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Fear Or Respect ?

A guest post from @foreverheady

 

 

One of the comments that irritated Arsenal supporters after the four goal romp against Newcastle last Saturday was the one made by Richard Keys about Santi Cazorla not showing their 21 Year Old Goalkeeper, Jak Alnwick  any respect when he chipped in his Panenka penalty. The idea was put about that this was in some way bullying, and, because The Arsenal was involved, attracted more than its fair share of interest. It got me thinking, and reminded of a time when I was much younger, and similarly treated by an older and much respected pro. Different sport, but essentially the same.

Sussex were going well in the Championship and travelled to Coventry to play Warwickshire at the Courtaulds ground: winning the toss and batting first, runs came easily, courtesy of a Gehan Mendis century , and it was not until late afternoon that I went in to bat. Bob Willis was the bowler, and I was excited (and slightly apprehensive) to face such a Test star. I took my guard, looked round the field and settled into my stance to wait for his long, long run-up, that I had seen so many times before on the TV. Except he hadn’t walked back to his mark, but instead bowled immediately – almost from a standing start. I wasn’t ready at all, although technically I was, and didn’t have the experience or confidence to pull away. The ball clattered into the stumps before I knew it, and I trudged off, out for a Golden Duck, to the sniggers and derision of the Warwickshire team. I had been properly done, and felt humiliated and wretched. Bullied? Maybe, although it was perfectly within the rules. Taught a lesson? Yes, certainly, and also made aware that at that level no quarter is asked for or given. And that is the point about Santi’s penalty. He knew that the keeper was likely to dive too soon, and he also knew that if Alnwick was serious about being a first team player in the Premiership then he deserved the respect of being taken as an equal – and not as a young greenhorn for whom allowances should be made. But perhaps more importantly, Santi knew he was going to score, and I expect the keeper did too – and it is that type of one on one confrontation when sport ceases to be just about physical skill and becomes something far more psychological.

Much was made the following afternoon of David de Gea’s contribution to Manchester United’s ultimately facile dismissal of Liverpool, and it is certainly true that his early save from Sterling allowed Rooney the chance to score only moments later. As the plaudits rained down on de Gea, my Twitter timeline was full of indignation, claiming that he only made these saves because the ball was kicked straight at him, much as had been the case when he frustrated so many Arsenal efforts a few weeks before. But that slightly misses the point, and although Gary Neville talked about the excellence of his positioning, that is only half the story too. De Gea made the saves because he was mentally stronger than the attacker – he had won the psychological battle if you like – and that is why so many of the shots were weak and safely struck at the middle of the goal. I have seen decent first-class bowlers bowl absolute rubbish at top batsmen for the same reason: they momentarily become like rabbits in the headlights and freeze at just the moment that they need to be instinctive and fluid. Sterling’s weak effort in the second half when he had a far more obvious one on one with the keeper seems proof of that, and I suspect it will be a long time before he, or indeed anyone else, will go past De Gea when they have time to think about it. It will take a stronger player to do it, and I shall be interested to see who it is, although I’d wager it will be one of the world’s greats. Aguero or Alexis maybe, seeing as we won’t see United in stronger competition for a while.

Those one on one moments are most obviously in focus when it is striker v keeper, but in truth those little battles happen all over the pitch, and being better or stronger than your immediate counterpart is so important to the overall result of the game. But there are some players who are so much better that they impact a whole game just by their presence alone. It is not just their outrageous skill that does it, although that is obviously important, it is more their force of will. They take games by the scruff of the neck and bully it into submission. Suarez won games for Liverpool last season, just as Bale had done for Tottenham the year before, that they had no right to win, and you could literally see defenders quake when those two were anywhere near. George Best and Giggs did it in their pomp, and at times Rooney has it about him too.  Ronaldo and Messi do it on a regular basis, and it is always exciting to see them go up a gear and do something extraordinary, although often their presence alone means that they frequently get away with not having to do very much, so readily do the opposition wave the white flag. Thierry Henry was one such, and as people celebrate his retirement and use the excuse to spend happy hours replaying golden moments, I hope they will also remember his mental strength as well as his vast talent. Time alone will tell whether we will ever have one to match him, but although he is not yet a personal favourite of mine, I have a sneaky feeling that Alexis might be the one to assume his mantle of sublime game-changer, and a player whom even the greatest keepers respect and fear.

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54 comments on “Fear Or Respect ?

