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http://www.squarefootball.net/article/article.asp?aid=2825

Like a pack of wolves, the British press thrives on the chance to attack the momentarily weak, and so tries to bring down members of the herds they stalk. They strike in synchrony hungering for that visceral rush wrought from the formation of screaming headlines only after which more insightful reflection takes place. This is particularly true when it comes to sports writing where cliché and sadly ill thought out perspectives are thrown around in syndicated form as fodder for even lesser individuals to regurgitate or rewrite as their ‘original’ work. That is why we are subjected to repeated waves of rubbish such as the writing off of Manchester United or the hailing of Chelsea as the only team capable replacing them in the current fiscal milieu of English and possibly European football. It is why Sol Campbell has suddenly grown ‘old and slow’, without anyone having initially contemplated the more likely possibility of him having experienced problems at home, something to which we are all prone whether highly paid professionals or not. Have a heart why don’t you? It is also why Arsenal are supposedly cash-strapped, lacking in experience, muscle or ambition as they appear to tumble from the Premiership’s crest towards a European Champions League-less season in an empty super stadium costing them two thirds of a billion dollars. And of course it is all coach Arsene Wenger’s fault for letting his captain, Patrick Vieira go. What was it that the Sex Pistols called their first album…,”Never mind the boll…”

What’s the real story then? Nothing so dramatic it seems. Manchester United and Arsenal will remain at the top, Chelsea and Liverpool too. They will continue to fight with Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC and Inter Milan, Juventus and Lyon for European supremacy. History dictates it be so, only Lyon and Chelsea being relatively new on the block. Success in the ‘beautiful game’ is really about consistency and a willingness to move with the times. That is why Arsenal will remain at the top along with the others. It has been that way for a century. In England, only Liverpool and Manchester United have won more silverware during that time, but in terms of top three finishes and avoiding the ignominy of relegation to the lower leagues, Arsenal is the most successful team in the history of the English game.

And what of Arsene Wenger? Has he lost his mind? No. He has a plan, a well-constructed long-term plan requiring sacrifice in the short term even if it is agonizing to Arsenal’s supporters used to instant gratification over the nine seasons he has been in charge. How can a man who speaks six languages, who has co-written a book on football in Japanese, with degrees in engineering & economics, and who has been offered the helm of the national teams of France, England, Germany and Japan, not to mention Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, and who has been Knighted by the Queen of England and the President of France for his services to the modern game of football be short on brains or vision? He is not. That is the press talking. Mr. Wenger understands history and looks to it to plan for the future. To this end he has a giant of a role model from the past to help guide him, another great man who took the necessary risks to insure long-term success of the Arsenal Football Club.

In the 1930’s, it was Arsenal’s manager, Mr. Herbert Chapman, who became the first coach to outstare a bullying and domineering chairman, securing the power and degree of control that coaches today take for granted. Ironically, he recognized the value of the media to spreading the popularity of football beyond the stands of local crowds to the country’s masses and to the financial sponsors of industry. Production of the first press box for BBC Radio and a supply of free food and tickets for reporters brought the Gunners more media coverage than any other team in the world at that time. He also came up with the idea of numbered shirts for fan recognition of players on the pitch. And to limit ridiculous tactics of lone men hanging around the goal-mouth waiting for the long ball, a boring tactic responsible for too many goals scored in each game, he devised the offside rule making the art of defense as important and intriguing as that of attack. This, in turn, led to the importance of the midfield as a bridge between the two.

Sixty-odd years later, in 1996, it was Mr. Wenger who opened the way for foreign coaches to enrich a stale English game. This led to an influx of foreign players who set alight the Premiership with European, African and South American flair making for great television watching, thereby bringing an even greater influx of money to the English Premier League making it the richest and most watched top flight league in the world. He stopped the drunken pub-crawling of professional footballers and introduced healthy diets, regular sleep, and the infusion of modern training and sports medicine techniques into the sport. In doing so he has added about three years to the professional life of most players. He advocated and succeeded in transforming Arsenal’s stoic but ‘boring’ game into an attacking brand of ‘total football’ rarely achieved by others at any level of the game, anywhere in the world. He matched Alex Ferguson for domestic success and Arsenal jointly ruled the English game with Manchester United for eight of the past nine years. Only this year have they struggled, but it isn’t because their captain left or because Chelsea raised the bar. Despite their obviously superb level of play with varying modes of defence and attack, the only bar that Chelsea have raised is the price of players on the market. They have paid up to twice the market value for many of them because they could, and because it derailed near set transfers of key players to Arsenal and Manchester United, a tactic their adversaries would likely have exploited as well if they could have (Michael Essien and Shawn Wright-Phillips being but two examples). Manchester United’s team of 1999 and Arsenal’s of 2003 set the bar for the number of cups won in a season and the run of games undefeated, and the first championship win without defeat in 118 years respectively. The quality of play of those two teams has been unsurpassed in Britain. And with two teams capable of winning the Premiership each year (only Chelsea capable of it now), it is little wonder that back-to-back medals by a single team were harder to achieve then. As for finances, nine of the richest twenty clubs in the world are English, and Arsenal varies yearly between sixth and tenth. They are hardly broke.

