If you think you know your Arsenal, it is time to think again. Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CHEMISTRY
One of the interesting things about those supporters who don’t like Arsene Wenger is that they tend to pick on specific topics or players, and then state that the failure (in their eyes to deal with that issue) proves that Arsenal are a mid-table selling club who will soon sink into oblivion.
But in such commentaries there is often a failure to consider a mixture of issues – the complex issues that surround getting a group of people together and getting them to work for the common good. It is called Club CHEMISTRY and it really does need a bit of explaining.
As we all know from our secondary education days spent in labs and classrooms populated by bored and disinterested adolescents and one or more wimpy science types trying to teach this horrible subject, Chemistry is the study of the passive and active interactions between natural and ¨artificial¨ chemical and elemental components, for the most part.
In the EPL context I am referring to here, it is similar; being the interactions between the players, the manager/coaches and others in a Professional Football Club, both on and off the field.
But why should Club chemistry be so essential an element of a Club’s success? You will have remarked that I use the term Club rather than team(s) since the very elements that make up a Club (the management, the Directors, the manager, the coaches, the youth, women’s and reserve teams, the scholars, the supporters, the financiers, the owners, the media, the pundits etc) all play a crucial role in the aforementioned chemistry.
Proceeding with the physics axioms that the whole is always greater than its parts, and that there is no such a thing as an absolute certainty but only a potential to be realized or glimpsed but never eternalized, then the dynamics of the above Club elements are obvious.
Who could have predicted accurately beforehand the greatness of Henry, Viera, Pires, Lundjberg, Bergkamp, Lehman, etc? Who could have predicted that the man who was the butt of endless sarcasm and personal attacks in the Italian press would pick himself up and become one of the two greatest players Arsenal have ever seen (I speak of course of Bergkamp).
Which ¨experts¨ can, with 99% certainty, predict the final level of greatness of similar players like Ramsey, Coquelin, Wilshere, Diaby, Szcesny, Gibbs, Podolski, Giroud or even Chamakh, Park, Afobe, Lansbury, Martinez etc?
Not even Wenger, to whom the AAA ¨experts¨ are like sugar to titanium, claims to be prescient to that point. He has the unquestionable skill (very rare among EPL managers) to identify true potential and talent, nurture and nourish it and most often but NOT always produce a diamond. He also has that rare ability to take calculated risks with unknown players in the belief that the team can drag them up to its level; Nasri, Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini, Squillaci, Sylvestre, Santos, Jenkinson, Frimpong, Park,Chamakh, Bendtner, Arshavin, Vela, Bentley, Miguel, Almunia, Wellington and so on.
So how does this Club Chemistry work? Anyone who has followed AFC for a few seasons will surely have remarked the following;
a) The Arsenal ¨type¨ of player is more a Benayoun than a latter day Fabregas model. By that I mean Wenger goes for the lesser known candidates and most often eschews the established superstars. Even the AAA share this view, but claim it as a Wenger failing while most of us true supporters praise it as a strength. Fabregas, Anelka, or Henry would NEVER have been bought now they are established stars.
b) Since he is very paternalistic, Wenger values a reciprocal filial-like loyalty from his players. He tolerates everything and defends them to the hilt against all comers, including the BoD and to a lesser extent, the AAA. This culture of familial and filial network building is a core ingredient to Arsenal’s cohesiveness and success. When a player knows he’s safe and supported by his Club and manager,through PR issues, injury or loss of form, he has the confidence to try and recover. My favourite whipping boy Eboue was a case in point.
c) The Bendtner model is unfit for AFC, not because he isn’t talented, is too youthful or immature but rather because he is far too egocentric and narcissistic. Some say Szcesny is the same but that shows their lack of perceptiveness. The GoalPole is very confident (not a bad skill to have as a keeper-refer to Almunia for the consequences of lacking this) but is also, in a charming and disarming way, humble. He trusts Wenger and was allowed to pay his dues elsewhere before taking over as our first choice keeper. I am convinced that had Wenger decided to reinsert Almunia or Fabianski as first keeper, Szcesny would have accepted this with grace and aplomb and earned the spot through dint of effort and will. His play after the OT debacle in September was better and better…that is the sign of a champion!
d) Finally, the attitude such a positive chemistry obtains, is sufficient to win things or as in the case of last season, resurrect a CL place and come from 14 places below to pip our rivals to 3rd while all the time, minding the gap. This is due to a great dressing room atmosphere, a certain steeliness on the field, the leadership of 3-4 key players and a belief in and will to win that, even through injury and loss, generates its own momentum.
There are so many more subtle aspects of this Chemistry. If one fails, the others prop up the whole so that, in the case of AFC, while some AAA whiners booed our players and the manager, our away fans were the equivalent of a 12th player.
The feeble-minded Anti-Wengerites totally misinterpret and misrepresent what it means to be a supporter as do the AKB’s and other acronyms. Wenger is NOT divine, nor is he infallible. He makes errors and openly admits them. He is neither stubborn, pig-headed nor is he senile,unlike his critics.
SAF is a mirror image of Wenger in many respects. Sir Axe is a dictator and a fearful adversary (perhaps this is what British spine is all about?) but also very knowledgeable and astute tactically and managerially. His failures are as obvious as are Wenger’s and he has been recently ¨embarrassed¨ in Europe as often as AFC but his successes have matched and some say, surpassed those of Wenger as well. Yet none dare revile or remonstrate him for those errors or rail against his hegemony for fear of the hair dryer treatment and cold shoulder from Manure or the media.
So there you have it……Podolski, Giroud, Wilshere, Diaby, Jenkinson, and our almost or truly new recruits, must not only show their goods but also fit into a Club Chemistry whose very culture is teamwork, hard work, perseverance, faith in Wenger, trust in their supporters and belief that the Arsenal will come out shooting as the EPL gets underway once again.
Hope springs eternal as Alexander Pope wrote and once again, we the hopelessly addicted spring for tickets in the valiant belief that this is finally our year! May the Chemistry be with us…..
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