Street fighters, South American strikers, and African midfield generals?

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

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148 Responses to Street fighters, South American strikers, and African midfield generals?

  1. Well done arnie

    A nice debate starter: but Wenger is forgetting a few europeans:

    Klose
    Negredo
    Thomas Muller
    Van Persie
    Robben
    Karim Benzema
    Frank Ribbery
    Zlatan Ibrahimocic
    David Villa
    Diego Costa
    Fabregas

  2. mickydidit89 says:

    First up, “Banner for Arnie” I say 🙂

    Terrific post, I’m off to look up some obscure facts, then construct a bullet roof theory

  3. mickydidit89 says:

    Bullet roof, mmm

  4. mickydidit89 says:

    Interesting NB

    On the basis of Robben and Persie, it’s no more Dutchies 🙂

    I’m working on an Icelandic theory, so quiet please

  5. Rasp says:

    Hi Micky, my ability to generate graphics and produce pitch layouts has been compromised due to my version of Photoshop crashing and refusing to reload 😦 I am conscious that arnie, chas and LB (and others I’m sure) deserve banner recognition, but I’m stymied for the timebeing.

  6. Rasp says:

    …. however your suggestions on a theme for arnie’s banner would be appreciated 🙂

  7. arnie says:

    Thanks, Rasp, 2003 indeed! 😛

    Micky, I second the move for an arnie banner. 😛

  8. mickydidit89 says:

    Rasp
    I wouldn’t bother with banners for LB or Chas 🙂
    But ideas for Arnie… an Indian Tartan background?

  9. mickydidit89 says:

    Just search tartans and there’s an a takeaway in Glasgow called The Tartan Tikka
    ROLF

  10. mo says:

    Diego Costa is Brazilian and fabregas is a midfielder

  11. True Mo about Costa, my gaff. I always see him as spanish. But Sanchez is classed as a midfielder and not a striker

  12. mickydidit89 says:

    Here’s a possibility for Arnie
    “Rationale is as follows: “Kalvinder set out to rationalize what he wanted to express in the tartan patterns. His love for his native Scotland and his Indian heritage. For Scotland he chose the Blue. Then he wanted to recognize a famous Indian freedom fighter who was also a partial namesake. Bhagat Singh Sandhu (1907-1931). The peace that Bhagat was fighting for is represented by the colour White – and Red to represent the blood that was spilled by Indian freedom fighters.”

    https://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/tartanLargeImage.aspx?ref=5536

  13. chas says:

    Flippin excellent, arnie.

    I like the whole theory.
    One of the things I love about football is that those from a poor background can succeed, not like all those spoilt little rich boys driving F1 cars.

    Nowadays our English lads are all being hot-housed from the age of 8. I’ve spoken to so many folks who drive their kids all over the place to train with teams like Forest when the littl’uns ought to be kicking a rag ball against the gates of the North Bank from dawn to dusk.

    Even players like Wrighty who emerged like a glorious hod-carrying butterfly from the building site, don’t seem to come along anymore these days.

    I’ve always fancied having Argentinian full backs and/or centre backs. Hard as nails and take no prisoners.

    It just so happens to be Wrighty’s birthday today.
    A good excuse. 🙂

  14. chas says:

    p.s. definitely no banner for me.
    I only do about 6 a year.

  15. chas says:

    Just in case anyone wants to see him score some more……

  16. mickydidit89 says:

    Ian Wright
    My favourite Arsenal player of all time

  17. stevepalmer1 says:

    Afternoon all, although we don’t always agree Arnie, this is a blindingly good post;
    I think its important not to rely or go overboard by Sanchez, Yes he is quality he has great skill a diesel engine that seems to do the mileage we require, but form is something that comes and goes,

    The Arsenal team in my opinion has started very poorly, Sanchez and young Chambers has been my only shining light. Wenger who i have given stick to has found a couple of guys who look very good from the off.

    Mind you with the other players playing badly, we have needed players who can play through that, and these two are doing the business,

    Arsenal showed this weekend that they can play as a team passing was better and although i feel we still over pass in front of goal 70% possession is pretty impressive, even though it was against the bottom club in the league,

    I felt we could have been 3 or 4 up by half time had the chances been put away but chances were made and that is important.

    I was pleased to see Walcott and Poldi get a few minutes and was very happy to see how both had fierce shots on target straight away, i have to say i have pulled my hair out over the weeks at how bad our shooting has been, but now Sanchez seems to be gelling this team on his own.

    Usually when a player stands out and commentators and Pundits rave about a player its not long before a ham fisted defender takes them out for a month or more

    This is normally the time that Wenger plays down individual performances but for some reason he is bigging him up. I expect Sanchez to start visiting our sick bays very soon, i just hope i am wrong.

