March 23, 2012
This is where it starts to get tough.
It’s easy being in fourth place, a few points behind your deadly rivals, watching them stutter and slip and gradually, game by game, reeling them in. That stuff’s a piece of cake. You know what you’re aiming for. And your motivation is clear.
Everything’s easier when you’re looking up. The trouble starts when you start looking down. Ask Tottenham. There’s a massive psychological element to letting slip a twelve point lead. And I’m convinced it’s got a fair bit to do with that lot’s habit of constantly looking over their shoulder. As soon as they conceded that the title was out of reach they stopped looking ahead and chasing down the Manchester clubs and spent all their energy ‘minding the gap’. And before they knew it the gap was no more.
It’s a shame we’re so far off the pace in the title chase because we’d be much better off psychologically chasing after Man City than if we spend the rest of the season looking fearfully over our shoulders at Spurs and Chelsea. That’s why Le Boss doesn’t want us to even think about the other teams:
What I want us to continue is our run and not be in a position where you have to look at the other results. That is why I believe that the main focus is on us, not to be obsessed by other results and to just keep going.
The big advantage of where we are now is that for the first time it’s in our own hands. Win all our remaining games and third place is ours. Of course it’s hard to ignore the fact that when we line up against Villa tomorrow afternoon, one of Spurs, Chelsea or both will have dropped points when they face off in the early kick off. That’s potentially as good as it’s going to get for us fixture wise as after that game Spurs’ run in looks particularly easy, barely a banana skin in sight, while we still have to face Chelsea and Man City. It’s therefore all the more vital that we pick up three points tomorrow and take advantage while we can.
With six straight league victories behind us we certainly have the momentum and we have to keep that going. If this season has confirmed anything it’s that football is a game of confidence and sequences. We’ve had two poor sequences and two very good ones. We need to make this good one last until the end of the season. AW says:
I believe what is most important at this stage of the season is our consistency and momentum.
More than any other result, I believe this is the period which matters most what you do, so we just want to keep our focus on that.
You have to focus on how we want to play football, that is the best way to deal with the pressure. In the end you enjoy it and it is a privilege to play games of importance. They become more and more important.
Le Boss has always preached the importance of positivity, of giving his players the confidence they need to perform to their utmost ability. If there was any doubt of the value of that approach, witness Harry Redknapp’s latest cheeky ruse to try to motivate his team. He’s taken to LYING to his players in the dressing room to make them think that things are going WORSE than they really are in an effort to motivate them. At half time in their game with Stoke he told them that Chelsea and Arsenal were both winning when they weren’t:
I told them at half-time Chelsea and Arsenal were winning. I said: ‘We need a win lads.’ Chelsea weren’t winning, but I said, ‘A draw’s no good, we need to be positive, let’s get after them.
Interesting tactic, Harry! Surprisingly it didn’t have the desired effect and his team came out in the second half bumbling around like, I don’t know, a team that’s just been told a load of incorrect bad news. Everyone always tells me what a great man manager that bloke is. Now I see why. What’s his next team talk going to be: ‘Yeah, you better get our there and win it in the second half for sure because you’ve all just been diagnosed with a rare and fatal bone wasting disease. If we don’t finish top four we’re going to fire the whole squad so you won’t be able to pay for the medical treatment and you’ll die slowly, painfully and alone. Good luck!’
Mind you, I’d be surprised if they believe anything he tells them in the dressing room at all from now on. ‘They’ve got a tricky winger down the left. You better double up on him.’ ‘Have they though, boss? Or is this some ridiculous mental ‘trick’. I’m going to call your bluff and not track back at all.’
Honestly, the stick Arsene Wenger’s got this season while the world and his wife are tripping over themselves to demand that Harry Redknapp becomes the next England boss. Amazing.
Not much in the way of team news and as we know by now, no team news is good team news. There were no major knocks following the Everton game so it’s as you were as far as the squad is concerned although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Abou Diaby make the bench tomorrow after his latest outing for the reserves.
Press conferences later today so I’ll be back with more on that tomorrow.
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