Are We There Yet?


Nearly there folks. Another couple of days and football returns. I’ve not heard of any injury problems as a result of the irritating internationals, which is a refreshing change. The international breaks have in fact provided us with another indication that things may be a little different this time around. Of course we all knew that this season would be different. The squad having had time to grow into a settled, balanced unit and the success of the latter half of 12/13 were enough to tell anyone with half a brain that we would be a force to be reckoned with but the success of the transfer window really made that obvious even to those who didn’t want to see. I’m not talking about signing Mesut. We all know he needs a season to bed in just like anyone else would. No, I’m talking about the fact that we didn’t lose any players that we didn’t want to, that’s the real story of the summer and we are reaping the rewards.

The biggest surprise for me so far this season is for once we have had a brief glimpse up the skirt of lady luck which flirtatious harlot has rejected us time and again in recent years. The internationals usually arrive in perfect time to either disrupt a nascent run of good results or to injure a couple of key players. This season we have staggered a little towards them like a boxer, ahead on points but having taken a couple on the jaw and in need of the old sponge and spit bucket. We were hanging on for the bell. The breaks came just when a squad, which had performed miracles given a terrible injury situation, most needed them. More than that we had players who needed a couple of weeks to get back to fitness and shake off sickness. Aaron Ramsay, surely the pre-eminently pivotal member of our squad and the one who most needed to recharge his batteries even experienced a mild tightening of his hamstring, just enough to make him miss the Wales game – disappointing for him but vital for our hopes. Now we can look forward to Theo and Lukas coming back and to those who succumbed to the germs at Old Trafford regaining their bacteriological equilibrium. In short the timing of the break couldn’t have been much better.

So how did you spend it? I know some of you prefer the methadone of watching the international games to the cold turkey of just sitting it out and waiting for the real thing. I attempted to watch a bit of Italy versus Germany in solidarity with you but it was like being offered Vimto when you ordered Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Instead I filled the gaping hole in my sporting appetites with Dennis Bergkamp’s biography. It’s an easy read, more of a long interview than a biography, but nonetheless, like a proctologist’s photo album, contains a couple of choice passages. My eye was drawn to the part covering his early Arsenal career. I couldn’t help but wonder how it might inform our thoughts on the latest pretender to Dennis’ saintly crown. Mesut Özil could (just possibly) be the closest thing we’ve had to a Bergkampian signing for a little while. A recognised talent for both club and country, landing in North London when at the peak of his powers, seemingly in perfect time to add the vital spark to ignite the sleeping giant and propel it to great new heights. Well maybe.

The fact is we didn’t know if Dennis would work out or not and we don’t know if Mesut will. We didn’t know that Aaron would be the most important player at the club (although some suspected he might be pretty hot stuff) or that Per Mertesacker would prove to be the most significant signing in yonks. We don’t know. I don’t, journalists don’t and bloggers don’t. What we can do is to examine the experience of those who have gone before and in so doing be better able to speculate on the trials facing the present incumbents.

In his book, Dennis talks about the pressures on a newcomer to Arsenal and the special pressures an expectant crowd can bring to bear on a special player. He was surprised not to get more stick than he did, he felt the crowd cut him a lot of slack in his first few months as if they knew he could explode in precisely the way he did and were just hanging on crossing their fingers until he did. He also speaks about the way even the best players will play a little within themselves in the first few months at a new club. They don’t take the lead, don’t put themselves forward too much. Cautious about taking risks and making mistakes they play the safe passes instead, easing their way in.

Part of the problem is the players around them don’t realise how to play to the strengths of a truly world class number ten. When they began to realise Dennis’s whole game improved. He and others interviewed for the book speak with fond memories of my favourite Bergkamp moment, the assist for Freddie against Juventus. The thing that stuck out for me was the fact that all that jiggery pokery and, lets be frank, taking the piss out of some of Europe’s best defenders for all that time was done quite calmly and deliberately and for one simple reason. He was essentially twiddling his thumbs waiting for Freddie to jolly well wake up and make the damned run into the area. Watch it again and imagine Dennis thinking ‘ho hum, tiddly pom, come on Ljungberg make the run will you, I’m getting bored of this’. But he knew if he held the ball long enough someone would guess his intent and make the charge full in the knowledge that they’d receive the absolutely perfect pass no matter how he had to deliver it. That kind of mutual understanding and confidence in team mates takes time to build.

There are signs that Aaron is catching on. I cannot wait to see how Theo and in particular Lukas respond to Mesut’s place in the Arsenal set up, it will only take a couple of players to find his wavelength and for him to find the pace of the Premier League and we could well see a return to the mouthwatering assists to which we became used during Dennis’ reign. Of course if he doesn’t work out a quick glance at what Santi, Olivier and Jack are capable of still suggests this side are already able to produce some pretty blinding football

About steww

bass guitar, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

22 comments on “Are We There Yet?

