Arsenal.com 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.