On Tuesday night I watched a veritable feast of football. I have always had a soft spot for Ajax because of their footballing philosophy and youth academy that’s second to none.
Borussia Dortmund were pulverised in a game that could have gone on all night if you were not a Dortmund supporter. It was fast and furious but with the ball on the ground and movement all over the pitch. I have seldom seen such organised frenzy leading to such devastating football. It was like an alien team from a superior civilisation had come to play a game on our earth.
To play such football it needs to be in your DNA. It needs to be trained at youth level and it is about understanding roles and positions, about sensing the bigger picture and playing machine like football based around individual expression. This may sound like an oxymoron and for most managers it will always be an incompatible combination, but some managers get it right. And when they get it right they reach the Apex of football. Cruijff, Van Gaal, Klopp and Guardiola are blessed with it, and Ten Hag is showing very promising signs to be another master of total football
The absolute basic is that all players on the pitch are comfortable with the ball in tight spaces, are great passers and have a superb first touch. These are the sort of players Arteta is buying and growing, and we are not there yet.
Wenger transformed our club and how we have celebrated his football. The game moved on and under Arsene in the last decade there was too much individual expression and too little system based football. Klopp and Guardiola out-systemed him.
We now have Mikel Arteta: our hope is invested in him. He is transforming our entire approach to football – it’s a difficult and almost impossible task as the PL standards are so high now with all the best managers in the world and such a spoiled and impatient supporter base.
Mikel is getting there but it will take a lot of time and he may not be able to get us there all the way. But he will give his all for this grand project and he will need our support.
The job is hard as Arsenal got so far behind, but what a great journey we are experiencing. One day we will play Ajax-like football and it will all have been worth it. Arteta is getting us on the way and he may take us all the way. Key is to see the bigger picture and support the cause. We have some way to go.