I hope everyone is still riding on the buzz of our previous performance. This is going to be a short post.
So King Henry finally decided to hang up his boots. Everybody knew the day would come but that doesn’t make the hole he has left in world football any smaller. Arguably the best CF to ever grace the English shores. He is now a sky sports pundit, but more importantly, he is helping out Trevor Bumstead with the under 15’s. He really did mean it when he said he is a Gunner for life.
I am sure there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that Thierry has a wealth of knowledge to share. It makes total sense that he is being given a chance to blood his managerial skills with the next generation. The biggest advantage about that is that he can get to learn how to spot and nurture talent (kind of like what Arsene did with him), which is a very important skill to have in modern football. Just ask the coaching staff at Southampton.
The aim of this post though is to try and establish how Arsenal can get maximum value from him.
Both aforementioned jobs are part time (I stand corrected) and, therefore, he still has plenty of time on his hands to take up a more involved role at the club. I was really thinking about it and what if (on top of his current obligations) he is given a few sessions a week with our strikers (and attacking midfielders) so he can give them some coaching on movement & finishing.
Really, just think about it: players like Welbeck, Oxlade, Gnabry & Wilshere need to contribute more goals than they do now to really propel them to the next level. If we examine each player’s shortcomings, you can see these are all things Thierry can help to fix.
Welbeck – His movement is great but he lacks confidence in his finishing. The skill & talent are there but maybe he needs a few sessions with the master to really come into his own.
Oxlade – For me the Ox doesn’t get into scoring positions often enough. He is more of a touchline hugging winger, but in a system like ours, where our attackers are given the freedom to roam, he needs to be scoring more. Again, maybe the master can coach him on his movement.
Gnabry – I think he is similar to the Ox in terms of what he needs to learn.
Wilshere – He really needs to learn how to shoot/finish. For a player who gets into the box as often as he does, he surely does not score enough. Maybe this is something a few sessions with the master can fix.
This is not limited to just these four; I am just using them as an example. Also, I have no knowledge of what Henry’s schedule is like, so from my end this is just a suggestion.
I am, of course, not opposed to having a team of players who can score given the opportunity…. What do you think?
A different perspective on Arsenal’s apparent lack of CB-cover!
Many Gooners, including yours truly, have highlighted the risk – or should that be sheer irresponsibility? – of not recruiting additional CB cover in the last transfer window. We can consider ourselves lucky that our CB-duo of Koz-BFG stood strong more or less during the entire 2013-2014 season, as they gained us many a point with their well-organised and expert defending. But it was also good to know we had nobody else than the Verminator warming the bench in case one of the two would get injured; and of course there was also Sagna who suddenly had turned into a half-decent CB.
The latter two have gone and we signed a young, albeit very promising, CB/RB in the name of Chambers. Any decent organisation nowadays holds a risk-register, and the potential of either BFG or Koz getting long-term injured, or god forbid both of them joining Arsenal’s cosy sickbay, is surely somewhere on there.
So is Arsene/the club acting irresponsibly by letting two giants go and not recruiting appropriate, experienced CB cover?
I say yes and no, at about 30/70. The Dutch have a saying: ‘iets doen met de Franse slag’, which means something like ‘doing something the French way’, as in not very thorough or thought-through. Arsene’s approach to managing risk reminds me sometimes of how French cars used to be: looked great, fun driving experience and full of luxury inside, but not the most reliable, if you get me (and I drove a few of them…. but all company cars hahaha 😉 ).
Arsene inherited a solid defence when he first joined us, and by signing Sol Campbell – one of the very best he ever made imo – he ensured the continuation of it for quite a while. But once Sol left – how bizarre was that, hey? – we have not seen the same solidity to our defence we once were so used to.
I want to say last season’s defence came very close, but then I think back about our mega-defeats again and I am not so sure whether that would be fooling myself. We did not buy a DM either and it all remains to be seen whether Wenger has done the right thing. I hope he has but have my doubts about it nonetheless.
But Arsene has a plan, although I cannot state that I know what it exactly looks like.
He is always evolving our style of play, and I reckon he has decided to go with two ‘footballing midfielders’ in the two deep midfield positions and he will not continue with 4-1-4-1 for long. He has many a midfielder to accommodate and will feel he has great options for filling the ‘2’ in his 4-2-1-3 with real quality, and I fully expect him to play Ramsey and Wilshere there more and more from now on, but either of them can be combined with Arteta (the captain after all!), Flamini, Cazorla or Rosicky, etc.
