“I will sign every contract Arsenal put in front of me without reading it”
In this quote, former Arsenal captain Tony Adams represents a romantic notion, one that seems to belong in the past. Could this mindset be the only way forward for Arsenal?
Arsène Wenger’s philosophy is about nurturing and developing kids in the same mold from an early age. Playing the same way right from the start helps them understand the playing philosophy of the club. When they reach the first
team, they’ll have an organic understanding of where they should move and where their teammates are moving to.
Almost every truly great football team was developed this way.
However, all of the great “organic” teams were formed, basically, by players from the same nation, sometimes even the same city.
This tribalism is a part of this philosophy’s strength.
Wenger tried giving it his own twist. He presumed, logically, that if he will choose the best players from around the globe and form them into one organic matter through training and schooling, he will gain an advantage over other organic teams. In theory, this sounds logical, as picking your players out of billions makes a lot more sense than picking them out of millions.
So Wenger brought the players from Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France and Mexico, and tried to mold them into a formidable unit. However, the level of commitment wasn’t there, as Wenger himself admitted: “We have stood up for these young players, so it is down to them to pay us back. Stay together and show that we can be successful together. Or, our bet was wrong.”
Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Niklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela and others may have been with Arsenal since their teens (Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie slightly later) and played some nifty football together, but they lacked the communal drive that true Arsenal supporters would have played with.
It was clear that they cannot be committed to the club like a local lad – like Tony Adams. That’s because they came to the London club for egoistical reasons and not because it was “their club”.
It’s no question that every club needs to recruit from around the world. It would be stupid not to scout for the best talent on the globe.
However, the conclusion should be that the core of the team, the spine, should always be formed by players that understand Arsenal better. Players who regard playing and winning with Arsenal as the top of their ambitions. A spine of Tony Adamses.
Players like Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Kieran Gibbs, Henri Lansbury and Benik Afobe might be less skilful or sophisticated than Nasri, Cesc or Clichy, but they are compensating for that with tones of motivation, determination and even tribal pride. These are forces that can’t be overlooked in today’s football. These are forces that Wenger ignored. He talked about commitment and values, but some things can’t be injected to you at the age of 15, 16, 18 or 19.
Just like Barcelona should have a Catalan core, Bayern Munich should have a German core and Juventus should have an Italian core, Arsenal’s heart and soul should be English.