by Greg Adams
When you start to read an article about football and missing links you might be excused for thinking that it’s going to be about Peter Beardsley, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney or perhaps even Martin Keown – footballers who could single-handedly prove Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. That’s not quite what I had in mind.
As the current season was approaching I was, like many other Arsenal supporters, wondering if this was to be the campaign where Arsenal’s current squad makes the transition from also-rans to winners. After four trophy-less seasons was this to be a new beginning – the second coming of Arsene Wenger?
Whilst daydreaming on this subject it occured to me that with all winning teams there must be a formula (the right blend of attacking flair, defensive stability and midfield craft) that makes the difference between finishing 4th in the League and losing the odd Cup Final / CL Semi-Final and winning another double or, what the hell, the quadruple!
If so, then it’s fair to assume that the addition of one or two players and a pinch more experience for the kiddies might be all that’s needed.
Arsene Wenger bought Andrei Arshavin last January and Thomas Vermaelen in the summer transfer window. It’s my belief that these two represent the “missing link”, the added flair in midfield/attack and the extra strength at the back.
Arshavin has enormous ability and we’ve seen glimpses of it already but there’s more to come. Vermaelen reminds me in many ways of Tony Adams. He’s excellent in the air, scores goals from set pieces and gets stuck into his tackles. He’s just what we’ve been missing at the centre of defence.
OK, in addition to the addition of Arshavin and Vermaelen we need a few of important ingredients:
- a relatively injury-free season (let’s be honest, we’re long overdue one of these);
- a little bit of luck (not evident at OT and Maine Road but this should average out);
- spirit, guts, courage. Call it what you like we need the team to find that “will to win” even when they’re 2-0 down away from home in the middle of January and it’s pissing down.
If we get our fair share of the above then I think we could be on to something this season. OK, I have the same feeling at the start of every season but this time it really feels stronger, almost genuine.
Looking back I think it’s possible to identify other “missing links” that made other good Arsenal sides into winning teams. The addition of Cliff Bastin and Alex James in 1929 turned Herbert Chapman’s team into FA Cup Winners in 1930, League Champions in 1931 and a side that dominated English football for the next decade.
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If we look at the Arsenal teams in 1987/88 and 1988/89 the only noticeable difference between the teams was the addition of Steve Bould plus the fact of Lee Dixon (6 games in 87/88 v 31 games in 88/89) and Paul Merson (7 v 29) becoming more established members of the squad. I’m sure it’s possible to find “missing links” for the Arsenal side of 1970/71 and for the side that won the double in 2002 and 2004. I’m sure they exist.
There are, of course, other external factors that come into play. The relative strength of other teams, dodgy referees, etc but let’s assume that all other factors are equal.
This being the case I’ll put my head on the block and state now that Arsenal will win silverware this season. I can’t say how much and what shape the trophy will be but I’m sure that honours will come their way. And given that success breeds confidence, belief and more success then the future will be very bright indeed.
Greg is the MD of GCR Books that publishes books on Arsenal. You can read more information on the web site www.gcrbooks.co.uk There’s a good competition running on the site at the moment – worth taking a look.
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