So, although I would have loved to see us getting a proper, footballing DM, who can defend and boss the area in front of the defence like no other, I do understand Wenger’s apparent hesitation to finally get us one. This season we will see whether our soft-underbelly in the heart of our midfield will come to cost us or not.
But what about our defence? Why did he let TV5 go before a replacement was signed; why did he not buy another one before the TW shut? Is he that stupid or irresponsible?
Of course he is not stupid and neither irresponsible. But maybe the classical approach of having at least two quality players for each of the four defensive positions does not work anymore; and Wenger has come up with what could be a very effective alternative: less defenders but with more rotation and, in the process, less dissatisfaction within the team.
Last season, the likes of TV5, Monreal and Jenkinson were largely spectators: managing just 24 PL starts between them, an average of just eight. And although Wenger should probably rotate his players more, this is inevitable as long as there are no major injuries. But football careers are short and players (need to be) hungry and ambitious: they want to play rather than just collect a payslip every week… and we don’t want those sorts of mercenaries at the club anyway… we sell them to the Northern Oilers hahaha.
And come to think of it, with Debuchy, Koz, BFG, Gibbs, Monreal and the brilliantly multi-functional and skilled chameleon that is Calum Chambers, Wenger might just have got the balance right between playing enough football by everyone AND having decent cover for all key areas. Say we play 55 games in all competitions this season: that is 220 games in total for all four positions – if we divide those by the six players mentioned above, we come to a fine average of about 37 games per player.
Of course there is more cover in the team as well, as Flamini can help out and the young and promising talents of Bellerin and Hayden can also be used (and there is Coquelin as well). But the older Frenchman will be used mostly in midfield and the talents will still be patient enough to accept their roles within the team.
I still think Wenger will not rotate a lot as he likes to play with a consistent back-four as much as possible: and who would not?! But suspension and injuries occur regularly during a season and this should ensure the aforementioned balance to remain effective. Debuchy, Koz, BFG and Gibbs are likely to play most of the games, but I bet both Monreal will get stints at LB as well as CB, and Chambers will do the same at RB and CB (and maybe even midfield).
We have enough cover for the full back positions, as in the classical approach of two quality players per position. And as both of the cover players can also play in the centre, Arsene might have found the perfect balance now. I hear you say, but what if both Koz and BFG get injured: we will be fecked! Well, in that case we play Chambers and Flamini or Monreal at the back, with Debuchy and Gibbs or Monreal as the FBs. Even if all first-choice players get injured or suspended, the line up of Bellerin, Chambers, Flamini and Monreal as our back four is not the worst one I can think of by any stretch.
Alternatively, we could keep pressing Wenger to buy us one or two top quality CBs to warm the bench and wait for their chance – as if they are readily available and willing to accept such a role. We only have to look at TV5’s desperation to leave us – one of our most hungry and Arsenal-loyal Gunners, and club captain in the process! – to know this is far less realistic than many of us think.
Will there be no defensive signings in the foreseeable future then? Well, I reckon Nacho is on his last chance (and he has really impressed me this season) and Wenger is watching him closely till January; and in the meantime he is keeping the nr.5 shirt and a suitcase full of cash ready to pounce, if so required.
Wenger might well have out-thought us arm-chair Gooners once more! 😉
Reflecting upon wild journalistic speculation about the future of our undisputed best-ever manager (regardless of what people may think about his current suitability for the job), and considering the repulsive conduct of Manchester United in jettisoning David Moyes, a few little thoughts have intruded upon my exam revision.
The first is this: what could be up Arsene Wenger’s sleeve?
Do we really need to win the FA Cup and qualify for the Champions League for him to stay? Or, does he already know he’s leaving?
I read a fairly well-reasoned article on goal.com that claimed that the top brass are basically of the opinion that if they have to appoint someone if AW was to jump ship, it will be for the relatively short term. Bearing in mind the (understandable) arguments being put forward in defence of the Glazers with regard to attracting top playing and coaching talent, namely that they needed to pull the trigger sooner rather than later, would AW, a man with Arsenal in his blood, who has nurtured the club for 18 years, and a man of no little insight, really do that to his baby? Douse his masterpiece in petrol and light a match? I don’t think so. I think whether he stays or goes, he already knows which he will choose. But why delay the announcement if he is going to stay?
