Wolfgang Amadeus Mesut: Arsenal’s nr1 Conductor Ozil holds the key to Silverware

Mesut Ozil would always be one of the first players on my team sheet if I was the Arsenal manager. I have never seen him play a bad game but in some games he is more effective than others. In order to fully appreciate him, though, you have to see him play live: not in an arm chair but in a football stadium, which I know many Gooners are unable to do.

His creative genius and willingness to work hard, combined with his desire to ALWAYS add attacking value to his team with every ball he touches, make Mesut so special. His running with and without the ball is superb, and his ability to find the killer pass is unsurpassed. He is not a loud extrovert but a humble introvert who lets his feet do the talking – this, among many other qualities, he shares with his nr10 predecessors, Cesc Fabregas and the great Bergkamp. And the English game has been blessed with the services of three of the finest European nr10 geniuses – two of whom are luckily still in action and should meet each other once again tomorrow evening.

It is fair to say he has not yet reached his peak this season. Mesut had ‘just’ 2.3 key passes and 57 passes per PL game, and he scored one goal and is yet to produce an assist, this season; whereas he reached a brilliant 4.2 key passes and 65 passes per PL game, and scored 6 goals and produced a whopping 19 assists, in 2015-16. But it is of course early days, and I rather see him peak towards the end then at the beginning of the season.

Some believe Mesut is still tired from the Euros but I reckon he is simply lacking form and has been given time by Wenger to improve it gradually. Tomorrow, against the Chavs, he needs to be close to his best form if we are to find a way through the parked blue and white buses. Mesut will be 28 next month and is reaching now his best footballing years. If we are to win the league we will need a strong core of six to seven players of top quality and the right attitude. Mesut will be one of them.

With Alexis as CF and excellent runners next to him with the likes of Iwobi, Theo, Ox and (possibly) Perez for Wenger to pick from, Mesut has to find his form to be our nr1 conductor once again. The sooner this happens the quicker Arsenal can reach top level.

No pressure Mesut but tomorrow you have to rediscover your inner Mozart and make the troops play to your tunes. Ich glaube an dich! 🙂

By TotalArsenal


Alexis, Mesut, Jack and Aaron the new Thierry, Dennis, Freddie and Robert?

Alexis CF, Mesut nr.10… with Jack and Aaron ‘Mid-wings’: Discuss! 🙂


Regular readers know that I am a great believer in Giroud and that I do not see a need to buy a CF anytime soon. Giroud allows others to shine and he carries a strong goal threat himself. Ollie is the complete package in the modern game, even though he is not the best classical centre forward Arsenal ever have had by any stretch. For me it is clear that Arsene wants our attack to be unpredictable and multi-dimensional, and Giroud offers a great base to operate from, especially if and when we play park the bus teams. His stats are great, his work rate good, and his total contribution to the team is simply fantastic.

I also like Theo, who offers speed and keeps defences close to their goalkeepers, often allowing our midfielders to boss the midfield. This works especially well against teams that like to attack us/ do not park the bus. With Theo we are at our most dynamic, especially once we have regained the ball and can break forward.

I love it that we have these two options for attacking different opponents, and I reckon Giroud and Theo will get plenty of chances to shine. But there is a third option for us, and that is playing Alexis as our CF. He can do hold/link up play, he is fast, he has energy and a great threat from outside and inside the box. He can dribble and take defenders on, and he also has a decent through-ball in his repertoire. He also is a great finisher and a predator with relentless energy and hunger. The total ‘pure’ CF package, if you ask me…

I would love Arsene to try Alexis as our CF, but I guess he will not do it until he has a good alternative on the left wing. With Ozil in the hole and Alexis up top, we would not be that far from what Bergkamp and Henry had to offer a  decade or so ago.

What we also need is good midfielders on the wings that can work in tandem with their flying full-backs: Bellerin and Nacho. Rambo and Bellerin have formed a very strong partnership in which the FB is the real winger and the midfielder is both an attacker and co-defender, and I reckon we need to buy a good left winger/midfielder to make the Ozil-Sanchez partnership really work.

