Posts Tagged ‘Mental strength’

Back to Basics

Posted: February 28, 2014 by lpgcast in LPGCast
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Oh, hello again. We’re baaaack. No fancy theme song this week; we’ve got a lot of ground to cover

gif by ivyarchive on tumblr

gif by ivyarchive on tumblr

Our latest episode is jam-packed with content. Listen in as Sarah, Jenn, and Zara tackle the Liverpool, United, Liverpool, Bayern, and Sunderland matches. Thanks for your patience and support throughout this podcast’s lifespan. There’ve been a lot of real life changes for us, and we are a club in transition (sort of like Arsenal).

 


We’d love to hear from you, so send us a message at lpgcast@gmail.com !
See you next week!


We did it! Hooray!

In which we talk about the performance against Spurs. Enjoy! Comments and emails are always appreciated.

 


Forget about money for a second. Forget about Financial Fair Play, £24 million transfers, and oil barons’ bottomless coffers. Money doesn’t guarantee happiness. Money doesn’t guarantee success either (see: Liverpool).

The ball is round, Sepp Herberger famously said, and the game lasts 90 minutes. Anything can happen. Does happen. It’s football. It’s beautiful. And life isn’t always about sport, but sport so often is about life — and the unimpeachable humanity of the men who play this game. The grit and frailty of it all are part of what make sport so appealing. Because it’s real in a way that no carefully-produced TV show or movie could ever be. Sport turns on the hinges of spontaneity, skill, and sheer bloody-minded willpower in the face of adversity. Arsenal are a perfect example.

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Following on from yesterday’s  introductory blog on female fandom, today I sit down with some ladies I’ve come across on Twitter to get their insight into matters.

The one question I often get as a female supporter is: “how did you become a fan?” Often this is in an inquisitive manner, but sometimes it is asked to question my knowledge or judge if I have been a fan ‘long enough’. The worst-case scenario is when it is asked in the sceptical, “I bet she’s just here for the pretty players” type of way. I asked some of my fellow female Gooners to share their experiences and we spoke of how we became fans of football and what it’s like when people question our beginnings.

Kajal – When people say: “It’s so cool that you’re a girl who is into her football”, my only ever response to this comment is that I am not into football, I am into Arsenal. This results in some rather odd looks or uncomfortably toned answers such as: “Yeah but you still know your stuff”, as if to somehow mark me ‘credible’ in their eyes again.  My love for Arsenal derived from my mother who is your more unconventional football supporter. As a schoolgirl she had an affinity with the (dirty) Leeds, just as my peers toyed with a brief love-in of Manchester United because it was seen as fashionable to do so.

She also has a soft spot for Leicester but I’m more forgiving of that as she used to live there. Her true love, however, is Arsenal and all credit goes to Arsène Wenger for making her fall for his beautiful and more-than-digestible style of football, and not before long, so did I. I got some stick for beginning to follow Arsenal at a time when they were doing well as opposed to attending games from the age of 5 and watching the famous ’1-0 to The Arsenal’s under George Graham (never by Arsenal fans, mind you) but I didn’t care. I loved everything about The Club from Highbury to the detail on our home socks.

Sandra – I’m 52 years old and originally from Brazil and grew up in Massachusetts in a heavily Portuguese area. My Brazilian family kept their love of football when they moved to the US but it was hard to keep up with it at that time. We emigrated in 1964. My uncles fostered a love of football in me so they had no issue about me being a girl. From an early age I grew up with a divided family in terms of football clubs – the Rio side being strong Flamengo supporters, and the other side being strong Corinthians supporters.

In 1970, my family (my uncles mainly) and Brazilian friends wanted to be in Brazil for the World Cup because Brazil had a strong chance of winning it. They planned to travel there. I really wanted to go but my mom couldn’t afford it so one of my uncles lent her money and we spent a month in Brazil watching the World Cup on small TVs. It was a family thing – though clearly it was men who knew the game better.

But I learned from them.

Later as a teenager, college student, grad student and post-grad school I traveled and worked in many countries around the world and went to many football matches.  I  have experienced several encounters in which a male would doubt my knowledge about football but I’d just shoot back with the amount of stuff I did know and then their attitude would immediately change, and they’d take me more seriously.

