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Whatever Happened To The “Hunger Index”?

By Frank Lee

Arsenal today often don’t seem that bothered about competing to win

My eyebrows were raised earlier this season when Arsene Wenger came up with a new way of measuring his players’ determination. When speaking about the commitment of Alexis Sanchez as the player entered the final year of his contact, the Arsenal manager stated that he actually believed the player would be more committed than if he were on a longer deal, citing something he described as the ”hunger index”, to assess their amount of dedication to produce their best.

It’s not a measuring tool I am aware that Opta have adopted, but if they had, I wonder what they would have made of some of Arsenal’s performances, especially away from home, this season. I’m not sure too many fans would back the team to finish in the top four after that performance – although if you are interested in betting on Premier League games or reading previews ahead of matches, then check out Odds Changer for daily betting tips as well as weekly articles and quizzes.

In the aftermath of the second half of the North London derby at Wembley last weekend, it was pointed out to me that when Pep Guardiola was the manager at Barcelona, the policy when possession was lost was to win the ball back in six seconds or less. This manifested itself as a ‘hunt in packs’ approach to the player on the ball, cutting down his options, and often a successful tactic in regaining possession. When Barcelona, then Champions League holders, visited Arsenal in March 2010, this was all too evident in a fizzing first half, which somehow ended goal-less thanks, believe it or not, to a stunning performance by Manuel Almunia in the Gunners’ goal. Arsenal were cut to ribbons, but the Catalan goals did not arrive until after the interval.

Now that Pep Guardiola is in his second season in the Premier League, one can see the same signs of intensity in his Manchester City side. The workrate is above and beyond that we see from Arsene Wenger’s teams, this in spite of the latter’s attempts to imitate the Spaniard’s style for several years, which led to the Gunners being labeled ‘Barcelona-Lite’ for a while.

Guardiola’s gift, aside from what seems to be a better use of tactics and coaching, is the ability to motivate millionaires. Certainly, being able to afford any player helps (although losing the aforementioned Sanchez to Manchester United showed us that even at the Etihad there are limits), but once you have them, you need to keep them focused, hungry (as perhaps in Arsene’s index?) and motivated to work hard. Not being certain of your place in the starting eleven certainly helps in this regard, as the vast majority of players prefer to play rather than sit on the sidelines. So players are not only playing to their optimum, they cannot be complacent about their place in the starting eleven.

Looking at Arsenal, this does not seem to be the case. After the interval against Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino’s side seemed, to paraphrase Theo Walcott after the horrendous 3-0 away defeat to Palace last April, to want it more. They were far quicker to close down their opponents than Arsenal’s players when Spurs had possession, allowing them less space and time. It’s interesting that one of the reasons the players at London Colney stick to very strict training times – never overdoing it (no extra training is allowed to work on individual weaknesses) – is that the players are in peak physical condition.

They probably are as fit as Spurs, which leads us to wonder about the motivation in the team, and whether the manager is getting the best out of his players. And if not, why not? I wonder how the manager would explain the ‘hunger index’ of his current team, as right now, it’s not looking very high to these eyes. North London derbies, including many played during the Wenger era, didn’t use to feel like this…

14th February 2018 11:16:35

(8/10)

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Wardy  12:11pm 14th Feb 2018

The current squad has lacked hunger for too long, which is obvious given the inconsistent performances & results (aside one or two exceptions perhaps), they clearly lack pride in the shirt & a desire to give their best in every match. This is because the squad as a whole has lost faith in a once great manager. Sadly nothing will change whilst the current manager is in charge as he has clearly 'lost' the dressing room. A new manager has been needed for at least 4 years now (arguably longer) but the board have to get the right man. A new manager has to completely shake up this cozy little squad of choirboys, hopefully sign some much needed 'on pitch' leaders & get rid of those players that aren't able to give 100% at all times. My choice would be Leonardo Jardim from Monaco or Thomas Tuchel. - Post No. 112953