But then I thought about Jack coming back in the new year. I see Jack in either Cazorla or Ozil’s current role, but both have been playing very well and it would be wrong to force either out. But what about playing Jack on the left wing for a while? Nacho and Jack would be able to work a fine partnership ala Aaron and Bellerin, and Jack can do on the left what Ramsey does on the right. Both would also be allowed to move about and interchange with Ozil, as to keep it all fluid and unpredictable.

This is how it would look like:

Midfield heaven

Of course we would need Coquelin back, which will take a while now, and Jack would need to be fully fit. But once everybody is available, this could be a very strong team in my opinion. Jack and Rambo could develop into our new Ljunberg and Pires… And with Theo, Giroud and Danny we would have options to vary this approach.

What do you think FFGs? 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Does Arsene finally, finally have his new Bergkamp?


Sanchez and the 4-4-2

With a whole week off before the next game, I thought a fluff piece may be in order just to get the discussions and debating back in full swing.

Watching Sanchez playing at Sunderland, everything about him just screamed “number 10” more than it has ever done before with Ozil, or even my man Jack.  It got me to thinking though, could we play an old fashioned no.10 – you know, to its fullest potential, in that crazy formation that won us so many accolades and silverware – the 4-4-2?

Do we have the quality to make this system work once again, and really provide for such an excellent player like Sanchez?

I thought I would have a go, do my best at being ruthless concerning quality and athleticism, see what I could come up with and ask you any important questions that arose during the process.


Debuchy, BFG, Koscielny and Gibbs: to be honest, apart from a lack of pace by our big man I cannot fault the defensive solidity that this group should bring to the team.  With such a lack of options here though, they are largely uncontested places and with the exception of Monreal all other options are either prospects or loanees.

Monreal, Chambers, Ajayi and Jenko would make up my reserve back line for the future, and I hope Jenko keeps up the good work he’s doing at West Ham atm.


With Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini all being fringe players (at best) in most midfields across top clubs in Europe, Diaby only ever one training session away from being injured and Coquelin AWOL most of the time, I decided to be ruthless and cut the lot; but who’s left as the engine room in midfield?

Wilshere and Ramsey have to be the first choice pairing for our future, with OX and Hayden representing exciting and solid prospects respectively.

For those who don’t know Hayden, he has excelled both in ability and leadership and captained at every level he has played at, both domestically and for his country.


Do we have any old style wingers left now? With OX constantly showing he prefers creeping inside over hugging the line, I can think of only two.  Luckily, one is right footed and the other left, so it makes a good pairing.  Walcott and Campbell, plenty of pace and goals in both which is a benefit.  Future prospects would have to include Gnabry and Bellerin as both are again bursting with pace and goals.

Number 10:

Ozil, once the wonderkid of this position, has now got his work cut out to defend his place here by the excellent (and in my opinion the more exciting prospect) Sanchez.  Both still have much to offer though, so no departures in this area anytime soon I hope, but who does the starting place go to?


I’m looking for pace in this type of formation, like the kind Henry used to have with the strength he also used to show when needed.  With this in mind, I am afraid Giroud and Podolski are out, but Welbeck is in.  Future prospects include Akpom who has all the attributes Henry used to have and now needs experience and Sanogo who is a bit hit and miss at the moment to say the least but could be great.

What do we end up with then?

The Blueprint:


The starting XI:

starting XI new

The second (substitution) XI:

second XI


  1. Remember the Invincibles used to play week in week out, almost the same starting line up every game, would these resulting teams have the physical endurance to do that?
  2. Our midfield was once known for its aggression and strength, although many agree that this is not needed so much in the modern game, it is interesting how the modern day users of this system (Man City) have adopted an almost carbon copy of our template from days gone by, with excellent results. Do we have this type of steel in midfield from the options we have?  Do we need it?  Are our options better?
  3. Do you feel any of the players I so callously call “fringe players” could perform better in any of the positions, and if so: who, where and why?
  4. Are there any other players I have missed that you think deserve a place?
  5. With so many favourite names cut from the teams, producing a second XI that looks more like an U21 side than a premiership team, do you think we would have enough quality and depth in the squad to make this work?
  6. Are there any players you would simply like to replace with new arrivals in January? I know BFG’s pace has become a topic for debate but are there others?