I personally think a much classier thing for Man United to have done, would have been to line up a new manager for next season, take care of the legal stuff and then sit on it until the end of the season. But as soon as the thought formed in my head yesterday afternoon, I immediately started wondering whether that isn’t what Wenger and the board have done (which would be much easier to achieve with the current manager fully aware of the situation). Is Wenger’s gift to us more personally satisfying to the economist in him than to the part of all of us that wants us to win things?
My second question is: if Wenger has no intention of staying; not whom do we want, but what qualities would fellow Gooners like to see in our new manager?
For me, a lot more tactical dynamism would be essential.
Don’t get me wrong, I love AW and do not want to see him go. The breathtaking football we’ve produced in the past, coupled with the exceptional financial footing we now hav, convince me that Wenger deserves at least two more seasons (which according to reports is all he would accept in any case) to restore that kind of football – his lack of tactical manoeuvring notwithstanding.
However, who has not been driven mad by the times we fail to alter our style of play when the one with which we approached a match is manifestly not working? Or by what appears to be an occasional stubborn refusal to use substitutes sensibly?
Another thing I would like to see would be a willingness to drill the defence. Conceding 20 goals in four matches against the top five suggests to me that there is a basic lack of discipline in the defence, which has been exposed against teams capable of exploiting it. I don’t think we particularly need to change the personnel, but I think they are capable of more consistent competence than has been displayed this season (4 games conceding an average of 5 goals per game would not be consistently competent even if they were the only goals we’d conceded all season, although the blow would probably be softened by us winning the league).
My third question isn’t really much of a question, perhaps more of a muse: would AW really be that bothered by Arsenal fans turning on him?
I’m sure he didn’t sign Ozil because of the boos at the end of the Villa game. He’s a fairly resilient guy, as would I be if it was earning me £6-7m a year. He didn’t sell Vieira, Henry, Gilberto, Fabregas, etc because he thought they would be popular moves. I think he believes in himself enough to carry on if that’s what he wants to do and I don’t think a few fans wanting him out would be enough to influence his decision.
Final question: what would each of us prefer to happen?
I want him to stay. If he does stay I want fans to return the loyalty he has shown to the club and which the board has afforded him, and happily that is also what the decision makers at the club have done (although AW is the sole decision maker at AFC anyway). Then at the end of a glorious two years in which we win the quadruple twice, get someone in with the qualities I outlined above.
If he goes, I hope we’ve already dotted the lower case j’s and crossed the t’s on his successor, who will have more energy, more tactical and transfer nous, and a disciplined approach to defence than AW.
What is up AW’s sleeve?
What qualities do we want in our new manager?
Would Wenger really run off crying because a few fans don’t share his vision?
What would we prefer to happen?
What do my fine fellow Gooners think?
Written by: Josefos2013
Message from TotalArsenal:
Bergkampesque wants Sagna to stay and you can show your support by posting ‘Bacary Sign da Ting!!!’
Dutch football media fully expect Louis van Gaal to go to England after the world cup, but they are still divided as to which club he will be managing. VI International, by far the best Dutch ‘voetbal’ magazine, reported that one part of football journalists expect Van Gaal to go to the Mancs, and the other part actually believe he will be managing our very own Arsenal next season.
The latter believe the fact that the club have still not announced a new contract for our current manager, and the imminent arrival of three Dutchmen for coaching roles at Arsenal – most notably Andries Jonker, who has worked closely with Van Gaal a few times – could be strong signs that ‘belligerent Louis’ might end up – not at the theatre of nightmares – but at the very Home of Football.
I am a fan of Van Gaal and believe he would suit our club well, as long as he arrives with the blessing of Wenger. Over a year ago, I wrote a post about how Van Gaal would manage Arsenal; and rather than repeat myself, please see link below:
Now I am not after the sacking of Arsene Wenger; for that, I respect him too much. It is up to Arsene to decide whether he really can take our club to the next level and I trust he will make the right decision this summer. I have incredible respect for him; especially, for sticking with the club during the financially barren years whilst being at the very peak of his career. He could have gone anywhere to win more (easy) silverware, but he stuck with us; and for this we should remain grateful.
However, I am now doubtful whether Arsene can take us to the next level; and although I don’t want him ever to be sacked, if I am totally honest, I am also not particularly looking forward to another season under his management. In the next few weeks, I will write a separate post about why I fear that Arsene will not take us to the next level (if HH does not beat me to it?!). But this post is about Van Gaal’s potential suitability for Arsenal.
