The League Cup Renaissance Man
After watching our Carling Cup victory against Blackburn the other night (or morning for me) it is hard not to be amazed at what Arsene Wenger, and his philosophy and vision of football, has done for Arsenal Football Club. All Arsenal fans know of Wenger's shrewd business acumen and unmatched eye for talent when it comes to transfer dealings, Vieira, Henry, Lauren, Petit, Pires, and more recently Van Persie, Fabregas and Toure are all testament to this. Relative unknowns who Wenger plucked from obscurity and transformed and developed into players that will rival any in their positions.
While our rivals, both for silverware and geographical, continue to spend big in search of success, - and in doing so drastically inflating the transfer market - Wenger goes about his dealing in relative anonymity. Often the press will not even speculate on a target until they are unveiled at London Colney or officially announced by the club as an Arsenal player, such was the case with Crozillian/Broatian striker Eduardo da Silva. His scouting network is second to none, with Steve Rowley, Gilles Grimandi, Jean-Marc Gilliou and Sandro Orlanelli leaving no stone unturned in search of the most exciting youth prospects in Europe, France, Africa (and now Asia) and South America respectively.
I read a story not long ago concerning the signing of our young Brazilian midfielder, and the heir apparent to the legendary Dunga`s throne, Nevez Denilson. Arsene travelled to Brazil in the summer break of 2006, before the World Cup, to meet with Orlanelli regarding possible signings. On arrival Orlanelli handed him near 100 hours of DVD footage of youngsters from all over South America. According to Orlanelli, they sat watching the footage for the better part of 2 days with Wengers expression growing increasingly more frustrated until he watched for about 5 minutes of a young defensive midfielder, in the mould of a Pirlo or Rendondo, the type which has skipped an entire generation of Brazilian footballers, and his mood instantly improved he was so impressed. The fact that Arsene would travel to Brazil, trawl through hours upon hours of footage of the worlds most creative and technically brilliant youngsters, only to be excited, and ultimately end up signing, a gritty but smooth passing midfield anchor says a lot about the man, and his obsession with the game. Most managers would want to return from South America with the 'next` Ronaldo, Maradona, Ronaldinho or Batistuta, not the next Edu. This is the same characteristic that led Wenger to buy the no-frills, solid and consistent Gilberto after Brazil`s 2002 WC triumph when United splashed out on the flashier but ultimately unsuccessful Kleberson.
Along with being an excellent football manager Arsene is a businessman, with a degree in Economics. When he, along with the board, took the calculated risk of moving to Ashburton Grove in his ambition to make Arsenal the greatest football club on the planet he knew all to well that the move would mean a drastic decrease in transfer funds, and so, went about accumulating the finest young talent around. For minimal cost he signed the core of our first team, Cesc, Toure, Clichy, Eboue, RVP, Flamini, Bendtner, Djourou etc., and blended that with the experience and winning mentality of players like Gallas, Rosicky and Hleb at well below their real market values, exploiting circumstances with the players and their clubs brilliantly to his advantage.
I have long since been of the belief that, to an extent, Wenger`s desire to win the league with these young players, and his faith in them to achieve this feet, would be a sort of moral victory for himself and for football in a time where morals seem to be almost non-existent in the game. Being the footballing purist that we know him to be I think the reason Wenger so desperately wants this team, which cost about the same amount to assemble as a Ferdinand, Shevchenko or two Darren Bent`s, to succeed is the same ethic that makes him refuse to pay over the odds for English players. The fact that this moral victory seems realistically achievable in the current football climate is nothing short of remarkable. If we win the league with Mourinho not around to be victim to his subtle gloating and enormous pride it will be his only regret, such was his despise for the loud mouth lotto winner.
Arguing with a United fan about who is the better manager, Wenger or Fergie is pointless. United fans have been so spoilt with success for the past 15 years that they only see value in things if they are accompanied by shiny new silverware. When Ol` Purple/Red Nose (delete as you see fit) leaves, eventually, United will be fine. He will leave a trophy cabinet full enough to rival most in world football and although it will be a sad day for United fans the next manager will come in and have the same luxury he had of being able to financially outmuscle just about anybody, bar Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Wenger`s legacy at Arsenal will be much greater than Fergie`s at United, and immeasurable by such a simplistic and finite barometer as trophies won. He will leave us with a training ground, stadium, academy and scouting network that are the envy of world footballer. He will leave us, and whoever replaces him, with the gift of being able to compete financially with the likes of United and Chelsea for players due to his vision of Arsenal as a world football power. He will leave English football having changed training and dietary techniques to meet the standards he saw as the future of football from his time in Japan. Maybe most importantly though he will leave us with his philosophy of the game and the beauty of it all. All this, what will be Wenger`s legacy, is on display every time Arsenal play a game of football but never more is his vision more evident than when we play in the Carling Cup. The man is always ten steps ahead and his foresight is never more obvious than in the fabulous skill and almost identical aesthetic in which the second string play his renowned pass and move version of the game.
'Arsene Knows`, and the Carling Cup shows it.
Article submitted bu OziGooner