something is being done. There could be something for us to learn or to lament.

20 Responses to Vermaelen Touches Upon A Critical Topic

  1. yugomie says:

    I love every bit of this article! Couldnt have been written better! Keep it up! cheers

  2. bergkampaholic says:

    good article

  3. kings says:

    Now no less than an authority on the epl has warned that the gunners are a soft touch.Perhaps Wenger has someone lined up thye last minute.If not he is deluded a thousand times if he thinks this lot of gunners can get better without the injection of epl quality defenders.
    Indeed to most fans he has lost the touch.He still wants to persist with the kids signings.He is risking the future of Arsenal with lopsided emphasis on kids.He is also puting his own future in jeopardy. We shall see after the first five to ten matches.

  4. Phil23 says:

    Personally I think we will have more than “1 or 2 additions”. In fact, we have already made two great additions to the squad. Jenkinson in my opinion is just as good as Jones or Henderson. Not to mention that if Miyaichi is allowed a passport that will be 3 additions already. Then we add in players like Vela and Traore who have both come back better players imo and didn’t face the stresses of last season. Then we have the youth coming through who will be itching to prove themselves. Frimpong and Bartley are my picks but I would also include Ramsey and Vermaelen as players who wont face such mental barriers. Lastly, I have every belief that Arsene will make another marque signing at the end of the window or maybe a few smaller signings. We have also got rid of Denilson and Bendtner will follow. I’ve heard that Eboue could also be moving on. Almunia will either become 3rd choice or leave.

    So in my books we have 8 or 9 new players in the squad already, each with quality and each with a point to prove. I don’t think we will face the problems you speak of very often in this title race. I think that last year would have given the players a new resolve. Let us not forget that we missed out on the Carling cup due to a genuine mistake that will probably never happen again so comically. We were then swindled out of the CL the very next game by the bent authorities. After a lot of tiring travel and two terrible disappointments we couldn’t find it in us to beat United at Old Trafford. United themselves showed their fear of us by playing the most defensive formation they have played in years.

    The thing that frustrated me was that everyone knew we were unlucky to be playing at the Camp Nou followed by Old Trafford and yet it was such a travesty when we lost. This season our team is much stronger already and yet very few seem to acknowledge this.

    Hazard or a striker?
    Centre back?

    Arsene will sign the right players at the end of the window and this will be the morale booster that Arsenal need. I have faith that Nasri will sign a new contract and that if Fabregas goes we will sign a very talented midfielder to replace him and then have the cash left over to buy another quality striker. So either way we will be stronger than last year and we will have a much larger squad with around 11 of them having no after effects from last year.

  5. Jekyll says:

    What’s blatantly obvious and has been for a few seasons – and let’s not try and confuse the issue – is that our team are poor defensively and Wenger himself has been identifying this as an issue at the end of each season yet the following season we’ve been as bad or even worse the following the season. So, given these are facts that not even the most fervent Wengerite can dismiss, what is to be done? If Wenger doesn’t start addressing the defence this season, if we’re as bad again this season defensively, I’d be interested to hear a defence of Wenger after that. It’s all about the season ahead, or the man needs to go if he will not change.

  6. JJ Pittman says:

    Very insightful post. I believe Vermaelen was the best addition to the 09/10 team and he was missed more last season than anyone. Looking at our first 3 Premiership matches, we only took 2 of 9 points in last seasons equivalents. We can erase the Newcastle debacle on opening day and be ahead of ourselves! Unfortunately the Champions qualifiers we earned? by fading to 4th are interspersed among that match, the home opener v. Scouse and the visit to ManUre. Immediately we will learn about our depth, alot more than from Asia or the Emirates Cup. Personally, i believe we should stress the EPL games at the expense of the Champions. Even if we lose that series, we’d still be in the Europa League. Less revenue, but less stress. Somehow revenue always takes precedence though. How about 6 or 7 points from our first 3 EPL matches? Confidence would be strong. Heres hoping!

  7. The FC in Arsenal FC now stands for Failure and Confusion:
    Failure to sign Jagielka
    Failure to bid for Samba and Cahill
    Failure to sign the 19 year old Costa Rican
    Failure to retain Cesc and Nasri
    Failure to sell the deadwood – Eboue, Diaby, Denilson, Rocisky, Asharvin, Alumunia, Squillach, Vela
    Confused about the need to get a holding midfielder
    Confused about Gibbs’s ability,clearly not ready to be our leftback
    Confused about the need to get all deals finished now to allow for the squad to be ready for the new season.
    This failure and confusion must be brough to an end.
    Get rid of the board and Wenger or Silent Stan should sell to someone interested in success.

