RVP’s departure: Can we finally say it was a blessing in disguise?

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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.

Lewandowski shows Van Persie what ‘world class’ really means

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Ooh he has been so pleased with himself after his hat-trick against sorry Villa this week; Robin van Persie knows how to celebrate himself.

There are many pundits and fans who believe that Van Persie is world class. There is no doubt in my mind that Van Persie is a very good striker, with beautiful technique, clever positioning and fine composure. He was the top-scorer last season when he was still a Gunner and it looks like he will do so again this year; mainly, because Suarez could once again not control himself, which is costing him dearly now.

But doing well in the Premier League does not necessarily make you world class, and especially not this season. In order to be regarded as world class you have to deliver at the highest level, and that is in the CL, the Euros and the WC.

As a Dutchman I can tell you that Van Persie never did more than ok in the Euros or the WC. Some will say he did not get great service from fellow ego-trippers like Robben and Sneijder, but I don’t buy that.

In the big games, when it really matters, van Persie fluffs his lines: he lacks composure and cool-bloodedness, and that’s all that is to it.

Van Persie did well against Dortmund last season, but when we played one of the most established European forces, Milan, his nerves got the better of him and he fluffed his lines on more than one occasion, in both our home and away games.

The same happened this season whilst playing for MU. He messed up his changes against RM on a number of occasions and did not manage to score in a top European encounter once again.

He also did not manage to get on the score-sheet against the Chavs for the FA-cup, but he did manage to score one goal in each game against MC (away), Chelsea (away) and Arsenal (home). So in the six domestic encounters with the best of the PL – Arsenal, Chelsea and MC – vP managed to score three goals (Arsenal away and Chelsea at home still to come). This is okay, but can hardly be called world-class.

I guess I need to state at this stage that I detest Van Persie now, after what he did to our club last summer. I have written a few posts about him in recent months, so will just leave it at that.

However, I must stress that I will not let this influence my judgement on Van Persie’s skills and abilities, and whether he is worthy of the classification of ‘world class’.

In my view, Van Persie is a great PL striker, but not world class.

And today, against Dortmund, Ronaldo showed once again what world class really means, despite his team losing. The also very self-adoring, former MU player, scored ‘his goal’: normally, a very important away goal. And he did the same against MU in the previous round: scoring in both legs and showing Van Persie how it is done.

Now, that is world class.

But a truly phenomenal display of world class attacking play, is what Lewandowski showed the world today. Four goals: FOUR goals!!!! And all of them were beautiful examples of composure and cool-bloodedness in the heat of the fight and amongst dizzying heights of expectation.

Lewandowski has it, Van Persie hasn’t.

Today, Lewandowski delivered the goods when it really, really mattered, and for ‘footballing reasons’ I would urge Arsene to sign him up! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Is that what the ‘little boy inside’ cried out for, Robin?

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Robin van Persie has been speaking to Dutch media in recent weeks; about how he just made the right decision to join Manchester United. He said he should not have left Arsenal earlier or later, and that he could see himself finish his career at United, as they care so much more about ‘the older’ player.

Robin van Persie will win the league with United this year and well done to him. He had more than his fair share in his new club’s achievement so he deserves the credit. He scored 19 PL goals; only one less than Hernandez and Rooney put together and he won many a game for the Mancs singlehandedly, mainly during the first half of the season.

However, he only scored one goal in the last twelve games for MU, and he has once again not produced the goods when it really matters. Against Real Madrid he had a number of opportunities in both legs, but a lack of composure let him down time and again; very similar to his performances for us against Milan in the CL a year earlier and for the Dutch national team in recent years.

Today, in a crucial match for his team to win a ‘double’ this season, he was given the role of super-sub. He came on in 61st minute in order to turn the game round, after Demba had put the Chavs ahead by doing something the Dutchman himself used to do when he still played for a proper football playing team; scoring from a ball over the top with a piece of fine technical finishing.

Once again, he fluffed his lines as his team worked hard to get him in a promising position. The magic has somehow disappeared, and to be fair to him, this happens to all strikers. But RvP is paid an incredible £1m a month now and for that money surely more is expected by the Mancs’ owners and fans. Four under-par performances against Chelsea – he was a ‘super-sub’ in the FA cup home draw as well – and Real Madrid; and two painful, gloryless cup-exits.

