A bit of a wacky one this week! But hopefully a piece that helps you to appreciate the beautiful football Arsenal play in a completely different way! Of course, the past couple of weeks haven’t been quite as good, but I’m sure you’ll have no problem casting your mind back to the beautiful football we’ve put on show this season.
Ever get that feeling when watching the Arsenal that you’re actually watching a nature program showing how an elegant, intelligent and closely-knit pod of dolphins use ingenious hunting methods in the wild? Well I do! Yes, I have suddenly come to the realisation that, bar the fact humans are land-dwellers and look nothing like dolphins, this Arsenal team demonstrate a similar kind of cohesive nous in their own green, rectangular habitat.
The players may not communicate with high pitched clicks, but they certainly demonstrate the same togetherness, trust and skill required to successfully make something very complex look so goddamn beautiful. Not to mention the fact that Mikel Arteta has a streamlined brow not too dissimilar to that of our four-finned friends.
For me, Arsenal and dolphins have two fundamental similarities. Firstly, their family-like bond and playfulness when interacting with one another. Secondly, their ability to combine intelligence and physical prowess to dominate their opponents/prey, which is optimised by the aforementioned relationship that they have.
Complex mammals tend to form alliances and relationships that are conducive to cooperation which in turn helps them to manipulate their surroundings. Football could be portrayed as a contained and competitive example of this inherent tactic, demonstrated for the purpose of entertainment. Of course, this differs to dolphins as to them it is a necessary tool used to survive in the big, bad open ocean. But if, for arguments sake, we remove the ordered structure in which professional football is placed, it basically comes down to a group of humans trying to out-wit and outmaneuver an opponent in order to stay on or work their way to the top of the, in this case proverbial, food chain. Voila! There is now an almost perfect parallel (go with it) between a football team and a pod of dolphins.
But if this tactic of working together and forming relationships is common amongst most complex mammals, then why have I chosen dolphins? Well, because I think that dolphins are the best example to use when comparing with this Arsenal team. One reason is that dolphins’ relationships are some of the strongest and happiest in nature and I’d say that the Arsenal team spirit or bond is probably one of the strongest in the league and plays a huge part in our current run of good form. Even in less convincing games, such as the game against Crystal Palace, it is this bond that saw the team through.
Another reason is that dolphins are so beautiful and graceful when interacting with one another and displaying their happy nature. Watching the Arsenal players have fun whilst playing football with one another is just as much of a joy to watch as two dolphins pirouetting round one another before majestically leaping out of the water in near perfect synchronisation. The game against Norwich City probably had the players smiling just as much as the fans. Much like dolphins, they get a kick out of showing off.
However, it is what both dolphins and this Arsenal team do with their togetherness and understanding that really causes one to feel an immense sense of admiration for both. There are similarities between the hunting methods of dolphins and the way Arsenal overpower their opposition.
A good example is how dolphins, regardless of breed or geographical location, generally tend to force fish into smaller, contained areas. They do this via a number of different methods. One of these methods simply surround the school of fish and take turns darting in to feast upon their trapped prey. This reminded me of how Arsenal like to and are able to operate in smaller areas, with little space. The players may create a triangle, for example, and effortlessly weave in and out of their opposition, much like the dolphins do.
Dolphins also like to trap fish in shallower waters, thus both making it harder for the fish to escape and maximising the dolphin’s chances of filling their bellies. This made me think of how Arsenal force the opposition into (and around) their box, which makes it easier for Arsenal to control the game in the opposition third. This pressure, coupled with their excellent passing and cohesiveness (much like dolphins), gives Arsenal a platform upon which to pick their opponents off.
My final example is one that relates to the counter-attack, which Arsenal are privy to now and then. There is a particular method of hunting fish that bottle-nosed dolphins off the south coast of Florida use and it’s very impressive indeed. One dolphin breaks away from the pod and starts circling the fish. Whilst it does this, it creates a wall of mud by using it’s tail to kick up the sea floor. This is much like Arsenal sitting back a little, inviting pressure onto themselves. The fish then find they have nowhere to go and begin to jump over the wall of mud. Arsenal’s opposition runs out of ideas and makes a silly mistake. The dolphins on the perimeter of the wall then pluck the jumping fish straight out of the air. Arsenal capitalise on the error and catch the opposition defence unaware, killing them off with quick passing and clinical finishing.
So next time you see Arsenal in full flow, imagine them as dolphins happily gliding through the ocean, using clever methods to hunt their prey. Or even the next time you see dolphins, imagine Arsenal happily gliding around the pitch, using clever methods to outplay their opponents. Trust me, the similarities are uncanny!
Thanks for reading,