Team spirit counts for a lot. Many people talk about it, some are lucky enough to experience it, only a few know how to create it. Having just watched the English cricket team complete an unexpected and surprisingly comfortable Ashes win, it seems appropriate to cast the mind back and remember the previous Ashes humiliation just 18 months ago. A slightly creaky and aging side, under the captaincy of a young but experienced Alastair Cook were blown away by the ferocity of the Australian attack. Having started the series as favourites, English left the field humiliated, the 5 – Nil series loss an accurate reflection of the gap between the sides. They were an unhappy camp and stories soon emerged of dressing room strife: the England players might have all been wearing the three lions, but it seemed apparent that they were hardly even playing for themselves, let alone each other or the nation they were so dismally representing.
Only a few will know the absolute truth of the situation, but the most high-profile casualty was Kevin Petersen. England’s most talented and talismanic batsman was deemed surplus to requirements, accused of fostering resentment and disloyalty, and summarily axed from the team. Battle lines were quickly drawn: on the one hand the vox populi, aghast and enraged that the one player with skill, courage and box-office appeal had been cast aside; on the other the establishment figures, anxious to start again with a new set of young players, and unashamedly placing their trust in Cook. It wasn’t an easy time, with every subsequent English reverse (and there were plenty) greeted with calls for Cook’s head and Pietersen’s reinstatement. The easiest way for any media figure to ensure popular support was to publically back Pietersen, and there was no shortage of pundits, both amateur and professional, eager to do just that. On the face of things it was absurd that Pietersen remained out of favour, and the easy and simple logicians of the talk-show hosts and listeners couldn’t get their heads round it. On what possible grounds could he remain excluded?
And yet, watching the happy faces of the young England players enjoying the freedom of Nottingham and all Englahd this morning, it is tempting to think that out of the ashes of that terrible recent series has emerged a new team that is genuinely pulling together, and that the sum of their parts is very much greater than any individual brilliance they may possess. They have stuck together when it was difficult, supported each other in victory and defeat, and gained collective strength from their various abilities. The result has been stunning, but has not come easily: it would have been all too simple for captain and coach to bow to the wright of public opinion, and it perhaps took the iron will of Andrew Strauss, arguably England’s most successful ever captain, to ensure that there was no wavering when the finishing line was in sight.
But what relevance does this have to an Arsenal site on the dawn of a new season? Plenty I would suggest, as it seems to me that the most impressive aspect of the pre-season programme has been the genuine pleasure the players seem to be taking in their collective spirit. They appear happy in each other’s company, trusting in each other’s ability, and confident that their own individual contributions will be valued and cherished. It has been exciting to watch them and I sense they are on the cusp of real success. And who is responsible for all of this? The players themselves, of course, but also captain and coach. It only takes one powerful figure in the dressing room to cause disruption, to place individual need before collective responsibility for team spirit to be threatened. Only dressing room insiders can know, and sometimes a talented player sold can be just as important as a new one bought in the transfer market. And sometimes selling a player (or not buying one who is known to those in the know to be awkward) can be hard, especially as the court of public opinion will soon be in full swing if results take a momentary downturn. It is probably not a total coincidence that many of Petersen’s most staunch supporters have also been among Arsene Wenger’s most vociferous critics. Sometimes what is most seemingly obvious is not necessarily the right answer: less can be more, and as this season unfolds I feel certain that it will be those clubs who have the best spirit who will do the best. I like to think that the current Arsenal side is particularly well–served in that respect.
This piece by Heady deserves a wider audience. Good job by the management.
LikeLiked by 4 people
I’ve changed Shotta, I don’t want to be reliant on one star anymore.
LikeLiked by 5 people
LikeLiked by 4 people
Swansea equalise as nifty footwork from Ayew puts John Terry on his arsenal.
A good start to the season for the champions’ defence so far.
Hopefully the rumours about spirit in the Gazprom camp this season not being as high as they should be (how could they be?) are not exaggerated.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Lucky deflections can be helpful. Hopefully they are using up their quota of luck early on.
Team Spirit will need to change her name to Cohesion?
One has to keep up with the footy jargon, Forever!
That Chelsea v Swansea game was an excellent overview of what the fight at the top will be like. Because of our rivalry with the Chavs due to shameless use of the riches of a Russian oligarch to buy their way to the top as well as the antics of their classless pompous, egotistic manager, there is a way in which we diminish their football credentials. Despite an excellent Swansea team, well set up and organized by Gary Monk an excellent young manager, despite all of this the Chavs were leading them 2:1 until Courtois made an ill-judged attempt to stop Gomis resulting in the red card. and sending off. Despite all of that, at 10 v 11 the Chavs were resilient and were not easy to breakdown. TBF they had as many opportunities to score as Swansea.
As George said on twitter, rumors of Chelsea’s demise have been grossly exaggerated. Yes there are cracks in the armor, e.g. if you check Ivonovics arse there are a few new creases created by Montero, but this is not a team which will give up their title without a fight to the bitter end.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Great post FH. This PL season is going to be a battle every step of the way. I don’t agree with the Arsenal supporters gloating on Twitter about chelski dropping points – all teams are at risk as anybody could beat anybody. I just hope our players are focussed and not complacent given our recent run of results against West Ham. It is a London derby after all and WH have knicked one or two off us in the not too distant past as well.
LikeLiked by 1 person
here i come… did you call.. LOL.
I took the name cos it was what impressed me most about arsenal winning teams of old… always thought it was an essential ingredient and so am glad it is coming to fore again!
Well written indeed!
LikeLiked by 3 people
Another superb, authoritative and insightful piece Tim, thanks!
Tim, that is such a splendid well written piece. And I agree whole heartedly. How many of the media naysayers and doom mongers will stand up and apologise I wonder?
I expect Alexis will be a sub for the West Ham game tomorrow.
That was an interesting day.
Utd and spurs lolok much the same as last season. jose is still a horrible human being.
Fully agree with Tim’s sentiments.
Arsene has spent 4 years rebuilding this Arsenal team, he won’t mess that up to please a few flip flop fans who want more back up players.
It took a ref with balls of steel to stop Chelsea getting away with their usual home win.
AndrewN will be pleased.
Great article, FH.
I’m probably alone in not knowing what happened to the England cricket team over the last few years. Having seen a comment from fins, about some ongoing mash-up, I watched highlights and saw Aus fall for 60 runs! Interesting, apart from Boycott, who regardless of accuracy or insight, simply pisses me off.
Of course the real thing highlighted in this article is Team Spirit, and I agree. When you have Ox talking about it in the way he does, and you add Theo – these youngsters could potentially be intimidated by incoming world stars. They’re clearly not.
Was it two years ago when Mert captained a young German side at Wembley, and won the match? That was Team Spirit IMO, and our BFG not only runs the dressing room, but makes sure his captain, Arteta, gets to put on the band and lift any cups despite playing very few minutes. On top of that, Mert’s the first to go to fans at the end of a match, whatever the result. He is something very special. He’s the Team Spirit leader, apart from Arsène, of course.
Thanks for analogy/comparison, and also for the insight.
Come on West Indies!
LikeLiked by 2 people
This team has been growing for a while in numbers, quality and as you said spirit. The coming together of the necessary factors needed for great things.
A or B.. that is the phrase… growing together… that is what the van Ps the fabs and nasris and hlebs disrupted with their departures and failed to understand that it was not about them as individuals alone! that is why the likes of rosicky and theo should be greatly appreciated and to a lesser degree flamini (got a second chance which hleb longed for but didn’t get)