When The Going Gets Tough…

Written by Mark Lenehan

Watching Arsenal’s humiliation at the hands of Bayern in mid-week was extremely satisfying, not only because I’m not an Arsenal fan, but because watching thirteen or fourteen spineless “superstars” who earn mega-money have their true colours shown to millions across the globe which almost gave me, and I’m sure many others, a sense of justice.


“We’ve got Ozil, we’ve got Ozil” – Correct, Arsenal fans, you do have Mesut Ozil, but unfortunately for yourselves, Arsene Wenger and the rest of the Arsenal squad, the only magic the German can produce at the moment is a flawless disappearing act. “But remember that brilliant goal he scored in the group stages against, ehm, ehm….” – Yes, we all remember the goal, it was brilliant, but we can’t all remember the name of the part-time bin-man goalkeeper or either of the two electricians he rounded before putting the ball into the back of the net. Most people won’t even remember the name of the club he scored it against. Cue the jump to Google and YouTube….

 credit joshjdss

The fact of the matter is, to be earning the mega-bucks that these imposters are earning, you should be able to stand up at the Allianz Arena and perform. If things aren’t going well, then you should stand up a bit taller! Why are Philip Lahm, Robert Lewandowski, Xabi Alonso et al all genuinely world class players? Not totally because of their seemingly unequalled brilliance on the ball, but because when the going gets tough, they’re not afraid to roll their sleeves up and get a bit dirty. Foul someone, have a go at someone, go over and pick your teammate up by the scruff of the neck and make sure he does better next time. Arsenal’s “superstars”? No, no, let’s wave our arms about and look at everyone else but us. This stems partly from the gutlessness of the players and partly from Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.


When things aren’t going well, why is it always a “tactical change” that’s needed? If you ask me, I don’t think Arsenal’s tactics were all that bad on Wednesday night. They sat behind the ball, played on the counter and they were probably disappointed to have gone in level at the break, and rightly so, in my eyes.


It’s nothing to do with tactics, it’s to do with mentality. The modern football coach seems to believe that there is a tactic or a formation that will solve everything. Wrong. It won’t. Sometimes, you need to man up. You have to want to win or not want to lose so much that you make sure you and everybody else around you are doing their job to at least the best of their ability. I didn’t know Brian Clough or Sir Alex Ferguson, but I’d imagine some of their half-time team talks didn’t necessarily go down the tactics road when things weren’t going well. Sir Alex’s famous ‘hairdryer’ was brandished a hell of a lot more than the tactics board, one would imagine. It’s not only Wenger and Arsenal though, take Pep Guardiola and Barcelona for example. Were they the best team to have ever graced the planet? Probably. But at the same time, any time they went behind in a game, you very rarely seen them win. Remember when Bayern humbled them both home and away in the Champions League? How does the best team on the planet lose 7-0 on aggregate? Just something to think about…

When we talk about leaders on a football pitch, warriors who led by example, I think of the likes of Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Steven Gerrard, Gennaro Gattuso – people that weren’t afraid to say “I’m going to kick him next time he gets the ball, and the time after that, and the time after that”. Players that weren’t afraid to scream in the faces of their own players. Winning football matches and trophies is easy when you’re the best football team but if you aren’t you’ve got to find another way. You’ve got to be aggressive and show an appetite for victory. Sadly, these days it seems as though many a player and coach finds this very concept as alien as life on Mars.

Is it as simple as player mentality? Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments below!

featured image by joshjdss