The 25th of June 1988 – exactly 25 years ago – was a very special day for Dutch football. On that day, Holland won the European Championship in Germany by beating Russia by two goals to nil. Gullit had scored a goal worthy of a final, but the one that Van Basten scored was simply sublime, or I should say, other-worldly/ from a different planet. One that will be remembered forever, and not just in Holland.
I remember that day really well. Living in a medium sized town along the German border, we had already celebrated our semi-final victory over Germany, by driving our cars, bikes, motorbikes, scooters, etc along the local German border road. It was a brilliant sight: for a few kilometres, there was nothing but one thick, slow moving line of beeping, shouting, singing, Oranje supporters – all trying their hardest to let the Germans know that we had beaten them.
Many of us did not care that much about the final at that moment in time: overcoming the Germans on their own soil was far more important than winning the Euros back then. But on the day of the final, every Dutchman who cared at least a little bit about football was desperate to win, so we could finally lift a trophy.
After the (almost) golden years of the seventies, in which Holland reached the final of the World Cup twice in succession, the Dutch entered a seemingly eternal period of darkness, when they did not qualify for the 1982 and 1986 World Cup Finals.
But Holland stuck to its philosophy of how the game should be played, and finally it paid off. The master of Total Football, Rinus Michels, had a second stint at the national manager job, and Holland were lucky that a number of world class talents, such as Koeman, Van Breukelen, Rijkaard, Van Basten and Gullit all came to the fore around the same time. The rest is history.
Although Arsenal did not suffer a dark period as bad as the Dutch National Team did in the early to mid-eighties, it is fair to say that we have been going through challenging times since the completion of the new stadium.
But just like the Dutch, Arsenal stuck to their long-term philosophy of how to play football (and how to run the club properly), and there are strong signs now that Arsenal will enter a new period of success. Even Johan Cruijff has been singing the praises about how Arsenal football club is being managed, and that is saying something. Somebody ones said that Dutch society revolves around three ‘JCs’: Jesus Christ, John Calvin and Johan Cruijff, and there is more than a bit of truth in this! 😛
But, as 17 Highbury Terrace often likes to put it: all planets need to line up favourably for Arsenal in order to win silverware again; and in my view, this is starting to be the case now.
Gazidis believes Wenger will sign a new contract and the club is entering a number of new and improved commercial deals. There is a good group of players who have learned to work for each other and grind out results when needed, and who also have learned to spread responsibility throughout the team. There is a good mixture of early twenties promising talents and a group of quality, experienced, and hungry for success, mid to late twenties players. The club does no longer have to let players go to balance the books and has now enough funds to attract quality players, year on year. Early signs with regards to the club adding a few quality players to the team are more than promising.
So, almost all ingredients are here to make the next step to winning silverware in style again, and hopefully consistently so. But for me, things are not complete until Bergkamp returns to his real Home of Football. Dennis would be the perfect bridge between Arsene’s vision and the on-field execution of it. He would be the super-mentor who would enable the likes of Cazorla, Wilshere, Ox etc to get the very best out of themselves. Together with Bould, he would also be the best long term guarantee that Wenger’s vision and work will be carried on once he decides to leave.
The Iceman’s return might not happen this season, but it will happen rather sooner than later, of that I have no doubt. And I know I am not the only one who cannot wait till the day he does.
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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