  1. Good insight.
    It’s always important to win the psychological battles even before getting on to the pitch. These psychological battles are often our often our shortcomings when playing United, Mourinho’s Chelsea and stoke. We must find a way of winning this psychological battles so as to win against these teams on the football pitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. brilliance!!

    thanks for the most wonderful article.

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  4. Top read FH – the other perspective of which I am not entirely ignorant, to my embarrassment, is to under estimate an opponent. To imagine that because of lack of experience, age, of the professional polish that I have the advantage – when I don’t

    When it works you enjoy a short period of smug satisfaction – a fifteen second smirk

    When it fails you look and total arse – and everyone knows it

    So fair play to Santi – the game was won and the penalty was of limited relevance

    But don’t try it against Neuer

    Or Brad Jones

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My god though – even off three paced Willis must have been a bugger

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  6. Nice one FH; typically snidey remark from Keys desperately scratching around for an angle. Analysis of that quality unlikely to earn him or his partner in crime an invitation back into the mainstream media anytime soon, happily.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Liverpool triumphant

    Bournemouth battled perfectly though – unlucky

    Scousers v Chelsea in the SF

    How sad never mind

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  8. i see usmanov has lost $800M in the last 48 hours, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Robbie Earle called Santi’s penalty “disrespectful”. Earle always has an issue with Arsenal. Same with his equally ignorant counterpart Robbie Mustoe. I would put money down that either Wenger or Usmanov have a history with one of the Robbie’s mum.

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  10. Really excellent post FH – it’s interesting how you are able to use your professional experience, albeit in a different sport, to provide thoughtful insight into an issue, yet former professional footballers turned pundits mainly provide poverty sound bites and very little worthwhile insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks FH,

    I’ve only known Bob as a plundit, haven’t even seen much footage of him at work. What happened to all the sportsmen called Bob? Why aren’t there any more? Brazil have played a Fred, a Jo, but no Bobardo?
    Hard for me to imagine Willis as a dangerous fast bowler but compared to the average footy plundit his deadpan studio delivery is as smart and cunning as that delivery which bowled you out!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Roberto Carlos! I knew there was one. If they’d had a Ronald…

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  13. Really interesting article, ‘heady.

    Referring to Messi, Ronaldo and TH takes us to the pinnacle of both skill and will. But both of these qualities must be relative. All sports players must possess them to a greater or lesser extent.

    In this country ex-footballers turned pundit tend to confuse will with aggression. Will is demonstrated only by getting stuck in. Do you think this is because they don’t understand the difference – even though some of them had an abundance of both qualities. Or is it just that they are not capable of articulating it?

    Liked by 2 people

  14. A very good point, and I agree with Lorde’s comments too.

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  15. Priceless FH,

    Articles like yours, from a professional sportsman, are worth their weight in gold. You have been there and done it. I listen.

    I have suggested to Adrian Clarke that the ‘Clock End’ on Arsenal Player should feature professionals to give such insight. We need to hear from experienced sports medics and phyios who might inform the debates currently dominated by the arrogant ‘know-alls’ who also have an agenda. We need to hear from experienced Mr 20%s who can give an insight into transfer dealings so that we might have informed debates that again are dominated the arrogant ‘know-alls’ who also have an agenda. This would, in my opinion, resurrect the ‘Clock End’ show because it is currently an outlet for frustrated fans to ‘let off steam’. Invariably, steam resulting from poor and inaccurate information. Rant over.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. My first thought on the pen was that Cazorla went for the Panenka in order to celebrate his birthday! For his kiddies maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I really enjoyed that, FH, and for me that is a key requirement, as I have read many learned and well respected articles that eventually left me pleased just to get to the end of them – not so with yours.

    There is a widely understood correlation, in all of us, between safety and survival, and in the example you gave, the entirely understandable desire to practise what you were taught to do to safely survive your baptism of fire, contrasts strongly with the natural instinct, many would have had, to survive by simply running away from danger when confronted with the fearsome reputation and actualité of Bob Willis’ thunderballs.

