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The West Brom Win Changes Little for Arsenal

Arsenal broke their four match scoreless streak on Tuesday, beating West Brom 3-1.  Arsene Wenger commented afterward that he never lost faith in his squad.

Wenger said: “You are quickly questioned, when you don’t score.

“There was no open discussion about the problem, but subconsciously it certainly has an influence on the way you think, so the fact we scored three goals is good.

“But we have always had a very strong attitude and focus in training and in the games.

Wenger implements an offensive brand of football.  Arsenal went over a month without scoring in the league.  If questioning after that is “quickly,” at what point is questioning it appropriate?  Or, do folks just not question Arsene.

Also, why was there no open discussion about the problem?  When something is failing, you generally try to figure out why that is.  You place it atop the agenda.  You discuss it.  You fix it.  Everyone frustrated, nervous and not talking about it is perhaps the worst psychological regime Arsenal can have.  It’s no surprise they went five times without winning.

Wenger also praised his team’s performance of late.

“We are on a good run, even if recently we did not score many goals. But we did not lose, and once you start to win, that will come good.

Arsenal has not lost in the league since Nov. 22 to Manchester City.  That can be framed positively.  No one likes to lose.  The draw earns a point and feels like progression.

However, there’s a counter argument.  Arsenal has not lost the past few months, but they have drawn opponents eight times, losing 16 points.  That’s the equivalent of five additional losses.  Had they eeked out a win in two of those eight draws, they would be clear of Aston Villa.

Arsenal bucked the impotency curse against West Brom, but that shouldn’t be grounds for optimism.  At least statistically, West Brom was not played off the pitch.  Arsenal merely converted their chances.  Teams with Vieira, Henry and Pires would have guffawed at the notion that beating the worst team in the Premier League away from home was impressive.

To say that things given time “will come good,” is passive.  How many trophy-winning teams are passive?

The Gunners have nearly caught Aston Villa for fourth, more from Villa’s fragility and profligacy than from any credit worthy activity.  They may challenge for the FA Cup, granted a cushioned run to the semifinals.  They may also receive Fabregas and Walcott in time to challenge for Europe.

However, this has been a dark Arsenal season.  The lack of trophies has become a fait accompli. They haven’t even been fun to watch.  The players, the board, and even the gilded manager deserve a share of blame for what has been a festering disaster.  Every sector of the club could use a swift kick in the ass, but without effective checks and balances there’s no one there to give it.

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  1. jm

    March 6, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    That is a case of false alternatives. One need not assume the absence of psychological states simply because one does not assume particular ones. Rather, one can suspend judgment.

    Either way, I did not argue against some measure of psychological attribution. We seem to have cognitive mechanisms for “mind-reading” and can use observation of behavior to make good guesses about psychological states. I objected to the further analysis of how best it can be repaired, whether Wenger is taking appropriate action, etc. It is these questions which I think require more intimate knowledge of the team and its players than we shall ever get.

  2. tyduffy

    March 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    GoonerDave – I’m sure that you realize that a “fait accompli” means an established fact not an accomplished one. My statement was meant to imply that Arsenal not winning a trophy is something you expect before it happens.

    JM – Fair point about psychological assumptions. There’s no way I can know. But, what is the alternative? I would assume the players would be frustrated at not scoring goals. I’m not sure that’s such a logical leap. They seem frantic and nervy when they play, from my assessment. That doesn’t seem like a logical leap.

    Perhaps, psychological assessment without is imperfect, but is it worse than psychological nihilism, assessing the players as automatons? If Rooney flips his lid and starts swearing at the referee, am I not to assume he’s angry?

  3. jm

    March 6, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Ack, I accidentally posted before finishing my remarks. Allow me to finish.