  8. dontunderstand says:

    I just googled and it and the FC stands for football club I think

  9. kings says:

    Phil mentions that the gunners could have atotal of eight to nine “new “players. Bear in mind these players have little or limited epl experience.All the top players have bought quality players to supplement their existing stock of epl hardened and battle tested guys.
    It won’t surprise me one iota if the gunners flounder again thanks to Wenger’s genius.Tactically he is nowhere near the top managers. He reminds me of the story of the Further Maths teacher.This teacher could solve any complex and complicated maths problem.Strangely he could not solve the most elementary sum.You see his brain is so far ahead of the others yet he can’t use common sense.
    Have a good night sleep.

    • Phil23 says:

      I agree that SOME of the players have limited or no experience. Personally I would take our lot over Downer and Henderson. I would also take some time to think about what Arsenal football club need. Last season we lacked depth more than anything imo. Some of our key players who couldn’t perform to the expected level were Squillaci, Denilson, Almunia, Bendtner (out of position), Eboue Diaby and Rosicky. Between them these players have 1078 appearances for Arsenal so i’d say thats a fair bit of “Premier League experience”. Sadly all the Premier League experience means little when players face injury problems (Diaby and Rosicky) or they just don’t have the quality required of a top team (Squillaci, Denilson and Almunia) The players who Arsene has brought into the squad may not have “Premier League experience” although I would classify Vela Traore and Vermaelen as PL experienced. The former both having loan spells in the prem with neither of them looking out of their depth at all. Vermaelen is one of the top Centre backs in the Pl. He is the best aerial player in our squad (Chamakh might not agree) and is also a leader who scores plenty of goals. Of course we were going to be weak aerially without Vermaelen…. I also completely disagree with the “Premier League experience” cop out. Did Szczesny not come in and out perform Riena last season? Statistically yes he did. So thats 18m saved there… Did Wilshere not come in and prove he is good enough to make nearly 50 appearances for us? (I know he went to Bolton but how come they didn’t seem to mind about PL exp?) In fact Vermaelen had no PL exp when he came in and dominated for his first season. What I am trying to say is that quality is quality. If we signed Hazard for 20m I cannot possibly see why Young and Downing would be better buys. So what if they start well? After a month of two Gervinho will have settled in and will be outscoring them both. He may not have PL experience but he is more talented and cost half the price.

      The reason why I believe we needed to do what we have done is that we no longer are forced to rely on out of form players just because of injury. Last season if Fabregas was injured we were forced to play an out of form Rosicky. If Song was injured we were forced to play Denilson in defensive mid. If Szczesny got injured in the CL we were forced to play Almunia. If we were chasing a game we had to stick Bendtner on the wing. This is no longer the case. Each and every new signing from here on in will make us stronger and they will be good signings imo. Maybe even a “Premier League experienced” one… We have already added a lot of height to our defensive area with Frimpong, Traore, Jenkinson and Bartley all over 6 feet tall. I’ve also heard Gibbs will be much better in the air than Clichy was.

      Sorry for being optimistic but I don’t buy into the media’s games. They will slate us right up until were holding the title in our hands. And the reason why is quite simple really… England would rather stay in the dark ages than admit that technical football is the future. For those of you who’d rather watch downing kick and chase than Nasri’s twists and turns good luck to you. I’ll keep enjoying watching the most interesting team in world football do their thing.

      • Phil23 says:

        P.s. Sagna is another example of a player who came in and dominated straight away getting best right back in the prem several times. Also ask United fans what a tactical genious Fergie was against Barca in both the CL finals. Where as Arsene outsmarted Barca at both home legs and would have outsmarted them at the Camp Nou if it weren’t for that red card. Don’t forget we were still leading on aggregate and we were taking over just before the card just as Arsene had planned and had happened at both home legs. Wenger makes tactical mistakes just as any other but he will have more options this year with a much larger squad.

  10. Dhruv says:

    Wenger definitely needs to change training. This team is well too soft for the premiership. You heard Gael, he was shocked that training at City involved tackling. If you are not tackling in practice, how are you going to be able to do it effectively during the game. Yes I agree nobody wants injuries etc. but you definitely get the feeling that Arsenal’s defensive training method needs to be updated. If you train and prepare enough for set piece situations then all that doubt from seasons past can be put to rest. The best bet is to prepare yourself and that begins with training methods.

    I keep harping back to it but I find it hard to ignore. Arsenal had the best defense in Europe on their way to the finals in 2005. One of the mainstays of that defense was Senderos!!! and a makeshift left back in Flamini. That was also the season Keown was hired as defensive coach….

  11. goonerstan says:

    yeah about that DRUV what happened? Was keown kicked out for tackling wenger in the dressing room? I would really love to see him back at the helms

  12. JJ Pittman says:

    Apropos of nothing now, but Senderos was at least competent years ago and Flamini totally shut down Kaka man-marking him in CL. TV5 is right: it all starts over again fresh this August!