Yes its Ron  12:35pm 14th Feb 2018

The word and definitions yr looking for i think starts with 'familiarity breeds contempt'. AFC is a comfort zone and recognised by all who reside there, AW included i believe. The staff are all players brought there in his own image. Such as Sanchez seemed to try to shake it all up and ruffle feathers. He couldn't and hes gone as have others before who have sought a different trajectory for the Club. Arsenal are stale. Once any organisation becomes stale, the resistance to change by those in it becomes embedded deep into its fabric. In my view its happened at Arsenal. What do i know? I can only base my view on what ive seen. The characteristics of staleness arent hard to spot and we ve had 12 yrs to take a long look for the signs. Theyre all there to see, save for anyone who doesn't want to see them. - Post No. 112954


Goonhogday  13:18pm 14th Feb 2018

Agree with the comments above. There’s an awful culture of complacency feeling about the last decade or so. Wenger out - Post No. 112955


Seven Kings Gooner1  13:44pm 14th Feb 2018

I never bought the story that Sanchez was disruptive - he did n't like losing and not challenging for honours. RVP was the same, any professional playing in a team knows who is n't good enough and when they outnumber the triers it's time to leave. - Post No. 112956


Yes its Ron  13:53pm 14th Feb 2018

SKG - Hi matey. Im not saying he was disruptive. I think he wanted a culture change amongst the other players. Its the same even at semi pro and down to local league level. Once a player or a few of them know the teams lacking in desire and talent, they make it clear whats needed or they move on. Agree with you, he wanted better for Arsenal but i think he met with a solid brick wall. - Post No. 112957


MAF  14:50pm 14th Feb 2018

as Piers Morgan pointed out, Stan Kroenke Clubs in the USA are all known for being mediocre but making profits.. The previous owners sold to the wrong new owner and we are stuck with him. It is not about sporting glory for Stan it is about Business thats why he thought that he liked Wenger so much due to this Story of keeping us in the top 4 while we had no money - Post No. 112958


mbg  15:04pm 14th Feb 2018

If wenger was as good as managing and tactics as he is at making up new sayings (excuses for and to take the spot light and heat of his failure/failures) that, mean and make, no sense, even if you were fluent in Martian, not to mention the lies and spin, he 'd be a world beater. Go now you old fraud and take your gobbledegook with you. - Post No. 112959


PradeepKachhala  15:43pm 14th Feb 2018

Good points - i would add that in order to press like the Pep sides do you need a motivated squad and more importantly have good coaching so players know when to press and when not to. It was odd that Sanchez was the only player who would press when he was at Arsenal which tells you the type of instructions players were getting from the manager. The 2004 Invincibles were a pressing side however in retrospect i feel that squad required less coaching and were able to respond in real time on the pitch without the manager's input unlike the team we have now. - Post No. 112961


mbg  16:11pm 14th Feb 2018

Giroud has had a rude awakening as to what it's like to play in a real team with real men and players, and not a soft manager with a bunch of pansies. - Post No. 112962


Seven Kings Gooner1  16:17pm 14th Feb 2018

Why can't we have a good manager and a prudent manager, the Spuds have! - Post No. 112963


peter wain  16:58pm 14th Feb 2018

i know we lost to the scum at Wembley but is it me or did we not dominate them at the Emirates scoring 2 goals. The way all the commentators are going on we seemed doomed to relegation now. Lets see where we finish at the end of the season and where the scum finish. - Post No. 112964


Exeter Ex  17:29pm 14th Feb 2018

peter wain - with 11 games to go Spurs (a club of half the size and half the resources) are 7 points ahead of AFC, a team they have just beaten. They are in the CL, AFC are in the EL. Denial doesn't help - they are the better team now. You want any hope of this changing soon, better hope Wenger goes very soon. - Post No. 112965