 My answers:

  1. With the exception of Koscielny (with his continuing Achilles problem) and BFG who is beginning to age a little I feel the whole starting XI have shown they have the athleticism to play week in week out.
  2. For most games I think an on form Ramsey and Wilshere pairing would excel, watching them run rings around Toure and Fernando in the Charity Shield was a joy to watch. I would be slightly worried that there is no G. Silva type option available at all other than Hayden.  I would love to see Schneiderlin added to the squad to give that option if needed, but would he move for a seat on the bench at Arsenal until needed in a particular game though?  Maybe relying on an untested (at this level) but patient and willing to wait Hayden may be the more realistic choice – though not my preferred one.
  3. I obviously don’t, all seem leggy and are nearer the end of their careers rather than their prime.
  4. Coquelin could do a job in midfield as a more defensive option but it seems (at least atm) the boss has lost all faith in him.
  5. Apart from Ajayi. who I have never really seen play, I would say yes, as a substitute XI I feel it is still brimming with talent and all would be willing to wait for their chance which means no shuffling of the starting XI just to give players game time .
  6. In that starting line-up, I see only three players who are only even slightly suspect; Campbell has yet to show his true potential, but I don’t think he’s been given any sort of chance to do so yet. Then there is Koscielny, with his ongoing injury but a warrior nevertheless, and I feel Chambers is already the perfect candidate for his replacement when needed.  And BFG, having reached his potential a few years ago now, I feel (tough as it is to say) a big name replacement here would be an excellent addition – we are talking Varane level though.

I guess the question I have to ask myself is, would I swap Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini, Diaby and Coquelin for just one class CB and one class DM – probably, at the moment I could see Schneiderlin and Varane offering a lot more to the team’s structure than all those players combined.

My point of view is that we need goals, we are just not scoring enough.  There was a time when we used to score for fun and it was back when we used this system.  It takes special kinds of players to make this system work though but for the first time in ages I really think we have those players in the squad now.

When I look at the Invincibles line up, I see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the forward line, with G. Silva the only player not guaranteed to add attacking threat.  Likewise, when I look at the new starting XI I have made above, I also see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the front line, with only Wilshere lacking in that department.

I have to contrast that with what I saw at Sunderland on Saturday;

Arteta and Flamini – not goal threat there

Cazorla – has scored 4 goals in the premiership in the last 2 years

OX – Looks threatening but is not producing for one reason or another

All it takes is for your only striker to have a slightly off day (not unusual against a team set to defend), and it’s no wonder the only goals came from Sanchez excellently capitalising on two mistakes from the opposition.

Better teams won’t make those mistakes, so where are the bloody goals going to come from?

Is it any wonder we are not scoring atm, should we really expect any different?

I feel, whether it is because of injuries or a lack of faith in the midfield pairing to produce without the safety net of Flamini behind them, that the boss has played it safe and is largely underutilizing the squad we have at our disposal.  Players are coming back from injury, we are lacking goals: it is time to take the safety net away and let the lads produce!

4-4-2 with Sanchez tip toeing in Bergkamp’s shadow.

Could we make it work, would we even want to: Invincibles or Impossibles?  Tell me what you think.

Written by: Steve

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Arguably the Greatest nr.10 Ever: Master of Balance.


Being a person who started watching football because of Dennis Bergkamp, I had been trying to get my hands on a copy of the new book by David Winner on Dennis Bergkamp, “Stillness and Speed”. My fiancé finally got it for me and I couldn’t wait to dig into it.