If Van Gaal is indeed coming to England AND Arsene is thinking of moving upwards (or onwards), this would be the moment – the one chance – to approach the Dutchman and steel him away from the Mancs. Arsenal would suit him much better than Man United. We have a team full of young talent and experienced, yet mouldable players, and there is a culture and system of football which is close to Van Gaal’s interpretation of Totaal Voetbal. Arsenal resemble Ajax in more ways than one; whereas Man United have always looked more like PSV Eindhoven in terms of style of football. It would take a long time for Van Gaal to put his stamp on MU and for this he has not got the time or the patience, I reckon. His next job will be his last and he never stays long anywhere, so he is likely to prefer Arsenal to Man United, if he had the choice.
Van Gaal would bring a more disciplined approach to our (total) football and less dependency on the quality and form of individual players. He would use the whole squad and drill everyone into one or more positions: there would be less freedom for individuals to express themselves. The focus would be playing football in a systematic, machine-like way. For every position, there will a number of players who can play in it, but the expectations, or specific tasks, for the ‘roles’ will always be the same. Van Gaal will focus strong on tactics, but like Wenger, he will not adjust these for each and every game: it is all about perfecting the system of football that will eventually conquer all. He is a self-proclaimed relationship manager who will work very hard and close with each and every player to get them to play the way he wants them to. He is very stubborn, just like Wenger[ and he will cause upsets within the team and possible within the club hierarchy as well. But he is also a winner and very keen to manage a club in England….
So if Arsene has decided, or is close to deciding to call it a day, now might be the time to act.
But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners: Would Van Gaal suit our club? Would he be able to move us to the next level, if Arsene calls it a day?
Remember how we blitzed Napoli almost five months ago? 15 minutes of fantastic, high-tempo and aggressive football and the game was more or less in the bag with two fine goals by Ozil and Giroud.
And what about our recent away match at Villa: two goals in equally as many minutes – in the 34th and 35th minute by Wilshere and Giroud – and the game was practically won (although we still made it hard for ourselves in the second half).
But these examples are among the few exceptions to the rule, as Arsenal tend to start slow and seldom score during the first third of our games.
Of all our Premier League goals, only 20% are scored during the first thirty minutes of the games; and between the 30th and 60th minutes we score 28%, which is relatively low as well. So, believe it or not, 51% of our PL goals are scored between the 60th and 90th+ minutes.
This raises the questions why this is the case, and whether it is good or bad.
Looking at our title rivals this season, it becomes clear Arsenal score more goals in the final third than the other teams by a margin, and we are the least prolific of all the teams in the first and second thirds of the games in the 2013-2014 season (stats from http://www.premierleague.com):
Team/Period of games when PL goals are scored
Total PL Goals
Total PL Goals Conceded
What is also quite interesting to note is that simply scoring a lot of goals is no guarantee for success, as MC and Pool demonstrate: both have scored significantly more than Arsenal and the Chavs and yet they are not in the lead.
This season, Arsenal and the Chavs play a more defensively solid game and both teams score the majority of their goals in the third part of their matches (especially Arsenal). MC and Pool play a more ‘full on attacking’ style of football and score more goals, but also concede more.
Despite Arsenal having conceded almost as many goals as MC – mainly skewed by the losses to Pool and MC – we have managed an impressive 46% of clean, whereas the Northern Oilers only achieved 36% of clean sheets (Chavs 42% and Pool a meagre 27%).
As the above demonstrates once again, there is a fine balance between attacking and defending and non of the current top four clubs have been able to get it right until now, which in my view is the main reason why it is still so tight at the top.
So, just for a bit of fun, here are some questions for a ‘heated debate’ 🙂 :
Why do Arsenal score relatively so few goals early on, and so many late in the game?
Is this good or bad, or does it not matter at all?
Should Arsenal start more aggressive/take more risks in games and try harder to score more goals early on?
What would be the overall effect?
What would you do for the rest of the season, to remain defensively solid and yet score more goals?
How should we play against the ‘top teams’ to get more points in these games?
