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Dressing Room Dressing Down?

Dressing Room Dressing Down?

I am sure you are probably aware of the hyperbolic headlines spilling forth from the nation`s rags this morning regarding an alleged bust up in the Arsenal dressing room following the aberration in the final minutes against Spurs. The first thing to say is that there is not a dressing room in the country that would not see, "swearing (shock, horror), shouting (somebody think of the children) and finger pointing (*feints*)," after a final few minutes like that. Frankly, if there isn`t a heated exchange or two, then the likelihood is that the team in question will be relegated and have already accepted it. The details of course are very sketchy (the Sun newspaper quotes "a source"), but in my experience, these things tend to have at least a modicum of truth to them. Even if that truth is then placed into the bullshit-o-meter and cranked up to ten. But I am sure words were said and I have already articulated my cynicism surrounding Gallas` injury for Saturday over on the forum. (Seriously, a hamstring pull, did anyone see him pull up? I didn`t. Are we to believe he attained the affliction walking down the tunnel, or perhaps he stretched too vociferously when he awoke on Thursday morning?) The question I am trying to get at the crux of is, would this necessarily be a bad thing if words were exchanged on Wednesday evening?

While the media will predictably explode into frenzy over something quite trivial (I would imagine the word 'crisis` will be used in every article connected with us leading up to the Stoke game and, if we don`t win, beyond) there are many that will contend that this is precisely the sort of splenetic pyrotechnics that this team needs right now. Much has been said about the entropy that has enveloped many displays this season and the arrogance displayed in the final minutes on Wednesday was completely unacceptable for any professional football side at any level in the Football League. It has been said that many players are in something of a comfort zone due to a lack of competition for places. This is perhaps surprising considering the apathetic display against Hull City came right on the heels of our young reserves smashing six past Sheffield United. But whilst Wenger continues to affirm faith in the young players bubbling below the parapet of the first team, his utterances are not backed up by action. The likes of Vela, Ramsey and Bendtner have a single league start between them this season. It is perhaps understandable not to make wholesale changes with deputies this junior, but the fact that Ramsey, Vela and even Djourou (who has not appeared since the opening day) have a premium of Premiership minutes between them this year. (Mind you, Denilson and Song have been stars of the last couple of Carling Cup runs and now many contend they are not good enough for regular first team football). As Friedrich Engels once remarked, "an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory."

In the meantime, we have seen inconsistent form from the team which, most conclude, has been due to an inharmonious symphony of inexperience and immaturity with the youngsters and complacency within the more established ranks. Strong words have been said by supporters and now, perhaps the time has come for words to be said amongst the players. Firstly, it shows commitment to right the wrongs and correct the consistent mistakes we have been making since the opening day of the season. Secondly, this kind of clear the air visceral fury can work wonders in firing underperforming team mates up. I remember playing a game when I was 15, my captain, who also happened to be my best friend, tore into me for too easily losing a header in the build up to conceding a soft goal. Harsh words were exchanged between us. For the rest of that game I played out of my skin, not due to any sense of responsibility on my part you understand. Oh no, I was absolutely in the right and he was 100% unjustified. I played frenetically just to shut him up and prove a point. My actions were motivated by spite, but the point is it worked. Perhaps this is exactly the sort of peroration the side needs at this stage of the season to infuse some purpose back into some overly comfortable limbs. But there is a flipside.

Gallas allegedly ripped into his players following the demoralising draw at Birmingham last season. He has received nothing but criticism for it since as the team showed major mental malfunctions last season by falling apart in the wake of a mistake strewn draw. Gallas has been a quieter captain this year, he has received nothing but criticism for it since. But it does reveal that perhaps the mentality of our players is too precious and too fragile to survive such an ear bashing. We now find ourselves on the back of a similarly demoralising game (albeit without the horrific physical injury) and Stoke City tomorrow will be a massive measure of how far we have come since then. Last season, the team capitulated in similar circumstances. Tomorrow they have no option but to prove that they have learned from and been chastened by that experience. So far this season, this team has failed massively in its ability to correct mistakes; both the players and the manager have singularly failed to address persistent errors. But if there really was a dressing room rumble, perhaps this is the worst thing that could happen to players who have proved themselves to be psychologically weak throughout 2008.

Recent history reveals another negative flipside. 'The Invincibles` were torn apart by internal wrangling. It began on the team coach after a disappointing away draw at Rosenborg, Patrick Vieira and Lauren exchanged blows as they furiously remonstrated over who was at fault for the equaliser. There were two bifurcate, but not mutually hostile camps in that squad. The French players, Vieira, Pires, Cygan, and Henry. Then there was a recently implanted Spanish element, Fabregas, Almunia, Reyes and Lauren (who grew up in Andalusia). A month later, Luis Aragones made his sickening jibe towards Jose Reyes as Spain trained for a World Cup qualifier concerning Thierry Henry. Reyes and Henry visibly fell out (one can understand Henry`s frustration as Reyes was filmed laughing nervously at Aragones` bile, but he was immature in clearly bullying Reyes on the field of play). A yawning chasm developed within the squad between the Spanish players, who sided with Lauren and Reyes and the French players who were firmly with Vieira and Henry. Vieira, Henry, Pires, Cygan and Lauren were all sold within two years. What began as an after match tiff over slack marking, embedded itself as a tumour on the squad. Such dressing room remonstrations; if they go too far, can have cancerous implications for the bonhomie of the squad. Back in March, Adebayor spoke of a family atmosphere within the squad. It is now reported. Somewhat dubiously, that Gallas has ruled himself out of the Stoke match. I`m not sure I believe it, but if it`s true, I wager we won`t see him in an Arsenal shirt again. My instinct is that this is a diplomatic injury invented as a phantasm by the manager, because I watched Gallas walk off on Wednesday night and he did not have a pulled hamstring.