Currently, Mr. Wenger recognizes that the unique ‘sugar daddy’ situation that so rapidly promoted Chelsea to the summit (along with the hiring of a great coach and a will to work hard and win) is unlikely to be repeated just as it cannot, in the short term, be stopped or in the long term sustained. He must focus beyond and around that, using his eye for unrecognized talent with a touch of big spending here or there to build a team as good as any and at a fraction of the bloated cost of Chelsea’s.

He let his talismanic captain, Patrick Vieira go because he was no longer emotionally ‘there’ at Arsenal. Mr. Vieira hadn’t played well for two years. He has found his feet at Juventus after nine years at Arsenal. Only Chelsea’s deliberate and flamboyant use of their multibillionaire owner’s money prevented him being replaced by another French star, or one of Arsenal’s wingers by a diminutive if fast and creative Englishman, a player who now sits on a Chelsea shelf, unable to play but once in a while. At lest Arsenal didn’t get him. The need for Spanish citizenship and the lure of Real Madrid was enough to derail another almost sure transfer, that of ‘the beast’, Julio Baptista, a Brazilian on whom Wenger had long admired but one who ate his own egotistical words today as his team was superbly beaten by his scorned north London opponents.

Mr. Wenger couldn’t have predicted though that his team would be fraught with injury after injury such that a true first 11 would never emerge this season. His only real blind spot and weakness of foresight was to continue the same style of devastatingly fast and attractive play without a back-up plan such that the rest of the pack, following Chelsea’s lead, finally came up with an antidote: two banks of four defenders to which other teams including Manchester United added a rough and sometimes dirty form of play to choke and chop down Arsene Wenger’s speedy and graceful attacking defenders, midfielders and strikers.

So what’s left? A season or two, perhaps, where others (for a change) win most of the cups and championships. And yet in the European Champions League Arsenal is the only unbeaten team in the competition, save Juventus, having beaten all before them—including Real Madrid-- drawing only a single game to date. Thierry Henry is the highest scorer in club history and the third highest in the Champions League behind Van Nistelrooy and Raul of United and Madrid respectively. Henry is 10 goals shy of Raul’s record having played 20 fewer games. Like Liverpool last year, Arsenal must now be considered amongst the favourites to win the one competition that has so far eluded them.

Within a couple of years, playing in the country’s best planned and executed 21st century football stadium, will again rise again a team born and bred of the one that has served its time so well these past nine years, a team that has broken many records and won much admiration based on the brilliance of players such as Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, David Seaman, Jens Lehman, Tony Adams, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pires, Nicolas Anelka, Marc Overmars, Freddie Ljungberg and Dennis Bergkamp; a team which currently boasts a squad of talented players two thirds of whom are under the age of 24—many still under 20-- Robin Van Persie, Jose Antonio Reyes, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Adebayor, Phillippe Senderos, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure (and perhaps soon his even better brother Ya Ya Toure?), Mathieu Flamini, and Emmanuel Eboue.

This is a new beginning for the Gunners. The architect of their recent success and current rebuilding knows that it comes down to realistic if ambitious vision, staying the course, detailed and learned preparation and, of course, the luck that comes with the confluence of events that is beyond one’s control but adds up, essentially, to being ready and willing and being at the right place at the right time.
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Fair points. :undecide:
 

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Yep.

It's called going through a transition period, nothing wrong with that.

At least at Arsenal, you are allowed the time and space to grow, with full control and no outside interference.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
All this could change though if they finish below 4th and lose Henry+Cole. :happy:
 

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its not as much that arsenal is on the rise, as much as real madrid is on a fall.. however great win by arsenal nevertheless it should give them a great lift.
 

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L-Pheno said:
Is that why he is arguably the best player in Spain so far in 2006? :rollani:
You must be joking.

The best player in Spain so far in 2006? :sweeteye:
 

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Yeah, and now you're hearing it again.

If they don't succeed we can always go off and spend 200m on some new players ... err, no, we can't. Oh well. Them's the breaks.
 
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