Arsenal are Riding on their Survival Instinct, but Where is their Killer Instinct?


I can just imagine how, going back about two decades ago when the Arsenal Board conveyed a special meeting on ways to position the club to take the greatest advantage of the nascent global outreach of the Premier League, one smart fellow in the BoD must have come up with a strange name,Β Arsene Wenger. Arsene who? Equipped with facts and figures, and with a gift of the gab, that smart guy, I imagine, must have swayed the listening Board members from downright scepticism to a bullish mood: they couldn’t wait to see and hear from this great economist who was also managing football on the field. He was, the BoD must have enthused, exactly what the time needed. Football and finance were becoming inseparable and this β€˜Arsene Who?’, looked every inch their fused incarnate.

Arsene arrived. The blue print was established. In came Overmars, Vieira, Ljungberg, Henry and others, and in a flash Arsenal football team was winning laurels and rubbing shoulders with the mighty Manchester United. Arsenal, within those few years of Wenger’s appearance on the scene, had attained the critical velocity required to join first class the globalization train with all its commercial benefits. But the BoD, now with the compelling voice of Wenger, also looked around and saw the match day ticket-takings of Europe’s super teams, and knew that with time they would be found out and thrown out. A larger capacity stadium had to be quickly put in place. But that would mean losing the muscle power to bring in the Overmarses, the Vieiras, the Henrys; and so did we start investing in youth, bringing in the Van Persies, the Fabrigases, the Denilsons, the Songs.

That also meant recalibrating our targets. To keep riding on the globalization train, we needed to keep our Champions League appearances going. We redefined our boundaries and in the process reshaped our mentality to being content keeping our heads above the waters of the Europa League and the out-of-Europe competitors. The club lost its juggernaut instinct that created the Invincibles and instead was content to just get by. On the field, we ceased to be a raging fire that consumed everything on its path.

Of course, the idea was that when the new stadium gets going we would again recalibrate our targets upwards and swing back sustainably to the summit of European football. As simple as that, they must have thought, failing to contend fully with the might of something called the force of inertia which force we are now up against. After over 10 years of being content with just keeping head above waters, the BoD has gotten pinned down by this inertia. Psychologically they are finding it difficult switching gears to a new level. The player recruitment policy is head locked by this force. The amount of money to be budgeted on players, existing or as targets, is entangled with this inertia. So, pervading and surreptitious is this force that our coaching crews must be victims also, explaining why our players on the field feel cosy at 0-0 against the opposition, only to wake up when they find themselves trailing with 25 minutes to go as their survival instincts kick in. Gone a long time ago the killer instinct of the Invincibles that smelt blood just at the sight of the prey. We need to become the beast again. Leading 3-0, with the opponent demoralized, is when to get even more ferocious while stinging like a scorpion should not be reserved for only when we are trailing Bournemouth by three goals That’s the difference that makes the champ. The king of the jungle is blessed with plenty of the killer instinct. When it brings down its prey it goes for its jugular. When it gets wounded, reduced to 10 men, it sees its own red and transforms into a wounded lion, a creature of evil omen. It never whimpers.

I can see a ray of hope in this 2016/17 season. The fierce competition of the top six teams is that ray. Dropping out of the top four this season is a spectre that is unrelentingly dwelling with us, so much so, that our survival instinct is all alive driving us forward so fast that we might even breast the tape ahead of all. Crunch time is near. Wenger has already said that every Premier league match remaining is for his team a cup final. I can bet his eyes are fixed on the rear mirror, not straight ahead, a victim still of that powerful force of inertia. Candidly, I don’t mind our winning the championship by default i.e. through a wrong mentality, because the winning of it would provide the impulse that would bring back the killer instinct of our invincible era. Otherwise, it would have become time enough to start talking of a major strategic overhaul in the system that is carefully contrived to unshackle the club from its psychological barrier. We want to ride first class on this amazing EPL transcontinental train. We have tasted it before and nothing else will now do.

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Double Glory Days

By Pony Eye

24 thoughts on “Arsenal are Riding on their Survival Instinct, but Where is their Killer Instinct?

  • Top stuff, PE. Really well written post about the BoD and team’s perceived mentality. I reckon if I was on the BoD, as a business man first, I would have done exactly the same. Survival is key in so many ways and Wenger is such a safe pair of hands when it comes to surviving financially. The safest pair of hands in football in the whole world. I dont agree with the perception of inertia as it is damn hard to qualify for the CL time and again and then get to the group stages year after year after year. That does not just happen.

