For almost a decade now, Arsène Wenger’s project at Arsenal focused on developing young players and bringing in cheap recruits.
His vision was to bring in youth players, in order to turn them into stars injected with Arsenal’s style and culture.
However, despite his best efforts, it was a flawed project.
The first problem is that this sort of project should really focus on local kids. The other main issue was that the team’s ideology was based on the notion of creating great individuals who work well together , as opposed to a team, that gives the individuals some freedoms.
Wenger’s great teams were always based on having the best stars around.
His “Invincibles” had one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and one of the best centre backs. They also featured one of the top left backs and two world class wingers. This great squad was topped off with the best defensive midfielder in the world (Vieira), Thierry Henry in his absolute prime, and the great Dennis Bergkamp.
There was a whole lot of talent on that team.
Today, however, with Chelsea, Manchester City and other oil barons around, Arsenal simply cannot compete for the services of best in the world. The scouting networks of other teams also got better and the competition over the “cheap” stars got stronger.
It didn’t change Wenger. He continued to believe in his ability to create top-players on his own, and the notion of “stars” was still dictating things in London Colney, even though they weren’t as many as they were before Roman Abramovich came along.
Wenger, as stated, continued trying to grow his own stars, and he did a fair job in that sense. Cesc Fabregas is one of the best midfielders in the world, and Robin Van Persie is one of the top forwards.
The fact is, they were still raw during a majority of their time at Arsenal, and The Gunners could not keep them when they finally blossomed. Despite all that, Wenger’s game was still based on the quality of his stars, who were, understandably, not as good as “The Invincibles”, and weren’t surrounded by the same standard of players. It created a
team of “stars” who were not really good enough to be stars. A team that is not good enough to win trophies.
It appears that Wenger recently gave up on the “stars” notion. He is now working, more than ever, on team play. No more Hollywood passes “a-la Song”, no more incredible RVP-esque volleys, no more Vieira-style runs from the midfield, no more Cesc laser-pointed through balls.
Oh no – This Arsenal is industrious. No stars, no bullshit. A band of brothers, working together to execute an effective passing game.
Sacrificing individual talent to make the right decision for the team.
New boys Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski personify this new way of thinking. Both know they are not “the best in the world”, but they understand the importance of team cohesion and the mechanism of a winning team. They are experienced enough to play the simple pass and not lose possession by trying the sophisticated chip forward.
Perhaps Arsenal will be a lot less spectacular with this new philosophy, but at least the team has a chance to win something.