Happiness and expectations are closely linked. Cockie Monster, BK’s nutcase blogger formerly known as GLIC, desperately sticks to low expectations in order to secure a permanent level of low, stable happiness. At the other end of the scale is the uber-optimist James Bond, who almost continuously adorns the site with his high hopes and expectations. Both approaches to Arsenal’s future performances and achievements have their merit, and we are lucky to have them blogging on BK. Variety is the spice of life after all. 😀
My expectation for last night’s match was a draw. It was clear that both teams wanted a win but, above all, were keen to avoid defeat. In my view, a point for us was a far better outcome than a point for the Mancs. They now have an almost impossible climb to make in order to reach the top four, especially with Pool winning three vital points against Fulham – the team who took two points away from the Mancs themselves, just a few days ago.
The general view is that the current Manure team is a weak one and that we should have beaten them yesterday. The (pathetic) booing by the Arsenal fans at the end of the game is evidence of this; it’s an indication of how low our toughest rivals in recent history have fallen under Moyes.
Arsene knows that his team has a lot of resilience and is the best of all the ‘big teams’ in winning points against the ‘weaker’ ones. As long as we stay close to both Oiler teams we have a chance to win the league.
It is clear that we do not have a team currently with the belief and/or qualities to beat the bigger teams in the league. Five points from eighteen against Pool, Chavs, Mancs, and Mansour City until now is not great. Or maybe, it is not to do with belief or quality but Wenger’s inability to get the best out of his players…?
However, it looks like we could win the league this year IF we keep beating the ‘non-big’ teams, as both Mansour City and Southern Oilers are prone to dropping points regularly in those games.
I will stick to what I said a few games ago, that the Southern Oilers beating the Northern Oilers would probably mean the former will go on and win the PL. However, the not totally unexpected Chavs’ draw against West Brom has given us renewed hope. Wenger is banking on his team’s consistency (currently his beloved word, it seems); and I also reckon that if we can continue to be consistent during the last third of the season, we could well win the title after all. Two draws – against MC at home and Chavs away – whilst winning almost all of the other games, might be enough to hand us the title come the end of the season.
I was very pleased to see the team play a lot more compact and organised against the Mancs than against Pool. We defended the set-pieces significantly better, despite the strong aerial fire-power of Moyes’ men. Arteta also had a much better game, despite his early give away to Van Judas; and Wilshere stuck a lot better to his defensive duties. Yes, he was ‘turned over’ a lot, and he did not add as much to our attack as we would have liked, but he played with positional discipline and passion, and still made a difference on the night.
I have never felt Mikel and Jack get the best out of each other when they play together though, and we should be buoyed by the imminent return of the Flame. The Frenchman allows Wilshere to be more effective in the box to box role, which in turn will mean more support for Ozil. These three midfield roles are intricately linked and getting the balance right is absolutely pivotal to the success of the whole team.
Last night we played with too many CAMs in my opinion: Ozil, Rosicky, Jack, Santi, and later on Ox was added as well. All of these players have a natural tendency to move towards the middle of the pitch, and play the ball through the funnel: the ‘D area’ of the opponent’s box. Manure were expecting this and made themselves hard to penetrate there throughout the game, marshalled by the seemingly rejuvenated, and brilliant on the night, Vidic. We lacked width and speed/penetration, but also support in the box for OG, as the likes of Ozil, Rosicky and Jack, and to some extent even Santi, are more natural creators than ‘fox-in-the-box’ finishers.
It did indeed feel that we were desperately missing Theo’s and/or Aaron’s speed/engine and ability to turn up at the right place and time in the box. they both also have the experience and maturity now to score goals in the big games.
I thought Ozil had a great game. He was constantly ready to dish out the finest delicacies but there are not many in the team/ the current formation who are able to anticipate and appreciate what he has to offer; something Wenger needs to address rather sooner than later. Not seeing this by some of the fans says more about them than Ozil.
I would also like to point out that, despite our current perception of Manure, they are not a weak team, but simply struggling with coming to terms with the new leadership/playing style of Moyes. I thought that the likes of Vidic, Evra, Rooney and VJ had very good games, and if I am fair I believe they had the best chances to win the match. Luckily they did not take them, as Szczesny had a superb game. They were clearly tense themselves and also desperate to avoid defeat.
I thought we got better towards the end of the game as we started to get closer and closer to their box and create some good opportunities. The fact that Manure still had the best chance to win the match during the same period shows us how delicately balanced it all was – and is; and how much work Arsene and Steve still have to do to get us winning the big games any time soon.
