Tottenham’s athleticism, Liverpool’s high press, Chelsea’s efficiency, Man City’s fluidity and Man Utd’s wing play (now lost) are definitions of identity, it is time we found ours again.
At present we are average in every area making it difficult to articulate what we are or what we are trying to do. Therefore, summer investment with the intention of restoring Arsenal’s DNA is imperative. In trying to define us, I have taken into account what we stand for and what can realistically be achieved:
Technical Emphasis: Whether it be the 1998 double winners, The Invincible’s or the Fabregas-led team, all incorporated technically advanced and creative players who played exquisite football (built on quick and clever combinations) which brought great pride to the club and made us the role model of the Premier League. Accordingly, Arsenal need to invest in playmakers and technically gifted wide-forwards to bring back take-your-breath-away football.
Possession: A divisive subject given the criticism for having possession for possession’s sake but over the last 20 years we have always attempted to monopolize the ball in order to dominate games. In fairness we still try but are no longer quick enough of feet or accurate enough of pass to achieve it. Our current personnel (ignoring Ozil and Wilshere) are not suited to this type of game and therefore a sacrifice needs to be made of talented long passers, box to box deep midfielders and forwards out wide in preference of technical players with the necessary quick feet and adeptness at one-touch passing.
Balance: From commonalities in Arsene’s teams to something lost many years ago. Wenger’s early teams combined power, athleticism, aggression and defensive focus with exceptional attacking play ensuring both defence and offence were taken care of. Moving forwards our technical beauty needs to be facilitated by aggression, hard work and aerial dominance (the beast if you like.) Investment in a dominant centre-half, defensive midfield presence and wide midfielders (with good work rate) will bring the requisite balance. Finding such an equilibrium is crucial if we want success and should never again be ignored.
Athleticism: Both the 1998 side and Invincible’s possessed athleticism through the heart of the side such as Sol Campbell’s pace and strength, Vieira’s ability to boss a game and Henry’s speed and power. Whilst technique and ball retention are priorities, Arsenal sides of the future must equally value the ability to compete athletically. The love of a talisman like Vieira who brought such prevailing power and a reassurance that we would not be bullied is something that has been confined to nostalgia, well it needs to come back. The obvious area to address is this Vieira-type replacement but be under no illusion that a domineering centre back and a couple of quick/hard working wide players would also raise our level of athleticism.
Self-Sufficient: Arsenal Football Club has always lived within its means, not over-spending and giving players from our youth set up a chance. With the exception of Bruce Rioch we have also always given managers time and support and therefore we as a fan base must respect the values of the club and not become a modern day fickle fan base baying for blood after a handful of poor results. We have always been an aspirational and classy club known for doing the right thing. Long may it continue.
The plan is very clear, use the summer to move players on who don’t fit in with the definition of Arsenal and then invest the generated funds on the players that will bring back exciting attacking football (via slick combination play), ability to dominate possession and are balanced both defensively and athletically. Win or lose at least then we are playing football the Arsenal way.