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Thursday, 3 May 2012

Arsene's new policy

Recognise some of them?

When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal we were very much an English dominated club. Apart from Dennis Bergkamp there weren't too many foreign players knocking about. Obviously a number of those English players were among the very best of their time, which is why Arsenal were able to compete for honours to a reasonable level year on year. At the time of Arsene's arrival England had just got to the semi-final of Euro '96 and seemed to be going places. France, on the other hand, had been dumped out and seemed to be going nowhere. What we didn't know was that France was about to uncover a golden generation of players, led by Deschamps, Zidane and Desailly, that would go on to be a fairly dominant force over the next 10 years, up to the Final of the 2006 World Cup. While we in England were ignorant to it, Arsene Wenger obviously was not.
Wenger's first move, even before he arrived, was to bring in Patrick Vieira. He would go on to be joined at Arsenal by Emmanuel Petit, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Sylvain Wiltord. Each of these players would play a key role, at some point, in that French international success. They all would be crucial to Arsenal's successes in the ensuing years as well.
You can argue that Arsene was very fortunate to be able to take advantage of France's resources when they were at their peak in terms of talent. To do so would overlook the fact that he recognised in these young men (only Petit could have genuinely been considered as an experienced player, possibly Pires or Wiltord at a push) that they were going to be World Class footballers. Off the back of that Arsenal enjoyed a similarly successful period up to 2006. Since that year, when both lost in Final matches they should have won, both Arsenal and France have fallen back in to the shadows. Both are still feared to a certain extent, and often threaten to produce something, but usually fall a little short of the very top, hence no trophies.
So what has Arsene done since the French talent pool dried up? Unfortunately for us he has put his faith in youth and promising players. It is a plan that has not worked out for Arsenal. The likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Hleb etc have regularly burned reasonably brightly, only to walk out for pastures new when it suited them. The year 2011 was a terrible twelve months for Arsenal and for Wenger. Results on the pitch were bad for most of the year, and off the pitch the transfer dealings were simply managed in an unacceptable manner. However, within all of that, and with the recent signing of Podolski I have seen, I believe, a new strategy. This new course being sailed is once again going to be supported by a generation of players from one particular country.
At the last World Cup I think everyone was surprised by the way an unfancied Germany performed. They really weren't expected to come anywhere close to the standards expected of a German side on the biggest stage. Critics were summarily confounded as they played arguably the finest attacking football of the tournament. Along with Argentina they were the only "entertainers" in the last World Cup. Most of this was done with a number of relatively young players. Two of those players are now at Arsenal - Mertesacker and Podolski. We are clearly interested in signing Mario Gotze from Dortmund (sadly the rest of Europe is also watching him). There is another young German in the Reserves now, in the shape of Thomas Eisfeld. He may turn out to be the "Aliadiere" in Arsenal's growing German cast, but I think I can now see what Wenger is up to. Germany are the up and coming international force. We have two of their national team players already. This could act as the same kind of snowball effect that got us Robert Pires and Sylvain Wiltord. If Gotze, and maybe one or two others, take Arsenal's bait then we could re-live the glory days, albeit with a German-filled side, rather than French. It's enough to make you excited about the future - as long as the necessary business is done to bring in the quality, and ship out the rubbish.

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