The Invisibles, Henry and Ozil
On Sunday, it was one of the most emotional days in the history of Arsenal football club, as the club and its fans bid Arsene Wenger Adieu at The Emirates. Fans and players alike were given an opportunity to pay respect, saying thank you for all the great man has given to Arsenal and indeed their own lives; players like Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson were even born after the Wenger era began yet are now enjoying great fledgling careers for Arsenal. Ahead of the speculation of who will be the new manager it was a day to say farewell to the existing one. Although on that subject, coming soon: a brand new football manager game! and who will be the Arsenal manager on it?
The game itself versus Burnley was a festival of that entire Arsenal football club has been known for on whole, in the past 22 years. Fast incisive football, high scoring games and eye watering skills along with players from all kinds of background combining to create what affectionately is known as Wenger ball. Arsenal interestingly equalled their record 54 home goals in a season with the five they scored almost fittingly in front of the celebratory loved ones of Arsene Wenger.
A small mention I feel is needed for the Burnley fans who were no doubt swept by the emotion of the day themselves, who respectfully sang “There is only one Arsine Wenger”, which was appreciatively applauded by the home fans.
All manner of past Arsenal greats were there to thank the talismanic Frenchman, people like Lauren, Emmanuel Petit, Bob Wilson and Martin Keown. It was also nice that two of the stars of the show during the game were Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi, who Wenger has kept faith in despite people doubting their worth on more than one occasion.
There was no more fitting a tribute paid than one tweeted by another graduate of the Wenger school of life and football, Hector Bellerin, where he tweeted:
One player that I am saddened to say did not feel that way was Mesut Ozil, who pulled out of the game on Friday with “a recurring back injury“. Following the game he tweeted, to say it was a pity he missed the match due to his back injury and he needs time to recover hopefully for the world cup.
I am usually not one to criticise Ozil in fact, my head usually pops up above the parapet to defend him when people question his game but this just seems different, very different. By contrast, I will give you an example of Laurent Koscielny who has had Achilles problems for well over 18 months now. In that period he has taken injections regularly before games to soldier on through them for more than a season now, while it’s undoubted he’s not the player he once was due to the injuries and age taking its toll, he defiantly has played on regardless for Arsenal and importantly in this regard for his mentor Arsene Wenger.
Looking back now at Mesut Ozil, for all the times he has been defended by Wenger, for all the days off and less defensive responsibilities he’s been asked of by Wenger, surely he could have at least managed even a cameo appearance during Sunday’s game. Surely, he could have appreciatively shown a bit of self-sacrifice to repay all the times Wenger did so for him.
One of the most common things said by players past and present is how Arsene Wenger has shaped them as a person. It is incredible the amount of players that say he has improved their lives and made them better people. One of the biggest examples of this is George Weah who not only went on to be the best player in the world but also now the president of his country, Liberia.
Sadly though the most well-known player connected to Arsene Wenger was not at the game. Thierry Henry was instead at the Manchester City vs Huddersfield game, working for Sky sports as a pundit because clearly no other pundits were available.
Thierry Henry is classed as one of, if not the greatest player to play in the premier league. Astonishingly, the former strikers’ record of 20 assists in a season still stands to this day. He was given his big break, when Wenger, who helped nurture his talent before he left to for the J-League, signed him, originally as a youth player for Monaco. In 1999, Wenger again helped Henry when he rescued him from a torrid failed transfer at Juventus, signing him at Arsenal for a club record fee. Obviously, the rest is history as he helped turn this majestic speedy winger into one of the finest strikers the game has ever seen.
With all that said, you’d think Monsieur Henry would have been part of what was arguably Wenger’s biggest day, to say thank you for all he has done for him, instead of being at a nothing game for Manchester City just because Sky come a whistling.
In conclusion, I will leave you with this quote from the great man Arsene Wenger himself
“As a club, we have an educational purpose: to give back to those people who love Arsenal so that they learn moral values from our game and how we behave”.
I got into football as a kid watching Italian football in the afternoons and ever since I’ve been hooked on tactics and the continental side of the game. I’ve written about Italian football in the past among other things but now it’s time to write about, the embodiment of how I see the beautiful game, Arsenal. Hopefully writing things and opinions about the game you haven’t seen before, I like a bit of a joke too.