Alexis Sanchez has finally, and remarkably quickly as well, started to raise his head above the shoulders of his taller opponents. Alexis Sanchez, in my mind the greatest Chilean artist since Alejandro Jodorowsky, has started creating and scoring goals just for fun. Exciting times to be a Gooner.
At the same time, Arsene Wenger has made a somewhat surprising statement, saying that the fighting instincts shared by Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez were honed on the streets of South America. Before going on a spree of dissection and discussion, perhaps best to read Arsene’s comments in their context.
I picked up the following quotes from Beebs, Daily Mail and The Guardian:
‘Look across Europe and where are the strikers from? Many of them, at least 80 per cent, are from South America.
‘Maybe it’s because in Europe street football has gone. In street football when you’re 10-years-old, you want to play with 15-year-olds.
‘Then you have to prove you’re good, you have to fight and win impossible balls.
‘When it’s all a bit more formalised, it’s less about developing your individual skill and fighting attitude. We’ve lost that a bit.
‘Not every South American has that, but if you go back 30 or 40 years in England, life was tougher.
‘Society has changed. We’re much more protective than we were 20 or 30 years ago. We have all become a bit softer.’
On the rapid transition of Alexis to the English Premier League.
‘I’m a bit surprised. It’s because he has a particular mental strength.
‘He reminds me of the first generation of English players that I had – Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Martin Keown. This kind who is just ready for the fight.
‘It’s natural to Alexis. Every day he wants the ball. He doesn’t walk out, he runs out.
‘He has a natural level of energy that is unbelievable. You would love everyone to have that, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.
‘When you see where he has come from, where he was born, and then he plays for Barcelona and Arsenal, he needs to have something special.’
Asked if Sanchez and Suarez were alike, Wenger replied:
‘Exactly. When Suarez gives the ball to an opponent, he wins it back straight away.
‘Sanchez is the same, there is no time between the offence and defence. The transition is very quick. And they are very quick as well.’
Obviously Wenger feels this energy and never-say-die attitude of the Chilean is fantastic for the team. And I think we agree, by and large. He was very careful not to claim all Latin Americans had this trait, and also that no Western Europeans had it. I think, if I read this well it is about percentages, and it is about a mix of different styles and characters, and lots of skill.
Which then, allows us perhaps to think ahead. Even dream! What about the “missing” midfield general, then? Long time ago, Before Christ, there was one Patrick Vieira. Leader and fighter extraordinaire, the never say die attitude, strong in body and mind, a great former Gooner, and a proud Frenchman of Senegalese origin.
His contemporary in the French team was one Zinedine Zidane, attacking midfielder, but with many of the same characters, of Algerian origin.
Perhaps Arsene was impressed. In came Yaya Touré on trial. Ivorian in origin, Yaya started for Arsenal in a pre-season friendly against Barnet in 2003. Manager Arsène Wenger recognised his talent but could not decide on his best position and described his performance against Barnet as “completely average.” Wenger was still keen to sign the then-20-year old but Touré had difficulties in getting a work permit. Ultimately, Touré grew impatient and opted to sign for Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk instead, where he spent one-and-a-half years. Perhaps an opportunity lost?
Then came Cameroonian Alex Song in 2006. Mixed reflections on him, so I will not say more. However, an approximate pattern emerges. Perhaps. African origin midfield generals.
My question is, where is our next one? Is it William Carvalho from Angola? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Anyway, I think the jury is still out, but valuable thoughts from Wenger. Friends I leave you with these preliminary reflections, and would love to hear from you.
Written by arnie