Arsenal: The Missing Link

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.

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 Adams

Greg is the MD of GCR Books that publishes books on Arsenal.  You can read more information on the web site There’s a good competition running on the site at the moment – worth taking a look.

UNTOLD ARSENAL was read by over 108,000 individual people in September 2009.  As they say at the Ems near the end of each match, “thank you all for your incredible support”

23 Replies to “Arsenal: The Missing Link”

  1. Greg, you are spot-on with the “missing link” in this team. The other three ingredients that you mentioned are also well overdue. However, I doubt that one of the external factors that you mentioned, “dodgy refereeing” (I call it corrupt & biazed officiating since it is often not only the referee who is dodgy), can easily be overcome. I hope to God that single factor does not deprive us of silverware this season.

    Good piece.

  2. Great article Greg. Just finished my tribute-article to Arsène Wenger for the Benelux site and your article really brings me extra believe.
    If we can get our injured players back and not lose to many others, this could be a great season.
    As you mentionned in your peace 2-0 down, after 5 minutes, and then win the game like in Standard that is the spirit we need and we seem to have this year.
    For those who like it and have a facebook profile one of my gooner suns put a little video on facebook a few seconds after we scored our third goal at Standard. (

  3. Hi Greg, thanks for this. I love reading opinions on Arsenal. Even the idiots who want to get rid of the Lord Wenger got one read from me. However, I don’t agree with you. Vermaelen was a straight replacement for Kolo and AA is a mystery. Playing in competition to Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri, Eduardo and perhaps, Bendtner, RvP and Wilshere, and perhaps even Eboue (!?), he does not seem like a logical buy. I suspect that there was such pressure from the press and the blogosphere that it was having an effect in the dressing room, and Wenger thought that introducing AA was a way of ameliorating the situation.

    In my opinion, there is no missing link. Our team will get better and better every year, until, when all the kiddies are at their prime, we will be the clear number one team.

    Gibbs, Vela and Ramsey are coming through, with Merida and Wilshere perhaps a year behind. And I haven’t given up on Randall. Behind them are many possibilities. We nearly did it two years ago. I am convinced that Birmingham put us back more than a year. This year we will be very competitive, next year joint favourites and the following year, clear favourites.

  4. Cape Gooner: I don’t know why you think that Arshavin “does not seem like a logical buy”? Even in your argument, you proved that he is a completely logical buy. You stated that there was pressure that “was having an effect in the dressing room, and Wenger thought that introducing AA was a way of ameliorating the situation”. That statement makes his purchase logical. Anyway, his introduction did wake everyone up, don’t you think?

  5. I do believe that there was a missing link last season but that wasnt a player. It was the confidence and the team-spirit. These two were there 2 seasons back until the Eduardo incident and if that hadnt happened, we would have won the PL. This season those two missing link have returned: Players have confidence among each other and there is a sense of unity. There were lots of incidents in the last few weeks which

    AA was bought in when AW started to have doubts in Rosicky. Rosicky was being missed a lot by Cesc and others and when his recovery wasn’t going as planned, AW bought AA. Purchase of Vermaelen was as a replacement for Toure.

  6. To me there’s only one reason we haven’t win the league in 4 years:


    Sure, some argue that wenger should buy to cover those injuries..but in the end all the injuries to our key players always happened right at the focal point into the season.

    Our starting 11 is clearly, to me, the best in the league. Keeping them fit is key this year.

    Just read Aseblog’s post today which touched me pretty much, it’s a tribute to Wenger’s 13th year in charge. Love the man and could never wish for anyone else better to lead my team.

  7. Thanks diceman for the tip. Read it also and it was a good peace on the arseblog site.

  8. Cape Gooner: To answer your question about Arshavin you might want to watch the highlights from the Olympiacos game and count the number of goal scoring opportunities created by AA for van Persie, Fabregas and Eboue. You can ignore the goal since it was clearly offside. You might also observe the obvious affection with which he is regarded by his team mates. Clearly, they think he is doing something right.

  9. Also, feel genuinely shocked by the leniency of the Adebayor punishment. Having been at the match, I felt the second incident was at least as serious as the stamping. Apart from the reckless disregard shown by Adebayor for the possible consequences of a pitch invasion, the injured official was laid out on the side of the pitch for a very lengthy period after the incident and clearly had a significant injury.

  10. don’t be shocked by the FA…

    Really really want that moron’s team to come and play us at the Ems earlier than April..

    You can noticed how he’s surprising quiet after the official ban…I never hate a single footballer this much, his whole existence was considered wasteful to me after the claim about us being fake fans…hope u guys who will be there in April serve him right, if he’s not a coward, well he’s already is, and grant himself injury that is.