Jules – Many of today’s female fans grew up playing football. For me, I idolized the US Women’s National Team of the 1990s. They were female role models excelling internationally far more than the Men’s team.  In my personal experience I’ve been in love with the game since I started playing as a child. It frustrates me that there are people out there who consider me a dilettante just because of my gender.  And they almost certainly believe that I shouldn’t wear a jersey as I can’t be a “real” fan. I can’t possibly appreciate the role of a defensive midfielder, or gasp in awe at the beauty that was Andrea Pirlo’s free kick. That’s a false premise based on stereotypes rather than truth.  When I look at my Twitter timeline or the readers of my own blog, I know that there are a lot of female fans. This community has basically live tweeted matches all season and continued to do so for the Euros. Clearly women are still a minority among football fans, but we’re vocal. We’re blogging, podcasting, v-casting, and submitting pieces to magazines. It’s anything but passive.

I think about the female bloggers that I regularly read. I don’t choose to follow blogs based on the gender of who is writing them, but on the quality of writing. Discounting strong writing and analysis just because a woman wrote it would be ridiculous. There’s no reason to close yourself off from different perspectives. I don’t care if a person is from Mars, if they’ve got insight I want to know about it. Don’t worry guys, I read y’alls too. If I’m reading you it’s because I like you, and what you have to say. There’s no quota of types of football blogs that I read. If you’re good, I want to see it.

This past spring MLS suspended Simon Borg for 7 days after he made comments regarding passionate female fans being unattractive to the opposite sex. There were two issues present. One: All men think women who really like sports are unattractive. That’s easily disprovable by going to a professional football (soccer) match. Many men welcome the female presence, as having interests in common is typically a good things for a relationship. Two: Why does my interest in football have to be viewed through the lens of “will a man find this attractive?” It’s incredibly self-centered and heterocentric to think that women at sporting events are mostly worried about how they will appeal to men. This discounts lesbian and bisexual fans as even being considered fans, and also again takes the point of view that women are there to be enticing not cheering on their team. Guess what? We buy merchandise too, and teams like selling merchandise.

I guess the short version of what I’m saying is that I’m a fan. A kit wearing, tv yelling, euphoric from wins and despondent from losses fan. I know and like the game, so please don’t discount me because I’m a female. We’re all on the same side as long as you don’t consider club loyalties.

Does being a female fan mean being different? Is there an invisible line that separates us from male supporters?  As I wrote yesterday I rarely think of myself as being anything other than an Arsenal supporter. My gender has rarely come to mind but yet it impacts everything in life. Here we discuss what the implications of being a female fan has meant to us as individuals.

Kajal – One comment that really struck me as a female fan (I don’t advocate the use of the word Goonerette – if you don’t want to be seen as different to male supporters, why use it) was the failure to understand how I could appreciate the way that Arsenal play without having played football myself. This was actually a valid point, and one that I had thought about on a few occasions. I played football at school when we had to in P.E, tried to join in with the lads at break time at Lower (Primary) School on a few occasions because we thought it was ‘cool’ and practised penalties with my brother when we were younger but I never really understood things such as the mathematics and precision behind free kicks or the weight of a pass in a practical sense yet these are amongst many things I appreciate and fawn over when done well. How is that so? I don’t know the answer to this but I also don’t know how any fellow human in this planet (whether they love football or not) could not be overawed by the magic and trickery of my one true idol, Thierry Henry.

Even discounting his many, many goals, it was his presence on the pitch, the way he was so strong yet ran so gracefully, his nutmeg of Danny Mills, the Trompe L’Oeuil pass to Reyes, his sarcastic goal celebration towards Mr ‘I’m A Celebrity’ Poll, who had given him a hard time about the placing of the ball for *that* free kick. I could explode just talking about this man! I can’t leave this paragraph without the inclusion of his solo goal and celebration against Sp*rs – now the desktop background of many, many Gooners, including myself.

