Archive for May 1st, 2007

Cesc sums up our season

1,048 comments May 1st, 2007

Firstly, I’d like to apologise to my friends at FourFourTwo magazine for essentially stealing this interview. Secondly, I’d like to apologise to you lot – updates might be a bit infrequent over the next few days as I’m off on some travels.

When I read this the other day, I couldn’t believe how frank and honest Cesc was in his assessment of what’s going on at the club, and the reasons we havent succeeded. I’ll just give you the crucial bits – if you want the rest, buy the magazine.

What do Arsenal lack?
The ability to finish off the job; we need to make our football pay off and put away our chances. Above all, we need more experience and more intelligence in the final minutes. We’ve blown a lot of games in the dying minutes – although we’ve won a lot late on, too – and our concentration must improve. Sometimes we think that at 1-0 or 0-0 in the last minute it’s all over. It’s not.

Are Arsenal overconfident?
Not overconfidence so much as a lack of concentration. We can’t be cocky – how can we be when we’re 17 points off Man U? That would be very, very bad. I know my team-mates and I don’t think it’s that. We’re confident because we have a good team but we have to work harder. Sometimes, it’s as if [turns to English] we switch off [back to Spanish], you know? I don’t know why… [frowns deeply]

You almost look like you have a headache trying to work out why things go wrong, as if you can’t fathom it.
It’s hard. You watch your team play well, you enjoy the matches, you seem to be playing great football and creating chances but then the results don’t follow. You start to wonder: “What’s going on? If we’re playing well, why aren’t we winning?” You have to really go for the win because if you have an attitude of “Ah, no worries”, well, then… [his words trail off] I sometimes get the feeling after games that there’s a sense of no pasa nada [no problem]. And we can’t allow that. We’re a great team and we’re obliged to win. What I want, and what I think everyone else wants, is to win. At the end of every game, we have to analyse what happened and improve for the next game. If not, we won’t progress.

That sounds like Arsenal are too relaxed. Do you lack edge, desire, or pride?
I’m not saying that we lack that, not at all. Arsenal are a winning team. But what I am saying is that there are times when we could do more. There are moments when people say: “well, we lost that match but we’ll win the next one”, or whatever. No, no, no. Every player has to look at himself and try to be better in the next match, to make sure that what happened was just one bad day.

The image emerging is of a dressing room that accepts defeat…
If I get something wrong, if I play badly, if I fail, I like people to have a go at me for it. If I get it wrong, I want someone to tell me, to make that clear to me.

Does no-one do that?
Yes. But amongst ourselves sometimes there’s a kind of fear of saying things to each other. Maybe we have to lose that fear. If I fail, I want you to come up to me and tell me so, to scream at me, to have a go at me. That way I’ll be ready next time, forewarned.

Are Arsenal too nice?
Well… [long pause]…

Because critics say so. There’s a feeling that Arsenal look good but lack balls…
I wouldn’t say we lack balls, but I do think we have to… [pause] I watch Chelsea and United and I see them go for every ball, give everything in every match. That comes from unity and desire. Sometimes I run for you, sometimes you run for me – that’s solidarity. You need that to achieve great things.

After the Carling Cup Final, all the plaudits were for Arsenal, but Chelsea got the trophy. Do you feel like the bad guys always win?
Yes, definitely. I’d prefer them to get all the plaudits while I walk away with the cups. That’s obvious. In the end, what matters is who wins and we haven’t known how. We haven’t been able to employ that method. We’re a young team but I don’t like that excuse because it’s as if every time you lose people say: “Yeah, but they’re a young team”. No. We’re young, but if the coach plays us it’s because he thinks we’re good enough. I don’t like losing the ball and having people say “It’s Ok, he’s only 19”. If I lose the ball, I want the same responsibility, the same culpability, as Henry. I don’t want excuses.

Was that praise meaningless to you, then?
No. That day, we were a team of players that don’t play often in the league, that were on their way back from injuries, that were inexperienced and very young. People like Traore and Theo. For that team to get to the final and almost win against Chelsea is impressive. But in the final analysis, people won’t look back and remember that we played with Walcott or Diaby or me. No, they’ll look back and remember that Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-1. That said, when a coach gives young players the chance in a game like that it’s worthwhile, even if you lose, because the experience is valuable.

One gets the feeling that if all our players (young or old) had Cesc’s attitude, we’d be a bit further up the table.

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