  18. Rasp says:

    Wow…. Ian Wright Wright Wright

    ….. genuinely two footed and some amazing assists from Vieira and Bergkamp

  19. TERRY MANCINI HAIR TRANSPLANT says:

    chas, I went to school with Hayes. His brain has always been compromised. Lack of women.

    One day three of us bunked off school, went down Soho, and ended up in the porno cinema.

    It was only us watching the film, apart from some bloke in the back row who was wearing a long coat.

    About 10 minutes in, Hayes got up and joined the bloke in the back row.

    Top stuff arnie

    Wengers right about South Americans, street fighters. There not like you and I arnie. Thinking were hard coz we battered the theory of supply and demand

    Sanchez had it tough. By the age of 12 he had to provide for his mum and 9 brothers and sisters.

    Football was his get out clause. The pivotal moment came when some geezer wearing white suit and panama hat offered a young Sanchez 100 pesos for dropping off some talcum powder.

    Sanchez refused, preferring to play football 14 hours a day in the sweltering sun.

    I love the guy already.

  20. arnie says:

    Thanks all. Nice discussion. 🙂 🙂

    Chas. “One of the things I love about football is that those from a poor background can succeed, not like all those spoilt little rich boys driving F1 cars.”

    Late Dandan I think wrote a comment sometime back on this idea. I am trying but cannot find it yet. 🙂

  21. GoonerB says:

    Lovely post Arnie and I agree with all your sentiments. I love Sanchez fighting qualities and I agree with those that feel he could be a catalyst. I can see players like AOC elevating their game to the next level just by being around him.

    Taking up the 2nd part of your post Arnie about the missing midfield general. You are right IMO when you point out that many midfield generals are of African descent and they do seem to be terrific athletes.

    Outside the EPL we here names like Carvallho, Khedira, the Bender brothers e.t.c. Do we know enough about any of them to be sure they are what we need and more importantly that they can thrive in the EPL coming from another league?

    If at all possible would it be better to source that player we need from within the EPL, so that they are already physically adapted to the league? Is there a player of the required qualities here already?

    Inside the EPL the common names banded around over the last year or so are; Tiote, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Diame, (there may be a couple more). Are any of those players good enough for the level we need?

    I can see potential deficiencies in all of them if we are looking for a true powerhouse player that not only has the physical strength and size but also has great pace and good technical ability. Those 4 are all questionable in at least one of the areas of size and power, pace and mobility, and technique..

    There is one player however that has been slowly catching my eye, who looks a real athlete to me and with good technique, and that is Moussa Sissoko at Newcastle. He plays a bit more box to box for them but could he play a more disciplined deeper role? If the answer is yes then for me he ticks all the other boxes. What do you guys think?

  22. Big Raddy says:

    Like NB I am not convinced about the hunger of S. American strikers. What one has to say is that throughout football history they have excelled but whether that is down to street football one cannot say.

    Does poverty result in a better player? Hard to say, it seems a bit clichéd to me.

    IW8 is also my favourite player alongside TA

    Chas. That is a wonderful banner apart from the ugly physiog of the bloke in the middle. Couldn’t you find a picture of arnie? 🙂

  23. GunnerN5 says:

    Good one arnie.

    Here’s a piece I found on Alexis.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………

    One of Alexis Sánchez’s school teachers in the small town of Tocopilla, in the dry and dusty north of Chile, recalls the time she asked the children to bring in pictures of their heroes in homemade frames. The kids were young and there were cartoon characters among the photos. Winnie the Pooh was there, Mickey Mouse too. Sánchez brought a picture of himself.

    No one would ever describe Sánchez as cocky, but self-belief has been a vital part of his armoury. Tocopilla, population 24,000, nicknamed Devil’s Corner, has declined since industry departedbut the pollution has been slower to head out with it. “Don’t worry,” he would tell his mum, a cleaner who in the summer travelled over 50 miles a day to sell fish, “I’m going to be a footballer.” His father had departed, hardly known by his son, and as for Sánchez, he washed cars at the gates of the cemetery.

    Nicknamed Ardilla, meaning Squirrel, he was the quickest up trees to recover the ball. Had Sánchez not been a footballer, he might still be there. But he is a footballer and he always was, playing barefooted in rough, uneven streets in his town. He never gave the ball to anyone but he promised, one day, to give them more than that. “I’ll buy you a house and you a car,” he would tell his friends.

