Yesterday’s news that Arsenal is to unveil another statue at the Emirates is just another example of wasting fans money on players that simply aren’t good enough any more. (That OK Mr Usmanov? Usual fee in a brown envelope please.)
Returning to the real world, Dennis is set to take his rightful place alongside Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry, commemorated as one of the true greats of Arsenal’s recent history. Dennis described himself as honoured and proud and told us that he loves us, which is just peachy because, guess what DB – we all love you too. He was a little circumspect about the unveiling sounding like Nick Clegg talking about the cabinet following the next election, saying he’d do everything he could to be there which when you put it like that sounds like he might very well not be there.
I don’t know about you but Dennis holds a particular spell on me. I have been known to watch Ajax matches just hoping for a glimpse of him on the bench looking suave, casual smart in a chic suit and open necked shirt – no tie. Like many of you (I suspect) I harbour a secret vision of him winning Dutch and European trophies before taking over from an eighty year old Arsene Wenger who, having won his third consecutive unbeaten league title, decides to step aside. Dennis then goes on to be as good a manager as he was a player. And I die a happy man.
We all have our favourite DB10 moments of course. There were so many crazy good goals, such strength and control, such vision and precision that if you had to choose one as an all time best you’d become a gibbering wreck. How do you separate the turn one way send the ball the other against Newcastle from the solo dribble and thunderbolt against Southampton or the “I’m going away from goal no I’m not I’m turning leaving you behind and chipping the keeper from outside the box” against Leverkeusen? How do you separate any of them from the right foot, left foot, left foot, right foot hat trick goal against Leicester? Better not to even try.
Oddly enough my favourite isn’t a even a goal. The moment of DB magic that had me screaming at the screen and still gives me chills is a simple assist. Simple for a football God that is. It was another great European night (we all have so many to thank Mr Wenger for don’t we?) Arsenal versus Juventus December 4th 2001 at Highbury. You remember it? 2 – 1 to Arsenal with the end of the match in sight, Dennis receives the ball on the far corner of their area does some Riverdance shit for the fun of it then turns two Juve defenders inside out like pillowcases. In the meantime he has mesmerised every other player in their team which allows Freddie to skip through undetected but unfortunately on Dennis’ wrong side. No problem for the maestro. He just turns it around the corner with the outside of his boot to deliver the perfect pass, perfect assist which Freddie banged home with glee. I love that moment for it’s audacity and invention, for his strength and vision and above all his team play. For a ruthless goal scorer Dennis was always a team player first and foremost. I would imagine Ian Wright, Davor Suker, Nicolas Anelka, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry would all agree that they shone that little bit brighter for basking in his reflected light.
I read some fatuous baloney from people bemoaning the fact that we don’t sign players of his calibre any more. I’m not going to explain why here, we all know the reasons we can’t afford the most expensive talents in world football right now but that isn’t the point. The real issue is that there is only one Dennis Bergkamp with his unique skill set and icy calm in front of goal. These guys don’t come along very often so rather than make negative comparison with players we have today why not just revel in the memories he gave us. Oh yes and tease yourself a little about his future managerial career. Why not, it can’t hurt to fantasise can it?
Returning from the warm nostalgic glow of Bergkampian memory to the present day and I have just begun to take an interest in the league table. The reason was brilliantly summed up by Zimpaul the other day with his 800 metres analogy. In that particular discipline, he tells us, it is the final bend before the home straight that makes or breaks the runners. It is there that you win or lose the race and to his way of thinking we are approaching that bend now. As a consequence I have to begin to consider the importance of other teams and their results. Usually these days we see the two moneyed Mancs, Chelsea and one plucky outsider in contention with us for the much prioritized top four finish. Sometimes Everton show promise sometimes Aston Villa, Spurs or Newcastle have a season beyond their wildest expectations and come close to the holy grail of Champions League football, and of course usually they fail to make it over the line.
This time around those plucky little cocks from the Lane are actually having, by their standards, a pretty good season. No point in allowing our silly rivalry get in the way of the facts, they have shown bottle, not least to come back against a pretty average Bolton Ham United on Monday in a game which, had Fat Sam’s men put away their chances, they really could have lost. St Bale the Chimp Boy Of Nazareth and media darling is finding his shooting range and looks determined to finish his Spurs career on a high. For the first time in an unimaginably long time we are actually going to have to work really hard to overhaul them. I shan’t easily forget wasting my Monday evening watching that tripe but as ZP says this is where the race is won or lost and so our rivals’ matches become ever more important. For all the heroics from their talismanic if under-evolved simian striker, our near neighbours still have many problems. A poor West Ham found holes in their creaky defence and an over reliance on one player, well, lets just say we know how that can sometimes hurt you. Don’t discount the possibility of both us and them making the top four at the expense of the Chavs; stranger things have happened. And don’t expect anyone to suddenly turn into Dennis Bergkamp and ride to our rescue. We have many top quality players but the important thing is the team not the individuals. When we’ve destroyed people this season we’ve done it as a beautiful free flowing single entity not as scattering of shining stars.
The most important derby for a long time draws near. We’re on the shoulders of some of the early pace setters. Time to hold our nerve and get into the right place for that final sprint to the line.