For better or worse, the eyes of the country will now be on us on Saturday. How we respond will tell us a great deal about this team`s prospects for the future and their mental facilities to handle pressure. Both physical in the form of a Rory Delap throw in and psychological. I think the manager`s team selection will clear some of the cobwebs with regards to the stories doing the rounds. If Adebayor, Silvestre and Gallas all sit the game out, I think we can assume the manager is wielding an iron fist. What is clear, is that if this group of players is half as special as the manager tells us, then they will respond emphatically tomorrow and beyond.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Friday October 31 2008
Time: 1:25PM


Good article Tim. Two points on this topic. some may recall a season or two back a young Cesc ruing the fact that there wasn't enough anger in the dressing room. That sometimes a little honesty was needed. The other is that if you have read McLintocks autobiography you will know his opinion of the value of infamous after match dressing room lock ins with only players permitted and exchanges reaching fist fight proportions. There has a be a level where dressing room wrangles go too far but in general it has to be healthier to bring it all out at the time than let it fester over a whole season.
31/10/2008 13:34:00
True, I believe the 1971 double side even had a special room for these meetings. To be honest, I don't know what was said in the dressing room, but if Gallas is being punished for having a pop at his players I'd be disappointed in the manager. I felt Gallas was one of the few players who was not guilty of dropping off, I saw him shouting at his team mates with about six minutes left on the clock. Perhaps Wenger is picking on the more experienced players (reprtedly Silvestre, Ade and Gallas) to try and cajole them into being better leaders.
Little Dutch
31/10/2008 13:39:00
The other point I forgot to include in the article was that I think some of the things the players have been saying to the press have been ill advised. I'm not just talking about Cesc's comments, but Walcott saying Europe would fear us after we defended like a pub team against Fenerbahce, van Persie using one game against poor opponents to big us up as the best team going, Wenger telling everyone Silvestre is a leader only for the player himself to deny it a day later. Leave the talking in the dressing room, leave the media to the manager and the captain, everyone else shut the ***** up quite frankly, because the media management of the club and the players, is incredibly poor by my reckoning. (This bust up has been leaked as has Wenger's teamtalk pre Bolton).
Little Dutch
31/10/2008 13:43:00
cheer up guys
31/10/2008 13:44:00
I think the bust ups are a good thing. Get all the bad blood out of the system. Its high time Wenger vented at the team, he has given this team probably far more confidence than they deserve, which has resulted in the arrogance. This team needs to be put in place. If this team reacts well to this bust up, then good. If they react badly, then its good in the long run coz it will show Wenger that this team isnt good enough. Same for Clichy - he will come out fighting after this one, I'm confident of this.
31/10/2008 14:18:00
I liked the article. I have my views on laying in to players for mistakes. In the team i play for the captain is always shouting through the match at various players for miss passing, not going in for tackles etc (while not accepting any blame for his own mistakes). For some it motivates them in to proving him wrong, for others it makes them visibly nervous when they get the ball and they start to not play their game. They will become annonymous and ultimatly worthless on the pitch. I think Clichy made a mistake, but i also think it was just a slip as he was trying to surge forwards. Maybe in the 89th minute it would of been betetr to pass an easy ball, but my point is i dont want him to stop surging forwards because he is scared to make another mistake as he is one of our best players. He lifts the team and never stops going and i dont want him to stop that.
31/10/2008 14:20:00
For the captain's bollockins to have an effect, the players have to respect and look up to, their captain. Is this the case?
31/10/2008 14:22:00
Perhaps Wenger is sending out a message by dropping the experienced heads that no one is untouchable. I felt that he could have done it a bit earlier in the season. LD, if Gallas was screaming at the team and no one was listening, questions will be raised whether he is an effective captain (irrespective whether he is a good captain or not). Perhaps, Gallas is a bit of a scapegoat, but in situations like this, there is bound to be one or two scapegoats, coz Wenger cannot drop the whole team. Also, this sort of thing comes with the territory of being captain, so Gallas cannot complain much. I sympthise with Gallas to a certain extent, but if punishing him brings out the right response from the team, then so be it.
31/10/2008 14:24:00
If Clichy was trying to surge forwards while facing his own goal then someone needs to have a word with him. Whatever he was trying to do it was unprofessional at that point in the game. It doesn't do him or anyone else any good if he isn't told that simple truth in plain unambiguous terms. They need to get this out of their system while not being afraid to play our natural game. Time for the boys to grow up.
31/10/2008 14:31:00
Quite uncanny prits because I've just had that exact conversation by e mail with the guys I go to games with. It's a very valid question, but my point is that Gallas cannot be ubiquitous, Adams was a great skipper, but he had Bould, Keown, Winterburn, Dixon and Seaman flanking him, as well as a cool head like Paul Davis and a leader upfront in Alan Smith. Vieira had Campbell, Bergkamp and Keown through the spine of the side. Who does Gallas have as a lieutenant? We've lost Lehmann and Gilberto who were leader figures, there's only so much one man can do and I don't see where the other leaders are to help add weight to his message. For instance, he went mental when Cesc lumped a corner into the box in the 93rd minute with the score at 4-3. But he was sixty yards away from Cesc at the time, who was helping transmit that message?
Little Dutch
31/10/2008 14:37:00
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