Stillness and Speed reads very much unlike what a typical football biography reads like; it is constructed of a simple structure that allows for a brilliant insight into the life and mind of the genius that is Bergkamp. Winner himself, in the preface, sights the book Puskas on Puskas as one of the inspirations behind the structure of Stillness and Speed. The book is made of chapters of questions and answers with the Dutch master, detailing his time as a child to the early years in Ajax, the lost years in Italy and finally the Arsenal years. This journey is punctuated by Dennis’ accounts of the tournaments he played with the Dutch national team, and of the in-fighting amongst arguably one of the most talented national teams in the world.

There are no headline grabbing assertions, no declarations that would propel the book to the tabloids must read list, rather Stillness and Speed reads in a vein similar to how Dennis himself would play. There is class and elegance, yet a simplicity of thought and action. Dennis comes across as a connoisseur of the game, a person who ‘serves the game’ as Arsene Wenger points out. A recurring theme in his story is that of balance. For Dennis, the most important thing is the balance, whether that is in how he controls the ball or how he controls his thoughts.

There are wonderful accounts of the goal against Argentina in ’98 and the goal against Newcastle. The ’98 goal remains his One Big Moment, the moment where he says all his life led him to. In a game where he was not at his best, he has three touches and a goal. It is incredible to read his account of the goal and how his fellow players saw the moment. There are also accounts of his FA Cup penalty miss (which, it is interestingly noted, was as close as we got to the double that year, instead Man U won the treble) and his fear of flying.

Another interesting thing that comes out is his love for the sublime with respect to playing with the football. As a kid growing up, Dennis tried to understand the nuances of ball control, and for him it was always about a challenging ball that he would control. He learnt about how the various positions of the foot hitting the ball, and the pace with which the ball would be hit would result in the flight of the ball. He said to his team mates, once he arrived in Arsenal, to never give him a simple ball. He asked them to challenge him, so he can challenge himself. It is also clear that he was a big influence on players like Pires and Henry, and the group of exquisite talent that Arsenal had in the early 2000s that went on to become the Invincibles were hugely inspired by Dennis.

It is also insightful to see how Dennis saw Arsene, considering the recent flak Arsene has taken on his lack of tactical nous. Dennis saw Arsene as a fellow lover of the game, a man with a philosophy who prepares the players to extend themselves and to play with his philosophy. At the same time, the impression I get is that for Dennis, Arsene’s style is a derivative mix of the Total Football style with pace and defensive strength (an English hallmark), rather than a simple attack-at-all-costs philosophy. It is interesting to try to reconcile this vision (which was quite evident in the Arsenal teams of the early 2000s) with the teams that have been going out in the last few seasons. On the same vein, there are passages highlighting the arguments the two of them had on football and on Dennis’ decreasing playing time as he grew older. Despite that, there is great mutual respect between the two of them.

There are colorful descriptions of Dennis as a joker in the team, playing pranks on the likes of Martin Keown; and his wonderfully coincidental meeting with Ian Wright at a petrol station when he had first arrived to sign on for Arsenal. Another very unique passage in the books details Dennis’ time in Italy, with the details coming from his teammates in Inter Milan. It is evident that the Inter team did not want to change their philosophy to Dennis’; and Dennis also did not want to change himself to the Italian way. It was a marriage that was destined to fail.

Dennis comes out as a man who believes in his vision of the game, who loves the nuances of the first and second touches to the ball, who believes in the value of a tough assist rather than an easy goal. He is a believer in coaching the Ajax youngsters in a similar philosophy, raising artists with their unique visions of the game rather than off-the-shelf developed youngsters who will play a position and are trained to do what the position demands. Dennis’ comparison between structure of a position, and structural training (Where the youngster playing on the wing for instance will always run up and down and cross, but never create using the balance of players on the pitch or the spaces on the pitch) vs. a more free expressive training in which the youngster can be a creative artist with a vision. Dennis’ love for spaces and on-pitch geometry comes out brilliantly.

