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The Grass Is Always Greener

The Grass Is Always Greener

When one takes a distance from the prescient views of football fans, the consensus of opinions can provide you with some interesting dichotomies. With Arsenal`s season limping to an anti climactic conclusion, thoughts are already turning towards the transfer market. I`ve discussed at length on many occasions for my distaste of the silly season, it seems to me to be the time when the sirens wail and the nutters come out of hibernation. Maybe it`s because I was raised on the match day experience that the peripheral activities don`t pique my interest nearly as much, the game doesn`t exist to me in anything close to as meaningful a way without the pungent whiff of fried onions and horse shit in my nostrils and the eerie married vibration of footsteps and chattering that permeates the walk to the ground. But reading the plaudits that have been deservedly pouring in for Roy Hodgson and Fulham this morning really got me thinking.

Whilst many Arsenal fans will spend the summer getting RSI as they type their wish lists out in lugubrious detail, I got to reflecting on the lessons of the season. If one was to conduct a crude straw poll of which opposition managers Arsenal fans have the most respect for, I would wager Hodgson, Moyes and O`Neill would be recurring names. Many will continue to make corollary links between transfer spending versus future projections of success, yet the congruous link between the managers most of us admire are plain to see. All three are excellent coaches. I think we as a fan base through the prism of over familiarity have lost sight of the fact that this is what we most admire about our own manager. We inhabit a microwave culture built in instant gratification, Championship Manager and music careers so short that any act allowed the privilege of releasing a second studio album usually uses that opportunity to release a greatest hits. Hardly the best breeding ground to recognise the more gradually realised arts of football management. But the ongoing success of the aforementioned has driven the point home for me more than ever. In my line of work, allied with trying economic conditions, phrases such as "talent management" and "developing internal resource" are mainstays of an average day.

All three of the aforementioned managers, along with our own manager, tend to approach the transfer market with studied cool- in the case of Moyes and Hodgson this is almost certainly borne out of necessity. But having to cut their cloth accordingly has brought their bigger qualities to the fore. Hodgson is a prime example, since taking over a Fulham side seemingly destined for a limp relegation in December 2007; the playing staff has not altered beyond recognition. He has approached the transfer market once or twice to make some astute and rather cheap signings- very few of which have caused major waves, Damien Duff being possibly the only really recognised addition. He has been spend thrift with low key acquisitions such as Brede Hangeland and Mark Schwarzer- but I would wager there weren`t many Fulham fans lining the streets in expectation when they were paraded in SW6. Hogdson`s great success has not been with his cheque book so much as his abilities on the training pitch, coaching previously derided or underwhelming players such as Zamora, Dempsey and Dickson Etuhu and moulding them into better players than they were prior to Hodgson`s tenure.

At this point, I am minded of a quote from Arsene Wenger which a lot of Arsenal fans appear to have missed. Many contend that Wenger is destined for a role "upstairs" at Arsenal in the near future. I personally could not see him filling such a perfunctory role in a million years. When asked on the Arsene`s XI DVD what his favourite thing about being a manager was, he replied with a smirk, "I love the grass." The likes of Hodgson, Moyes and O`Neill really earn their corn on much the same terms. Whilst I often dismiss Harry Redknapp as a purely cheque book manager, even I must admit hat the improvement in players such as Gareth Bale and Huerelho Gomes cannot be an apocryphal coincidence. It will have not escaped the attention of most that the likes of Alex Song, Nicklas Bendtner and even Cesc Fabregas (who lest we forget only turns 23 this weekend) have improved immeasurably this year, but I think the tendency is for us to dismiss that progression as entirely a by product of age. That isn`t strictly true, a great deal of hard work goes into these players, the efforts of the coaching staff genuflected back to them by the players themselves. Improvement does of course come with advanced years, but a player`s talent is like a seed, without attention and the nutrition of hard work, it doesn`t grow. So while it is undoubtedly important that we do enter the market this summer, let us look at the managers in the league who owe their longevity and widespread admiration to the work they do on the grass and hope that most of Arsenal`s desired improvements are sought after on the training pitch and not just the transfer market.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Saturday May 1 2010
Time: 9:18AM


