Ryan Babel, the Dutch international who was allowed a second chance to establish an international career by Ronald Koeman, said something recently that made me think: this group of Dutch players do not have many egos amongst them and so there is a better chance for success – or something down that line. I am with him all the way re this: the era of big, self-celebration egos of Sneijder, Van Persie and Arjen Robben is luckily behind us, and the current Oranje are much more of a team with players working hard for each other rather than for their own glory.
Why am I writing this on an Arsenal blog? Well, one of the highlights of the season so far have been the selfless and yet very effective performances of the likes of Saka and Nelson on the left wing. Ryan Babel tends to play there too and, now in his early thirties, he really plays for the team and has become an automatic starter in Koeman’s Euro 2020 hopefuls. For six years he was not selected by Koeman’s predecessors so that is quite an achievement by the purple-haired former Liverpool player.
I like a player who is humble, works hard and likes to be part of a team. Players like Giroud and Mertesacker, Flamini and Ozil, Coquelin and Xhaka, Auba and Laca are the ones that make me really proud of our club.
On the left wing we have had some very talented players since the departure of one of our Invincibles, the one and only Robert Pires, in 2006. Reyes was phenomenal but did not stay long enough due to this homesickness for us to properly judge him. Arshavin could be unplayable on the day and Sanchez was close to world class in terms of raw talent and ability, but both players were never really part of the team and were mostly interested in their own glory, key stats and weekly wages. And when they left us they were quickly forgotten, and not really missed, despite their considerable contributions in terms of goals and assists. Football is of course a team game and really successful teams are much more than the sum of their individual talents and skills.
I don’t think Auba is used at his best on the left wing, and although I liked Iwobi a lot I don’t think he was best used there either. So the really, really good news is that we have two very talented youngsters on the team now who thrive on the left wing and work their socks off to get into the first team: Saka and Nelson.
It is early days to judge both their talents and personalities but they both look to me the real deal. Both have impressed me a lot with their team play and individual talents and they have given us a real edge, especially in the Cup games. It will be good to see who of these two will establish themselves on the left wing or whether they can both push themselves into the first team this season. I have no doubt that Pepe does not only feel pressure on his shoulders from his summer-sale price-tag but also from the fast emergence of two very talented and hungry young wingers.
To have at least three quality wingers on the team after years of make-do is music to our ears. Let’s see how they develop but hopefully the wait for quality and effective team-wingers is finally over.