    He did not do that exactly, but he did pay for football pitches to be built in the town and every time he returns he brings boots and balls. Thus the favour is returned: the first boots Sánchez owned were given to him by the town’s mayor, a football fan who could not help but be drawn to this kid just like everyone else. Undernourished, skinny still, not the powerful athlete he is now, but quick, electric in his movement, different.

    Sánchez recalled that pair of Reeboks in an interview with El País: “I was like a dog with two tails,” he said.

    At 10, Sánchez had been to Rancagua to one of the academies run by Santiago side Universidad Católica, but soon returned home. Not for long. At 16, he made his first division debut with nearby Cobreloa and he was 17 when Udinese signed him, twice loaning him to Colo-Colo, back in Santiago. Buenos Aires was another loan stop, with River Plate, where he won the clausura, and then after three years as a regular at Udinese he signed for Barcelona for an initial €26m, rising a further €11.5m, in 2011.

    By then he was already the Niño Maravilla, the boy wonder; central to the national team under Marcelo Bielsa and named the Italian league’s best player. He had scored 12 and provided 11 assists in his final season there. But when he declared himself a jugadorazo, a great player, in March 2013 during his second season in Catalonia, what he had said was taken down and used against him.

    The jugadoraso, written with an ‘s’ to reflect an accent which team-mates admitted they could rarely understand, almost became a sniggering nickname.

    His first season, aged 22, had been reasonable. He scored 12 goals in 25 league games and 15 in 31 starts overall, including one in el clásico. But the second was different. By Christmas, he had got just three goals, but none in the league. With every miss and every poor pass, the muttering grew louder; there were occasional whistles. At times it was bad enough to produce pity. Or laughter. He just could not get it right.

    Confidence seemed to have deserted him. Perhaps declaring himself a jugadoraso, “one of the best in the world”, was his way of motivating himself – he did something similar to Mauricio Isla during the World Cup this summer, publicly haranguing his doubting international team-mate during a press conference in Belo Horizonte to convince him that he was one of the best in the world – but it did not immediately work.

    Tito Vilanova, the Barça coach, praised Sánchez’s effort, which did not always convince. “He’s trying” is rarely a winning argument. Others at Barcelona tried to convince Sánchez of his worth privately, while publicly team-mates talked up his contribution. They were right: his movement, work-rate, strength and intelligence, largely unnoticed by fans who had come to embrace players of touch and technique, did indeed facilitate the role of others, particularly Leo Messi.

    But Barcelona were struggling and on one level he was the right player at the wrong club: when Pep Guardiola had first talked so highly of his qualities, they were not the typical Barcelona qualities. From a selfish perspective, a role on the right rather than mobile off the front, probably did not suit him either. He improved, scoring six in the last eight games of 2012-13, but the club’s president, Sandro Rosell, wanted to sell. The sporting directorate argued the contrary, insisting that no one offered what Sánchez did.

    There were still doubts, his style not always fitting the finesse the Camp Nou were accustomed to, but Sánchez responded with 19 league goals last year, including a lovely lob against Real Madrid. In a more direct style under Gerardo Martino, he was often the team’s best performer. Yet as one of the few “sellable” players able to raise a significant fee, with Luis Suárez signing and with Neymar, Messi and the Uruguayan all happiest occupying the positions that Sánchez most enjoys, his time was over.

    He may not have always been to everyone’s taste, but there was appreciation now – from some at least. And he could have gone off to Arsenal a hero. On the final day, a brilliant, thumping shot momentarily looked like making Barcelona the league champions until Diego Godín equalised to give Atlético Madrid the prize.

    So Sánchez could not claim the title, or a permanent place at Barcelona, but he had at least reclaimed his title. Last season, it was his supporters, those that lauded him before and who came to cheer him now, who pointedly referred to him as the jugadoraso. The squirrel from Tocopilla really was a great player after all.

  24. arnie says:

    ha ha ha. Chas. Everything else in good likeness except the photo is 100 years old! 🙂

  25. Rasp says:

    chas @ 1:10 …. brilliant!! please email it to nuts

  26. mickydidit89 says:

    Crikey. Great reading about Sanchez

    Thanks for that GN5

  27. chas says:

    Pleased to have made you laugh, arnie. 🙂
    Emailed, Rasp.

  28. chas says:

    GN5
    That Sanchez article is superb.

    I don’t think poverty makes anyone a better player, but may make someone hungrier and therefore more committed.

  29. chas says:

    BR

    This was the photo on the front of our Berlin shirts.
    It’s not surprising we were thoroughly searched going through security at the airport of the way back, is it?
    Ant was down to his underpants and the metal detector was still beeping!

  30. chas says:

    If you left click on the image and then select ‘open image in a new tab’, you can see the photo in a larger size.

