I was reading “Invincible” by Amy Lawrence last night, I read the whole book in one go because I simply couldn’t stop turning one page after another: the feeling of pride was overwhelming, as was the amount of details given away by Amy.
The importance of chemistry in the building of a team, the innovations brought by Arsène Wenger and his obsession for details and the influence he had on his players, favouring teaching to barking orders, are all well documented in this book you should read immediately, if you haven’t already.
It was almost sunrise when I finished the book and I suddenly found myself playing a dangerous game of comparisons: where does our current team stands, compared to those legends?
Far off the mark, let’s be honest: it’s going to be a while before any team can replicate that achievement and I cannot see Ramsey, Welbeck, Wilshere or Coquelin turning into world beaters in one season. That said, I see that Arsène Wenger is working on that – it is quite blatant, to be honest. He’s not targeting another unbeaten season but he’s moulding his team into a fellowship, a group of teammates more than a crop of individual professional footballers.
If you read the book, you notice how many times former Gunners talk about the togetherness of that team, how having a narrow squad helped keeping everyone focused and involved and how important the so-called fringe players have been in that wonderful campaign.
It is a gamble and sometimes it backfires, but that’s the price to pay for a serene, motivated dressing room.
Also, players often recall how everyone enjoyed the freedom they were given but also how they felt the responsibility towards the team, because players counted on each other’s to get through torrid times and were willing to adapt to new roles and new positions on the pitch, for the sake of the team.
If you take all of that into account, you realise that Arsène Wenger is working on this team to recreate an ideal environment for his players to shine. If players do their bit, we might take a huge leap forward.
We need someone like Mathieu Débuchy to stop sulking and fight for his place the same way Martin Keown, Edu and Ray Parlour did in 2003/2004; when you see players like Joel Campbell or Mathieu Flamini keep their heads down and work to get minutes, you know you can count on them. They might not be the best tools in the box but they’ll give their all for the team.
When you see Mathieu Débuchy publicly talk about wanting out because he’s not playing, you know there’s no respect for the guy in front of him in the pecking order and no willingness to help – which will hold the whole team back.
We also need Aaron Ramsey to stop reiterating how painful it is to play on the wing and how better life would be if he played centrally; the Welshman could use a bit of reading or perhaps ask Freddie Ljungberg about how awesome it could be to switch from the middle to the flank: the Swede arrived at the Arsenal as a central midfielder but was shifted on the right to exploit his runs, his cool finishing and his incredible engine. From there, he simply became irresistible and made a difference for the team, allowing Arsène Wenger to align as many gifted players as possible. Moving Aaron Ramsey in the middle would mean sacrificing Santi Cazorla and that wouldn’t do any good to the team, although Ramsey’s performances could improve.
The choice for the Welshman is simple: it’s either personal glory or team achievement. If he has the courage to replicate what Freddie Ljungberg, Lauren, and Kolo Touré or, more recently, Santi Cazorla did, the reward could be eternal.
It’s all about the team, simple as it comes.
Players have the right environment to work wonders; they have the technical abilities and physical prowess to beat their rivals but need to go the extra mile to achieve.
The potential is there, the quality there but players need to start believing they can do it, as a team, or accept to fall short, individually.
We can already see the connection between Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin and Alexis Sánchez or the understanding between Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey; these are signs of a team that is blossoming into something wonderful.
If they can move one step further, they will succeed where other failed: bring the Arsenal to the top, once again.