By Walter Broeckx
In the last decades we have seen that the more technical ability and skill you have in your team the more chance you have of winning something. You also need other things but without these first two key points you are hardly going to win anything these days.
If we take the last world champions: Italy, Brazil, France, they all had a game that was based on their technical ability. I know Italy played boring football in the last world cup but they had great technique and skill. Among other things.
If we take the last European champions: Spain, Greece, France, Germany all the teams had great technique and skill. And I know that Greece was a disgrace for their very defensive football during the tournament but they also had players who could pass the ball around a bit.
I think the last time that a team won anything important in world or European football not based on technical skill, it was Denmark in 1992. They came out of nothing as they only were allowed in because of the fact that Yugoslavia was in a civil war and they had a game that was based on their great running capability and not that much on their technical skills.
For years Arsène Wenger has been bringing skill in to the English game. And yes some pundits acknowledge this and give him a very small round of applause. The answer of many teams has been : kick them to pieces and they took this literally as we all have seen in the last seasons. And then those same pundits applaud those kicking teams and say that Arsenal don’t like it that way. Well no football player likes it that way, you don’t have to be an Arsenal player to not like it. I think no other player likes it when he sees his leg hanging off after some crazy tackle or challenge.
But the pundits like it as it prevents that crazy nutty French professor from succeeding at The Arsenal. The FA lets the kicking go one as they also don’t like it that much when that French bloke wins another title. And the other English clubs see that they can stop Arsenal from playing their attractive brand of football and nick some points of them by kicking them to pieces.
But in the rest of the world this approach of football has been a long forgotten memory. Yes it happened in all countries at some stage. I remember the period when Maradonna was playing in Spain and when his legs where chopped to pieces by some extreme brutal tackles. It was a period that Spain won nothing at international level. I have seen the Italians with their dreadful tackles. And they won every now and then something based on their solid defensive football.
But in the last decade the football outside the EPL has changed and the kicking brigades have been punished for their approach and the teams don’t go to business like that anymore. In most of those countries such tactics are crucified in public and are banned from the most football fields by the refs. In England the pundits praise the likes of Stoke, Birmingham and other Blackburns and Boltons when they manage to take points away from us with their brutal tactics.
But Wenger is sticking to his brand off football because he knows that the world has changed. He knows that you don’t win things with running for 90 minutes on a field and kick the other team to pieces. In international football the rules are more strict and tackles where refs in the EPL even don’t give a foul are punished with yellow and red cards. But in England a part of the public opinion still praises this kind of intimidation football.
That England has to raise it standards is often heard the last 24 hours. It has to change it’s game to compete with the rest of the world. And I think this is the truth. England has to change it youth set up and has to start training their youth not on running for some 90 minutes from a very young age. No it has to learn to practice with the ball in the feet and pass it around. They should look at the countries that have been successful in recent years and try to make their kids play on technique and skill.
All the teams that are going trough to the next round in the world cup play on technique. Yes they can run but learning how to run long and fast is something that can be learned at later age. And when you look at the teams that go trough you can also see that there are a lot of teams that have won or have come close in the finals of youth tournaments in recent years. Spain is a good example and also Germany is one. Argentina is also a fine example.
But this means that there will not be instant success. It is like the youth project from Arsenal and Wenger. It doesn’t bring you titles the first years. And the first signs on the wall are when your oldest youth team is starting to win things. The current Spanish selection won several prices when they became 17-20 years and now when they are senior players they are getting the rewards for their patient work. Germany also won the last youth title and will get its reward in the future.
The fact that Arsenal won the last titles in the EPL youth academy may not look a big deal for some fans. But to win it twice means that there is a system behind it and certainly if you take in account that the current winners were almost a complete new team if you compare it to the team that won the double the year before.
And if Arsenal can bring those young winners from the youth academy in the first team in the next seasons, we should see that Arsenal are doing the same that Spain has done and Germany is doing at international level: building a team from the youth up to the highest level based on a technique and skill.
And for those who worry about the English game: most of the players in the Arsenal youth teams were English and so if those kids become the players that Arsenal believe they can become it will mean that this bloody French manager will bring new life to the English team in a few years time. And bring it a team that can play on technique and skill and still will have the old English fighting spirit and heart.
The only thing that can stop this is the FA letting other teams kick the Arsenal youngsters to pieces by not instructing their refs to protect the skilful players more so that they can compete for England in the future. And who knows maybe the World cup in 2018 can be won by England with a team based on the English spine of Arsenal. A spine designed by Arsène Wenger and moulded by Liam Brady. It’s up to the FA and their refs in fact: are they going to protect skilful players or destroy them.
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