No Arsenal-related, French love-in could be complete without a few words for Mr Wenger. I love the man. That is all. Well, it’s not really all. I look on the social networking sites and see our very own fans calling him derogatory names and I want to throttle the whole lot of ungrateful [insert profanity here]. I just about understand that the man is not infallible but I just cannot fathom why he is subject to abuse from fans, and I’m not just talking about our own ingrates but we know not to expect an ounce of morality from that lot down the road, and that other lot over in Fulham, and that other lot three hours up the M6. The media have to take a large portion of the blame but it’s 5.45am and I’m having to remind myself why Jess kindly asked me to participate in this blogging session so no more on that!

Onto Twitter. The joy and bane of my life. Not only have I had the pleasure of meeting other female Gooners (they really know their stuff y’know! ;-)) but also other Gooners from around the world. This has been extremely eye-opening for me as to how much worldwide recognition and admiration we have but also the dedication and unconditional love from our friends in different countries. The effect Arsenal have had is special, but not as special as the effect these fans have on the Club.

My Twitter followers will know that I do love a good moan so I’ll try not to deprive you too much on here. One of my pet hates on Twitter is a female using their affinity towards Arsenal to get attention from men and use it as a dating service. All female Gooners I follow are beautiful, funny and shame me in my knowledge of Arsenal – past and present! I think we’ve worked pretty damned hard to change the perception of female fans so therefore am vehemently against being tarred with the same brush as those wanting to use Twitter as Match.com (or Shaadi.com for any Indian readers!)

Sandra – In Brazil and other Latin American countries, the stereotype about women and football is typical of the old stereotypes of women and sports here in the US: women don’t get the rules, they’re not interested, they get annoyed that their husbands or boyfriends spend so much time with it, they don’t get the passion involved with supporting a club, etc. And much of that is true – a lot of Brazilian women don’t share their men’s passion for the game.

But at the same time there are always a strong, loud representation of women fans in nearly every game in Latin America. Certainly men are more predominant but women are always there. I’ve been to games in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Mexico. I’ve seen a lot of bad behavior among fans and certainly have been called misogynistic names by drunken male fans but whenever that happened I received support from other male fans who defended me.

Jules – Being female in what is traditionally considered the domain of males is interesting. For most people it’s not a problem, but for others my mere presence somehow cheapens the importance of their interest. Especially in sports culture, women have long been passively set to the sidelines as casual observers. Time and time again we’ve been told that we don’t understand the game, and football matches are often considered a perfect time for boyfriends and husbands to tell the ladies to go shopping. Those old standards don’t hold true anymore. All one has to do is look on Twitter to see that it’s changing. There are tons of female fans, and it’s a good thing.

There is the immediate assumption that if a female is a fan, she’s only there because she thinks the players are hot or is trying to win over a guy. I don’t really understand this argument as all of us have eyes. We can all see that someone is conventionally attractive.  Just because I might find a player handsome, doesn’t mean I rate him as a player if he doesn’t perform on the pitch.  The argument about shallow fangirls who only like the looks is annoying since from the Olympics of Ancient Greece, the athletic form has been revered by our culture. The ESPN Magazine Body issue continues that celebration. Furthermore, there is distinctly a difference between a women who fakes an interest in sports to attract a guy, and women who are fans. The unwillingness to note those distinctions and place all females in one category doesn’t address the personality variance that occurs across genders. There will obviously be fakes who are there for the eye candy, but they aren’t the female fans who watch all the matches, and fret over injury lists. It’s offensive to be considered vapid and ignorant just because I’m female.

Any memories that you would like to share, be it Arsenal-related or more general?

Kajal – Highbury was a special experience that I never fail to want to relive. The magic of attending your first match and have the coach pull up outside and Mr Wenger standing less than six feet away from you is something pretty indescribable. That’s something I miss at Ashburton Grove, it feels like the players are now too exclusive for their own good and your only chance of seeing your heroes off the pitch is if you wait long enough for them to drive out – and that’s if their chosen car that day doesn’t have blacked out windows.