  1. Good morning.

    A really smashing Post which I very much enjoyed – thank you.

    I heard on the radio this morning that Jack has had another injury problem on his return from England duties.

    Like you, I cannot wait for the return of real football and to watch the development and gelling of our team.

    Patience is the key at this stage and the appreciation of one of life’s rules that there will inevitably be setbacks along the way.

    Bring it on!


  2. HenryB
    I hadn’t heard about Jack’s knack – let’s hope it’s minor he needs a good long run of games to get back in the swing. Much as Aaron did after his return.


  3. ” he needs a good long run of games to get back in the swing.”
    The problem is that when Arsene gives him that run(as he did with Aaron) Both Jack and Arsene will get stick for not playing someone else instead.
    Great read btw Steww


  4. Thanks Stew – marvellous Dennis, just marvellous

    As a representative of the minority or internationalistas I have had a decent few days I admit – England’s uphill struggles may have filled the back pages but the free BT Sports channels have delivered some very decent play off football from the African groups. I fancy Ghana to make a further stride towards world domination next year – Ivory Coast just got past Senegal so the Toure brothers will be in Brasil with the mercurial Gervinho

    its all good


  5. great videos steww thank you ….when we got arshavin i said to myself this player will make history with arsenal, he will win us the champions league….. i jinxed it…so now i will say something else…ozil compared to dennis is hybris and he aint even good enough to lace tomaaaaas or cesc’s boots… there i have fixed it and course-corrected the future … expect ozil to deliver us what arshavin couldnt. le big mac….


  6. I miss Arshavin.He was boss.


  7. the night against barca george…the night against barca at home…konscileny making messi his bitch and cesc + nasri+ jack playing a phenomenal second half…..phenomenal….


  8. Well, well, well. Under the gun at work and you guys have had a party. 225 comments in the last post. Couldn’t let Steww’s fine piece of work go unappreciated.

    We must be humble and hungry going forward. Southampton are no pushovers. It will be a hard game. They are well organized and mean defensively.


  9. steww,

    Forgive me for being forward, but your avatar name with the extra ‘w’ although admirably recognisable and distinct from the main herd, makes me for no special reason think of a poem I once came across, which also had an unconscionable number of ‘w’s, as well as ‘s’s. 🙂

    You might care to read it;

    Mr. See owned a saw.
    And Mr. Soar owned a seesaw.
    Now See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw
    Before Soar saw See,
    Which made Soar sore.
    Had Soar seen See’s saw
    Before See sawed Soar’s seesaw,
    See’s saw would not have sawed
    Soar’s seesaw.
    So See’s saw sawed Soar’s seesaw.
    But it was sad to see Soar so sore
    Just because See’s saw sawed
    Soar’s seesaw!


  10. and truth be told…wenger took pep to the cleaners that night… hehehe


  11. mmmm draxler? yes please !!!!


  12. mmmmm Podolski ,yes please !!!!


  13. BOTH!!! haha..and poldi to play as striker from now on….save him from pulling hamstrings making uneccesary 50mtr sprints at the start of 2nd halfs when “cold” ……..

    ( i killed unneccessary didnt i?


  14. I see Jack has called the Mirror out on a fictitious story.Well done son

    “Jack Wilshere ‏@JackWilshere 58m

    @MirrorFootball good lie today on how I am worried about my fitness before the World Cup! Please let me know when actually said that”


  15. David Beckham has admitted he would have become a painter if he had not made it as a professional footballer.

    putain destiny !!! look what we have been denied !!


  16. HenryB
    Thanks for that – I like a bit of poetry. The story behind the name is somewhat more prosaic. It was a typo. I meant to write Stew hit an extra ‘w’ by mistake and posted a comment over on ACLF before I spotted my error. It stuck.


  17. It’s a stadium not a library! Arsenal fans call for changes to improve atmosphere at home

    fuck yeah…finally pulling in the right direction! remove all stewards from stadium, destroy all cameras, forget numbered seating and people sitting in the seat number their ticket displays, both areas behind goals are for mad people only. club level fans to be kicked out cause they are useless posh wankers..no refunds…


  18. PG
    Check your gmail account I’ve sent you something!


  19. steww, it works for me. 🙂

    And so do your quality Posts!


  20. Another great read stewwww, the mouthwatering thing is we seem to have ball players coming out of our ears, everytime someone says I love watching so & so you have to add and someone else oh and what about what he brings to the party. This squad is starting to boil and even some of the most dreary fans are starting to bubble.


  21. Very good, Steww, especially the goal. You should put it up again in the next post


  22. Lovely piece, Steww.

    Nice poem, HenryB. (Big improvement on “I saw seesaw sitting on……”


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