    I dont understand why the team has started too slowly and lacking intensity in recent games (except for the Burnley match), but I know it takes a lot to finish the games we do and we never give up fighting. And the latter is very important and is indeed the opposite of inertia. If we are to win the league then is it on the basis of this fighting spirit, but it is important to start games really strong again. In three games time we will be top of the league; what about that, hey?! πŸ™‚

  • It’s Burns’ night today: Robert Burns is the most famous Scottish poet ever lived.

    Lovely Young Jessie by Robert Burns

    True hearted was he, the sad swain o’ the Yarrow,
    And fair are the maids on the banks of the Ayr;
    But by the sweet side o’ the Nith’s winding river,
    Are lovers as faithful, and maidens as fair:
    To equal young Jessie seek Scotland all over;
    To equal young Jessie you seek it in vain,
    Grace, beauty, and elegance, fetter her lover,
    And maidenly modesty fixes the chain.

    O, fresh is the rose in the gay, dewy morning,
    And sweet is the lily, at evening close;
    But in the fair presence o’ lovely young Jessie,
    Unseen is the lily, unheeded the rose.
    Love sits in her smile, a wizard ensnaring;
    Enthron’d in her een he delivers his law:
    And still to her charms she alone is a stranger;
    Her modest demeanour’s the jewel of a’.

  • Really top notch write up there, Pony Eye. It is common to read or hear our fans moan and whine about Arsene being too old to take us to the title and/or CL, seeking a change of managers as if that is any guarantee of immediate success. One finds it hard to make a strong case as the team fails to take things by the scruff and get going, year after year (post-Emirates stadium).

    But this article places things in perspective again and highlights what most can see in the 2016/2017 team: a will to do well and make a break, possibly, from that desire to survive. The team is paranoid about failing and this is evident in the stats for last ditch efforts to get equalizing or winning goals. Gradually, that desperation may turn into entitlement and we just might see the team consistently fulfill potential again.

  • “Gradually, that desperation may turn into entitlement and we just might see the team consistently fulfill potential again.”

    Beautifully put Erismus

  • Nicely written PE, almost poetic in fact.

    Unfortunately, we are barely hanging on to this EPL Transcontinental Express, and the past is another era. If we not to be left in a carriage that is cut adrift, then something must change?

    Are you saying a lone voice is telling the BoD that the new knight in shiny armour is out there? Or is it a bit of self-realisation from the troops out on the battlefield that leads us forwards to a promised land?

    As much as rising from 3 – nil to Bournemouth was commendable, being 3 – nil down is the problem.
    As Waldo pointed out on the previous post, there have been a whole series of Bournemouth’s.?

    There was always the magic of the game where ‘…. we all clicked” Bottling that magic would be something else. The reality is, that without something different, the crumbs left by fellow battlers will not be enough for us to stay on that European gravy train?

    It might all change via the TW, but we have been there before?

    It could also be that a fortuitous act brings about forced changes that prove to be the missing link. Who knows,, Xhaka ban, Welbeck starting, Mertersacker returns the organisation at the back that has been missing? Anyone or all three could change things in a way never expected, or dreamed of? A back 3 with Per in the middle and Mustafi guarding the front door …. Ramsey Ozil feeding the rampant lions of the revamped twin central strike force of Alexis and Welbeck, and Gibbs and Bellerin the cheetahs down the wings?
    Oh yes, there is always hope …. πŸ˜€

    If not, 2017/18 is always another season?


  • Monica Sekes ruined my enjoyment of woman’s tennis. She brought in the era of ‘grunt’ tennis.
    The Williams sisters moved it on to power tennis.. Where is the finesse of the likes of Maria Bueno?

    Pity you didn’t get a screenshot of Serena’s attire from yesterday, that still was from way back.
    It just amused me the absurdity of it.

    Anyway, tonight is a testy little game for our next opponents. I’ll go for a 3-1 for ‘Pool?

  • So, the media darlings Liverpool won’t be visiting Wembley after losing the EFL Cup SF to Southampton…

    Hopefully Chelsea will suffer the rebound of their disappointment when the leaders visit Anfield?

    Southampton meanwhile, will hopefully have their minds full of League Cup glory when the Gunners visit St Mary’s this weekend?

    Well, that’s the plan…. πŸ˜‰

  • With So’ton on fire, I think we need to up our level one notch and keep it tight, which we can do it.