Sandra – Two of the worst encounters I’ve ever had was in England – involving a couple of Spurs fans and one Stoke fan. All three treated me and my two female friends appallingly. With the Spuds it was outside White Hart Lane; with the Stoke fan it was in a pub watching an AFC-United game. They said we should go back home and start cooking, we don’t know shit about football, we’re ruining the game, etc.  They were drunk of course.

Most of the time I’ve found men to be incredibly happy and impressed that they’ve found a woman who knows the game and loves it as much as they do. But there are always a few who feel like we’re intruding into their space just by being at a game or at a pub watching it with them. Most men I find are also tolerant when we express sentimental attachment or physical attraction to players. That’s been my experience, anyway.

The one thing I’ve always had some trouble dealing with in football being around drunk men. Wherever I’ve gone, very very few women are drunk and a lot of men aren’t but a lot of men always are. Especially in England and the UK generally – it’s a massive drinking culture there. And I’m not much of a drinker (this always was a topic of jokes in my time in England). It’s not a moral issue with me, nothing like that. I just don’t drink a lot. I don’t mind a little now and then but it’s just not a big part of my consumption habits. Over time I’ve gotten used to it and a lot of guys are perfectly funny and pleasant when they’re drunk. But it’s something I’ve never been crazy about. Never stopped me from attending games, though :-)

Jules – I spent Easter morning 2012 at a pub in Brooklyn, NY watching Arsenal play Manchester City. Initially I was the sole female there, and my husband playfully teased me about being the only girl in the pub. I ordered a cream ale and ignored him. It was nearly match time, and all I could think about was how it was a must win match for the Gunners. Many a weekend morning has been spent watching matches with the boys. It’s amazing how the moment you prove yourself as knowledgeable the anti-girls attitude pretty much disappears. It’s not much different than the experience a new guy in a circle of soccer fans would find. You have to size people up and determine how much they know, which really isn’t different from any other interest on the planet. I don’t have any problem with that as I can hold my own, but I distinctly have been questioned about my knowledge of football spanning from the offsides rule to how I believe Messi would fare in a cold wet night at Stoke. I’d really like to see that match.

A big thank you to Kajal, Sandra and Jules for their contributions and insights. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s finale where Mimsie will share her experiences and thoughts

Jules’ blog can be found in it’s entirety here

While writing this series of blogs with the ever excellent WengerBoy1 (find him here https://twitter.com/#!/WengerBoy1) we discussed how often we see our defense being blamed and agreed that it was an easy assumption to make but not necessarily correct. With a season of some unfortunate results such as  the unmentionable game against United, it’s easy to understand why people believe that our defence is just not good enough.  However while we have a knack for making defensive blunders and causing heart-attack producing moments, I believe that our backline – when not injured – is solid.

Bacary Sagna

Sagna is probably the best right-back in the league at the moment. He is consistent, breaks down attacks and has a surprising aerial ability for a player his size. He is tenacious when attacking and his dependability allows Walcott the space and security to keep pushing forward without worrying about being caught out.  While there are times Sagna can be outpaced and manoeuvred by skilful forwards, he is one of Arsenal’s most steady and important players.

Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny is Arsenal’s best defender and has been brilliant this season. Calm, solid, pacey, and strong, Koscielny has given consistent performances despite having inconsistent partners. He has faced the likes of Messi, Aguero, Ibrahimovic and Ba and remained controlled and comfortable while doing so.  So far this season he has proven his ability in tackling, clearances, interceptions and positioning while offering up one assist and a goal.  Koscielny has provided 2.7 tackles per game and has an impressive interception rate of 2.8 per game. This puts him ahead of defenders such as Vidic, Cahill, Ivanovic and Kompany. Perhaps it’s time we all forgave him for the Carling Cup error and appreciate his defensive skill.

Thomas Vermaelen

Verma is our most popular defender and brings an aura of steel and hardness that has been lacking from Arsenal in recent seasons. While there are times when he lacks alertness and pace, he offers a sense of leadership and organization that is vital in our defence. Vermaelen often makes important clearances, tackles and provides matchwinning goals.  He has struggles with injury and spent plenty of time this campaign at left-back. When given the chance and a consistent run of games, he and Koscielny have blossomed into a formidable due and the match of any other centre-half pairing in the league.