He will be able to say he won a Premiership’s medal at the end of this season, but who is to say he would not have done the same if had he stayed at Arsenal and scored his 19 PL goals for the mighty red and white? In the end,  we conceded only two goals more, but scored eleven goals less than MU.

But he had no patience and wanted the big money, rather than fulfil his contract and pay back the club for all that it had done for him. The little boy was screaming loads and loads of cash at him and that he would win so much more with United. The inner-voice was so loud, it made him go against the club and burn all his bridges with a disgraceful statement.

Well the little boy was partly right, and who knows what he will still be able to win with MU in the following years, but I cannot help but take some satisfaction out of his recent failings.

The man who once said he is a ‘Gunner for Life’ and that he ‘loves the club and that will always be the case’, but who still left us in the lurch at the first opportunity, is going through a mighty dip in performance. And long may it continue.

Written by: a still bitter TotalArsenal

Vermaelen is our captain, but who is Arsenal’s real leader?

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Over the last few years, the captaincy of Arsenal has changed too many times. Consistency of leadership, on and off the pitch, is so important in terms of building a team based on Arsene’s football-philosophy and tactical principles.

Arsene put all his hope and energy into Cesc as both the embodiment on the pitch of his cherished football-philosophy, and the captain of his team. Fabregas was brilliant at leading by example but most of us felt something was missing: he was not a naturally born leader and as a result he struggled with some vital aspects of leadership we were craving for.

Robin van Persie was a fantastic captain last season, however much it pains me to say it: the traitor was a leader rather than just a captain.

However, he is gone now and Thomas Vermaelen has been handed the captaincy. The season has only just started, but early signs indicate Vermaelen is more like a Fabregas sort of captain than a Robin van Persie sort of leader. Leadership is something which is very hard, if not impossible, to learn: you either have it or you don’t.

A good captain/leader:

  • Leads by example: not just with good personal performances, but also with high energy-levels/commitment, and a never-say-die attitude. He never spares himself, always gives everything and plays with his heart on his sleeve. He will also stand up for his players and let nobody be bullied by the opposition;
  • Is blessed with a high level of social-emotional intelligence: he understands what is going in the minds of other players, and is able to support them accordingly, on and off the pitch;
  • Is extravert: he is not a constant shouter, but he likes to talk to this fellow players and make himself known when things are not going right;
  • Is a great communicator with the crowd/fans, and an ambassador for the club. He understands what the fans want and are concerned about, and gives good interviews to the press, by always representing the club professionally and with real passion;
  • Is a great communicator, ‘liaison-manager’ between the players and management. He has got the respect of Wenger, the coaches and the players, and is able to translate messages, up and down, and down and up, effectively;
  • Is a team player/ team builder: he will regularly praise, on and off the pitch, contributions made by others and help the team in becoming a strong unit.
  • Is good tactically: he has a good overview of what is happening on the pitch and, by talking to his team players, can make minor adjustments to the way the team is playing.

Vermaelen works his socks and leads by example as no other, and we all love him for that, but I don’t see him talk or shout a lot to his fellow players during matches: he seems far too busy with his own job of keeping a tight defence. I find him quiet and more introvert than extravert on the pitch. Although less important, I also thinks he lacks a bit of charisma when talking to the press and his engagement with the fans could also improve a bit. Thomas is a great player: a total warrior, but I don’t think he is a great captain.

Many of us believe that Arsene does not care that much about who his captain should be. He appears to prefer leadership throughout the entire team. In that respect, things have changed dramatically over the last two years at Arsenal, mainly as a result of Arsene now buying far more experienced players who often also possess good leadership skills.

The likes of Mertesacker, Koscielny, Arteta, Cazorla and Podolski all have one or more leadership characteristics as per the list mentioned above. In many ways, this is a lot better than relying on a typical/classical single leader/captain.

However, gradually we are very likely to see a natural leader coming to the fore again, albeit a more democratic kind of leader – less hierarchical than during Van Persie’s short captaincy for Arsenal, as Wenger will want to continue with having leadership in all main areas of his team.

Time will tell would that will be. I have been really impressed with both Mertesacker and Cazorla, and I think they both tick most of the above mentioned characteristics. The German has the advantage of having the better command of English, and regardless whether Vermaelen will stay captain or not, I reckon the Big Fabulous German will soon be seen as our real/natural leader in the team.

Total Arsenal.