Hello and hope to find you well on Spursday. Or Thursday to the non footballing people of this world. The second cup competition in Europe goes into full mode later today and it will feature a club who consistently, year in year out, talks about overtaking us and yet they still play in this competition. No more explanation are necessary to justify either ways.
The last captain to know what it is like to finish below Tottenham was Tony Adams and he’s had a couple of things to say about our current team. Our as in you, me and him. There’s no sugar-coating it here. Adams was a great player for us, a club legend in his own rights and bestowed the gratitude towards him by having his statue placed around the magnificent Emirates Stadium. A man who feels as passionately for the one single club that he has ever played for, whether during his time as a player or now.
It is the same passion which leads him to be critical of the state we found ourselves in at this moment. What he said in the interviews here and here are not different to what most (assumption) of us think. We share the same belief in Arsene Wenger being at the helm. We share the same disbelief at some of the players who just would not want to commit to us on the long term. Who can forget his remark about how he would just sign the contract as long as Arsenal keep offering it to him. That’s dedication, that’s love.
Yet, on some levels Adams needs to get in touch with the way things work these days. The backwaters of Azerbaijan may not provide him with such experience as the Premier League or even the Dutch Eredivisie will provide. Players these days does not have the same mindset as those from Adams’ era. Satisfaction no longer has a limit or an end. There are so much riches to be had from football this day and age, that no footballer would be able to resist. The bygone era of a single club player is long gone.
For someone with his wealth of experience, Adams do know a thing or two about the game. As a player who lives and breathes defending, he understands that solid defences builds championship winning sides. I don’t think he’s blind to the fact that we’ve improved on our defending from last season to this season. Yet, is anyone brave enough to raise a hand and say that our defence is now good enough to win the title? Probably not. The improvement has been put in place but it is no where near the finished article yet.
Player could train until their legs give way but things doesn’t always turn out as what happens in training. Players need to improvise and adjust to the situation. Take for instance the second half against Montpellier. The home side kept exploiting the space between the centre back and the full back, on both side. For it to happen once, it is understandable. For Montpellier to keep using the same tactic and for us not to move things around to combat that strategy would be poor.
Eventually we did have Mikel Arteta slot into that gap to be the cover. I wasn’t really counting but it was probably after the 5th or 6th time that the tactic was used before we shifted personnel around. A more highly tuned defensive awareness, and we’re not talking solely on defenders alone, would have observed that tactics and immediately set out to control the situation. Either players themselves have to take up the responsibilities or there needs to be one or two leaders in the pack who would bark out such orders.
That said, we are a working progress and it is still satisfying to see how well we have improved, defending as a unit. A lot of the praise goes to Steve Bould and Neil Banfield for the work that they put in during training. Work that doesn’t go unnoticed by those with affiliation to the club but works elsewhere. Patrick Vieira was quoted as saying that Bould is the best candidate to step in, should Wenger decides to end his reign as the manager.
Which is not a bad shout because Bould has been working with us for such a long time and even helped to push some of the first team players through, during his time with the age-group squads. A transition that would be far easier than say, recruiting someone from outside the current staff at the club. Whether he will be successful or not is another matter. However, the ingredients are certainly there to help him along the way.
For someone as proud as Adams is, the above endorsement from another former captain at Arsenal is not something he would take kindly too. In those interviews, Adams makes no apologies about wanting to come back and manage us. It would fulfil a dream for him (and for most of us, I guess). They were both part of the same great defence that was lauded during those championship winning runs before and after 1990. As the more recognisable figure of the famous back four, it must sting his pride to see him behind his more underrated colleague in the pecking order to be the next Arsenal manager.
It may be another 2 years or it could be another 10 years before Wenger steps away from us. If some pride could be swallowed, we may yet see the partnership of Adams and Bould being reborn into the managerial side of things. Just that this time around, Bould could play the lead role.