Kieran Gibbs

I have debated between Gibbs and Santos as our no.1 left-back for quite some time. Until I realized it’s not necessarily a choice between Gibbs and Santos that I was struggling with, but the need to understand the role of a left-back at Arsenal. In truth Gibbs and Santos are pretty much interchangeable; they are good players, maybe not great, and assets going forward. They can both struggle with their defensive duties and put unnecessary pressure on our centre-backs. At first I thought this position was the weak spot in our defence, when in truth I didn’t understand the tactical reasoning behind this. More than any other defender it is important for our left-back to have the ability to go forward and provide an outlet. Whereas we have Walcott’s pace and directness on the right-wing, the players on the opposite flank tend to cut inside onto their more natural right side. In order to provide width to our attack we need a defender with the pace and attacking prowess to move forward and on the overlap, allied with the ability to whip in a cross. So while the left-back is an important part of our defense, it is an equally integral part of our attacking play.

Wojciech Szczesny

Larger than life, passionate, talented and a true Gooner,  Szczesny has been inspiring and a revelation of a goal keeper.  While many of us were crying out for a keeper, Arsene had this man up his sleeve.  Saver of penalties and man of strength perhaps, the best thing Szczesny inspires in this team is confidence. The players trust him and this allows them to focus on their own duties instead of worrying about what is going on behind them. His double save at Anfield from Kuyt’s penalty was the stuff of legends and he secured us a spot in the Champions League with another penalty save against Udinese.  While there is room for improvement in his game – his distribution and record against free-kicks need improving  – Szczesny is one of the most promising keepers we’ve seen in the league and the long-term option for Arsenal.

Thanks to Darren_V_ for his tactical help on this blog.  Follow him here at: https://twitter.com/#!/Darren_V_

Post-Norwich

Posted: May 11, 2012 by lpgcast in LPGCast
Tags: , , ,


Better Late Than Never

Posted: March 17, 2012 by lpgcast in LPGCast
Tags: , , ,

Apt title considering how late we are posting this AND how late we scored the winner.


Sublime*

Posted: February 28, 2012 by lpgcast in LPGCast
Tags: , ,

Celebrate the win with a longer podcast as the LPGs discuss the sublime win against Spurs.

*A note about the sublime: we’re using the romantic philosophical definition of the word, in which the emotion we are feeling stems from pain and fear. According to Edmund Burke, pain and fear are the most powerful emotions a human being can feel. For us, the pain and fear came during that first half  when the spuds scored the first goal so early in the game. Although the sublime is sprung from negative emotions, the same physical reactions can occur in the presence of the most beautiful situation, or the remontada when we scored 5 goals in such a short period of time. The sublime isn’t just beauty, it is what we feel when we are at our highest point, but when we are standing at the edge of a tremendous drop and the uncertainty of what may come. In short, we’re happy as fuck, but we’re nervous to the same degree for the rest of our season.


 

Having spoken of personnel with Zara (www.twitter.com/goonerathena) a few days ago in part 1 and tactics with Steve (www.twitter.com/newfiegooner) yesterday in part 2, the final instalment of this three-part series focuses on mental strength. Sameer (www.twitter.com/thesquidboylike) gives his opinion on why this aspect is our main downfall…

 Ah yes. Mental strength. Arsene and Arsenal’s fabled “mental strength”. How sad it is that one of our supposed qualities touted most by the manager has completely evaporated since that fateful February day at Wembley. The problem with mental strength is that it is intangible and cannot be quantified. However, we can use some stats to illustrate where it is clearly missing – since we last won a trophy, we’ve lost 40 leads that we’ve held in matches. For me, this depicts a lack of mental strength. While I don’t have the comparative figures for Man Utd and Chelsea at hand, I can bet my bottom dollar that it is nowhere near that number. This season alone we’ve suffered the horror of losing two separate two-goal leads against our deadliest rivals, the notoriety of being the first Premier League side in history to let slip a four-goal lead, and being the only team in living memory to score a 97th minute “winner” yet somehow contrive to not win the game .