Wenger turns Machiavellian to expose Maureen’s Achilles Heel
Last month’s game against the Chavs was one of the most boring we have seen in a while. Many fellow Gooners felt we should have made a ‘statement of intent’ by giving our all to smash Maureen’s Chelsea at our 10th attempt. A win over him at the Emirates would indeed have been a very welcome early Christmas present, but it was unrealistic to expect it.
Furthermore, for any top team to beat a Maureen-team, they will have to take a lot of risk by attacking in numbers and leaving the back exposed, and it could all have ended up easily in disaster. It is exactly what the self-adoring one wants and many have fallen for it in the past; and so have we. Last month,Wenger showed he has learned his lesson as he was able to contain himself; and for that I salute him.
Despite having produced some very fine footballers over the years, the Portuguese are not renowned for spectacular football. They are, for example, the nemesis of Dutch football, both at club and national level. They love to defend and absorb pressure and then beat teams on the counter, and, as we all know, Jose Mourinho is the management-embodiment of this style of football – and AVB is made of the same cloth.
It is all fine as long as the opposition is prepared to play along: to attack – and therefore take risk – and take the game to them. If they don’t, but play safe themselves as well, the game will turn into a boring Chess game. If all teams play like Maureen-teams very few people would still enjoy football. As such, Maureen lives of the goodwill to entertain of others, especially against the top teams – pretty similar to a parasite.
Last month, on a ‘special Monday’, hundreds of millions of supporters and neutrals were treated to a horrible, double-antler of a footballer game, and the main culprit for this is Mourinho. He has been under pressure for a long time to play more attractive, attacking football, with the only exception – unsurprisingly – during his Inter spell. Against the top teams, Maureen is totally dependent on others wanting to play attacking football in order for a game to turn into something watchable. The Chelsea stinking rich owner wants him to change but fat chance for that.
For once, Wenger decided not to play along with the Chelsea manager and by doing so the game turned ugly: slow, unimaginative football with very few chances and little to cheer about. It was a price we had to pay for the greater, long term good of the club in my opinion. Mourinho’s comment that Arsenal had been boring must have been music to Arsene’s ears: it showed he had finally gotten under his skin. With accusing Arsene of playing boring football Maureen had made a fool of himself.
Wrongly, Arsene is often accused of lacking behind in the tactics department compared to Mourinho. The Frenchman does not rate game-specific tactics as highly as the Portuguese does, but it does not mean he is not capable of applying it if required. Arsene has his team(s) play a style of football that should conquer all without having to adjust much, if at all, to the opposition. The aim is to play attractive, winning ‘total’ football that inspires football fans around the world. And Wenger will always be remembered for this ambition and ability; unlike the current Chelsea manager, who will end up with more medals but shall never be remembered for his lasting contributions to the beautiful game.
Arsene has not got a team right now, or at least they are not ready yet, to play such football against the bigger teams and come out victoriously every time. And against a Maureen-team he will need a super team, especially when he puts three defence-minded midfielders in front of his back-four with the aim to kill us on the counter (the most basic ‘tactics’ in football).
Beating Chelsea before Christmas would have been brilliant but the risk of losing was too big this time. And had Giroud been just that little bit more sharp and lucky, we might have done just that.
I reckon when we will look back at the end of the season, we will all recognise the significance of Arsene’s tactics on that day. It was short term pain for long term gain. Well done Arsene.
Rotation? Do it to beat fatigue? Or don’t do it and ignore fatigue as long as possible?
Fatigue? Is it all in the mind? Or is it a genuine reason for under-performing?
I must admit I do find it strange that so many see fatigue, either as an irrelevance, or should not apply to professional footballers. So that is my starting point.
In almost any sport you care to mention, from Darts and Snooker through to Tennis and Track and Field events, those involved will, without exception, say that back to back performances get harder and harder. So why should footballers be any different?
Dart players need to concentrate to repeat actions over and over again. You may think that is simply a mechanical thing, so that if you practice a lot you don’t have to think about it. Well certainly practice helps. But in the pressure of performing in front of a live audience needs control of both emotions and their concentration level. Distractions can mean just the slight deviation in the flight of the throw that can mean victory or defeat? Repeated demands on the concentration levels always leaves its mark.
