No one ever believed that RVP’s treachery would end up benefiting the team, but we are here now.
Nobody likes to admit it, but Van Persie’s departure from Arsenal last year was one of the lowest points in any Gooner’s season. It doesn’t help that he left to one of our fiercest rivals and helped them win the league, scoring in both our encounters with them. That said, his departure may just have bucked a trend that may have been standing between Arsenal and silverware for many years.
At some point in the season, Arsene said that RVP’s departure was a positive because it facilitated a sharing of goals around the team. That statement barely scratches the surface. You see, during the Invincibles era, Thierry Henry was undoubtedly our talisman. However the team did not rely on him. Sure, having him in the team meant that there was an easy path to three points, but that did not mean that the team would crumble in his absence. On top of that, the team was not built around him, in the sense that Thierry had the luxury of playing anywhere across the front, but that did not come at the expense of another player. Nobody was ever asked to perform a role that was not in their nature just so that Thierry could express himself.
In that squad, everyone played their game and Arsene found a balance of players who complemented each other to produce the kind of results that they did. Even their style of play wasn’t just to hit the ball to Henry and wait for him to score, as tempting as that was. Thierry thrived off the team and not the other way round. Vieira and Parlour would command the midfield, Bergkamp would dazzle and create, and so on and so forth. I hesitate to say that we had ‘leaders’ on the pitch because that is not my point. This all changed after these players left.
After the invincible season, Wenger changed tactics. He decided that from then henceforth, he would build a team around one player. First it was (obviously) Henry: in the 2005-2006 season he virtually carried the team. Then he left, and it was Cesc’s turn: this was even more shocking given his age and experience levels. He proved everyone wrong and made the team tick for many seasons, to the point where an injury to him spelled doom for the team. Then he left and for a season, passed the baton to RVP. During the 2011-12 season, he literally singlehandedly dragged us to 3rd spot.
It doesn’t matter how good a player is, these tactics do not work.
Relying on one player means that you create a dependency mentality in the squad. Not only that, more often than not to accommodate this player, others are sacrificed or moved around to find the balance that best suits that player. Look at how Rosicky was played on the flanks to enable Cesc to have that free role in the middle. At Man utd, look at the fate that befell Rooney when RVP arrived. Even the mighty Barca have felt the negative effects of this.
Last season, though, we were left in a position where we did not have a clear talisman. This meant that everyone had to step up. In the end, Walcott finished as our top scorer, Santi as our best player, even though Wilshere was widely expected to take this honour, and had he been fully fit throughout, it would have been near impossible to distinguish between the two. All of a sudden, players’ positions in the team weren’t guaranteed and big names, such as the skipper, were dropped from the starting-11. These were moves which were unthinkable in previous seasons. The consequence is that we finally (after years of despair) have a proper defence.
It is good we had the season we had last year, because now everyone knows what everyone in the team can do. This means, that even if we bring in top players the squad will not place any pressure on them. Now everyone knows that Santi, Theo and Poldi are scorers, so a new striker will not have to shoulder the goal scoring burden alone. It has created an atmosphere where each player has a greater desire to contribute to the team, as they know that the platform is there. It also ensures that everyone gives 110% on the pitch rather than hide behind another player’s brilliance, because the focus is now on each and every one of them.
We now, after a long time, can truly say we have a team. No one ever believed that RVP’s treachery would end up benefiting the team, but we are here now. Football is a team sport and therefore we should never encourage the influence of certain individuals to determine the direction of the team, otherwise we ruin the essence of the game. Can you name one player that Bayern depends on?
Written by: Marcus.