We look to see if we are capable of beating them by what they are doing and how good they are on the day, instead of us going forward, causing them problems and dominating the game ourselves.
I am no sports psychologist, and mistakes often result from assuming things about players based on their body language, but there is no getting around the fact that against Manchester United and Chelsea, since 2006, Arsenal have rarely won or drawn. However, this fact usually results in two easy, assumptuous (did I make that word up?) interpretations: 1) the team is not as good as Manchester United or Chelsea, and thus not good enough to win anything, and 2) the team cannot hope to win anything until they sign players who not only have technical skill, but also a bit of snarl, willpower, gumption, mojo, gravitas, something.
Perhaps these are true statements, but they are true in a sort of unprovable way. The situation is certainly much better nowadays when there are numerous rational, well-thought-out blog posts with diagrams and evidence for what Arsenal could be doing better, but there still remain those ill-reasoned, purely reactionary, Captain Obvious-style newspaper articles making easy claims about things like "spine". Only the players can truly know anything about their mental state, and similarly, only the players are in a position to do anything about their individual lapses in concentration that lead to goals for the opposition.
But the public image of Arsenal as "bottlers" is now confirmed for them by the captain. 7AM Kickoff, for one, doesn't understand why Cesc is airing his feelings about this in public:
I just don’t understand what Cesc saying this to a reporter is supposed to accomplish. This is the kind of thing you say at a team meeting, behind closed doors, where someone like John Cross can’t get his greedy little paws on it and use it to sell papers. This is going to be a nightmare because from now on every time we play a "big club" there will be yards of stories dedicated to Arsenal’s fear factor.
Until Arsenal actually win a trophy, it will go on. Fortunately for Arsenal, there is an opportunity in the next month to do it, and A Cultured Left Foot surmises that it could do wonders:
Whilst the team which participates in the competition is not the strongest, lifting the trophy relieves a burden to some extent as well as providing motivation for non-playing members of the squad. How could the ‘seniors’ let the ‘juniors’ be the only victors? Emulation is a powerful competitive instinct.
Whatever the case actually is, the club's mental state is still always just a matter of conjecture, even when coming from the captain. It's an unverifiable theory that takes on the dimensions of truth, but is all the more real for that, perhaps, tied up as it is with emotions. We all feel it deeply on Saturdays, but in the cold light of a Tuesday, give me charts and pitch diagrams, for my own sake, or I'll just live under a cloud of doom all week.