There are two things I want to talk about today/this week but it would be overkill to put them in the same article so look out for my next update too.
First I want to talk about mentality. The importance of a winning mentality should never be underestimated.
A certain mentality can be gained through experience, experience of playing and experience of a situation. Wigan are likely to escape relegation because they have years of experience of being in that situation. The players may have changed but the battling spirit remains. The same can be said of Arsenal. Arsenal have experience of seeing out the season and getting Champions League football. However…..
Arsenal severely lack, especially in the past 7 years, something Manchester United have in bundles, and that is a proper winning mentality. United start each season expecting trophies, not expecting to challenge as we do but expecting to win. Players come and go but the mentality never changes. Arsenal need to get this back in the short term so longer term our promising youngsters stay with the club and don’t leave for the oil clubs.
I believe that a very busy few weeks early in the summer can make this a reality.
I know we have been strongly linked with Podolski and Vertonghen but put these guys aside for the moment and consider my suggestions.
Whilst I like to deal in reality like many of my fellow bloggers I also understand that blogging is also a platform for opinion and opinion doesn’t have to be steeped in realism.
With that in mind I think Arsenal could pull off a master stroke by getting in a player that has terrorised opponents and none more so than Arsenal over the past 7 years, a player with experience of winning trophies, of ramping it up as the season draws to an end and dragging his team over the line when often they haven’t deserved it. I’m talking about none other than Didier Drogba.
Drogba, once available to Arsenal for £500,000, could prove to be an excellent signing for Arsenal for many reasons. He would give Arsenal a “Plan B”, something Arsenal are rightly accused of lacking, he still has a turn of pace at 34 and has raw power, something we also lack. Henry was quick and technically good, halfway between RVP and Theo in a very crude sense but he also had strength and could really bully defenders.
The knowledge he could pass on to a player like Afobe is immeasurable and being 34 he would only be a very short term solution, 1.5-2 years and then he could go off to China or the Middle East and earn mega-mega-bucks like Anelka.
What someone like Drogba could bring to the club is experience of winning trophies and fighting for trophies until the last few games of the season not just until February. Granted Chelsea are on the decline and this season is almost completely down the crapper for them but without the likes of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba they wouldn’t be in a final and certainly wouldn’t still be in with a shout of a Champions League spot however fragile their challenge.
Arsenal have certainly benefited from having more experience in the club this season with the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker and Santos but these aren’t players who have added much in terms of experience of winning things. Mertesacker has one German FA Cup to his name. Santos has a few cups and leagues from Brazil and Turkey but they are much inferior leagues. Arteta has been our most valuable signing because of his premier league experience but he also has little silverware to his name and none for the past 9 years. I also think the fact we were down and out before the season had really started also gave the players the freedom to play with no expectations. How they deal with being favourites for 3rd with 5 games to go is a different story. One I hope has a happy ending.
Szczesny recently said that he wouldn’t leave Arsenal until he has won something. If we went a number of years without a trophy he probably would leave but on the flip side some Gooners are worried that if we do win something that some of these players may feel that they can leave because they’ve won something. What bringing in short term solutions like Drogba to change the mentality could only be measured years after they have left.
If Didier joined on a free, helped progress players like Afobe and Campbell, helped Arsenal bully their way to an undeserved victory, helped take advantage of our width, helped RVP stay on form and fit by sharing the goals and giving Arsene a chance to rest RVP leading up to big games and instil a real winners mentality into the current players he would not only be helping us lift our first trophy since 2005 but he could also be helping us secure the futures of our biggest and brightest young talents.
If we had won trophies in consecutive years by the time he had served 2 years with us and moved on then the next year our players would have had experience of seeing seasons out and winning silverware so come 2015 our young talents like AOC, Szczesny and Jack etc will be playing for a ‘successful’ club and wouldn’t force through moves claiming that they need to move on in order to have a chance of silverware. One trophy won’t do it but 2-3 years of trophies on the trot will convince these players that they don’t need to move on and that their long term desires can be met at Arsenal. If they move for money like Na$ri at least they won’t be able to use silverware as a smokescreen.
Hopefully Arsenal can move fast this summer to secure their top transfer targets and just as importantly move on the players surplus to requirements. I would also be pleased to see two premier league players join us on free transfers, the first being Didier Drogba for the reasons mentioned but also Craig Gordon. I personally believe that Fabianski will move on this summer. I don’t want him to go and unlike many of my fellow Arsenal fans I actually rate him. Sure he makes mistakes but most of his mistakes are confidence based. When he has a run he gets really really good and then if he makes a mistake he quickly dusts himself off. Being in and out of the team and making mistakes and not getting the chance to dust yourself down just makes things worse but I’m getting off subject. I don’t think he will stay, Almunia will certainly leave so Arsenal will be short of experience between the sticks. Gordon would be a worthy back up to Szczesny and will add much needed experience in that department. An excellent 2nd choice who would get a starting berth at many clubs on a free transfer is not to be sniffed at. I think both would join. Didier would love to work with Wenger and he was a ‘fan’ of Arsenal’s before he joined Chelsea. Gordon would also love the chance to have a big club on his CV I think. Better on the bench at Arsenal than at Sunderland right?
I want Arsenal to win trophies but my main concern is that we keep building for the future but then lose influential players. The reason for this isn’t our lack of success but our lack of potential for sustained success. This lack of potential is bred from a mentality caused by a lack of silverware and a lack of a leader. We lack leaders because we keep selling them because they want to move on for more success elsewhere. It’s a vicious circle and the only way to break that is to break the mentality. I believe big players, even with the sun setting on their careers, like Drogba can help change that in the short term and breed a natural winning mentality that is entrenched in the club. Something so deep that you can change the playing staff and the coaching staff on a regular basis but the mindset remains.
It’s what Manchester United have. As much as I hate them and Fergie I cannot help but admire them. Some people forget or maybe just weren’t around to remember that Fergie was on the brink of being sacked at Man U after 3 seasons without a trophy. That first FA Cup win started a winning mentality that continued into the next year with a League Cup win and then on to Ferguson’s first league title at Old Trafford. Fast forward 20 years later and United have won 16 ‘major’ trophies. If you include Charity Shields then since 1990 Manchester United have only had 2 seasons without silverware. 2001/02 which they followed with a league in 2003 and an FA Cup in 2004 and 2004/05 which they have followed with 11 pieces of silverware in 7 consecutive seasons and are on course to win their 13th premier league title in 21 years. It took Arsenal 117 years to win 13 league titles to put that into perspective.
The team that kick started this mindset that infects every player to play for Man U changed a fair bit from the 1990 cup final to the first league title in 1993 but there were enough winners like Bruce, Pallister, Phelan, Hughes Robson and Ince to breed that mindset into players like Schmeichel, Kanchelskis, Sharpe and Giggs whom then went on to inspire the next lot and the next lot.
Arsenal had that between 1997 and 2008. Sure we lost to Barca in dubious circumstances in 2006 but we still got to the final. We also made the 2007 League Cup final and again lost in dubious circumstances. We were still challenging, we were getting to finals and narrowly missing out but for me this is where things started to go wrong. We were building a young team who although they flirted with the title in 07/08 never really had the experience moving forward to keep on challenging. This is why we lost to Birmingham. Our players didn’t have the experience to believe that we could see out the game. Maybe they were scared of winning a trophy or too excited to stay focused but that for me is again down to mentality. Our youth policy not only failed to net us silverware but has ironically failed to actually support our youth policy because we keep selling our players. We played finishing school for the past 5 years and the only way out is to change the mindset of the players we have. For me that starts with someone like Didier.
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