Arsenal fans should embrace this Barca model, not deride it

It seems that you can always tell when there’s a mini crisis at Arsenal, because it’s about that time that former Arsenal boss George Graham decides he needs to contribute some pearls of wisdom. Graham has totally broken the mould with his astonishingly insightful evaluation of Arsenal’s current predicament. After careful analysis, Graham suggests that he thinks the current Arsenal team is not physical enough… Well, you have to give it to old Georgie, he knows his stuff! Graham has concluded that by continuing to mimic Catalan giants Barcelona, Arsenal will be easy on the eye, but will ultimately continue a baron spell that has seen them without a major honour in 5 years. Graham told The Sun,

“Arsene Wenger is a great believer in total football. He loves the way Barcelona play and I think he wants Arsenal to evolve that way… When Arsene came to Arsenal he had great success based around players with technique, athleticism, power, intensity and aggression. So the question I’d love to ask him now is, ‘Why have you changed that philosophy?’

The fall-out from Arsenal’s consecutive heavy defeats against title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United at the Emirates has been a renewed negativity surrounding Arsenal’s transfer policy, and the clubs seeming inability to compete with the Premier League big boys. At the heart of most fans disquiet, is Wenger’s faith in some of his home-grown talents, as opposed to the stellar signings made by their rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Now Manchester City. On the pitch, questions have been asked of Wenger. Is his team physical enough? Or are they too reliant on a passing game that if disrupted, renders the team impotent? Graham has questioned Arsenal’s lack of physicality, or a “plan B” as he phrased it, if they cannot outplay the opposition. Certainly, Arsenal do lack the presence of a Michael Essien, or dare I say it, a Darren Fletcher, in their midfield. There are also shortcomings in their defence, veterans Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre being Arsenal’s only experienced cover. Another criticism of Wenger’s stewardship is his refusal to buy big names. Certainly, whilst Barcelona have an excellent academy, they are not overly reliant on it. The likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro and Messi have all come through the ranks, but the team is also littered with superstar acquisitions. In the summer, Barcelona gave Internazionale £40million plus Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Barcelona are also not without physical presence. In Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Yaya Toure and Ibrahimovic, Barcelona can mix it up if necessary. In this respect, Graham’s suggestion that Arsenal can be a soft touch, is to an extent valid. But surely Arsenal fans should be weighing up the positives of a club run in the vein of Barcelona? Gary Lineker wrote in his column for The Daily Mail two weeks ago that

“Arsene Wenger remains living proof that old-fashioned principles like developing young players and working on the training ground still have a place in the modern game… they play football the it should be played… our Barcelona, if you like.”

Lineker argues that Arsenal fans should be proud of a man who has taken the club through the most decorated period in their history, and has done so without plunging them into the kind of financial mess we see today at Portsmouth. Wenger is creating a philosophy at Arsenal, which will remain with the club long after he departs, based on developing young talent and playing football in a beautiful way. For, unlike Chelsea and Manchester City, Wenger is growing success at Arsenal, not trying buy it. Once Arsenal have paid for their brand new stadium (which is the envy of most clubs in the country), Arsenal may even be in the position to sprinkle stardust on their team, and land the big names the fans desire. However, Arsenal will save millions in years to come, if they continue along the Barcelona school of development, and if they are successful, it would be an unrivalled achievement in an age of big spending, and big debt.

Talk of potential at Arsenal may not be what Gunners fans want to hear. There have, it must be conceded, been many force dawns with regard to their quest for silverware. However, currently, Arsenal sit just 6 points off Premier League leaders Chelsea. Should Arsenal win at Stamford Bridge this Sunday, Arsenal will be back in the race for the title. They’re the country’s highest scorers (60) and have over double the number of goals Champions League chasing Aston Villa have. That’s not bad for a team who boast Andrei Arshavin as their most expensive purchase at £15 million.

Arsenal fans need to accept that clubs have spells in their history where trophies elude them, and carry on supporting Wenger all the same. If given the time, Wenger may leave Arsenal fans something much more valuable than a few extra Premier League trophies, or FA Cups. Wenger could leave Arsenal as one of the richest clubs in the world, with one of the best academies in the world, playing the best football. In short a true dynasty, that no Billionaire can buy whilst sunning himself on a boat off the coast of Monaco.

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