That's really thoughtful and under appreciated angle. The good thing about most of the names you reference is that, even if O'Neill is a little limited in the footballing style in which he coaches his charges, they don't breed cloggers. Some question Wenger's tactical ability or the extent to which he'll coach players to deal with set pieces effectively but it isn't possible to achieve as much as he has done at the level of consistency he has coached without those abilities. Wengers ability to turn raw talent into big money transfer targets for other clubs is testimony to his ability to develop talent. There's no reason why we shouldn't have as much faith in that ability than in the back page tabloid competition to buy ready made supposedly world class names.
01/05/2010 09:48:00
brilliant article, LD. nlce one mate
shady gunna
01/05/2010 10:27:00
It's interesting reading this post, a very good one from Tim Stillman, with regards to your team, Arsene Wenger in my opinion is a TOP QUALITY COACH, but to lose your main spine in a side is a hard act to follow, van persie missing for so long, gallas, fabregas, arshavin, all came around the same time, this had the biggest downturn to arsenal prem league chances. Mentioned is the form of Gomes and Bale, Tony Adams told Harry, when both at Pompey, Spurs have just signed one of the best keepers in the world, but his confidence was lost, the changes since harry arrived, goes without saying, van persie knows all about that one, Bale was injured, came back and has made such a difference and is on top of his game, with fergie again shaking the newspapers, how long will levy hold on to his gems or cash in, all this talk about barca wanting fabregas, it will happen, but when, is the big question, now arshavin comes up and into the picture, every man and boy will be linked to us - you, how much will man city spend? We have seen it all to much before, things will never change, but year in, year out, we all will continue to support are respective teams, good luck to fulham for the final.
spu 4 life
01/05/2010 10:40:00
Bale was injured? Spu 4 life, Harry had benched him for the first part of the season with BAE in good form, before he realised he could play at LW easily!
01/05/2010 11:49:00
Incisive article and a great heading to go with it. Building from within and a measured addition of some good players from outside has long been our approach. Barring the last summer transfer season we have usually also got the overall number of players in each position right to have redundancy in case of injuries. With the profile of our squad there is so much scope for year on year improvements. Nasri, Fabregas, Diaby, Song, Denilson, Vermaelen, Clichy, RvP are all luckily in a stage of their careers when improvement can be expected. With some prudent defensive additions to the squad there is every reason to be optimistic.
01/05/2010 11:52:00
Great article, almost brings a tear to my eye.
Professor Calculus
01/05/2010 12:19:00
Very nice piece LD. This is probably the reason why I keep asking 'What happened to coaching? What does Rafa do apart from transfers?' whenever Liverpool fans kept blaming their American owners and the people upstairs for their failure. The press and fans talk about football as if buying is the only way to improve a team. Whatever happened to coaching indeed? Ah I see, the dirty work on the grass doesn't make headlines or sell papers, that's why. Maybe this is one of the reasons that makes it much harder for me to call Jose or even Rafa 'great' managers. Winning trophies is one thing. Building a team and developing players is another. Leaving a long-lasting legacy is yet another.
01/05/2010 13:03:00
MON???? i dont think so...has underachieved considering the amount of funds he had, forever complaining, and his team play really boring football....moyes and the west london spiv definately
fran merida
01/05/2010 14:12:00
I think you might be confusing O'Neill with Pellegrini, fran. Villa's transfer activity consisted of selling Mercenary Barry and buying Downing.
01/05/2010 15:28:00
Villa also bought (in the last year) Dunne, Warnock, Collins, Delph, they have invested a lot of money into their team over the past few years.
Gun 'Em Down
01/05/2010 15:31:00
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