By Tony Attwood
“Arsenal fans watching the limp 0-0 draw with Leicester City on Saturday, another game with yet another wrong result, were no doubt crying out for the passion and leadership of Patrick Vieira and his team of Invincibles as they demanded that Arsene Wenger opens his chequebook.
“The Frenchman has offered his own assessment of the current situation, saying he can understand the levels of frustration at the team’s “disappointing” performances and the lack of new signings by Wenger so far this summer.
“He said the current Arsenal team lack the physicality and personality of his Invincibles generation.”
That was from the Daily Telegraph today, and Patrick was I am sure thinking back in detail to his season with the invincibles perhaps on 21 September when Arsenal played Manchester United at Old Trafford. Vieira was sent off, Cole, Lauren, Keown, Parlour, Lehmann, and Vieira were later charged with improper conduct by The Football Association (FA), while the club were fined £175,000, a record fine. Lauren received a four-game ban;Vieira and Parlour were given one-match suspensions.
It was an early part of the attack by the FA on Arsenal, which was picked up quickly by all the media.
What we forget now is that the criticism of Arsenal at this time was huge. Game after game we were talked down by the media. We were mercilessly criticised for the game against Man U, and then even more so for the goalless draw with Fulham at Highbury.
After that the Guardian correspondent David Lacey wrote summary of Arsenal’s football on the day as “strong in the string section but short on percussion” and noted they reverted to the pattern of scoring a perfect goal, instead of being efficient.
Oh the criticism we had to suffer. All that “Arsenal want to score the perfect goal” stuff week after week. The same criticism, game after game after game after game, taken up by the fans following the journalists’ lead.
Then we came to the away game with Leicester. We had as one of our full backs a player utterly derided in the media and by fans. A man not worthy of any Premier League side, let alone one with aspirations. Wenger was endlessly criticised for even buying him, let alone playing him.
The other full back could be difficult at times, but could do ok, but in this game he got sent off for a bad two footed tackle. As a result we brought on a total rookie full back for his first ever appearance, and we knew that now this total rookie, brought from the French third division at virtually no fee, would be playing at full back in the next three games.
And we had to play another player largely dismissed by the fans at centre forward. You don’t have to look up what the fans were saying you can imagine. Pascal Cygan at full back, this unknown kid from France on the other side, Jeremie Aliadiere at centre forward. What sort of club is this inept as to be reduced to such rubbish before we are even at Christmas.
But we got a draw – although even Arsenal.com said, “It must be said that for long parts of this game Wenger’s men were distinctly average”.
And well, let’s emphasise the injuries too. Vieira was out, so was Ray Parlour.
Rubbish wasn’t it? But this was the Invincibles as it turned out, and also as it turned out, Leicester were heading for relegation. So let’s be clear, all we could manage was 1-1 draw with a team heading for relegation. And even worse this past weekend all we could do was manage a 0-0 draw away to the …. champions. Indeed in the Invincible season the general view was that Leicester would have scored more had not Muzzy Izzet been suspended.
The criticism of Arsenal was that they “were not retaining the ball in attack. They were failing to find their fluidity between defence and attack because Leicester were snapping at their heels in midfield.”
So a draw all those years back, and Arsenal fans complaining about the lack of any strength in depth. (The kid who came on at full back of course was Clichy). The media were calling us distinctly average. And Leicester fans don’t change either, they “were soon calling for a penalty when Marcus Bent tumbled in the area after tangling with Campbell.”
And there was more moaning when after Cole was sent off it was Bergkamp who was taken off by Wenger to make way for Gael Clichy as a replacement left back.
So all those years apart, a draw – the Invincibles draw with a team that is going to end up bottom of the league, while the modern team draw with the Champions. Nothing changes – both games were met with outright criticism of Arsenal, and of Mr Wenger.
So it goes.