Will sticking together prove successful for Arsenal yet agiain?
By Triplec1988, proud member of TheGoonerForum
What does it take to be champions? That certainly is a broad question. But after rewatched the season reviews from 1997-2005 I feel it is a question that much be asked. What did those title winning sides possess that the current squad does not? There are certainly some key ingredients. Strength in the depth chart is surely a large aspect. Prolific goal scorers is another along with experience and a solid defense. However, there is one aspect of producing a Championship side which I think is particularly important, especially this summer, and that ingredient is continuity. When we look at the great squads under Arsene Wenger, we can see that the squads that have done well and dominated have been squads with a great chemistry and solid and constant team core.
The 1998 double winning side had the a largely unchanged squad, adding a few key players to make the difference. The back four had been together for ages, as had the likes of Parlour and Wright. Even Bergkamp and Vieira had had plenty of time to settle in. So when the 1996/1997 season came to an end Arsene Wenger elected to keep the core of the squad together, but tweak it a bit, signing players like Overmars, Petit and Anelka to help take the squad to the next level. It worked, as we all witnessed, as Arsenal grabbed their first title in a while. The team managed to add to this success not more then a few weeks later as they managed to complete the double by winning the FA Cup.
After missing out on the title in the 2000-2001 season, Arsene kept faith in his squad yet again as he looked to maintain the same core of players. Seaman kept his spot between the sticks while the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Wiltord, Vieira and Ljungberg had all become vital members of the Arsenal squad. Mr. Arsenal Tony Adams skippered the side and helped anchor the back line. With the core of the team still in tact after a disappointing season, Arsene again made only minor tweaks and adjustments by bringing in formers Spurs man Sol Campbell as well as the Brazilian Edu. The togetherness of the squad and the chemestry they had worked so hard to achieve in previous seasons proved vital as Arsenal were able to snatch back the title quite literally out the hands of United with Wiltord’s famous goal that gave the Gunner’s a one-nil victory at Old Trafford to clinch Arsene Wenger’s boys the title. This success was then added to as the boys completed another double as Parlour and Ljungberg scored in the 2-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Without a doubt the greatest squad in Arsenal history, the 2003-2004 title winning Invincibles again were able to keep their core of players at the club. Once again Pires, Freddie, Henry and company were back for another season at Highbury to mount a serious challenge for the title which had been so disappointingly taken back from them the previous season. German International Jens Lehmann was the only notible first team signing as David Seaman said good bye to the club he had served so outstandingly for so many years. By the end of the summer transfer window though, the squad was more or less the same squad from the previous season. Hungry and determined, this group of players knew eachother incredibly well and had worked up a team chemestry that truly propelled them into greatness as they finished the campaign with exactly 0 league losses and won another league title for the club, this time clinching it famously at Spurs.
And while I am trying to stay away from comparisons with the great teams of past and the current crop of talent we have in the ranks I must stress the importance of the squad sticking together. Last season Arsenal’s first team went through an emotion and disappointing roller coaster of a season. They started to develop a real team chemistry as Arsenal were in a poll position to grab another Premier League title. Yet in the end the title eluded our young and talented squad by the slimmest of margins. Yet the experience and the bonds created within the team last season will pay dividends in the coming title assault if Wenger and the board manage to keep the core of our team together. Players like Adebayor and Hleb were instrumental in our success last season and while they may not have acted in a very becoming manor so far during the summer the understanding they have with the team will be crucial for our chances of bringing back some silverware next season. The board and the manager seem to echo my sentiment, as both have come out stating that no one, at least Adebayor, will not be leaving. And after already losing such a key player of the previous season in Flamini I dread to think what losing any more key players will do to our chance for the title. We were oh so close last season. Keeping our current class of stars and tweaking what needs to be tweaked could prove yet again to be a title winning formula. Only time will tell but if history has though me anything it is that continuity is a huge part of being Champions. Let’s hope we build on the success of last season rather then dismantle it and throw it away.
Come join us over at TheGoonerForum and have your say on all things Arsenal.