Lee Dixon hit the nail on his head with his post-match tweet following Arsenal’s 3-3 draw against Liverpool on Friday.
The Arsenal legend and football pundit brought up the point that it’s all very well and good praising a team’s ‘mental strength’ for fighting back from 2-0 down. However, surely they shouldn’t be going 2-0 behind in the first place?
Always makes me smile when managers and players say we showed great spirit to come back from 2 or 3 down. Show spirit from the start and don’t be 2 down? #goodidea?
— Lee Dixon (@LeeDixon2) December 23, 2017
Dixon’s tweet is pretty much a direct reference to Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman is known to bring up mental strength at every available opportunity. However, he very rarely criticises his side’s mentality. Even when they’re shipping goals early in the game, which forces them to fight back if they want to salvage anything.
Friday was different. Wenger actually hinted that his men were weak mentally and blamed the Gunners’ 2-0 deficit on this. He also reckons that the 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester United has really taken a toll on Arsenal’s confidence directly after kick-off.
Although the boss does admit it takes character to overturn such a deficit, he does also explain why we went behind in the first place.
“In the first half we were paralysed and frozen and played too deep,” Wenger told BT Sport post-match.
“We gave too many balls away on long balls from Liverpool and always looked second best.
“It was mainly down to psychological factors.
“I think we played completely inhibited, especially in the first half.”
When asked about how he combated these psychological factors, Wenger said, “I said to the players (at half time): ‘The good thing is that we’re only 1-0 down.’ In the second half, we had an opportunity to show a completely different face and different quality. What we did (in the first half) was not good enough and overall we felt like we had nothing to lose.”
It’s concerning that 11 professional athletes ‘freeze’ with fear at all. Let alone against a Liverpool team who are almost as bad at defending as we are. It’s not a new problem so why hasn’t it been addressed yet?
Our job wouldn’t be half as difficult if we didn’t need to claw our way back into the game.