There was a delicious irony in Arsenal’s desperate, prolonged battle to retain Cesc Fabregas in that he was the main reason the club went so long without silverware. Everything went through their prodigal schemer and on all-too-many occasions he was their sole source of inspiration. As good a player Cesc was for the Gunners – and there is no question he was a playmaker supreme when times were good and a conductor of energy and hope when times were bad – the simple fact is that you don’t win anything with an over-reliance on a single individual.
With his recent departure to Barca they can now concentrate on becoming a team once more, and Wenger took the first positive steps in that direction this week with the purchase of Mikel Arteta.
It is easy to be dismissive of Arteta as a poor man’s version of his predecessor; they share so many similarities in their playing style only Mikel comes off slightly worse in each category. Though I suppose he is equally as Spanish as Fabregas. That one is a draw at least.
But the ex-Evertonian brings with him qualities that Arsenal’s team of talented but scattergun pups are desperately in short supply of at present. He radiates a composed, self-assured authority that will rub off on the inexperienced hotheads around him. Look and learn Frimpong. Furthermore, from his six years at Goodison Park, he’s been thoroughly schooled in the importance of the collective. His work ethic may be applied in an understated manner but its there nonetheless. There is no need for showy, grabbing-the-game-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck histrionics like Fabregas could occasionally be guilty of. There is no need to be the all-action hero. In this regard Arteta is Cary Grant to Cesc’s John McClaine.
With all this in mind – and this is some claim but its one I truly believe – the newbie from San Sebastian will prove to be a far better tutor and mentor to the likes of Ramsay and Wilshere than their departed captain ever could have been.
Wenger and his young disciples bought into their stylish football so wholesale that they developed a ridiculous sense of entitlement
For all of Arsenal’s exquisite passing and easy-on-the-eye build-up play there has been a serious problem residing at the heart of their admirable philosophy for far too long now. Wenger and his young disciples bought into their stylish football so wholesale that they developed a ridiculous sense of entitlement – a divine right of the righteous – which quickly turned to exasperation when opposing sides didn’t simply comply and die in the face of such perfect tippy-tappy. As a result frustration and a lack of discipline would soon set in the very moment things got a bit tasty. It may seem a somewhat strange analogy but for several seasons now the Arse have reminded me of Chris Eubank. The high-minded pretensions towards the noble art of pugilism suddenly curtailed by an aghast, almost naïve, amazement when an opponent dug in a low blow swiftly followed by Lisping Chris disregarding his ideals and becoming a ragged, disjointed beast.
The main culprit in these disintegrations was always Fabregas. His verbal assault on Mark Hughes all those years back after the then Blackburn gaffer set his inferior team up to destruct and nullify at the Emirates in order to gain a precious 0-0 stalemate illustrated perfectly Arsenal’s delusional state of mind. ‘Did you play for Barcelona?’ he asked the chisel-jawed bore-maester. When hearing the affirmative he shook his head in disbelief. ‘That wasn’t Barcelona football’, he decried.
As if there is only one kind of football! The naivety was staggering.
There will no such quibbles from Arteta. Though he possesses the same silky artistry and intelligent range of passing he wasn’t educated at a football equivalent of a fancy prep school but rather a borstal. Everton have regularly over-achieved considering their resources and they’ve done so by combining decent, attractive possession play with rolling up their collective sleeves and laying down a physical marker.
Arteta brings these values down with him and Arsenal’s midfield will benefit enormously as a consequence.