Gunners with Gumption!
Finally, the Transfer Window is shut and Arsenal came out of it pretty well. We kept our best players, added two quality players to the first team squad and sold off the less effective players, including one of the contract rebels. There were a few more players who really should have moved on, but maybe it will be they who will make the difference come the end of the season.
Most importantly, we kept hold of Mesut and Alexis for at least one more season. Just imagine the headlines if Wenger had to let one, let alone both, go. With making a net profit through the sales of AOC, Gibbs and Gabriel being higher than the cost of Lacazette and Kolasinac (for free but high salary), Wenger will have this season’s estimated £70-100m and next summer’s equal fund available to replace Mesut and Alexis properly. And my money is still on at least one signing a new contract before Christmas.
You may have wanted Arsene to spend a lot more f*cking money, just because the others have done, but if you think about it a bit more you will realise that Wenger and the BoD will be pleased with the way the TW turned out for the club.
We did not play well against Pool and we discussed it to bits. How do we ‘turn the season round’? Many of you wanted us to let loads of our players go and buy new players. Some of you felt that we needed to buy a quality DM or two to save the season.
I think there is far too much focus on the parts of the whole and not enough on what keeps those parts together. We are fixated with replacing parts, whether it is the players or the leader – the part that has an explicit power over the other parts. There is an instant satisfaction from doing this: it allows blame to be allocated and pain/dysfunction to be removed, and new hope to be invested in the new parts.
I reckon we needed a second, better option on the left wing-back position and we also needed another regular goalscorer. We could have done without these additions, but they are very likely to make us stronger. And Kola and Lacazette have already shown that they are good new signings.
What is really important is of course to make the parts work together. Against Pool, we lacked cohesion, we lacked machine-like togetherness and collective focus. They did not have a better set of players than us but outscored us on those intangible factors. For me, it is all about what Pirsig calls ‘Gumption’ in his fabulous book ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’:
“Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in this whole world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all times and preserved before anything else is the gumption.”
Cambridge dictionary gives this definition for gumption:
‘The ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination.’
Rather than focus incessantly on changing players and/or the manager, what we really need to hope for is a return of gumption. Once we have got it again it will be absolutely priceless for Arsenal. We have still the best record for gumption, held by our very own Invincibles. To go a whole season unbeaten and then win the title was a combination of very good players and a mindset of utter togetherness and being constantly in the zone. Oh those boys had gumption alright!
We have the players and the manager to turn things round again but they need to rediscover their gumption. How is it done? Well that is of course hard to answer. A lot of talking and then training on the pitch, I reckon. And then it is about going out there and do it together and making changes in attitude and focus where and whenever required. It is also about listening to each other and making sure that each and every players gives their all. It is about leadership on and off the pitch.
In essence, it is about starting a game with the right collective mindset and believe in each other; it is about playing with the right tempo and hunger, and the right focus. It is about Gunners with Gumption.
We beat the Chavs in the FA Cup final a few months ago because we had all of this in spades. We played with the much recently criticized midfield trio of Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil. They were awesome as a mini-unit and fitted perfectly into our 3-4-3 system. The much admired Chelsea defenders were humbled for 90+ minutes. We pressed high and seldom or never let Chelsea out of their own half, and this was only possible because we had the collective and constant ability ‘to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination’ i.e. gumption.
Let’s hope our players and manager can find back quickly their psychic gasoline. I have no doubt that Wenger and his assistants are working day and night to find the magic potion before the Cherries come to town.