A step back from the battle in the PL today, we can get return to the trenches tomorrow.
Today however wander with me in the warm sun, along the sunny beaches, blue sky and verdant greenery of Brazil.
I confess I am old enough to have watched the 70 World Cup. I saw the finest football team ever and I realised they were not English. I have in my life bought but one replica football shirt ever – yes – the 70 shirt worn by Pele, Tostao, Rivelino and Jairzinho. The shirt has conferred no more magic skill on me than it ever has on a Norwich player.
Until Arsene arrived at our club the proposition of a Brazilian footballer playing for AFC club would, in my opinion, have been absurd. We did not do what Brazilians do, we were strong, organised. Our strikers were disciplined and effective. Flicks and tricks ? Bending a ball ! Pah – nonsense. When an Arsenal player kicked the ball it stayed kicked. We would not have known what to do with Zico or Socrates despite their talent. Like Mirandinha on the Tyne in the late 80s the poor soul would have shrivelled and died (although that unfortunate chap had the services of Gazza as an interpreter to contend with too).
Enter our French conductor however and the best qualities of movement and skill were demanded of every one of our players. He brought in Frenchmen, we had a Dutchman who was in that class already, another followed. They came from Africa. Inevitably when we required the best they also came from Rio, Sao Paulo and even one from Lagao da Prata (where?).
And over the years Gilberto, Edu, Sylvinho, Denilson, Baptista, Andre Santos (and don’t forget the Brazillo-Croat Eduardo) have added to the quality of our football. Now don’t misunderstand me. I do not claim any of our recruits from Rio were on par with the gods of Brazilian football from times past. Thus far, and I will come to that presently, we have not had a Pele, a Ronaldhino or a Ronaldo. Each player who has signed however has added a dimension to Arsenal and, in some instances, provided some of the best moments of the season.
Who can doubt the relentless efficiency of Gilberto across the centre of the park, tracking, tackling, moving the ball with a short pass to the position of maximum advantage. Fit, alert, season after season – oh Arsene say you did not flog him for just a £million ! Nooooooo
Edu – he took time to settle, and had a bit of a talent for the spectacular own goal, indeed he allegedly took time to find a passport. But when he came good he was very, very good. My favourite game of the modern era was the squeezing of Chelsea at the Bridge in the February of 2004. 0-1 after a Gudjonsson goal in the first minute. We ran out winners 2-1 with Paddy, Gilberto and Edu grinding Chelsea to dust in midfield. With the trip to the Bridge done the unbeaten season was downhill thereafter. Another one who left too early and at the same time as Paddy.
Baptista – the Beast – pursued but slipped away to Madrid then landed on loan. Well his close control at times was most unBrazlian I admit, more a blind man in diving boots. The Carling Cup night at Anfield in January 07 though, the first Arsenal player to net fourgoals at the old stadium, in a 6-3 win was a night long remembered by me. I thought you might enjoy this clip of the Beast on the rampage including the two he scored at the neighbours.
Brazilian bulldozer indeed !
Eduardo, Sylvinho, Santos and Denilson, – I could give then all a paragraph, all good players who scored good goals and added to the club. Chelsea know well the threat of a full back at the Bridge. The latter two endured abuse that it disappointed me to hear.
What now though ? Santos and Denny on loan with clubs in their home country, both doing well and barring civil war in South America likely to stay there. Are we Brazil free and likely to stay that way ?
Well in February 2013 Arsene brought over a young midfielder from the Rio club Vasco da Gama by the name of Matheus da Cunha Gomes, or as he is known on a football pitch ‘Indio’ – He was sixteen years old, has a formidable reputation in youth football in Brazil already and was spending a few days with us, as he said, “It will be a good experience. I want to learn.” His visit paseed me by tbh. Here is a clip of Indio playing for the national u15s last year.
As the Brazilian commentator says “Goooooaaaaaaallllllllllllllllll’ The option to sign him comes when he turns 18 in early 2014.
We shall see.