In snooker too: you are in a one on one situation, where you alternate between playing and not playing, but with a difference. You never know how long the sitting out periods may be. In darts, it is three arrows from your opponent and you are on. With snooker you can sit out a whole frame without getting your cue in action. You can play short round matches that may only last and hour. Or you can play the longer matches over two days, with several sessions a day. Worst still, you could be playing late into the night getting through one round, and then have to be ready to do the same again the following day. So even if the previous night was one of great satisfaction, and a great boost to the confidence level, if you have beaten a higher ranking opponent. But the records show that it is rarely repeated at that same level the next time. All snooker players can claim to have an advantage if they have just one day off between each match.
Moreover, with both these high intensity sports that lack the physical aspect, the victors at the end of a long tournament say they need a break. A physical break, before they can look forward to competing again.
But if you want to throw in the physical aspect on to an individual sport, then singles tennis events are probably the most demanding? The intensity of a partisan(?) crowd, the strength of your opponent, and often the climatic conditions are all their to test their mental strength. They too, see an advantage of having longer gaps between games than their opponents, irrespective of how they played previously. They too are drained at the end of a tournament where these demands are the most extreme.
With track athletes it is all about the physical performance. So they may have to stretch their stamina resources when they have two elimination rounds in one day. By the time the final rounds come along, it is usually the ones with the most ability that have been able to ease through the qualifying rounds, without extending themselves too much, that come out on top.
So when it comes to football, they not only have the physical effort to manage, but also the concentration levels too. Not for the two hours of a marathon runner, unless their is extra time, but way above the 10 seconds of the 100 metres sprint. Yes it is a team game, and the players are not involved all off the time, not to the physical extreme that is true. But the concentration level should always be on alert, because you can never be sure when you are going to have to make a tackle, or receive the ball. Fatigue in this area is what is so costly. An unexpected error will throw out what your fellow players were planning for, and that can be more draining on them?
So, just because professional footballers are well paid, have good facilities to train and recover from matches, does not mean that playing up to 95 minutes once a week does not leave them below their full level of all round fitness – mental and physical.
I have read that top football coaches think as much as 50% is lost by the following day. This is probably why if they do any training the next day, it is only light by nature? They then go on to say that by the second day, a player may recover 75% of what was lost in their last match. Which is still a significant drop, and will vary amongst the players. Another variable is just how demanding the previous game was? Another may be just how many demanding games have gone before the latest one? Travelling too, is not as relaxing after a bit of light training?
On top of all that you have the different demands that these factors are taking on the individual players. I said with the track athletes, if they are real top class performers they can breeze through their early rounds. However, the athletes that just scrape into the qualifiers are very unlikely to beat these same athletes in the final round because of the extra effort it took out of them? It is the same with teams of footballers. Some players will be stretching their ability in every game, while others are capable of making hard things look simple, because they can. So, a team of all round better players will be able to get through matches easier. That does not necessarily happen because of the ‘one off’ factor, when a lesser team has a game when it all comes together. But over the longer term, a full season, ‘the usual suspects’ are invariably somewhere near the top?
So, I ask again. Why is it so difficult to accept that football is a demanding game, and fatigue will play its part?
Take the run of games that Arsenal played:
Sunday match v Everton: Tough match, slightly added to (mentally) by not holding the late lead?
Tuesday fly out to Italy, probably still only 70% recovered?
Wednesday they played Napoli: tough game. Guess a %age below peak around 90%
Fly back early hours Thursday, now only 45% fit
Friday, just getting up to 65/70%?
Saturday, early kick off. What? 85% recovered, playing away from home against a very talented side.
Well, you know what happened. Does it make a bit more sense why so many were way off their normal game?
I hope so. Because this is why rotation is not just an option. Playing every 3 days will mean if we played the same 11 players for all these matches, there are some that will not make it past the third game, given they will not have recovered fully by the time the next game comes along, which compounds the drop in their ability to deliver once more.
The pros and cons of our run over this periods are: We have 3 good days to recover from the Chelsea game; Away match against West Ham, no real travelling; Unlike 2 good days, but match messed up by travel to Newcastle – the tricky tie I identified earlier.: We then have two good days, before we play Cardiff at home. The previous three results will help, but we are going to be down on our levels. Be warned, Cardiff will be fighting for their survival!: Next, FA Cup v Spurs will be just the tonic, even the most knackered will find something deep down for this one, albeit with only 2 good recovery days on top of all the rest. But then we get a 9 day break before our repeat fixture with the Villa.
A bad result against West Ham could mean one set of 11 players will be running on empty by the time the Cup match comes around.