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Football’s Habituation Principle

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On Tuesday night I watched United take on Club Brugge in the Champions League qualifier. I enjoyed the early goal against them, of course I did, but any hopes of further embarrassment were stopped short by an excellent performance form their new player, Memphis Depay. Although the rest of the team creaked a bit, and although it still took a late, late intervention from Fellaini to ensure a comfortable platform, it was Depay who made all the difference. It pains me to say this on an Arsenal blog, but I enjoyed seeing him play. He had a swagger and confidence about him that seemed entirely justified. He scored two great goals, and provided the last-second assist: he also made the crowd come alive every time he was on the ball. I know it was only against Brugge, and sterner tests lie ahead, but he had an aura about him that must excite all United fans.

Or at least, you’d like to think so, especially as there must have been a few who were a little underwhelmed by the signing back in the spring. He wasn’t exactly cheap – 24 million or so is a lot of millions for a 21 year old who, despite his excellent track record in Holland, has yet to prove himself in English football – but he wasn’t the galactico signing that many United fans would have hoped for, or even expected.  But no, here he was in August, suggesting that van Gaal was exactly right to buy him, and promising great things in the future. Will he be worthy to wear the famous No 7 shirt? Only time will tell, but he has certainly started well enough. And yet, hardly a day later, it transpired that Pedro, strongly rumoured to be another United target, had signed for Chelsea. Cue Twitter meltdown, social media awash with moans and groans that United could no longer compete, that Chelsea were the new force, that Mourinho and Cesc Fabregas’s girlfriend had hoodwinked Ed Woodward. And in all the furore Memphis Depay and the promise he brings was swiftly forgotten.

If you ever wanted a definition of football’s habituation principle this was it in spades. The quest for the new overshadowing anything already possessed. If every new acquisition so quickly becomes familiar that only an even newer purchase can satisfy then madness surely beckons. For the purposes of this argument it does not matter that Pedro and Depay are different players who both play slightly different roles, for my point is that much of the excitement about the transfer window isn’t really about football at all. I used to think it was more about macho posturing – mine’s bigger than yours sort of thing – but now I think it is about spoilt and entitled tantrum throwing and an absence of good parenting. If it wasn’t so sad it would make you smile. It should certainly make you realise that as Arsenal’s transfer dealings are subjected to the same lack of perspective and common sense then it is unlikely the media will allow Arsenal fans to think their squad is actually rather good and doesn’t need much, if any, tinkering with. And that it certainly doesn’t need the kind of full body replacement that some seem keen suggest.

Giroud scored a wonderfully athletic and predatory goal in our last match, but that has done nothing to quell the daily demands for Arsène to do what it takes to sign Benzema. Coquelin produced the ‘on the edge of dismissal’ defensive performance that many have been calling for since the days of Vieira and Petit, but still the call goes out for a new pair of Doctor Martens. Ramsey near enough ran a marathon for us at Selhurst Park but is apparently too selfish to wear the shirt while I also understand there is no hope of the defensive trio of Mertesacker , Cech and Koscielny  ever forging the Fort Knox security that proper title challenges are built on. Only new signings can put right these glaring deficiencies, but of course, the moment those signings become flesh and blood Arsenal they will prove never to be quite enough. Pinter knew all about this in The Caretaker: Davies was always travelling to Sidcup where apparently salvation lay. But if you are relying on Sidcup, or a new signing, to make everything OK in your life, then you will forever be disappointed. This is of course the point: if you need your Football club to win every match to bring all good in your life, if you are always waiting for the sparkling armada of promises then you will be waiting a long time. Next Please, observed Larkin, much as those United fans said who were no longer content with Depay. I’d rather be happy with what I’ve got, and to be honest, in football terms I’ve got an awful lot: my team on the TV nearly every match, a nice stadium to go to when the children don’t need new shoes, some wonderful players to watch, more wins than losses over the last many years and always the faint hope of a Premier League title or Champions League success to keep the Davies in me happy.

Now, about those new signings Arsène …..

