Have Arsenal learned from Barca – creating a modern Super Club

{ Warning :  I might actually make a point this week, no
time for joking, I’ve got to get back on Higuain watch, pfft. }


It’s that time of year again, when we
see the mass migration of “fans” from the “Arsene’s a wanker” and “Gazidis is a
mong”, “what are they paid for?” camps over to the “Arsene’s a genius”,
“Gazidis is playing a blinder”, “I told you so” camp. (you could do this
in  Attenborough’s voice, it might suit.)

A migration built on rumours. This migration occurs for much
the same reason, as one Attenborough might speak of in relation to birds – for
hunger. The birds hunger for food, the “fans” hunger for signings, or in
fairness, the hunger for world class signings. There are a few differences. The
birds bust their bollocks to get to far flung places, where they KNOW there is
food to be found, but our “fans” of course, go through all the effort, on the
promise of signings, migrate on the strength of rumours.

The birds don’t scream from the rooftops that the food they
are going to get is going to be “THE BEST FOOD EVER”, or roar “IT WILL BE THE
FOOD THAT SHOWS WE’RE AIMING FOR BETTER FOOD, AND WILL LEAD US TO GREATER FOOD
IN THE FUTURE””. No! The birds wait until they get there, and enjoy whatever
they can get, appreciate it, make do as best they can. And they can relax on
their travels as they KNOW the food is definitely there.

Our “fans”, however, get doubts halfway, because their
journey is based on rumours, or some jackdaw at the front of their formation
gets a text (ye right a bird with a mobile) to say “Fuck, Gonzalo Higuain’s
actually going to Napoli”, without checking it’s validity, he roars “TURN
AROUND, TURN AROUND , QUICK!”, and they do, they change direction immediately,
without even questioning for themselves the rumour. They turn back, hungry
still, not knowing what to believe, or (in this context) where their food
actually is. They turn back away from the club and the manager being great, and
set a course for abuse and depression again, and they huddle together for
shelter, hungry and shivering, until they get the scent of another feast – The
waft of Wayne Rooney gravy (uurrggh that sounds dirty, and horrible), or the
aroma of Kaka Kebab’s in the air, suffering from Gonzo guilt, if Higuain
doesn’t materialise.

The reason I write this nature
documentary is, because I’ve seen people finish last season tearing strips out
of our club, start the transfer window in similar fashion, but then when the
rumours of the better standard of player we’re being linked with, and the
alleged amounts of money we have to spend, the same people are singing the
clubs praises, and saying “I knew it”, “I told you so” etc. And it’s gone a
step further now, they claim we’re going to win the league, and I don’t see any
mention of a sarcasm hashtag. No signings made, but we’re going to win the
league, City spending fortunes and a GOOD manager now, and we’re going to win
the league. Jose back at Chelsea, going to spend a fortune, and we’re going to
win the league, only Yaya Sanogo signed, but “we’re going to win the league”.
Oh
please! Please wait, and see, and Shut your beaks.

The only conclusion I can make is that some of our
supporters are less intelligent than some of the birds I talk of, crows,
swallows, and pigeons, or more suitably in this case cocks and tits. Now I’ve
been told once or twice that I shouldn’t slag off or call fans and readers
stupid, but as the saying goes, “If it walks like a duck, and it quack’s like a
duck, THEN it’s a fucking duck”.

Now all this bird talk has just put the old football anthem
into my head –

If I had the wings of a sparrow,

And the dirty black ass of a crow,

I’d fly over Tottenham tomorrow,

And shite on the bastard’s below, below.

Shite on, Shite on, Shite on the b####rds.’ below!!!

Sorry, as per usual, I wandered off subject.

So to avoid the transfer conundrum on twitter and elsewhere,
I’ve been trying to do other stuff to keep myself occupied. Last week, it was
TV that came to the rescue. This week I’ve finally made time to start reading
Graham Hunter’s, “ ‘Barca’ … the making of the greatest team in the world”. So
far I’ve only got 71 pages read, and it’s probably the fastest 71 pages I’ve
ever read, as it’s so well written and easy to read, and bloody interesting.
Already in so few pages, I’ve come across so many interesting things, which of
course, me being me, have got me thinking about Arsenal. Some quotes have got
me thinking…. Some about the view of our club from outside in comparison to the
views some of our own fans have towards it. Some about what’s needed to create such
a great team, a super-club if you like, and then thinking, “so why can’t we do
it ?” or “are we in the process of doing just that, creating our own super club!”.

