Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mental Strength Or Toughness

I have written about Lee Chong Wei's lack of mental strength and generally about this problem in Malaysian sports. See Malaysian sports and Can Chong Wei Do It.

Starsports 20th Aug 2011

Now I am glad that a Malaysian psychologist is offering to help Chong Wei develop mental toughness. He said that Chong Wei is mentally strong but not mentally tough.

Although I am not a psychologist, here is where I disagree. How can you be mentally strong
without being mentally tough and vice versa? This nit picking with words must stop.

Imagine the psychologist telling Chong Wei: "Look, you are mentally strong, but you are not mentally tough. Now, these are the differences. Being mentally tough means a,b,c... blah, blah blah."

Poor Chong Wei will be thinking a.b.c blah, blah and blah every time he tries to be mentally tough and will altogether be lost not being able to see the forest from the trees.

Just get on with the job. Tell Chong Wei that he needs to have conviction in his own abilities that he can beat Lin Dan anytime, anywhere and everytime he wants to. That skill wise there is no difference and that it is mental strength that will see him through and that no matter how impossible it may appear he will beat Lin Dan.

Drill this enough times into Chong Wei's head and he will soon believe in himself and, more importantly, KNOW that he can do it.

Here, although I am not a psychologist, I can vouch safe this. Anytime that you believe you can do it whatever the odds, you can. And anytime you have doubts, you can't even with otherwise simple tasks.

This lack of mental strength is also the problem with the Arsenal football team. Last season as it was winding down and Arsenal needed to be tough, they lost their mojos and played like a wimp and went to perdition losing to teams they should have beaten easily like Birmingham in the Carling Cup final for example.

This season Arsenal have a horrendous start, playing to a lacklustre scoreless draw with Newcastle and losing 2-0 to Liverpool.

Their only bright spot is the 1-0 win over Udinese in the Champions League first-leg encounter.

A large part of the blame must be placed squarely on Arsene Wenger's shoulders. Wenger has lost his juice. When you are losing 1-0 with only about 10 minutes left of regulation time, you go all out and not play a defensive game. What is the difference between losing 1-0 and losing by a larger margin? Remember, you are not winning and trying to protect a lead. You are losing and you need to play to at least a draw or even try to steal a win. This is the mentality of a champion.

And you cannot try to justify your poor form on injuries and the unsettling situation of Cesc Fabregas just leaving the team and the impending departure of Samir Nasri to another.

Of course, Arsene Wenger's insistence on playing beautiful football by passing the ball to death is not helping. You have to try to score whichever way instead of being obsessed with bringing the ball right up to the goal-mouth!

Look at the difference between Barcelona and Arsenal! Barcelona play beautiful football too, and better, but they are not obsessed with bringing the ball right up to the goal-mouth before attempting to put it into goal. They mix up their game well with long shots, running at defenders and clever lops.

Wenger's insistence on and continuing faith in using so-so players like Van Persie are also not helping the team. Van Persie plays well only in patches when Arsenal play well as a team. Otherwise he is a lost soul. Unable to stop a ball well and often losing it when challenged. He also loses his steps easily. And when an opportunity to score comes, he wastes time trying to manoeuvre it to his better foot, the left, before he strikes.

Why some people say Persie is a world class player escapes me. Check out my other posts in this blog.

Now burdened with the team captaincy, Van Persie looks even more miserable. He is not a natural leader like Fabregas.

Wenger should consider giving the captaincy to another player, perhaps Rosicky.

And what is Wenger doing with Walcott? Wenger should not just use him as a speedy winger, running down the flank. This has become so predictable and teams are now learning to cope with him. Wenger should tell Walcott to take on and run at defenders more often. Perhaps use him as a back up striker or even the central one.

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