    They were tight against Leicester and hit them on the break well, so we need to start Gabby and Bells on the right side? Two defenders on the right side is better than one. And we need Danny to start the match and move Alexis to the front?

    Those are just my thoughts, but given the circumstances, I think that will not happen.


  • Your overly pessimistic glass-half-empty evaluation of Arsenal and Wenger’s current circumstances seem too nostalgic and teary-eyed for a rational analysis of Arsenal’s past,current and future endeavours:

    1) Arsenal are evolving each year and moving away from perfect Wengerball to a more fluid system of attack and defense, always mitigated by their midfielders (both defensive and attacking).
    2) Please remember that since the invincibles, key players have been injured every year for long periods of time yet Arsenal still improve almost every year.
    3) Also remember that since 2005, BIG money has entered football in the EPL and Europe and that has skewed the results significantly. Wenger is no longer managing in a two team league, it now boasts 6 teams ,any of whom can reach the top and three of which have won the CL st least once.
    4) The quality of officiating has become rather deplorable and it is raising more and more concerns at all levels of the game. The PGMOL is understrength, managed by a mysterious figure (Mike Riley) and totally unaccountable to anyone but themselves. Are they corrupt or just incompetent….that is the question!

  • Omgarsenal you are obviously the kind of fans the club needs, the fans that have not suffered any psychological damage, borrowing Goonereris words “…..who moan and whine about Arsene ……”. I don’t see the post though as being “overly persimistic”.

    20th on the rich list club in Europe when Wenger came, 6th at the last count is an amazing upward mobility that could only have been achieved through an unbroken ride on that transcontinental train. 6th is already the summit which means we can compete with the bests regularly. An area needing a further nudge can now only be psychological and that’s where the post is urging one more heave.

    The big question about the fans is : is it the club that should lift the fans for that last push or is it the other way round? To me the answer is simple. Each should be committed to lifting the other. YES to objective analysis, NO to moaning and whining.

  • Morning fellas and ladies β˜€οΈ

    The Saints parked their their bus for ninety plus minutes and Pool could not crack them. Oh how they missed an Ollie from the start, as to mix it up and create confusion. Pool were too predictable and a makeshift CB pairing was still too strong for them. I’d play Alexis, Ollie and Perez or Welbeck against them. Ramsey will have to play very disciplined to deal with those very fast and sharp counter attacks…. should be a very good game on Saturday

  • Sorry PE, I read it much the same as OMG, and the title sets the mood.

    You write in a smooth style that is like ‘easy listening’ radio, which might be a pleasure in itself, but harder to put an analysis on its conclusion.

    History? Not only the influx of money into the game, which has changed a number of things regards any consistent hierarchy in the EPL But there were two other things that derailed the Arsenal’s ‘bigger picture’ after Highbury. Namely, the arrival of the oligarchs who distorted the transfer market, and the 2008 stock market crash which cost them when it came to selling the houses built on the old ground. The latter would have put us in a dominant financial position, rather than the Mancs, Chelsea set. Even a share of the titles they won in that period would have changed the mindset of those looking at the club from the outside?

    But that is all behind us now. The capability of the players to produce their best performance is there for all to see. But the implication you set out in your narrative that they go out in a complacent state of mind, and only kick into top gear late on when it looks lie they might fail, puts the ‘blame’ squarely on the players?
    No player goes out in a public arena to play averagely.

    Somewhere along the line of communication between manager and players there is a mismatch between the expectation and reality?
    Take this as an example of how this might come about. Suppose the player concentrate on their skills and attributes and are told ‘You are the best. Go and prove it’. Only to find the opposition have other ideas. Back in at half time they regroup and try to play to expose the weaknesses of the opposition. I have no knowledge as to how much AW discusses Arsenal’s play with regards to the sides we meet, but it just appears we get ‘shocked’ as to how well they play? It may also be the case that the players do not follow the managers instructions because individuals have a skills that requires, in their mind at least, less restriction for their creative flair to flourish? That can destroy team working as unit, made worse if it does not produce results?

    That is AW’s dilemma. Getting the team to work as a unit, but at the same time have fluidity that can produce moments of magic. Fans react to what they see on the pitch. It is in the moment. Unlike an armchair pundit like myself casting an analytical eye after the event, which can come to different conclusions.
    E.g – The positioning of Monreal at the near post when defending, thus surrendering space out wide? I have no doubt this is not his decision, but AW’s. Fans will cast him as the culprit if any cross comes in from the winger that the FB would normally mark?