GoonerRon  17:56pm 14th Feb 2018

I was at the Nou Camp when Messi scored 4 goals against us and got a brilliant view from the fourth tier about how to win the ball back quickly. Hunting in packs it certainly was and we were completely suffocated. Citeh are getting to the point where they are almost as good at it - at the Etihad earlier this season the way they closed off the angles for a pass was really something else. Klopp's Liverpool when on song early in games at Anfield can be great too, and to be fair the Spuds are good exponents of the press. We've done it well at times in the last couple of seasons but it definitely never seems as coordinated or rehearsed (probably because it isn't, and won't ever be under Wenger). @ Peter Wain - Spuds are better than us right now and probably have been for a season or two but the media love-in for them is pretty sickening (another dive by Kane last night not mentioned) - they've finished above us once in decades, have won 2 league cups in 26 seasons and are on the cusp of a 10 year trophy drought (which after the incessant talk of our drought some years ago is rarely mentioned by anyone) - they've got a long way to go to prove they are good as the media would have you believe. - Post No. 112966


Goonhogday  18:17pm 14th Feb 2018

We can play the pressing game. I can’t recall what matches last season and whether our backs were up against the walls going into these matches. However, it shows to me that it’s only applied when players can be bothered &/or drilled into doing it. Personally, I’d expect it coached and players reminded about pressing before, during and after every match. That along with many other tactical faults, is what irks me about Wengerball and why I’d like to see a new manager. Wenger out - Post No. 112967


mbg  19:51pm 14th Feb 2018

peter wain, Does it matter where the scum finish and why ? Is that the be all and end all of everything now, and the high light of our season now ? (just like it has been for the last ten ) to do better and finish higher than the spuds ? Sad. We want wenger out. - Post No. 112968


mbg  20:39pm 14th Feb 2018

Pradeep, good post, we certainly need the players alright we haven't got them full stop, only second rate nice boys not up to the job, given no motivation whatsoever (and anyway the current incumbent wouldn't know how)we had the players in 04 alright, players who knew what it was all about like PV, MO, FL, TH, etc, and needed very little coaching or motivation if any, with a great defence behind them, brought up the Arsenal way thanks to the Adams, Keowns, Mersons, Seamans, etc, etc, who knew how to pass and as you say press and play power football leaving sides in their wake with three or four power passes (no tippy tappy going nowhere)ending with the ball in the net from any direction (a joy to watch) Now ? we have a bunch of second rate nice smelling nice boys (and have had for years)who would never dream of getting their hair dyed red, who couldn't pass water, or spell power and think it's a word/tattoo on Phil Taylors arm and would have to look the meaning up in a dictionary, and an old long past it out of date manager rattling about who is so deluded he thinks their Barca. We want wenger out. - Post No. 112970


GoonerRon  0:03am 15th Feb 2018

@ mbg - good effort at avoiding giving Wenger any credit for the unbeaten defence in 2004. Nice try but no cigar. - Post No. 112971


Bob Bayliss  7:51am 15th Feb 2018

So how does Wenger's "hunger index" theory work with our players? Theo Walcott stopped bothering as soon as he secured his grossly inflated contract, and on Saturday's evidence the same will apply to Ozil. And No, we are not as physically fit as Tottenham. Along with Liverpool they are the fittest team in the Premier League. - Post No. 112972


MAF  8:15am 15th Feb 2018

i dont see Arsenal's Players as fit at all as City Liverpool or spurs who all Play with higher intensity until the last whistle as this is drilled, demanded, inspired, practised with the Coach. Wenger is nearly 70 and not exactly an agressive sporty type why would anyone even think he can bring the best out on the athletic side of the game ? Wenger is way way overrated, People Need to properly realise that. today's Arsenal is wenger's Level and he has £200mpa salary bill to splash around. you can imagine what a mess he would make if he had the £75mpa that Poch has - Post No. 112973


The Man From UNCLE  9:50am 15th Feb 2018

The "hunger index" indeed. I have a theory that the fraud was just throwing out a quote for the hacks. The hacks like people who give them quotes, it does their job for them. The late great Jim Morrison, of that popular US beat combo The Doors, once quoted "think of us as erotic politicians". He later admitted it was just made up off the cuff to give newspaper something to write. The hunger index is the same. - Post No. 112974


mbg  14:35pm 15th Feb 2018

GoonerRon, no cigar from you you mean. wenger out - Post No. 112980


mbg  14:46pm 15th Feb 2018

Lads he was referring to Rob the chefs menu at London Colney. - Post No. 112981


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