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Winning Victory through our own harmony, I say We must win at all costs? Last week I spoke about losing, but the other side of the coin is winning and maybe there is not so much difference in some ways. I mentioned drawing last week as being similar to a defeat as you didn’t win. They take away from your win percentage so despite Wenger’s great years he had only a 57% win ratio. But what can we analyse about winning that is useful to a managerial team and the players? I am going to argue something here that I believe should be critical to all team’s planning. You must, at all costs, beat the teams below you. These boys don't lose often to lower teams To explain, we were beaten by Brentford, Manchester United, Everton, Palace, Brighton, Southampton plus Forest in the cup. Draws – Brighton, Burnley and Palace. Convert them to wins and viola! Equal to City on 93 points. Second on goal difference only. Defeats happen for a reason So why do these defeats happen? The only logical conclusion is complacency and luck determine these defeats. Bad luck, maybe cannot be foreseen, but complacency can. I want to draw your attention to Mr Mourinho, who, regular readers know, I have little time for. He bucked the trend of modern managers of resting players (of which a major proponent was our own Arsene Wenger) in playing his strongest team wherever possible. He wanted to win all and pushed his players to their limits. It meant Chelsea rarely lost to lesser sides and they eclipsed the two giants of the time, Arsenal and Man Utd. I think this aspect he got right. Jose Mourinho -win at all costs I believe dropping top players against lower sides adds to the complacency. The manager is saying we can beat these teams with an unfamiliar side. Players don’t find each other so easily, the rhythm is disrupted and last season we got defeated too often against lower sides. I strongly believe we should treat these matches as the must win ones. We might get beaten by the top sides when playing our best players and last season we were beaten at least once by all the sides above us. We only managed 2 wins against Spurs and Chelsea. But it wouldn’t have mattered at all being beaten all those times as in the scenario outlined above, we would have ended up with 93 points if we had beaten all the lower sides. If changes have to be made, make it against the top sides as we were beaten pretty much every time anyway. We might still get 2 wins out of eight by resting some players. Fire them up against the little teams You need to play your best players, fire them up, get in a motivational speaker to say let’s go out and beat these Palace or Brentford fuckers for all those fans in the stadium who love you. Get the tactics right, get the preparation right as these are the matches that will win you the title. Our players are fired up for the Liverpools and Citys anyway. Wenger regularly rested players This is the bleeding obvious, yes? So why am I saying it? Because managers have been duped into complacency and the necessity to give squad players games. Mourinho never cared about that, only winning. It meant he made enemies and never stayed too long at a club as players start to grumble. As a football manager, you are not there to make friends, your only friends are the players you play all the time. The winners of Chelsea, Lampard, Terry, Drogba, etc., loved Mourinho because he made them winners. They didn’t care about the players who were just backup, made most appearances as subs or whatever. Let them be unhappy. Winning is your job as a football manager and that was probably Wenger’s biggest weakness, despite having, I believe, the best team in Europe, he never won the Champions League. I don’t believe Mourinho would have tolerated Bergkamp’s refusal to fly or arduous driving to matches. Thierry Henry rated Bergkamp as the greatest player he ever played with but we had to do without him in a lot of away matches in Europe. We could have done with him away in Europe Coping with losing is key to winning Last week, I concluded that winning means coping with losing, quickly turning things around and having the ability to pick yourself up off the floor. Plus having a top team around you, both staff and players to bring you back up to the top. Lewis Hamilton had the magical Mercedes team to pick him right back up from defeat. Losing some matches should help you win matches by closing matches out when necessary. The excruciating pain of defeat helps you not to lose. In the optimistic scenario outlined above, we would have been beaten 6 times by Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, and Tottenham and still might have won the league. Winning and losing are two sides of the same coin. Should we learn from Mourinho? What does it mean for this season? I reckon if Mikel Arteta made that one tweak, that the must win matches are the lower sides, played his best side and convinced his players that these are the matches we absolutely have to win, we could be an awful lot closer to the title. Mourinho made his career out of a ruthless focus on winning matches, the League Cup was not a joke trophy to him. He won most finals he contested. Arteta is not Mourinho, you can see he tries to look after all his players and have a relationship with them, He will play mostly second string in the Europa League, The League Cup and the Fa Cup and against some of the lower teams he will rest some players. He is thinking long term and the overall good of the club. Players need games to improve and show their ability. We need to send these home crying Maybe he is right. However, it does mean sacrificing some games to losses. Do we really want to be beaten by Olympiacos at the Emirates? Or Brighton? We must start a new culture that we send the lower teams home crying again and again. Not the ruthless focus of Mourinho where players play second fiddle to winning, perhaps, but a merciless aim to take the victories we deserve. Victoria Concordia Crescit yes, for sure, but only harmony amongst ourselves, we don’t owe the Brightons or the Olympiacos anything else.
