Over the last five-and-a-bit fallow seasons, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has seen his band of nimble tyros surrender one and two-goal leads on no less than 34 occasions – with the most recent example being last Saturday’s second-half capitulation against North London rivals Tottenham.
Furthermore, whereas Arsenal’s propensity for snatching defeat (or a draw) from the jaws of victory used to be predominantly an ‘away day’ problem, the worrying trait is now beginning to seep it’s way into the club’s home mentality – a fact that isn’t lost on Wenger, who is keen to nip it in the bud before submissive buckling becomes an ingrained tenet within his ranks.
A goal a-piece from Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh seemed to have put a dominant Arsenal in resolute control of last weekend’s derby, before Wenger was left to fume on the sidelines as Tottenham first clawed their way back to parity – only to seal their spirited comeback thanks to Younes Kaboul‘s 85th minute winner.
Four days of analysis and dissection later and Wenger has arrived at the conclusion that a distinct lack of concentration is the overriding issue within his squad, although the studious Frenchman has also noted that repeated failure at pivotal moments may be beginning to take it’s toll on his foetal flock:
“Sometimes we are easing up in games because maybe subconsciously we feel we need to go through the motions, and sometimes it is a bit more subtle and a subconscious feeling that we have not won yet – so we get a bit nervous when we have to become ‘concrete’.
The players were very, very down [after the 3-2 defeat to Tottenham].
They know that they basically threw a game away that was in our hands. It was not rational how we lost a game of that magnitude when we were leading 2-0.
Mentality can become an issue. That’s the danger. I don’t think it will be but that’s the fear. If it’s repeated then it can become something that can block the team.”
Wenger also added that he wouldn’t be seeking to employ professional help in a bid to temper his fledgling’s lack of implied lack of mental resolve, and that his players should begin to take a modicum of responsibility for their own shortcomings:
“Unless you have one specific problem which a psychologist can help to sort out then I do not believe in these methods. We are not at that point at the moment.
You focus on the technical side of your play and not on the expected result. I want this team to win so much, that I am giving every drop of my blood to make sure this team wins.”
Arsenal are currently preparing for their penultimate Champions League group game against Portuguese side Braga at the Estadio Axa this evening, knowing that a solitary point will be enough to guarantee their place in the knockout stages.
However, with the spectre of having lost on their previous European outing against Shakhtar Donesk (despite having taken an early lead through Theo Walcott) still looming large, Wenger will be undoubtedly hoping that his newfangled credo will have taken an immediate hold.
Of course it’s also true that Arsenal have staged some exceptional comebacks themselves in recent history, but along with the neat, zippy passing triangles, the measured midfielder ‘clippery’ and the rolled-home finishes needs to come strength, resilience and a certain degree of testicular fortitude.
I’ve said it before and I’ll undoubtedly say it again at some point in the not-so-distant future, Arsenal are still in desperate need of a gen-yoo-ine ugly bastard or two in order to shore up both their deep-lying midfield and their pygmy (by comparison) central defence.