  11. When you look at the players who did not play, you see why we are not desperate [to buy players]. Now that the Club has announced good financial results, people want me to splash it out straight away. At the moment there is no transfer market, you cannot buy anybody; the window is closed. Even if you want to buy the players at Waitrose you cannot. There is no supermarket. It is only during transfer periods that we can buy new players

  12. I agree himesh. If he ever stops with us he can start as a standup comedian. LOL. Just like the kick the bottle at OT. The way he said: ‘and it was a good kick”. It made me forget we lost that game. Well not completly …

  13. LRV, Walter & Cape Gooner: I’m glad you enjoyed the article even if we don’t all agree 100% on the “missing link” theory. However, I think we all agree that the current Arsenal team, just like Tony’s website, is on the verge of greatness!
    p.s. Don’t forget to enter the competition on my site – one entry gives you 6 chances of winning one of 3 great books.

  14. If the media are to be believed we are always about 3 or 4 players short, quite where these 4 players would fit in they don’t bother to go that far into detail. I think with this team and has never been about numbers more about actual belief and team spirit. Wenger offloaded Toure and Adebayor not because of their ability but because of the negative effect they had on team morale. Gallas is a player reborn because he obviously has a better relationship (albeit formative) with Vermaelen and now that we now play 4-3-3 the need for a player in the style of Adebayor is lessened somewhat. For me the 2 defeats we have suffered so far actually fill me with more confidence that we will be ok this year, and although Arsene might not want to admit it publicly we might have just stumbled across a better choice in goal and this is no knee jerk reaction to a couple of good performances, there is something in Mannone’s manner that just screams quality! And just think we haven’t even seen Walcott, Nasri or the emergence of Wilshere yet and behind these the reserves and the youth keep winning and winning, happy days!

  15. Stuartlondon: I do not think that Arshavin is not a great player, an automatic first XI choice. I am just a little puzzled as to why the Lord Wenger chose to strengthen there, when we are thin in other areas. Defensive mid-field will be a big problem if Song gets injured or if Denilson or Djourou are not recovered in January. The DM problem goes down a level. The best midfielders on display against WBA were Ramsey, Wilshere and Randall. Will he start with them against Liverpool?

    LRV: I am sorry that I was unclear. I meant to offer a possible logical alternative.

  16. Cape Gooner:

    Try and find if you can interviews if you can of interviews with Arsene Wenger during Euro 2008, when he’s asked what he thinks about Arshavin.
    The expression on Wenger’s face when talking about Arshavin can be described as ‘gushing’.

    Clearly, he just thinks Arshavin is a fantastic player, and the dogged & determined transfer saga, that must have started during the Euro’s, is proof of that. Not very logical a reason, but it doesn’t have to be does it?
    Maybe Coquelin will get the DM role, I doubt it seeing as he has only played a handful of 1st XI games, but he does look an amazing prospect.

  17. Finsbury: Though I cannot find the Euro 2008 interview, I recollect that he had delightful admiration in his expression. Who wouldn’t?

    In a few years, coquelin will definitely make the DM position his own just like Song has done. He is however still too young, and needs to build his strenght & stamina to be able to withstand the rigours of the premiership, especially, the bone crushers who call themselves footballers.

  18. LRV:

    Yes, maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic about seeing Coquelin this season. I’m sure Le Gaffer has some ideas about who’ll cover for Song. No need to worry about the transfer policy, our last three senior signings:


    Perhaps the growing pains of the younger players and the arrival of the new older players can be construed as a missing link, but Vermaelan is just pure quality, as is Arshavin, and surely would be a great addition to any squad. Any team would be improved by such players. Fortunately we got them!

  19. Cape Gooner – Arsene bought Arshavin because Rosicky and Eduardo were still injured and he didn’t know whether one or both would ever return. When Cesc got injured he recognised that was one creative loss too many. The team were in the doldrums and struggling to create or finish – hence all the 0 – 0 draws. A special talent was available at a price we could afford and he was willing to spend. It gave the team the lift they needed to get us into a CL spot. I don’t see what is wrong with that.

  20. I think we have always had the team to win silverware unfortunatley due to Toure and Adebayor the players never had the belife that they could, since the sale of those two players the change in the team has been unbelivable, you only have to look at the changes in Bentner and Eboue, these two are like reborn players.
    I would also like to suggest that the return of Rosicky has been the most significant addition to the team, Rosicky is class, pure and simple, it gives the whole team a massive boost to see this man play the beautifull game of Wengerball and not be afraid to get stuck in where it hurts, even after being out for so long that we all thought he was finished, one can only speculate as to the level of football that will be played by the team after the return of Samir Nasri, champions league ? maybe but is not out of our reach.

    The only think i fear can go wrong is the loss of players to the international games and those same players coming back injured.

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