Long-time readers of this blog will know that I am not a person who regards winning as the be-all-and-end-all of football.
There are so elements to football that draw people in: the entertainment, the aesthetic beauty, the presence of team dynamics, the narratives, the tactics, the learning of right and wrong, the representation of culture.
If the result was the only thing that mattered in football then most of us would have stopped watching and playing this crazy game a long time ago. I certainly would have stopped writing about it.
But undeniably, winning is a part of the game.
It is, in a very particular way, the most prominent measuring stick for most of the enjoyable elements I mentioned above.
Narratives of good versus evil, of right versus wrong, of a little team playing with the boundless spirit of a puppy versus a big, ugly money-making machine only become memorable if the result is favourable.
Teams that are entertaining, tactically innovative or artistically-inclined only go down in history if they achieve the success to justify their approach to the game.
Results matter because they provide the context to justify all the other stuff.
* * *
On Sunday Arsenal’s title challenge officially ended.
A 2-1 defeat to Bolton, our first loss in seventeen games, means that for the sixth season running we will end the season without any silverware.
For the third time in four seasons we saw an Arsenal team that had promised so much over the first three quarters of a campaign falter when the going got tough.
If you are a fan of the club — regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the manager’s principles, agree or disagree with the faith placed in certain players, agree or disagree with the way that the club is run from the very top — it is a very disappointing and frustrating situation to accept.
I am constantly searching for the positives in this beautiful game and that will never change. That is who I am at that is the lens that I view football through. I believe that if you can’t find enjoyment in the bad times then you simply don’t deserve to enjoy the good.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated. That doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed, or angry, or believe that things couldn’t have been better than they are.
I can be proud of our team finishing second or third whilst maintaining the principles of attacking football whilst still being disappointed that a squad as good as ours could not go one better and win the league. I can be proud of player like Laurent Koscielny for his sterling attitude and improvement this season whilst still being disappointed with his mistake that cost us the Carling Cup.
This season hurt so much because, when it is all said and done, we have no real excuses for not winning the league. The team was packed with quality, neither Manchester United nor Chelsea were as strong as in previous seasons and at a time when we should have made our final charge towards the title, our squad was in excellent physical shape. Leave aside all the talk about playing the right way, about balancing the books, about what improvements we could make to the squad and you have a team that is, on paper, a match for any in the league.
As a fan I feel immense sympathy for Arsene Wenger. In reality, we should not be in a position to be as frustrated as we are. We should not be in a place where we are spending so little and challenging so frequently at the top. But unfortunately for Wenger, because he is getting so close it is reasonable to expect him to go one step further.
Wenger is overachieving whilst underachieving and that is a deeply difficult position to be in. He has so much faith in his methods and his players because they have got him so far. But the risk in his strategy is that by shunning established stars and experienced players in favour of rather more youthful prospects, a strategy backed by the Arsenal board, he is relying on the hope that his team will learn to win.
Therein lies the ultimate question: will they learn to win, or learn to fail? Will his squad develop into a group of winners or forever be destined to wait for their first win because they simply don’t know how to get the job done?
Read any Premier League news blogs or websites and you will see that supporters of every club will always believe they should have a better squad. We complain about our Eboués, Squillacis and Denílsons in the same way that United fans complain about their Carricks, Evans’ and Gibsons and Chelsea fans complain about their Ferreiras, Ramires’ and Kalous. No squad is perfect and under the circumstances, I believe ours is very good.
The goalkeeper problem has been solved by the emergence of Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou has developed into the big central defender people have been craving for a few years and Thomas Vermaelen’s return will provide much-needed leadership in that area of the pitch. His return also gives us another option at left-back and facilitating the possibility for Koscielny to use his superb interception and distribution skills as a defensive midfielder if required.
I realise that this a rather scattershot piece of writing but that happens time to time when (1) you’re writing a blog and not writing for The Guardian and (2) you’re observing and asking more questions than providing answers. So perhaps it is best for me to end with some conclusions to round things off:
- I think with the squad we had, with the experience under the belt and the level of competition provided from United and Chelsea, that we should have won the league this season. I am extremely frustrated that we were not able to do this.
- I believe that we are incredibly fortunate to have a team that are even capable to win the league given the principles that the manager and the club have stuck to and should be more appreciative of this.
- The Carling Cup failure proved to be the moment that derailed our season. It was a failure that appeared to suck the life out of our squad at the worst time possible and we never recovered.
- I firmly believe that Arsene Wenger is the right manager to lead this club forward and that he was right to believe that his players, after going so far, could make the final step.
- Given their failure though, he has a tough decision to make regarding bringing in one or two more experienced players and hoping to make the difference, or relying on his players to learn from the failure to push on and win.
- The squad does not need anything close to an overhaul despite all the transfer rumours. Several players made immense improvements this season and we are as full of natural leaders (people like Szczesny, Nasri, van Persie and Fabregas) as we have been in some time.
- I still love supporting Arsenal. So, so much.
I would absolutely love to hear you thoughts on our season in the comments. But please bare in mind that if you are not capable of thinking before you write, of writing something that is constructively critical or using language that is aggressive of offensive, I will have no choice but to remove them.КартиниИдея за подарък