Wenger's Full Backs
As part of a series of features in recent issues of the Arsenal magazine Arsene has given interviews on positions and players in specific team roles. Collected together they give an interesting insight into what he sees as important in those roles and players in those positions that he has managed and admired.
His views on full backs appear to have been influenced many years ago when still a player himself harbouring aspirations to be a coach. An unnamed coach asked him to take a look at a full back he was interested in. As he reported back to give a run down on the player the coach halted him saying
I don`t want to know how he defended, how does he attack? It`s clearly something he has carried into his own coaching since then. Asked whether full backs are defenders or midfielders he insists that in the Arsenal team at least they are midfielders "There`s no handbrake" he says "It`s just let`s go!"
Of those he has managed he has particularly high regard for Manuel Amoros, a French international defender, and national team captain, he had coached at Monaco. With the ability to play both left and right back roles he describes Amoros as a fantastic footballer and an exceptional, world class full back. Along with the legendary Roberto Carlos he feels Amoros stands out above most full backs as the best of their kind.
In turning to Arsenal players he notably excludes Cole but feels that Clichy has struck a good balance between defence and attack. As a talented player with great attitude and determination and a constant desire to improve he has impressed Wenger since he first saw him at Cannes where he usually played in midfield
I knew there was something special he tells us. Bacary Sagna receives similar recognition and praise for his attitude in training as well as games. His commitment and ability in both disciplines of defence and attack with the added bonus of good aerial ability are qualities Wenger appreciates in Sagna. Sagna himself feels that he had played a slightly more withdrawn role at Auxerre and now enjoys the extra freedom to attack at Arsenal, a freedom he has exploited this season with his first ever goal in top flight football.
Of those that came before our present pairing he reveals the resistance he had from Lauren in converting him from midfield feeling that he lacked a little power for the midfield role. "I said to him 'you will be an even better full back`" claims Wenger, seeing Lauren as tactically intelligent and able to start play from the back in the offensive style that his teams play. Nevertheless it took a year to convince him that that was where his abilities lie.
The duo of Dixon and Winterburn from the teams famous back four of the '90s are remembered with great admiration. Lee Dixon he saw as an intelligent player with good analytical ability. Essentially an attacking full back playing a more defensive game as he got older but retaining the fighting spirit and determination that characterised his erstwhile partner Winterburn.
Winterburn he saw as more of a defensive player but in that defensive role he was the best Wenger has ever seen. He was not very quick in his view
but you still couldn`t get past him! Like Clichy now he describes Winterburn as 'a tough cookie`
To stop him playing against the physios advice you would almost have to cut him in two. He recalls Winterburn in his 40s playing in Bergkamps testimonial
He played like it was a cup final! It`s the only way he knows how to play! he declares.
Nutty Boy may well be more defensive by inclination but most of us will recall a couple of long range specials that embellished his career in the Arsenal team. Clichy has yet to open his account for us but lets hope when they come they are as equally memorable.