Today is another day, the media have had their moment, the players and fans have had time to get over the Sunday debacle, forget it!
Now it’s time to re-group and focus on the last few months of the season. Yes, the Carling Cup defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for everyone with Arsenal’s interests at heart but now it’s time to move on, but will they?
What I will suggest to Arsenal though is if they get to another final this season, please leave the shell suits at home and let’s see our players united in suits and boots and please, not an iPod in sight!!
But, and as Oliver included in his match report and which I kept for today, from now it’s all about how we react .
Plenty of our players have been tweeting how “sorry” they are – Sagna and Jack are just two – about what happened on Sunday and Arsene reported that Kos and Szczesny were “destroyed” after the match.
No need for apologies, no need for self-flagellation. These things do happen, but we need to put it right, not feel sorry for ourselves and the supporters. I can think of no better way to remain in perpetual “almost-but-not-quite-there” mode than to bang on and on about how “sorry” we are about losing…It’s done, it cannot be undone, and we have another match ahead which requires our undivided attention…
Wallowing in self-pity will get us exactly nowhere…
So how does our team overcome this and finally fulfil its potential? I have a couple of thoughts: the first is that the we have just visited our abyss – we have failed spectacularly on the most public of stages – so there is no longer a need to be afraid of such failure.
We have just been there, we have just done it, so why don’t we now go out and play without worrying about failure…We have just see the worst that can happen – we lose a match. There have been too many occasions in recent seasons where we have lost matches before a ball has been kicked due to such fear of failure – Cesc stated outright this was the case in December at Old Trafford. So let’s stop psyching ourselves out, going out and playing with the hand brake on.
Our players can also help themselves by going out and refusing to accept defeat. Losing happens, but that does not mean our players need to facilitate the process, either by imploding (as on Martins’ goal today) or tamely surrendering when falling behind (such as at Braga)…
Certainly there have been instances where we have pulled ourselves back from the brink of defeat – the best example I can find is the recent first leg tie versus Barcelona, where we would have been expected to let them finish us off, instead of bouncing back and battering them down the stretch as we did. One problem is that we do not show this consistently enough – and worryingly, it is usually Cesc that drags us back in many of these situations. I think we need more players to step up, lead, and drive the team on in difficult situations…
Another problem is that we do not seem to be able to pull ourselves back in matches we are expected to win – this afternoon, the semi-final first leg at Portman Road and the three home league losses are cases in point. I think this goes back – to an extent, at least – to our tightening up in matches we are not expected to lose. I am sure there are plenty of instances where we have given teams a right pounding, but I will argue that the instances where we had to come back from an early setback are few and far between.
This brings me to my final point, which is that we have yet to regain a winning culture here at Arsenal. That is not to say we are losers – we certainly are not – we win more than our share of matches, but we are always “thereabouts” and never “there” come May. We are over-feted (in my opinion) for our football style and values, yet we have nothing in our cabinet to show for all this love. I am not going to argue that trophies are the be-all-and-end-all, but they are what we compete for. And, going back to my original point, we showed once again on Sunday that we remain unable to take that final step.
Is this because of our emphasis of style over results? Perhaps. Is it because attainment of qualification for Champions League football is always cited as the immediate goal? Possibly.
This is another divisive element and all Arsenal supporters have their respective opinions. I will only say that I think our players lack the collective mentality – read ruthlessness – to put opponents away, take that final step, and finish a campaign by winning trophies….
We’ll have an idea of where we are on Wednesday night. Should the unthinkable happen and Orient turn us over, then our trophy prospects will be halved in the space of four short days, and we will indeed be in crisis mode.
I do not expect that to happen – we should still be way too good for them. So a nice, stress-free confidence building wide margin win will be most welcome. That won’t automatically make us favorites to win the three remaining trophies, but it should restore some confidence and momentum ahead of a critical stretch of matches.
I think we will get there, and sooner rather than later. It may not be this season, but I don’t think our time is far off at all. We just have to keep plugging away at it, and grow more and more determined with each setback. There are still three more prizes to play for, so this is no time to give up on our side.