    Being a football manager is a tough enough job, but when the club in question carries such high expectation, it is nigh on impossible. But unless AW can unlock the team’s full potential pretty soon, I fear the ‘support’ they need will turn to anger. Now whether anything different has happened by the end of the transfer window remains to be seen. But changes on field are needed.

    This next game could be a good place to start? Unlike JK’s thought above, that Southampton’s fire will continue to burn so brightly, I think their mindset will change. Subconsciously at least.
    Their players will have this thought that they only have one game to win and they will have had a successful season. No player will want to get injured, but they will still want to retain their place in the side. On top of that, they have had a busy schedule lately. But ….

    We have to contain their strengths, and exploit whatever weaknesses we can find. That means creating openings and being clinical in front of goal.
    Team selection. Team play as a unit, not as individuals. These are the things AW needs to get right.
    In a way it is the perfect game to play right now, as their are no league points to be lost?

    Keep the faith!


  • Again, I’m a day late on this one…and I should probably let it go as these types of posts always rankle me. Before I start, let me say that, as always, PE, I like you’re writing style. You’ve got a very nice flow that gets you where you’re going and makes it clear that you’ve got an emotional stake in your football club…

    We all do, I think, as do the players, the manager and the board of directors–to varying extents, of course… When things all come together–known as winning–everything is great. When it doesn’t, the blame game starts… We should always try to remember that there are 20 teams in the league and only one winner… (And hundreds of clubs in England and Europe and only 3 cup winners…and, of course, for some Gooners. the domestic cups don’t count…)

    So, dissatisfaction and blame, the twins pillars of our modern culture (and politics) … With your piece there seems to be a finger pointed towards a “wrong” mentality that is causing these recent slow starts (and maybe bad finishes at places like Everton and Man City) that is deeply rooted in management’s (decades long…) quest for consistency. Along with others, including the club rep and Gerry–and maybe even TA, way up at the top–I disagree and, overall, find myself, as I often do when reading the writing of less than fully satisfied Gooners, saddened…

    Maybe it’s inherent to our capitalist ways… Supporters–the “consumer” of the product Arsenal are putting out–have every right to complain that the product isn’t to their liking. If they do so, however, I think they should acknowledge that this is how they want to. er, consume their product.. Of course, consumers don’t have to love every product they buy, but, especially if the product is the only one available (or so they think…in truth they could always move on to a different club…) perhaps trying to love it, for better and for worse, in the long term at least, will make them happier than always finding fault and demanding more.

    As supportive as I know you are PE, I believe ascribing poor attitudes to club management–which then (supposedly) filters down to the players and gives us bad performances and results is lazy thinking. Management have probably made some errors, the big one being the timing of the stadium build (at the top of a real estate bubble…and in the middle of a football/billionaire owner bubble…) but overall I think Arsenal, and the visionary behind this modern iteration of the club, Arsene Wenger, have been amazing. The discipline in the face of so much criticism–due to raised expectations, of course, from all the earlier triumphs–IMO, has been stunning. I see a manager with great passion, trying to bring through players who (usually–or at least for a while) buy in and try to ignore the (very) fair weather support, all in attempt to create the best possible atmosphere for success. Has it always worked? Obviously not… Or maybe yes, all depending on your level of expectation. Will we win the league (or other silverware) this year? I hope so, but I have my (very serious) doubts. Does that impugn the attitude (or instincts) of the club employees–the board, the manager and the players? I don’t think it does…

    Since becoming a supporter I’ve been (endlessly, it feels…) reading these sorts of things. “The team lost because they didn’t want it enough, lacked passion, etc., etc., etc. To me it’s BS. You can want something plenty, even too much sometimes, and still not get it…

    That’s enough ranting for the time being and I don’t mean to get down on you too much, PE, as I think your heart is in the right place (you even suggest that you would accept winning the league with the wrong mentality, so that’s a twist on the usual dogma). Still, I believe, ascribing thoughts and feelings to others just isn’t quite right. Telling us how you feel, what you see, etc., etc., etc. seems the better path and I can accept that it feels this way to you. It doesn’t feel that way to me.


  • Fine comment, Seventeenho.

    PE, your post has led to some fine comments and it is good to have a number of views re the club and management expressed in such a good way. Cheers buddy. πŸ™‚

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