The sports pages were full of the cricketer who almost single handedly tore the heart out of the Australian cricket team by his bowling performance on the last day of the second Ashes test match at Lords. This is a football blog, but as I watched the highlights on Monday evening in awe, I couldn’t help admiring the desire and effort put into what can only be described as the finest spell of consistent fast bowling within this amphitheatre of cotton clad Gladiators, the home of cricket.
What I would give to see the same degree of desire and effort given by the team dressed in red and white at the home of football this season. A return to fortress Emirates, with every team arriving with the hope that they can escape without being humiliated. I recall the last time England won the Ashes, our Club was experiencing a year of turmoil. Yes 2005 was the year and we had just come down to reality after our Invincibles Season the year before. Roman Abromovich had installed “The Special One” at Stamford Bridge and Man Utd’s Gary Neville inflicted what seemed like a series of assaults on Jose Antonio Reyes during that game which followed our 49 unbeaten.
That season we had the tapping up of Ashley Cole and we came second in the Premier league following our poor showing shortly after losing that 50th game at Man Utd. Patrick Vieira left for Juventus after helping us lift the FA Cup against Manchester United and Abou Diaby knocked John Terry out in the Community Shield on that Millenium Stadium turf within hours of England winning the Ashes. There was gloom and doom being expressed by fans and Thierry Henry became captain. In an effort to appeal for unanimous support from the fans. Arsene Wenger had made an appeal On Arsecom in July 25, 2005 with respect to Vieira leaving…
“I share the sadness with our supporters that Patrick has left us, but on the other hand I would say to them ‘trust us and support us. We’ll be strong next season and we need you behind us like you have always been. We will not disappoint you’.”
“I am very positive about the quality of my squad,” he said. “Many people write us off but if the players believe like I believe in them they will go in thinking they can do it.
“I am not in a hurry to replace Patrick,” he said. “We have Gilberto, Flamini and Fabregas. Pires can play in there also so we have plenty of players.”
“We have to compensate for Patrick’s departure but at some stage that will happen. Unless he plays forever you have to replace him sometime.”
The next year in May 2006 we reached the final of the Champions League. Ok we finished fourth in the league, but Arsene Wenger was right to point out the quality in the squad. It has perhaps been the mercenary approach of players improved under Wenger who instead of showing gratitude, decided to wield the knife and leave the club in the forlorn hope of better things, that have equally contributed to our demise. It is my view that the inconsistent performance of key players at important times has hurt us more than the lack of activity in the transfer market.
Why when we are able to raise our game to play one of our rivals in the “Big Four”, yet unable to dispatch Blackburn Rovers on a cold night in the North East, is it the fault of Arsene Wenger? Yes he picks the players, and believes in their quality, but if they cannot be bothered to show the kind of pride and effort that was present in spadefuls at Lords yesterday, then the outcome is becomes rather inevitable. The only additional parallel that I wish to draw from 2005 is that Arsene Wenger has said this week on Arsecom
“The message is to trust the players that we have, this is a very big season for us but I believe that we are in a very strong position.”
“Big clubs have lost big players before. For example Milan has lost Kaka [this summer] and yet Milan will go on. Arsenal have lost big players in the past and still continued at the top level.”
“There are positive messages as well from the summer. Remember players like Van Persie and Fabregas have stayed here after being announced away.
“So I feel we have a big enough squad to deal with the targets that we have.”
With the introduction of “one or two players” to use a well worn Wenger mantra, this Club can again achieve greatness. So much of what we have achieved in the past was based upon a complete team performance. Never will I have waited for the beginning of a season with so much expectation. No more fear and despondency, in fact for once Arsenal fans can actually begin to believe that the tide has turned in our favour. Chelsea are in turmoil over John Terry and probably the bookies favourites for the title, Manchester United have lost Ronaldo and are making “Arsenal like” signings in terms of youth and free transfers like Michael Owen and Liverpool seem set to lose their pass master Xabi Alonso and despite their European performances, they lack the killer instinct in the league.
So what has happened in our club? We have lost (ahem) Adebayor… Ok with the news of Samir Nasri’s broken leg during a training ground injury this may seem like a bitter blow but we should have have him back after Christmas for those key fixtures, plus we have Tomas Rosicky who appears to be Wengers pick to fill that void. I feel that despite these recent events the Premiership playing field has not so much become level as actually tilted towards us. We can now take advantage of the other teams enforced major changes or distractions as they face the likes of Manchester City.
Players like Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Gael Clichy and Eduardo who will provide the experience and expertise. Others including Carlos Vela, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Keiran Gibbs will provide youthful desire. Add to those players Theo Walcott and our new addition Thomas Vermaelen, then the next two expected additions will only supplement the undoubted quality that we already possess. Our squad has depth of experience after last year and that actually counts for alot. It is this continuity that makes me confident. In fact the one player who could be our own “Freddie Flintoff” is the slightly more diminuitive Arshavin who leads by example. If played in his best position just behind the striker, expect LOTS of goals…
WAIT! a defensive midfielder and a striker are still needed I hear you shout. Maybe so, but whilst Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis circumnavigate this minefield of last minute explosive demands of greedy agents and the booby traps of inflated transfer fees, don’t lose your nerve. Believe in our destiny and celebrate our history. We never do things the easy way, but success always comes to those who are patient at this club. The experience of last season will be beneficial to our players and it will aid them greatly.
If we have to make do with what we already have, we can still achieve victory this season with good vocal support from the fans, as those English Cricketers had during that last day. Fans cheering and a pulsing atmosphere will lift performances to secure winning results in close contests. We should see any further additions to the squad as a bonus. So lets respond posit ively to Arsene Wenger’s call and do are part, please show your support loudly and passionately because this season is going to be special.