But mental strength isn’t just that which occurs in matches. It is something that needs to manifest from game to game, something we need to summon to come back from adversity. Here’s another damning stat for you – we’ve only won three games out of 14 since the Carling Cup final. A run which has seen us exit the FA Cup at the hands of Man Utd, the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona (and bent refereeing), and fall away in the title race.

Yet not only have we dropped out of the title race, but we’ve also managed to sink to fourth place. And unless things go our way this weekend, we will be faced with ignominy of a mighty difficult Champions League qualifier in August. What’s that old joke? “Arsenal are the only team that can finish fourth in a two-horse race.” Sad but ultimately true.

In my eyes – and I guess many share this viewpoint, including the players – our season hinged on the Carling Cup final. After so many barbs over the years regarding our lack of silverware (if you Google the word “trophyless”, the first few search results relate to Arsenal), beating Birmingham was meant to open the floodgates and push us on to greater things. And with all due respect to Birmingham, we have never had a better opportunity to get the monkey off our backs. Having come up short so often, winning that day was to instil belief in the players and fans that, together, we could go on to achieve greatness this season. And you know what? I believe it would have. We may have still got knocked out of the other two cup competitions, but I reckon the players would have used the foundation of a Carling Cup win – of knowing they were winners – to drive them on in the title race.

However, the opposite transpired. We managed to lose the final in almost comical fashion, and the belief visibly drained out of the players as they lay sprawled across the Wembley turf. And this is where our so-called “mental strength” needed to come to the fore. We needed to exhibit bouncebackability, to learn from our mistakes, to dust ourselves off and maintain the verve that we had shown in the December and January and February. The same verve which had seen us banish of Chelsea and Barcelona.

But it didn’t happen. Gone was the vibrancy of the enigma that is Theo van Nasregas (admittedly, we suffered from injuries to two of the four components). Gone was the high pressing game that typified the middle third of the season. Gone was the hunger and belief required to be champions. Instead we ploughed along, starting games in lackadaisical fashion, failing to put our opponents to the sword and too often conceding first (largely from set-pieces, as Steve alluded to yesterday). This meant we were often playing catch-up and busting our arses to the last minute in search of an unlikely equaliser or winner, which is hugely taxing both physically and emotionally.

So we ended up fading from the title race, and a huge sense of déjà vu struck. The exact same thing happened last season, where we looked strong for two-thirds of the campaign but when the going got tough, we didn’t. I think one of the starkest aspects of this year is that we can no longer blame injuries. Last year, we could at least hang on to the fact that our fall from grace coincided with a horribly mounting injury list. Not so this time, which hit home to many – including myself – that maybe, just maybe, our first eleven simply wasn’t as good as we all believed and our backup was even worse.

As Zara said a few days ago, it does seem that we need new additions. Experienced and specialist backup for Alex Song is a must when you look at our record without him. And as Steve said, we do need to mix up our tactics, especially at home against the bus-parkers.

Thus whilst I unequivocally agree with both their suggestions of fresh faces and variety in our attacking game plus tightening up at the back, I can’t help but feel it won’t be enough. Whoever is part of our squad next season, they need to collectively overcome something greater than poor communication at corners or ineffective sideways passing and crosses to nobody in particular. They need to somehow believe again.

Money can buy us new players, hard work on the training pitch can help our tactics, but how do we find the mental strength required to take us to a higher level? As I said right at the start, it is an intangible that we cannot quantify or measure, it is simply has to come from within the side. There is no right answer or guaranteed cure, of course. So all I can do is look to the past. In 2001 we finished 10pts behind Man Utd and suffered late heartbreak in a domestic cup final. That summer there was significant movement in terms of transfers – most notably bringing in Sol Campbell. A similar marquee signing may do wonders against this summer. But the following season there was something else. The team broke free of the shackles of failure and came together in perfect harmony to win the Double. The players had spent a few seasons together getting used to each other and seemingly looked at each other and said: “Enough. No more second-place, no more glorious or tragic failure. We have to work harder, run faster and be stronger in both body and mind. We just have to win.”

And so they did. In swashbuckling style. If Arsene can hark back to what happened then and try to replicate it over the coming months, everything may be rosy again in the garden of red’n’white.