  13. gunner1 says:

    I wouldn’t argue if mr phil here is actually wenger undercover, hehe, u talked about losing the carling cup out of a costly mistake, but u shud know that if we had scored up to three goals be4 d mistake it wouldn’t have cost us d cup! Then u talked about 8 new unproven additions, imagine mancity bought lots of proven players in the first year of abu diabi, they dint win any cup in the first year and couldn’t qualify 4 d champions league, until last season, so imagine wot happens to 8 unproven young players that u mentioned, wenger just needs to cash in on steel, arsenal players are too soft, xcept for vermaleen! DatisAll!

    • Phil23 says:

      Each to his own gunner1 = ) Let us not forget that the difference between City and Arsenal is that we have history, a philosophy that the players fit into and above all Arsenal football club has a soul. That is why we make the top 4 every year. I expect us to beat City this year. I think that if Tevez isn’t the player has was last season that City will lose a lot of points because of their bore draws. We on the other hand will have a much sharper attack this year. I think we will score 20 more than last season. Sometimes offence is the best form of defence. I hope that Arsene teaches the squad defensive possession too as this is very important and will frustrate the opposition. I think Arsenal need to be ruthless when it comes to the score line. At no point should they ease off on the goal. Stopping at 6 0 should be a thing of the past. Man United never stop at 6. They always seem to beat teams 9 1 or something in pre season and I think Blackburn conceded 7 last year?

  14. Paki Gooner says:

    One of the saner blogs out there. Thank f*** you don’t go around saying we should buy XYZ and sell ABC like its Fifa or FM. Kudos in sticking to rational analysis instead of being a click-me-whore blog. Good Job Desi Gooner!

  15. shakabulagooner says:

    I have a feeling that Wenger is trying a new way of filling the footballing gaps in the club. Many coaches go for perceived unique talents in respective positions and try to get the player into the club resulting premium costs to the club. They rely on the respective unique talents to somehow geld together into a winning team.
    On the other hand, Wenger is concentrating on the club’s unique playing style and is looking at several options he has identified for the gaps he has identified. His plan is to go for the player that gives the highest value relative to the price he is quoted for the respective gaps.
    Wenger seem to be saying: Cahill, Jagielka, Dann, Mersasker, Samba etc., all have the potential to fill his CD position gap. Rather than be fixated on Samba or Cahill, he talks to all of them, gets the best quote on them and then decides based on the quote from the club, the willingness of the player and the relative probability for the potential fit to become an actual fit in the club.
    Where he has seen that he will probably be outbid if it is known he has a specific preference, he hides the specific preference among a huge number of potential preferences…
    Given Wenger’s constraints, it makes sense for him to do this but it frustrates the fans who are looking for marque signings, speedy deals and winning bids all the time.

  16. Remember what you said, blind faith won't get you any where says:

    You are right, desi, that you don’t have solutions that is why you stuck to the analysis and watch and wait policy. I appreciate this is pre season only however it’s amazing to see that nothing in terms of defensive organization has improved. Having watched all pre season games closely, like last few seasons it is all too simple to by pass the midfield by simple over the top or diagonal passes as Klon repeatedly did this afternoon. It bemuses me everytime that how often and how easily the opposing teams find space in the middle of Arsenal. AW provided the explanation of conceding from set pieces as “we are offensive team therefore our defence is exposed”, however other offensive teams who score more goals than us, don’t concede as many as this team does. I don’t want to go into individual players and their strengths and weaknesses as no player is complete and perfect but football is all about team game and complementing strengths and weaknesses of your team mates. It boils down to one person, the manager to find that balance which other top class manager do. the biggest testament is this ManU team, which many think is one of the worst one individually compared to some past united teams, with one of the worst away record in recent memory, but they still managed to win the title by some margin. With all his attributes, AW has failed repeatedly to rectify same problems which have stopped has winning anything for last 6 years. I don’t want to be doom and gloom merchant however I am afraid unless AW instills some discipline in the DM position to and better organization of defence esp when team is attacking at other end, which the team will do, so that we are not exposed to simple counter attack, we will talking about van Persie talking about leaving as Nasri doing this season. I don’t blame Nasri, clichy and Fabregas wanting to leave as a player, you have only limited time to win trophies and they are giving their best years to Arsenal and nothing to show for it.

    Has anyone noticed that none of our other supposedly world class players are wanted by any other team, Denilson is going on loan as no one buying him, Vela, Rosicky, Almunia, Bentdner and Eboue have no takers. That tells you a lot about world classness of this team. The momentum has taken this team that far in terms of top four finishes and one thing is clear, when this team is put under pressure, they choke. Faltering title challenges for few seasons now and failing to progress beyond QF and SF and inability to win crunch matches when it really matters, is there for everyone to see. you can put all the excuses of injuries etc but as I mentioned earlier, every team has injuries over the course of the season and it is upto the manager to make the individuals play together as a team , to minimize your weaknesses.

    I will be eagerly looking forward to talking to all the optimists here next year this time. I will remember my words and happy to eat the humble pie as long as these optimists remember their words.

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