All in all, it is a brilliant read; a must for lovers and students of the game and lovers of Dennis Bergkamp. My only gripe with the book is that whereas his early years and Italian years are described with detail, his time at Arsenal is more anecdotal, and the season by season transition and detail feels missing. Still, a fantastic book on arguably the greatest no 10 ever.

Written by: Umair Naeem

Bergkamp’s Benediction Complete? Surely Not Yet!


Finally, Dennis Bergkamp was given the recognition by the club he thoroughly deserves. On Saturday 22 February, the non-Flying Dutchman’s ‘in-flight’ statue was revealed outside the stadium among many fans. Truly great people accompany their phenomenal successfulness and lightness of being with a healthy, natural dose of humility. Dennis is not a man of many words, but you only have to look at his face to see what this statue means to him; he was truly humbled by the occasion.

We all know what Dennis brought to our club with his vision, passion and talents. He was the embodiment on the pitch for Arsene’s Wengerball; and, like him, he understood the rare value of loyalty – of sticking with something rather than choosing the easy route to ‘success’, by seeing something through till the end.

Immortal DB10
Immortal DB10

Bergkamp does not need a statue to become immortal with many generations of Arsenal supporters, as he simply already occupies in each and every one of us, a permanent mass of brain cells directly linked to our ability to appreciate beauty and love for Arsenal; indeed, many of us simply refer to him as ‘God’. But it is nevertheless a fine gesture by the club, and an appropriate recognition of what he meant, and means, to us all.

As such, his benediction – the state of being blessed – appears to be complete. And yet, it feels there is still more to come. As we all know, Dennis has moved into football management, albeit in an assistant role to De Boer at Ajax.

The question is whether he will ever move into the top job, as he appears satisfied with his current subservient role, which also requires a minimum need to fly in scary aeroplanes, of course. I can only see it work in a two-headed club manager role, in which Dennis stays home when the team plays far way.

But, even in an assistant role Bergkamp could make a real difference at our club. He could work with the likes of Jack, Ox, Zelalem, Eisfeld, Ramsey etc etc, and turn them into top class players. At Ajax, the fruits of his hard work are mostly wasted, as they simply cannot keep hold of their talents anymore. A real shame – an international disgrace, in fact.

Therefore, it would only make sense for Dennis to join us in the near future and take his rightful place next to Arsene and Steve. Please make it so, Arsene!


How DB10 re-inspired me: ‘Stillness and Speed’

‘Stillness and Speed’, by Dennis Bergkamp – A Review.

Thanking The Guardian for the picture.
Thanking The Guardian for the picture.

In terms of footballing autobiographies I am not very widely read; I think the extent of my involvement is Perry Groves’s (which was ridiculously funny in places, but amounted to essentially a collection of anecdotes) and Kenny Sansom’s, which I still haven’t finished. However, having spent four days immersed in Dennis Bergkamp’s experiences, I have emerged from my self-imposed exile from humanity with a much more satisfied glow than these other former Gunners provided, or threatened to provide. I feel now much more like I did at the end of Fever Pitch: pleased that God made me Gooner, and privileged to enjoy football in a way that only a Gooner can (and as Nick Hornby pointed out, this sometimes involves intense disappointment, frustration and hatred). If you’re looking for an objective review, you’re probably on the wrong website. I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone either, so my review won’t mention anything in great detail, as I could not do any of what was said justice by rehashing it into my own words.

Overall one of the best things I found was that the narrative isn’t a ghost writer imposing his own linguistic artistry onto Dennis’s thoughts and portraying them as his own, but rather a transcript of interviews with him and others who knew enough about him to add something worthwhile to the book (family, friends, colleagues and bosses from the teams he played for – notably Ian WWW, Thierry Henry and AW).

As I read the first few pages, I began to realise why I didn’t become a professional footballer (as I had wanted to when I was 6), or even very good at football at all: the attention to detail that Dennis put into everything, particularly football, was incomprehensible to me; and the feeling that he understood deeply something I only ever see superficially grew as the book progressed, as he spoke about distances between players, angles, manipulating space on the pitch, working for the team and making the perfect pass.

