I love to begin my columns with popular quotes. Why? Well, who better to learn from than wise, successful people and their impeccably thought of quotes. I aim to pick out THREE key points that could see Arsenal end up atop the pile of top quality sides currently ‘balling out of control‘ in the Premier League, at the end of the season. Bear with me, today’s column, and most of Friday’s, henceforth, is going to be littered with quotes from wise men that have been successful in their various fields. 🙂
Being tough and dirty when the occasion calls for it
“Show me a guy who is afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.”- LOU BROCK, BASEBALL HALL OF FAMER.
Some may see the word dirty and immediately cringe. Arsenal fans are used to seeing the words beautiful, creative, Wengerball attributed to our teams, and rightly so. We believe words such as ‘dirty’ are left to teams such as Chelsea of the 2004-2005 season and Atletico Madrid. Well you know what separates us from such teams in recent times, they are league winners, and have done so in style, beautifully sometimes, against top notch opponents. There are some games which call for toughness and a level of shrewdness and Arsenal have lacked that largely in recent years. The addition of Coquelin has seen to an increase in that department as he goes into bone crunching tackles without a care in the world. Sometimes in big games, you will have to leave an early mark on your opponents to set the tone and alert them they are not in for an easy ride. Gary Neville in his popular book Red implied that against Arsenal all they had to do was bully our players including Thierry Henry and victory was theirs. Well, for us to go through the season triumphantly, we are going to need to become bullies, not only flat track bullies but bullies of the elite as well. Against Chelsea, the pairing of Koscielny and Mustafi saw to Hazard and Costa’s worst game of the season as they pressed, harried and bullied the duo anytime they were on the ball causing them to be unsettled and useless over the entirety of the game. This must happen against all the teams we face. We must look to impose ourselves as the neighborhood bully who can move to another city and still bully whoever crosses his path, starting on Saturday against the team we now hate more than most because of ‘you know who.‘
Not resting on early season laurels
“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”- SHAQUILLE O’NEAL, BASKETBALL HALL OF FAMER.
I read somewhere, after the Chelsea shellacking I mentioned early on, a warning to Arsenal. A warning to not allow that game become the only highlight of what is and will be a looooong season. Arsenal in recent seasons has been victim of that. Admiring an acclaimed piece of work from the past, in any field, without rousing one’s self up to attain or eclipse that same level is tantamount to shooting one’s own self in the foot. Arsenal has shot itself in the foot, the same foot mind you, several times in that regard. Singular victories against top teams such as Manchester City, Liverpool, and Manchester United are dwelled on for too long by both fans and players. Yes, some of these victories occurred in devastating fashion and can be admired once or twice, but Arsenal always falls in a lull whilst admiring such past victories, without looking at its place in the bigger picture, championship-less seasons. The teams that have held Premier league parades since we last did though, have several highlights to pick from during the season, with some of them having the whole season as a slideshow of highlights and few to no lowlights at all. That is the mark of a championship team. Not resting on early season laurels, but fighting to maintain that top level throughout the season with little or no fall in quality on display. It is looking like the Chelsea game will be another of those sole highlight moments for us this season, unless we can prepare to make sure the team DVD at the end of the season is filled with more highlights, including top of them all, Koscielny, Mertesacker and Arsene Wenger holding aloft the glistering Premier League trophy.
Consistent big game mentality
“Winning isn’t everything, But wanting to win is.”- Vince Lombardi, American Football Hall of Famer & One of Its Greatest Coaches ever.
Mentality. Mental attitude. One of the most important ingredients necessary for success, in any field. In recent years, we have shown a lack of mentality when going into certain matches, both the big games and the not so big games. There have been moments in the season when players have switched off, for varying reasons, which may be best known to them and this has cost us dearly. Shoulders slumped, heads bowed, not tracking back. Regular scenes when The Arsenal is not on a good run of form, something which happens to the best of teams. But the best of teams, you will never see display these physical traits when the team suffers from bad form. This is because they go out with the belief that they can win any game and have no fear of any opposition, respect maybe, but not fear. Even in loss, you can tell when a team has fought to drag itself from the jaws of defeat, you can also tell when the players have given up and thought themselves inferior to the opposition. The players on the best teams appreciate the fans that spend their hard earned money to pay for exorbitant tickets and travel long distances, not in the comfort of a five star airline to watch their beloved teams.
Arsenal has been guilty of short-changing fans who pay some of the highest ticket prices in world football, by not fighting, in every single game. Playing in one of the most beautiful stadiums on the planet, supported by some of the most loyal fans on the surface of the planet, it is a demand that all players who put on the red and white fight with all that is in them, until they ‘drop dead.’ Having that mental fortitude, that every game is winnable, that no opponent is infallible comes across in the way the game is attacked, and fans can tell. It is paramount that the players girdle their loins, and not underestimate or overrate any opponent we come across from now until May, cause no football game has ever been won on paper, but on two fronts; one is the large green space which is the field of play and the other is the space between both ears which on the average measures five and a half inches, the head.