    That instinctual dichotomy, made in a split second, may have contributed to your demise in that game, because Willis was perhaps unknowingly resorting to the chaos principle whereby to claim your wicket he did something quite outside of his accepted norm of making a long, long run and bowling at 90mph, and instead took a minimal run and then released a, presumably, much slower ball to successfully skittle you

    If my theory is correct, that the conflict was decided between ‘order and chaos’, ‘safety and survival’, ‘winning or losing’, as reflected by the reality of your obvious youth and inexperience, against Willis’ experience and ability, then it would have occurred in any event, without it necessarily registering with Willis at all, as he would have been determined to win by aggressively varying the ‘safe’ bowling norm you expected in your calculations, and instead successfully using his imagination and cunning to winkle you out.

    OK, I admit it, there is nothing there that does not occur in every aspect of life millions (billions?) of times a day.

    Your fascinating tale is an example of the conflict between the instinct for order and the impulse for chaos, and in sporting terms makes playing and watching games at the highest levels all the more intriguing. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  18. What a shockingly slow week for football news and Arsenal news

    Or is it me ?

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  19. Plenty to talk about!

    Chamberlain opposite Sterling coming up. If fit! Fortunately the ‘Pool players had ninety minutes on Weds.

    Interesting contrast ahead between Kolo Toure if he plays and Chambo Mk II. Comparing any of the ‘pool cbs to the young guns at the back will be fun. £20M on Lovren or how about a Chambers or even a fit Hayden (ha who am I kidding!) instead?

    Will Brendan be crazy enough to go for three at the back against The Arsenal again? Incredible when you think about it that the AAAA Experts through the mechanism of banal repetition managed to get people to take them seriously when putting forward the name of Rodgers: Proper Madness! He’ll have to switch to a back four

    I can’t think of much more to add other then missing a fit Ramsey or even whisper it a Diaby makes a difference as both players have dominated Liverpool from CM for whole games in two of the last three seasons. As always central midfield will be a big part of the key. Cazorla or Chambo Mk I could be the ones to watch.

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  20. Both teams are basically the same as last season’s game, Arsenal are without Arteta, Jack & Ramsey but et look more stable. Liverpool are without Suarez and Sturridge and look to be in pieces.

    Have no doubt that Liverpool will come at us hard, if they lose to us they are going to be in a lot of trouble.

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  21. No Brazilian Bobs what about Bobetto, it might be a slow news week but plenty of rumours with Bielik and Ottergarrd supposedly training with us and Pedro again linked with us. The January silly season has well and truly started.
    Oh great article by the way the strength of mind have always worked hand in hand with the most talented

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Balotelli banned. In front of his home fans he might have tried to play (as opposed to his non-performance for City in N5) so that could be a bonus.

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  23. Spare the rod and spoil the child

    Or in this case a 24 year old ‘adult’

    Extraordinary that football clubs and football managers still take the chance

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  24. If they appeal he can play.
    Even if this fine is harsh (haven’t followed the story) what were LFC thinking, or smoking, allowing him access to social media! Might as well have left some fireworks in the closet.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. < unsupervised access

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  26. From what I read Fins Mario and LFC are taking the punishment on the chin and no appeal is anticipated.

    There is an inevitable risk if Mario were to appeal against a one game ban that there could be a counter argument from the FA disciplinary monitoring authority that his social media abuse derserves a longer ban.

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  27. Could see a recall for Bornini? He could be more dangerous then Mario on current form, but considering he appears to be out of favour and has not played at all he might not have any form? Think I’ll just not worry about the Arsenal instead. Possibly more minutes for Bellerin and others over the Xmas crunch. There’s been some gentle rotation (getting players into form?) so I think we have an idea of who might play, possibly others returning from injury* too.

    Pedro again? Theo the English Pedro plus Sanchez, Welbeck, Chambo, Campbell, AKPOM not forgetting Gnabry and any others…yup, it’s the silly season!

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  28. Arsenal do have a midfield to sort out for Sunday.
    Santi must be in.
    Alexis in, behind Welbeck and Giroud.
    Flamini is in, because he’s Flamini and completely misunderstood.
    I hope to God Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain is available, especially with Rosicky still out (true?).

    And where is our mystery man, Diaby? He’s not injured, so where is he?

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  29. Very relieved about the Balotelli suspension as had him down to spectacularly return to goal scoring form against us. For all my positive outlook no one should ever doubt the agonies I go through.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Love this article. Ta FH.

    Like

  31. No surprises at this morning’s press conference, AW sounded cautiously optimistic on the Ox’s fitness with a test tomorrow ( or was that just me ?)