As an Arsenal fan, knowing where the book was headed even at the beginning, I was delighted to learn that he had put in more time and effort as a kid playing football on the street than I have ever had the concentration to put into football – he would aim for particular bricks in the wall he used to kick a ball against and constantly test out what happened when the ball rebounded in this way or that, or when he changed variable x, y or z.

Another impressive trait I observed was that of him not objecting to other people seeing events differently to him: he called it having their own truth, and he encouraged the authors to get the points of view honestly from others involved, such as at Inter Milan, where he doesn’t seem to have had a very good time. And although he would defend himself against some of what was said it would only be to put across his own view.

Turns out Dennis Bergkamp doesn’t like to do things the way other people do them.

That’s why he signed for Inter instead of Milan, opting against joining the Dutch trio who enjoyed enormous success there, where he would have been able to integrate pretty easily with van Basten and co, but would have become just another player scoring lots of goals: he wanted to make a distinct mark. It is also one of the reasons why, when he left Inter, he signed for us rather than the Spuds where Hoddle, one of his favourite players, had made a mark. Whatever the reason, and really the story of every human life hinges on decisions which may be made on little more than a whim, he signed for Arsenal and he has Arsenal in his blood now.

It was illuminating reading about situations at Highbury when Bruce Rioch was appointed; this was a time when the information superhighway was more of a dirt track, and one I was not connected to: most of my ‘knowledge’ of football came from Amiga games, and I was more concerned with whether Arsenal had beaten Villa or Man United than I was with who our manager was. From the time he was appointed to the time he departed, all I knew about him was that he’d been the Bolton manager when they’d knocked us out of the FA Cup. I didn’t realise he’d had a vision for Arsenal to play attractive football too.

Despite my comments about Perry Groves’s book earlier, autobiographies would be nothing without anecdotes, and once Dennis has signed for Arsenal there are a good few of them, and as a Gooner a lot of them made me giddy with excitement, as I’m sure they will you lot too.

I know I said I didn’t want to spoil it but if you don’t know the one about his first meeting with Ian Wright, you’re in for a treat; in general however it was exhilarating to see what other people at Arsenal had to say about him, particularly Thierry and Wrighty, who played up front alongside him. I get the impression that it was really at Arsenal he was allowed to become the footballer he wanted to be and his commitment to the team (whichever one he was playing for) is something that is reflected in the way he takes pleasure as much in his assists as he does in his goals.

It is lovely to relive his great goals as well though: another reminder as to why I was never going to play football for a living though as he talked me through his decision making processes and the attendant awareness of everything around him on the pitch. The goal against Newcastle still has me in awe, as does the one for Holland at the World Cup.

Discussions of his experiences at Ajax, Inter and Arsenal lend themselves naturally to delicious considerations of his footballing ideology both by himself and others, notably Johan Cruyff, AW and Thierry. Certain transfer decisions are cast into lights we may not have considered before too, which, whilst objectively uninteresting, is still of immense interest to (certain) Gooners. I was just annoyed Vieira to Juve wasn’t one of them.
I’m not a literature buff so I don’t read many books more than once, but this is certainly one I will come back to. Because of Stillness and Speed, my three-year-old can now recognise DB10 and AW, and I feel like a better informed Gooner for reading it.

I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to Gooners.

Written by: Jozefos2013

For another review, see this Guardian link:



The Return of the King, DB10’s Testimonial, Beating Barca: 10 Unforgettable Moments at The Emirates


Over the past month and a half, us Gooners have been waiting for the signal of intent which was put out there by Ivan Gazidis. As we all know nothing has happened since then.

I, for one, am sick and tired of the transfer window. I just want the Football to start once again. We are only days away, and rather than the usual doom and gloom over potential transfers, or the lack of perceived activity by our club and how thin our squad is at the moment, I would like to revisit my 10 favourite moments at the Emirates so far.

