Does He Really Know?April 9, 2015
All those years ago, some weird looking Frenchman (with glasses and probably a cigarette in hand) joined Arsenal Football Club. Arsene Wenger was tasked with changing a team that played football which would have made Tony Pulis’ Stoke look like Pep’s Barcelona, the 2009 one. Some French signings and new diets later, the Bloke won the double in his first full season. Arsene’s leadership coupled with Dennis Berkamp’s…aah..well….Dennis just being Dennis actually, saw the team come from 12 points behind to win the title Ahead of you-know-who.
We beat Newcastle at Wembley to win the win the FA Cup but it’s not the winning that caught the eye at the time, it’s how it was done. A Combination of George Graham’s defensive steel and Arsene’s slick one touch football, football porn. Arsene was like a Messiah to English football at the time, someone needed to step up and challenge Sir Alex Ferguson and damn right he was that man. Arsenal v Manchester United, Arsene v Fergie. This was the story from ‘98 to ‘05.
Sadly all this changed from 2005. At that moment Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira crossed paths on the long walk of footballing hell in the Millennium Stadium, our Arsene and more importantly our Arsenal changed. That game should have served as a warning, a sign of things to come. We were completely outplayed, out-thought, a complete shambles of a performance. I don’t think anyone needs reminding how many trophies we won after that. From the onset Arsene had his weaknesses, everyone does, but on his part he had absolutely top class players to bail him out time and time again, Thierry Henry v Liverpool at Highbury in 2004 and Jens Lehmann in THAT FA Cup final the two obvious examples.
What he had now were kids who didn’t bode well with the ‘you-know-what-you-should-do’ approach that Arsene employed on his previous teams. From a thuggish African captain to a sweet Spanish boy as our captain (that sounds racist BTW) yet the approach remained the same from the manager. The pretty football remained, with make up this time, but the defensive steel was gone. This was an Arsenal team assembled by Arsene and Arsene alone. Not a single soul from the Graham era remained and the results were showing, 4-4 at Newcastle anyone? We remained ever so close to success but a defensive deficiency somewhere cost us; Gael Clichy at Birmingham, Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny at Wembley, Cesc Fabregas at Camp Nou just to point out a few. Nine years of one too many ‘Almosts’. Arsene still had those who trusted in his abilities but the disgruntled bunch kept growing as each loss passed. Finally, a bid to earn a new contract and salvage his fading career a new Arsene was somewhat born.
Last season saw Arsenal travel back in time to the good old days where we would sit back, absorb pressure and hit on the counter. This worked against the small sides but every time we faced a ‘big team’ the ‘Cesc Arsenal’ showed up. 17 goals shipped in three games against Chelsea, City and Liverpool. We even lost to that team managed by David Moyes. An FA title cup served as consolation to a season where we led the league for 128 days but questions still remained as to whether we will ever do it against a big team. Now this season could turn up to be another ‘almost’ but as far as the big games are concerned progress has been made. We beat City in Manchester, Welbecked Man United in the same city and just the other day blew Liverpool away in London. Is it luck? Are they just worse than us or is Arsene back to Knowing?