Hello fellow soccer lovers. This is my inaugural post here on the93rdminute.com, and as an avid Arsenal fan, I’m going to examine the current state of Arsène Wenger’s North London side and the future of the club. Expect more BPL and MLS updates “every” Friday.
Arsène Wenger has taken a lot of flack recently for his reluctance to pay out huge transfer sums for big name players. If you take a look at the reasons for his unwillingness to pay other clubs for talent, it all boils down to the boss’ business-like approach to managing his club. Arsenal has finished top 4 in the BPL for 15 years in a row (absurd), developed a world-class youth program to raise talent rather than purchase it (easier said than done), and built a new stadium, Emirates Stadium (without emptying the till). All of this growth should cost the club a “butt load” of money, but Arsenal has been turning a profit year in and year out. No oil money, no Russian billionaires, just a stubbornness to run the club the way a Fortune 500 company would be expected to operate.
Arsène Wenger’s determination to retain Arsenal’s North London identity was realized via the 2003-2004 “Invincibles” season when the team went 26-12-0 en route to a BPL title. Wenger was able to build a hard-nosed North London squad, and inject non-English talent to take the club from brilliant to extraordinary. The French connection of Vieira-Pires-Henry accentuated by the class of Bergkamp and Ljungberg were a potent offense, which was made even more effective by the wall of English defenders: Sol Campbell, young Ashley Cole, and veterans like Keown and Parlour. Don’t forget the summer signing of Lehmann, never hurts to add a veteran world-class keeper to an already excellent squad. Wenger built an Arsenal side that was strong and skillful up the middle, speedy up the flanks, and impenetrable (26 GA in 38 matches) in the defensive third.
Reminiscing on the 2003-2004 team led me to the realization that this 2012-2013 Arsenal squad is not overachieving with all of its young players, it’s underachieving. Wenger knows that the current team will probably not win the BPL this season, but they nearly have all of the puzzle pieces in place to do just that. The core of the current Arsenal squad has developed a chemistry that at times has shown the true potential of Wenger’s team building (see here). The similarities between the players in the legendary 2003-2004 squad and those players in the current Arsenal squad are uncanny:
- Theo Walcott dominates the RW. Young Bergkamp anyone?
- Mikel Arteta is playing the role of the strong holding central midfielder a la Gilberto
- Santi Cazorla is the central playmaker, which Patrick Vieira did with reckless abandon
- Lukas Podolski is the left-footed specialist aka Robert Pires
- Jack Wilshere plays the creative and reliable Ljungberg role to a tee
- Gibbs is the speedy young left back that has turned out to be better than expected *cough* Ashley Cole *cough*
- Mertesacker and Vermaelen are the Campbell and Parlour of present, dominant in the air and the heart of the team
- Sagna is Lauren, hands down, RB drifting up the flanks with an eye for goal but the ability to defend when necessary
- Ramsey, Jenkinson, and Oxlade-Chamberlain fill in the gaps for this extremely young team
…but Giroud is no Henry, unfortunately. Maybe it’s unfair to expect another Henry (ever), but Giroud is proving every game that he is the pure striker this team needs. Like Henry before him, Giroud provides a spark that can fire up the entire squad, and he has a nose for goal, something you just cannot teach.
I am not saying this team will go undefeated in 2013-2014. I’m not that bold, but I will say that if Arsenal’s streak of top 4 finishes ends this season, watch out for a veteran keeper signing this summer and a run at Manchester United next season. Another 6 months of this team playing together, and playing well, should strike fear in the rest of the EPL. Wenger’s at it again. Victoria Concordia Crescit