I invite you all to agree or disagree, and please feel free to share your favourite moments on Bergkampesque.

Here are mine:

Could a better script have been written on that night? The king returns, comes on as a substitute and scores the winning goal. “THIERRY HENRY, THIERRY HENRY, THIERRY HENRY, THIERRY HENRY”

Barcelona, a Team that has swept all other teams aside. Arsenal, a team that had no hope or was not given a chance of winning this game. The script doesn’t always go according to plan. The little Russian produced a stunning goal to seal it for the Gunners.

Who could pass up a chance to see DB10 play once more for the Gunners? Besides, it was only right to give him a farewell worthy of all the hard work and memories which he has provided us all

Nr.4 – ARSENAL VS TOTTENHAM 5-2 (Not once but twice)
Nothing more needs to be said.


The magic of Cesc and the demolition of our noisy neighbours. Things do not get much better.

Always great to beat Chle$ki

It was mission impossible from the start but so close.

A wonder strike by Zorro gives us the win we deserved

Who doesn’t like a whipping going our way especially after the whipping we received earlier that season against ManUre

In my opinion, Theo scores goal of the season by his persistence and skills.

I hope you have all enjoyed a lighter post and look forward to sharing your favourite moments at the emirates.

Written by: alexgunners



Thierry Henry: Player-Coach?


Yesterday’s announcement that the 39 year old Ryan Giggs will become a player-coach for  MU with immediate effect, made me thinks once again about our need to have and retain experienced winners, who also embody the core values and traditions of the club, at Arsenal.

I know that virtually everybody agrees that Bergkamp should join the coaching staff at Arsenal as soon as possible. We will have to wait and see whether this will happen.

However, there is another legend who would fit the bill perfectly, and like Ryan Giggs, he is still playing: Thierry Henry. Henry is a young chicken compared to Giggs, having only lived for a mere 35 years until now. And our all-time leading scorer with 228 goals has played not that many games less than the fantastic Welshman either (at least with regard to his on-field actions, we can only say that he was a fantastic footballer). Giggs played 1009 matches (including Internationals) and Henry 861.

TH14 has won virtually everything a modern footballer can win. The World Cup, the European Championship, the PL, Ligue 1, La Liga, the CL, and many, many cups and individual awards. He also loves Arsenal and sees the only part that matters in North London as his spiritual football home.

I am a big believer in the master-apprentice model of learning, especially in sports. As Arsenal likes to develop their own talents – often bought at a young age and therefore still totally mouldable – I reckon it is paramount to have a number of (former) masters in all disciplines at the club. Bould is doing a great job in getting the best out of our defenders and defensively minded midfielders at the moment, for example.

At MU they tend to keep hold of their veteran stars, although Van Nistelrooy, Stam and Beckham might tell us differently. However, the likes of Gibbs, Scholes and to a lesser extent Ferdinand are good examples of Masters who can guide, by word AND by action, the club’s youngsters to their full potential.

It saddens me a bit that the club (had to?) let go all our recent heroes, with the exception of the Iceman, although even he was not retained in a coaching capacity. What would Vieira have done for the likes of Ramsey, Frimpong, Wilshere, Coquelin, Diaby and even Arteta? His coaching, whether still as a player or as one of Arsene’s staff, would have been of great value to our promising talents.

Pires and possibly Ljungberg could also have played a great coaching role. All these players have been there and done it, love the club, and would still live and breathe the principles and values of total/Wenger football, as well as what the club stands for. And there are of course more legends who would fit the bill.

It is fantastic to see Freddie back at the club in an ambassadorial role now. And it would be great if we could add either Dennis or Thierry, or ideally both(!), as well.

Dennis would be a great coach and the thought of Bould-Wenger-Bergkamp on the bench would just be awesome. He is qualified and has gained management/coaching experience at one of  the greatest clubs in football history, Ajax. Would we find it hard to attract the likes of Higuain, Jovetic etc, if they knew they would be working with the Dutch Master directly? Possibly less so.