    Like

  32. Very interesting reading indeed, not to be sniffed at:

    http://untold-arsenal.com/archives/39647

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  33. Whilst working his way back to full fitness last season and at the beginning of this, at his age and experience, I feel that Chamberlain struggles to play with a niggles compared to how he might manage when he is an older player? I’d prefer a player who is a hundred per cent to get the nod to start Sunday’s game, but I think they’re running out of players? Might not be any choice! Sixty mins for Chambo with an eager Theo to come off the bench could do the job.

    Giroud could be in the goals again. He’s had the old classic perscription of a run of three games after returning from injury, has not been asked to overextend and play ninety minutes in every game just yet and got the breather mid-week when the team played Gala. He should be sharp.

    Only slightly annoying that Rosicky is unavailable to play any part in this game
    *sobs and blubbers*

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  34. I too thought AW sounded optimistic about Oxlade, and more often than not when players have late fitness tests they end up playing. It sounds as if we have a relative embarrassment of riches with regard to defenders tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see whether Debuchy stays central with either Bellerin or Chambers on the right, or if Chambers will play in the middle.
    Does anyone have any thoughts or knowledge about the officials?

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  35. It is our old friend Michael Oliver FH, the man who had the whistle at the same fixture last year !

    (emits loud ear-piercing scream)

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  36. On Sanchez transfer, Arsene had this to say in the Mirror:

    “I’m not sure if Liverpool were in for him, but I’m glad he chose us. I met his agent in Brazil a few times. Maybe he had not played the number of games he wanted at Barcelona and I tried to convince him we could help to develop the quality of his game.

    “That’s why he chose us in the end.”

    Obviously Arsene should have stayed in London while rest of the football world gathered in Brazil. and obviously Balotelli was better deal than Welbeck. Wank wank.

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  37. How does AW keep convincing minnows in the sport like Sanchez and Özil that he will improve their game? I thought “he doesn’t do tactics” etc.? It is amazing that these players were convinced to sign for the club by a manger who spends all his time “dithering”. Or playing volleyball on the beach.

    Vengarrrgh is not just any old Nazi, he’s an Nazi master of the occult who practices magic and hypnotism.
    Crickey. We’re doomed. Doomed I tell you! Can you hear the bells….?

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Sillery sends his compliments and Quiggan wants an article for his new magazine too.
    Thanks FH.

    Like

  39. Ok apparently we are a blog for the majority as the sun comissioned YouGov ( the professional pollsters) to do a poll to see how many gooners backed Arsene just a mere 78% backed him. So the doomers, banner wankers and chelski wannabees are a maximum of 12% if you discount the don’t knows.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. what a shameful disgrace – Tottnum charge mascots £400, West Ham charge £600 but the big clubs don’t charge a fee. Only 9 clubs do not charge a fee to the mascots

    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/dec/18/premier-league-clubs-charge-600-children-mascots?CMP=share_btn_tw

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  41. maitland-niles not in youth cup squad v reading
    Arsenal Under-18s team to play Reading: Huddart, Johnson, O’Connor, Dobson, Robinson, Sheaf, Zelalem, Eyoma, Crowley, Willock, Mavididi
    subs: Keto, Chatzitheodoridis, Smith, Donovan, Hinds.

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  42. There is a live stream of the youth cup game from 7 at

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  43. Arsenal U18’s won 1-0, but after having been the better side for most of the game and taking the lead from a Crowley penalty, they almost gave it away in injury time, Huddart made an outstanding save, Reading also hit the post and then missed a very late penalty.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. thanks for the update on the academy

    Like

  45. Last Sunday kick off meh.
    But if it means Chmabo will be good to go then I’m not complaining. Almost twenty fours to go till kick off…

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  46. …the u21 highlights are up on the arsenal player.

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  47. where are all those that were demanding ” Klopp as Arsenal manager,” now that Dortmund have lost 10 out of 17 league games and are 1pt off bottom with an extra game played, anyone know who they are demanding now.

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  48. If no one else is hard at it, it intending to get hard at it, or objects I shall put together a preview of our Anfield adventure by 10.00 tomorrow ?

    Liked by 1 person

  49. anicoll5, may I suggest a recce on a Liverpool site, Ben Twelves?

    eduardo, Mr Wenger has “made us dream”, “We are the best football team in England”.

    Liked by 2 people

  50. Today’s results increase the pressure on a win tomorrow. Not that I think we won’t, but it would’ve been nice to see a few more dropped points from those above us.

    Like

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