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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63 comments on “Football’s Habituation Principle

  1. DKG, I try and get down to to see the U21s when ever I can although I don’t normally go when they are at the Emirates firstly because I don’t think you should pay and secondly because I find it gives a false picture of the players sometimes.
    The normal U21 games have a more family atmosphere to them almost old time football if you like.

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  2. Thanks aob. Thought I was missing a trick.
    For those of you who haven’t seen it:
    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/aug/22/arsenal-per-mertesacker-interview-germany?
    What.
    A.
    Lovely.
    Man.

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  3. Will Gazprom-upon-Fulham pick up their first win today against the brummies? Odds on. Will Gnabry get any minutes?

    I have a feeling that Mourinho will be trying all he can to stay beyond this season at Gazprom. After losing out on the he Manc job it is his last chance to prove to all who have no interest in him that he is a football manager. It’s not like he doesn’t have an ego, I think the compensation package will be less important to his Special Agent this time.
    Which might explain why he has been struggling and failing to win something when trying to get his team to play and had to revert to type last season. And the failure to get his team to play the good stuff consistently well explains why he resorted to calling out a list of his players who haven’t performed in the last six months of league football.

    Strange how his fan boys amongst the arsenal fifth column haven’t taken the Gazprom manager to the cleaners for the obvious and easy to highlight schoolboy error of asking Ramires to play ahead of the player everyone knows cannot defend and can barely tackle and now it appears is also incapable of running (possibly since he rushed himself back from that infamous ‘bruised bone’) which can be a problem in a game of football (slower the Arteta!).

    Gazprom bought Pedro to compensate for the lack of movement (Speed!) from the F Word and the lame mule Falcao and others? Whatever he has come for it might take him a little longer to adapt to the PL then a player bought up playing for Biesla’s Chile. Pedro is a good player but would Gazprom have been better off sticking with Shirley and seeing how the younger player gets on? You’d think so.

    List of former Gazprom players Mourinho has sold that would probably improve his current squad:

    Mata
    Lukaku
    Luiz (that one is for hunter)
    Schurrle
    A few more I can rememeber

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  4. Jose’s transfer policy – Salah bought for £11M and got 13 BPL games, replaced by £23M Cudrado who got 13 BPL games, replaced by £21M Pedro, will he get 13 BPL games before he is replaced by another big money signing.

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  5. Match between the two managers I dislike the most.
    Would love a 0-0 bore-feast but will settle for Serge popping at the last minute, dummying JT and thumping it in the net, screaming “AFC for ever”.
    Neither of which are likely but it’s a funny ole game.

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  6. Brummies miss a pelanty, Gazprom take the lead with a ricochet. Yup, odds on…

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  7. Pedro will be a very good addition to this lot. Fits exactly into Mourinho’s style; 2 wide players with Costa up top, spreading the play with midfielders making late runs in the box. Can still keep 6 players behind the ball in most situations. Only teams that can isolate their forwards by sustaining possession in their half will give them trouble.

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  8. Arsenal Fixture News ‏@AFCFixtureNews 22h22 hours ago
    Former Aston Villa and Colombian striker Juan Pablo Ángel currently has his son Tomy at our Hale End Academy on trial.

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  9. Lucky win for Chels but a more impressive result for Citeh against a lively Everton. Citeh’s defending particularly resolute. The team who are setting the standard so far this weekend – we shall see if we can’t do better tomorrow.

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  10. anicoll @ 6:21 pm – Our boys need to keep our nerve and meet the challenge without fear. City are out of the blocks fast and are hoping to win the league by Christmas with an unassailable lead, like Chelsea did. But we simply need to keep up with the pace until they stumble. All teams have a bad patch, no matter how good.

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  11. Arse or Brain (1.24am) – my sentiments entirely; I still miss Barnet’s old ground which was particularly as you describe; great atmosphere and a real closeness not only to the players but their families and friends and even very senior staff from Arsenal.

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  12. Eddy, I kind of hate that people have bastardized that quote from Per, even if it is pretty funny. Because if you read the interview, it gave you a good glimpse into Per’s character. That’s not your average self-centered footballer. That’s a fine human being. We are so fortunate to have so many of them on our team.

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