    To be quite honest, this article is plagued by two very damning intellectual leaps. The first is a rather rubbish assumption about the nature of psychological states of Arsenal football players. Arsene has mentioned that he thinks it is something psychological. Fair enough. That gives no license for us to make any substantive inferences about how best to remedy that psychological issue. We have (a) no access to the nature of it, (b) we have no access to the psychological nature of each individual player and (c) we have no access to the ways in which this psychological issue is implemented in the playing of any given player. Armchair psychology is never going to get us very far.

    The second issue is the weight placed on Arsene’s public comments. Since when has he been truthful and unbiased in his public comments? He almost always says whatever he has to in order to protect his players. What he says in public is not even correlated with what he says in private to the players (or at least there is no evidence for such a correlation).

    There are a lot of things we should be questioning Wenger about, in particular the lack of depth in the squad and at central midfield. While Fabregas cannot be replaced in full, he could have been more competently backed up and the loss of form might not have been so severe. These are the issues about which we have actual data and which we can say useful things. Trying to get in their heads from behind a monitor is unlikely to get anywhere. (Yes, I am issuing a full broadside against a sportswriting trope that extends far beyond this article, so I do apologize to tyduffy (whose articles I do typically enjoy) for making him the sole target of it.)

  4. jm

    March 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Hmm, I guess I’m not at all clear on what you mean by the sentence:

    “If questioning after that is “quickly,” at what point is questioning it appropriate? Or, do folks just not question Arsene.”

    What is the basis for this remark? Is there any? Arsenal fans are divided right now about the quality of Arsene’s decisions this season, and a fair number have expressed some very negative appraisals of him. This extends into analysis of this Arsenal side on programs like MoTD, etc. Folks question Arsene plenty.

    To be q

  5. GoonerDave

    March 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

    “The lack of trophies has become a fait accompli.” Genius, because thats clearly what we set out to accomplish. I notice you absolve the fans in all this, for all your talk of passivisity, shouldn’t we look at ourselves at some point and see if we’re supporting the team every inch of the way?

    No, of course not, we pay our £50, its our right to boo, fuck how it affects the team, might be just the kick up the ass they need, eh?

  6. tyduffy

    March 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

    i wouldn’t care if we get relegated as long as wenger’s in charge….

    1. I never said anything about firing Wenger. Quote me where I said that.

    2. Your statement above is sheer lunacy.

    Excuse me for expecting a supposedly top class club to play like one, or a top class manager to manage like one.

  7. steve far

    March 6, 2009 at 9:10 am

    hey, give the man a break. you aren’t even mentioning the big draw back of a huge number of injuries to many arsenal players. tell u what, in 2007/8 season, cristiano ronaldo scored twice the number of league goals scored by his fellow strike patners rooney and tevez for a club whole of 80. hence it could be said any striker of the caliber of rooney or tevez would have give manu about 13/14 goals. ronaldo scored 31 (80-31) =49 +14(13) =74/3. that is if cristiano ronaldo had gotten injured for all of last season(like eduardo), manu would most probably only had managed 74 goals max, 1 below arsenal who were in third place. missing ronaldo alone could devasate united’s season. what about arsenal who missed rosicky, eduardo, fabregas, walcott for long periods this year. last year they missed sagna, rosicky and RVP for long perions plus eduardo. don’t you at least simpathise with this state?

    liverpool have missed both torres and gerrard for periods and isnt it why their season no longer looks that enviable.
    chelsea are doing no better either with essien still missing.

    get real!!

  8. gooner nation

    March 6, 2009 at 9:04 am

    i cannot believe i just wasted five minutes of my life reading this horseshit.

    i wouldn’t care if we get relegated as long as wenger’s in charge….

    sure you’re not a chelsea fan? you sound like one

  9. baz

    March 6, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Yeah! I say sack wenger! Get rid of him, because for the past few seasons he’s had to work on a shoestring budget and still try to compete at the top, how dare he?
    Yes we’re having a pretty bad season but when you actually compare it to a team like liverpool, are we really in that much need of a “swift kick in the ass?”

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