Naturally first up, Messi. 
Might as well get him out of the way, as there is no way I can talk
about Barca and not talk about him. Now I’m not going to say “I wonder if it’s
possible that we could possibly buy him with our new found wealth”. No, forget
about it. What interested me was the story of how he got to Barca. His own
battle with his size etc., but more importantly, the fact that the club very
nearly didn’t take him. What?! I hear you say, I said the same, (it’s a long
story, so I won’t go into it now, but DO get the book and read, it’s amazing
how he got to where he is today), but with his size they weren’t sure if it
would work out, also the board only look a few games or the next trophy ahead,
so to be thinking about what a 13-year-old can do in the future isn’t the way a
board functions. It was only through persistence from other members of staff,
within the club, some even putting their own money in to pay for the treatments
Messi was receiving to help him grow, growth hormone injections to be precise.
Amazing, as his talent was obvious for all but the outlay was considerable for
a kid of that size. That got me thinking about our own situation. These people
inside Barca are all football men, ex-players, or coaches, etc. given other
jobs within the club, but football men first off. It was their persistence that
got the greatest player we’ve seen, to their club, and a huge part of their
unbelievable side. Have we got that? Have we got enough football men left in
the club ? (I’m not talking about the Tony Adams recent sitution, I’m not going
there. That’s an argument that can’t be won.

Never discuss religion, and that’s what he is to us fans, an
almost religious icon. (icons can talk shite too), oops, no, not going there).
I don’t think we have. I think we’ve too many business types, too many number
crunchers and economist types, and none who would fight to get a player into
our club. None that would question the clubs decisions on letting players go. I
think they’ll question if it’s financially related but not football related,
and that worries me. The other thing in relation to this is the amount of crap
Wenger gets for going out and paying money for kids, even though it’s the risks
that are taken on kids that blossom and turn into your Messi’s and Cesc’s. If
he buys kids he’s abused. If he buys kids, tries developing them, it doesn’t
work out, they leave, and make a success of their career, he’s abused for
letting them go. If he doesn’t buy kids he’s abused because there’s no kids
coming through. And when a new player bursts onto the scene elsewhere, he’s
abused for not spotting him first, even though you don’t want him wasting his
time on kids. Jesus, I’m dizzy, I give up.

Then something Tito Villanova said, on how they react to
defeat. Some fans should read and re-read this section.  “I never like losing, but I learned
very early that you can’t win every time. If you know you’ve done everything
you could and that you’ve had chances, then you accept losing is just part of
the game. You take it on the chin and try to improve”.

Refreshing?  Especially coming from a man
connected to a side that strived so much for perfection. Now compare that to a
twitter T/L of a lot of supporters after a draw or a defeat in say early
September, with 9/10’s of the season left to play, not a time to hit the panic
button (ye right). Pep also says “I want to win….”, but if
they lose he is the first to say “Don’t worry about it, let’s start
thinking about the next game”
. Also refreshing, it takes pressure
off the players, and allows them play with more of the freedom AW often talks
about. However from April to May he changes, his message changes to “we have to win” , life or death style (this bit we’ve nailed
,over the past few season’s especially, our 2nd half of the season
or the life and death times have been amazing. For this reason I feel if we can
get ourselves in a position to challenge for the league this side won’t bottle
it like some of our other sides). So that’s how the people within the games look
at things, but us, the fans = explosive panic, then abuse of everyone involved
in our club, and come to think of it, sometimes the ones who aren’t involved
get it too, they all get abused from every angle, everyone apart from
Gunnersaurus (but then, I guess a lot of them really love big cuddly wuddly
teddy bears, the little brats).

Then I come across a quote from an unnamed employee of
Barcelona, discussing Pep Guardiola from his time working with the Barca ‘B’
side – “He worked from the first minute, as if he were training the
champions league winners rather than a 3rd division side. It was as
if he was a vastly experienced coach who was going to be facing Milan, Arsenal or Bayern
Munich every week
”.(quoted in 2008). Now I might be reading too much
into this, but in 07-08 in the middle/at the height of our “crisis”, for him to
mention us, Arsenal speaks volumes in my opinion, and shows what we were
thought of elsewhere. He could have said anybody – Manchester United, Juventus,
Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Roma, etc. any of them, but his instinct was to say
Arsenal. While our fans were imploding, criticising, berating the club, the
rest of the world admired, enjoyed and feared us. I wish our own could
appreciate our club similarly.