2004-2005 Another invincible season? I am guessing a lot of you readers remember this season and how you felt. We seemed better than the rest. We were unbeaten and we started the season as if we had forgotten how to be beaten. Man Utd in the Charity Shield? 0-0 and we beat them on penalties. And then we just started throwing the ball into the net in the league. 4 against Everton away, 5 against Middlesbrough at home, 3 against Blackburn at home, 4 against Norwich away, we couldn’t stop scoring and winning. Finally, Bolton got a draw 2-2 on game 6 and this, combined with beating Arsenal in the return fixture allowed the fantasist Sam Allardyce to claim he had the beating of Wenger. Had he heck as like! Check his record against Wenger, Wenger is clearly on top but he did take 4 points that season. In fairness to Allardyce, he always had a weaker team so any good result deserved merit. At least Fabregas didn't miss But that didn’t slow us down. 4-0 against Charlton and 3-1 against Villa and we were ready to consign Manchester United and old Red nose to the bin in our next. But that game is etched indelibly in all our minds. We were looking for 50 undefeated, they wanted to get back to being the champs. They were dirty, and the ref seemed not to notice as he turned a blind eye. Then Campbell made an attempted challenge on Rooney, the referee said penalty and Van Nistleroy converted. Then Rooney scored again and we had the famous pizzagate in the tunnel at the end when Cesc Fabregas was alleged to have thrown a pizza at Alex Ferguson. And we were beaten by our biggest rivals and it was like a dagger through the heart and a stiletto in the back. They really did send us home crying. I was so down I guess you all remember how you felt. Of all teams, Man Utd! Would have been nicer, really, if it was Charlton or someone like that who got a fluky goal, defended for their lives and somehow managed a win against the odds. Those type of results happen every season to the top teams. It hit us hard. 2 draws next against Southampton and Palace and we were consigned to 2nd place. We had been top all the way. Oh, Arsenal, you break our hearts. Every time I feel we are going to dominate, it seems to go wrong. Our new nightmare And did I mention that a Blue Demon had arrived? Roman Abramovich had taken over in the previous season. He had only one target, to be the best team in Europe. He brought in Jose Mourinho, who had accomplished miracles at Porto. At his first press conference he said he was special. He certainly hit the Premier League like a special express train. He brought in Didier Drogba to terrorise defences, Ricardo Carvalho at the back, Arjen Robben on the wing and Petr Cech in goal among others to take them up a notch. They were second under Claudio Ranieri last season but that meant nothing to Abramovich. He knew where he wanted to be and he saw Mourinho as the guy to get it for him. Shortly after we were beaten on our 50th game, they went top and they stayed there to show that the dynamics in London had changed, the dynamics in the Premier League had changed, with a dynamic, arrogant manager in charge. No, I don't like you, Jose I never liked him. I disliked how he dismissed other managers and players, plus he seemed to have a particular hatred for Arsene Wenger. He had a defensive style of play and everything seemed to be allowed on the pitch, with winning at all costs and any methods acceptable. It would be impossible to imagine Mourinho offering a replay to Sheffield United as Wenger had done a few years previously when Kanu picked up the throw in from Parlour who had thrown it towards Sheffield Utd and Overmars scored. Mourinho probably thought it showed that Wenger wasn’t a real winner like him who would take a win in any circumstances. He never missed an opportunity to get under his skin and it seems like it worked as Wenger had a bad record against him. Ferguson’s mindgames never seemed to work but Mourinho’s did. Drogba epitomised Mourinho's Chelsea - dirty but brilliant It is often said that we fell apart after the loss against Man Utd but that was not really true. We had some draws and defeats , yes but we hovered around second and third for the rest of the season. We picked up 83 points for second, enough to win in many seasons, and we scored 87 goals, well more than the winners Chelsea on 72. Chelsea, though, were really really good, with 95 points and only one defeat, at Man City, who were a mid table team at the time. Mourinho had arrived, Abramovich had arrived and we had a new challenge. We had too often been second best to Alex Ferguson, now were we about to be second best to Mourinho? I hated being second to Ferguson and I detested being second to Mourinho. He is the one guy in football I have the strongest dislike for. But he seemed to have the winning touch and access to as much money as he wanted for the best players. We needed Wenger to bring his own special qualities to bear, bringing through gifted youngsters and finding gems at good prices like he had done with Henry, Vieira, Overmars, Petit and others. He had brought through Fabregas this season from the youths but his buys didn’t inspire too much. Manuel Almunia as backup to Lehman, Mathieu Flamini in midfield and the guy I felt more sorry for than any other Arsenal player, Emmanuel Eboue, who never deserved, and nor does any player, the abuse he got in his career. In comparison to the monsters Chelsea had got, it didn’t inspire hope. Senderos and Djourou This is not Adams and Keown We had finally got in front of Man Utd 2 seasons in a row, only for Blue ogres to emerge. We conceded 36 goals with the end of the fabled Arsenal defence and players like Senderos, Djourou and Cygan were not going to be our new Adams and Keown. Chelsea had conceded 15 with Mourinho’s park the bus method. We needed a stronger defence but Wenger had embarked on his new policy of trying to score more than the opposition. Was it going to work? Honestly it was hard to see. My normal optimism was being tested. There were some grounds for optimism, though, in our other tournaments that season and I will get to them next time. But there was one ground for hope in that we did have ten one nils to the Arsenal that season, better than George Graham could do. Maybe we did have a chance.