But this post is about the simply phenomenal Thierry Henry. Just imagine him working with Ox, Theo, Giroud, Podolski, Cazorla, Gnabry, Eisfeld, and hopefully HIguain and/or Jovetic on a constant, no time-constrains basis: it would be an absolute dream for these players and also for us. The Master would work his socks off to get them to reach their full, very promising potential, and make our club successful again.

It would also be nice that he himself could play now and again (mostly as a substitute), just to show the others how it is done in practice. He is not as fast or athletic as he used to be, but he makes up for this with his technique and experience, and if Giggs can do at 39, then surely Thierry can do it at 35.

Bring him back Arsene; we cannot have too many masters at our great club!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

All ingredients for success are here, just a certain Dutchman is missing

Arsenal's 'Russian Dolls of Evolution'
Arsenal’s ‘Russian Dolls of Evolution’

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.

The best of the Iceman in eight minutes:

August 2013: Bergkamp new coach, 4-4-2, Capoue new DM, Isco new Winger


Well, that would be my wish-list for the new season.

As it is very quiet with us having to endure another mini-interlull, I thought it would be fun to blog today about what changes all of us would like to see at the start of the 2013-2014 season. I wrote yesterday about the good building blocks being put into place by Arsenal, in order to once again make a sustained effort to bring home silverware. For good order, I will repeat them again, as they should form a good basis for further discussions today:

  1. A British core of very talented players with real passion for the club;
  2. The acquisition of predominantly Spanish and German quality, experienced players;
  3. The upwards push of talents coming through from our player development system;
  4. The removal of players who have not made the grade by either selling them or loaning them out till their contracts expire, or just letting them run out their contracts;
  5. All key players have been signed up on long term contracts now, which should enable us to hold on to players, at least in the next few years;
  6. More money available from now on, to both hold on to players better – by steadily and responsibly increasing their salaries if and when appropriate – and attract two or three quality players every season.

In order for today’s blogging to have a bit of structure, I propose you answer the following questions:

  1. With almost all our new British talents signed up, it would be really good to see a talented and well respected coach join Arsenal’s management team. Bergkamp would be my first choice, but who would you like that to be?
  2. With three attackers who all want to play in the middle – Pod, Giroud and Theo – and two more options to play centrally – Ox and Gervinho – and good quality midfielders across all positions – I would love us to play 4-4-2 from next season onwards. I reckon it will get the best out of the combo of Theo and Giroud, and with the likes of Cazorla, Ox, Gervinho, Pod, Gibbs, Coquelin on the wing, we have players who can combine the defensive and attacking tasks of the mid-wing positions really well. But what would your ideal formation be?
  3. If we are to play 4-4-2, I reckon we need, even more than now, a beast of DM to join Arsenal over the summer. Capoue ticks all the boxes for me. If Arsenal is indeed able to hold onto all key players this summer, and you could make one quality signing, spending in the region of £15-20m, who would you want to join Arsenal over the summer?
  4. I would love another quality CB, but if we can get Capoue I could live with giving TV, Koz, BFG and Miguel/Djourou another chance to form a solid defence; although I could change my mind if we don’t see a step improvement in our defensive performances over the next four months. So, if I could add one more, reasonably affordable, player to the squad; it would be a really exciting, fast and technically gifted, goal scoring and assist making, quality winger. Isco would tick all the boxes and with already three Spanish players in our starting-11 currently, I reckon Isco would fit in really well. And Remy Cabella, Giroud’s former team mate at Montpellier, would be a very good second choice. But who would like to add as a second choice?

To repeat the questions:

  1. Who would you like to join us as an extra coach?
  2. What would be your ideal formation for the next season?
  3. Who would be your priority signing over the summer?
  4. Who would be your ‘in an ideal world’, additional signing this summer?

Remember, it is just a bit of fun!

Written by: Total Arsenal.