There has been a heated debate over the last few weeks about whether the EPL has evolved into a world class competition and whether Arsenal’s improved form is due to Wenger being forced to change his tactical approach to EPL opponents after losing Cesc and Nasri. I wish to address both hypotheses and take a closer look at whether the EPL and Arsenal are evolving into something better or whether the original mutation has become an out and out revolution.
Lets take a look at club ownership and the influx of oilygarch and sugar-daddy golden geese in the EPL. It seems to have started with Abramovich at Chelsea, but in actual fact the spend big to win big philosophy was best personified in Real Madrid buying up every star they could entrap, starting back in the 50’s. Regardless, since Chelsea’s reincarnation under Abramovich, according to the media and many pundits, the EPL has come to a sort of fork in the road. In their view,gone are the days when only 2-3 big clubs like Liverpool, United and Arsenal would be competing for it all. Now, they claim, the EPL clubs can be divided into the haves and the have-nots, with Arsenal somewhere in between. However they miss the real issues, since we have always had the richer clubs and the remainder. What has changed is the reckless and bottomless spending and subsequent debt-loads teams like Chelsea, City and recently Liverpool have espoused as their central philosophy. These teams are on the opposite end of the scale to Arsenal, where frugality and youth development have been combined to enrich the team and the tradition at the Emirates. I would say, in this respect, that it has been a revolution and the big losers in this revolt have been the FA’s ¨fit and proper persons¨ test and the EUFA Financial Fairplay rules while the beneficiaries have been the fans of big money clubs along with the improved level and diversity of the competition. We now have 6 Clubs who can compete for the titles and Cups with a reasonable assurance of being potential winners. My the revolution continue!
Sandro Rosell, in typical Barcelona hypocritical fashion, stated that his team would never ¨sell out¨ like the money Clubs in the EPL are claimed to have done. Yet he sold his rights to the Qatar Foundation. Of course he’d sell his mother to get enough money to get colour photocopiers or a player (with Catalan DNA) he really wants, in the Camp Nou.
Arsenal FC are another story. During the difficult 7 months after the CC last season and our spanking at OT, endless Anti-Wenger and anti-Arsenal attackers, including the minority AAA and moaner-groaner whiners who misnamed themselves Gooners and the media, launched a steady,relentless and merciless campaign against our Club and its administrators/managers. They cried for a Revolt against the tyrannical and stubborn Arsene-Board led conspiracy to destroy our great Club in order to make a fast buck. They wanted a revolution in the very heart of the Clubs’ Wenger inspired philosophy and strategy.
Their new mantra, which can occasionally still be heard echoing off the public toilets and hapless ex-players vacuous heads, is SEND,SPEND,SPEND and damn the torpedoes. This mantra is followed by another revolutionary chant which is ¨Off with their heads¨ -meaning Wenger and the Board need to be eliminated and replaced by Oilygarchs, sugar-daddies and other right thinking Fantasy Football afficianados.
Arsenal’s recent resurgence has flushed a great deal of this excrement down the pipes but the odour remains. In order to disinfect the Gooner airspace and based on my humble opinion, I submit that we are seeing an EVOLUTION of sorts, where AFC’s famous control and passing game is being modified, with considerable success, and mutated into a more direct, finishing yet also subtle counter-attacking strategy. What is different with our Gunners that has turned their season around so dramatically?
1) The new, more experienced faces in the team have brought a renewed and more urgent counter-attacking style, while also strengthening and calming the younger players. They have also brought a challenge to every incumbent to do better and play with more heart, or lose their place. This is seen in the fact that some say Wenger has an embarrassment of choices in the CB and winger positions. He will soon have the same problem in the midfield. When were we last able to say that?
2) We also see a change in attacking style with Gervinho and Walcott offering rapid, incisive and pacey counter-attacking Football and also working hard defensively to recuperate the ball when Arsenal lose it. As well, we see Jenkinson and Santos offering an offensive threat that Gibbs and Clichy rarely ever provided.
3) Our midfield seems to be shaping up as the most significant and positive change this season. Last year we relied on Cesc and Nasri to generate and support the attackers. If Arsenal could have ever been truly said to be a one-man team, it was during the Fabregas hegemony where every attack went through him. Would RVP or Wilshere or Ramsey have been able to flower like they are doing this season if we had not lost our two midfielders? Arteta has been a remarkable find and has become the little general like Rosicky used to be, supporting the defense when we are under pressure but turning the counter-attack into a deadly and very pacey threat to any team at will.
4) Our style of attack has become more varied and we seem to be moving away from the complex buildups of the tippy-tappy era where we felt a shot from anywhere further than the opponent’s goal area was unthinkable, to a more eclectic shooting philosophy where we can call on RVP, Walcott, Gervinho, Arteta, Ramsey, and even Song or Vermaelen to hammer one from distance or rely on Santos or Jenkinson to whip either the ball or themselves into the attack.
5) With the Verminator back and Koscielny showing a formidable partnership with him or Mertesacker, our back 4 is starting to show signs of rock-solid reliability. The maturing of Jenkinson and the yet to be proven Santos offers AFC the depth we have always lacked. Once Wilshere, Sagna and Gibbs return to the lineup, Arsene will have the unenviable job of selecting from a treasure-house of talent to rely on.
What mid-table EPL manager wouldn’t dream of having players like AOC, Arshavin, Frimpong, Fabianski, Miyachi, Park, Djourou, Coquelin, Aneke, Lansbury and Benayoun in their starting 11? We have them on the bench or out on loan, along with players like Campbell, Vela, Bendtner and Silva!
Arsenal have successfully EVOLVED from a young but naive Barcelona light, to a gradually improving collection of united, skillful, calm, confident and relentless winners……despite the media and AAA’s desperately attempts to portray us as a one-man Club. Long my the evolution continue!
Article written by Don McMahon.
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