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Arsenal players do have mental strength… it’s just you only see it when they want a pay rise

OPINION: There's no shame in losing to Bayern Munich, unless you get beaten 5-1 twice

09 March, 2017 — By Richard Osley

WHAT is perhaps most ridiculous about Arsenal’s latest calamity is that they somehow made an embarrassing spectacle out of losing to one of the best clubs in the world.

For all the moronic cackling you can hear from fans of rival clubs in this time of obvious crisis, most of them know – possibly Chelsea are the exception – that they too would be unlikely to progress from a knockout match against the great Bayern Munich, an all-star team peppered with World Cup winners. They too would be watching a defeat unfold if they had come across the German champions.

But there’s losing, and then there’s losing.

There’s losing by a couple of goals and holding your hands up and saying the opposition are simply a better team. And then there’s losing 5-1 twice, capitulating twice, and the manager coming out afterwards and cursing the referee twice, wincing a little and then insisting it wasn’t as bad as we had all seen.

Every journalist who has been through Arsenal’s press halls over the last 20 years has heard Arsene Wenger hailing his players’ mental strength: when they lose they will bounce back because “this group of players has great mental strength”, and when they win they won because “this group of players has great mental strength”. It’s a component he searches for in a perfect player, but how is he defining this quality?

In most sports it means the competitor who holds his nerve in the clutch moment, holing the putt on the last green, sinking the black ball, serving out for the Wimbledon championship and so on.

For Arsenal players, however, the definition is looser, and seems to be applied when:

a) Asking for more money: A lot of people in normal life simply do not have the bottle to request a salary raise, even if they feel like they are doing a good job. Arsenal stumble about in their place of work, but the players hold their nerve and ask for a £100,000 a week more.

b) Using social media: It takes mental resilience to keep tweeting and Instagramming at the rate Arsenal players do. Win, lose or draw, they have the focus to keep the follower numbers high, so even if they are beaten on the pitch the fans still get a sad face emoji as a consolation.

c) Arguing with Alexis Sanchez: It takes a reservoir of mental strength to go up to the guy who has been carrying you on his back for at least six months and give him a verbal poke in the eye. That’s real character, real belief, real mental strength.

Sadly the d) to finish the list does not seem to include, not panicking when you let a goal in against Bayern Munich.

 

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