Next I see a part where they’re discussing Messi and the
general strengths of the team, he says, “in this team you have the greatest
player in the world, who only thinks about winning…….. But this is a very
competitive team. We have 3 or 4 extraordinary players, 3 or 4 who have a
natural ability to take on the big occasions”. 
For me this was really interesting, especially now, during
transfer window time. If Barca feel they have 4 top class players and they rest
are good, with the correct mentality, temperament for the big occasions and the
work ethic to add to the group. Now us fans hear of a signing, check them out
immediately, and if they’re not in the top five in the world in their position,
there’s an immediate and heated debate on the quality and standards of the
players that we’re signing. Always demanding the best, for EVERY position,
‘aarrgh we’re buying low quality’, then the usual meltdown ensues. But for me
these quotes show that a team needs three or four world class players and then
the rest need to be able to cope with the big time, work hard, and suit our
style, (Jenkinson a fine example IMO), and also understand that these three or four
are the main man and not to be disgruntled by that. So every signing doesn’t
have to be a Xavi or a Messi or a bloody Messiah even, assembling a top top
successful side is a very very complex jigsaw. By placing a very shiny piece in
the middle of a table means nothing by itself, it’s only when the other
ordinary plain looking pieces are placed around it that the beauty of the full
picture comes together and shines out. So the sheer explosions of rage that
happen when a player gets signed is ridiculous, look at the bigger, overall
picture first please. Plus let’s not forget we have a manager who turns the
ordinary/average one into a top class one, when given time to do so, thus creating
a seriously good looking jigsaw.

As Graham Hunter himself says, when concluding one of the
chapters, “There you have it, skill, leadership, fun, flair, hard work
and pride in the club they believe belongs to them – crucial elements in
building the greatest team in the world”
. I feel like we have a lot
of this in place, skill – yes Santi for e.g., Leadership – Per and Arteta for
e.g., Fun – just look at them training, Flair – Santi again, Hard Work – yes,
you could really see that in the 2nd half of the season, and pride
was also seen in abundance in the run in too.. BUT do you think all of our
players feel like they’re at a club “they believe belongs to them”? On the
training ground I think they do, but in the stadium in front of their own fans
getting booed, jeered and hissed at by our own fans, or hearing their great
friends and team-mates taking abuse from same “fans”, I doubt it.

It’s a shame really, as I think we have an awful lot of the
ingredients to become a successful super-club, we’re not there yet, but we’re
not a million miles away either. The foundations are there. But the fans and
their reactions are also a crucial component of this successful model, like it
or not. It’s when the players are in the stadium with the fans that they truly
get the feeling of the club belonging to them, so if they don’t feel that, then
it’s a vital ingredient missing from the overall recipe for success. Now I know
we need more quality, and hopefully that will come this summer, but that’s not
in our control, but our own reactions and actions in our stadium, are in our
control.

One final thought, in the book there is this picture of Pep,
a former player, who had real quality, and a calm and level head when playing,
who progressed to become manager, the final piece in the
jigsaw of the greatest side in the world.

It got me thinking that Mikel Arteta comes across very
similar in his style, attitude and demeanour, and if you ever saw the video of
himself and Arsene discussing things on the Emirates pitch during an open
training session you just get the feeling he is like a sponge taking everything
in. So maybe in the future, hopefully for me, quite a few years away yet (as I
want Wenger as long as it is possible), we might see Arteta take the helm, and
lead us through a golden era too, and who knows maybe Graham will be back
writing a book “ARSENAL’– the greatest team ever”, and inside we might find a
picture of our leader Mikel.

Mikel – Our leader
(If we signed Gareth Bale)

I’d like to thank Graham Hunter, I Tweeted him to see if it
was cool to use quotes from his book, and he said “Go for it”. Sound guy and a
brilliant book, so if you haven’t read it, give it a lash. I just wish if I’d
thought of it, I should have asked him if he’d seen Stewart Robson knocking
around Spain
in the recent past, as we’re all so worried as to his whereabouts.

John Woods 


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