    The chap who did the T shirts said it was the worst photoshop he’d ever seen. 🙂

  31. arnie says:

    Nice one GN5. 🙂

    I agree, Chas. 🙂 But I think it is more than “hungrier”, perhaps even desperate. The only chance in life for some of them.

    Which then brings in Raddy’s point, that this should therefore not be a pretext to glorify poverty or hunger. 🙂

  32. RA says:

    A good Post, arnie, well done, sir. 🙂

  33. chas says:

    Ah, I didn’t realise that was what had been done.

  34. GunnerN5 says:

    Having come from an extremely poor background myself I can attest to the fact that it makes you determined to be successful and leave the poverty behind.

    It’s no co-incidence that many of the world’s top boxer’s came/come from poor and deprived backgrounds.

    I personally believe if you were brought up in a poor background it could be a driving force in your life. Believe me living in some places in Highbury and Islington in the 1930/40/50s was neither a pleasant or memorable experience – only the Arsenal made it bearable for me.

  35. arnie says:

    Nice one, GoonerB. Indeed, Sissoko is worth a thought. 🙂

  36. The Cockie Monster says:

    Hahaha……” the pace of his zipping ! ”

    I should apologise to Transplant for questioning his over zealous activities with a stop watch in The Arsenal Tavern`s toilets !…..obviously he was doing some research for PUMA !……..” nought to 6 inches in 3 seconds, outstanding zippering Sir and with such an air of Germanic arrogance !….fill in this form and you will receive a copy of ….Zippering of the Month ! “.

  37. Big Raddy says:

    chas. Cracking read. Thanks.

  38. arnie says:

    That is brilliant, Chas. 🙂

    I think it is worthwhile to quote. Just two excerpts from a Shitty supporter:

    ‘I think as a group of supporters right now we have an identity crisis. On some subconscious level maybe we aren’t quite as comfortable “dining at the top table” as we thought we were because we still seem to react to any setback no matter how big or small, with a portion of abject panic. We’re sacking the manager, the players, the board, every time we lose a game. The attitude is seemingly always “heads must roll”. Sound familiar? It should. That’s the old City. But it shouldn’t be the current one.

    ‘we shouldn’t let entitlement and expectation remove the passion and love we have for our club, or let us lose the very fortunate perspective of being able to remember multiple relegations as vividly as our first title in decades. I personally don’t ever want to end up feeling like this: “…this year I no longer have that passion to care enough to get angry.” ‘

  39. arnie says:

  40. arnie says:

  41. arnie says:

    hmmm, moderation!

  42. RC78 says:

    I think Podolski also has this die-hard attitude and so does Ox but maybe not as much as Sanchez 🙂

    The players that really lack it in our squad are:

    – Wilshere, Santi, Monreal,Ozil

    If we keep Ramsey, Walcott, Wellbeck/Giroud and Sanchez fit, we should be able to score a few goals. If you add Ozil to the mix, it could look like a lethal team offensively…HENCE the need to have a really strong HM…Right now Wenger revered to last year 4-2-1-3 and it is working…also because he switches to 4-4-1-1 at times in the game allowing Sanchez to play in the center behind the striker…

    If we go out there and get ourselves a great HM along with a RB or a CB, we will definitely close to having a team capable of competing for domestic trophies….

    At the European level, Real and Bayern seem a bit untouchable so far

  43. Big Raddy says:

    Just one of many reasons why I loved this man ….

  44. mickydidit89 says:

    Nice work Raddy
    Not like Chas posted the same link earlier 🙂
    Having said that, I’ll watch it again

  45. mickydidit89 says:

    You snake
    Been into the office and changed it 🙂
    Wot a goal thought. Arsenal’s best ever I think I voted once here

  46. mickydidit89 says:

    RC78
    “Real and Bayern seem a bit untouchable so far”
    Just need to catch them in a one legger pants down with all guns blazing. So that’ll be the final.
    Back to Berlin for us all, which I believe why the Chas Mob went out for a recce

  47. arnie says:

    Did not want to do it this way, but just to link to the post. But bloody wordpress.

    From late Dandan.

    dandan says:
    January 8, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Morning all another superb article to share with you.

    Matthew Syed Sports Commentator of the Year
    Last updated at 12:01AM, January 8 2014
    I spent an evening at the Arsenal Youth Training Ground just before Christmas. It is just off the North Circular Road in Hale End, a green expanse of AstroTurf with a small, functional building at the side. It was bitterly cold, a mist had descended into the air, and at one point I thought that my toes had become ice. I jogged around the perimeter of the pitch to keep warm.
    On the field, Ryan Garry, the under-13 coach, was barking instructions. He did so in a measured way, urging his young players to remember the patterns of attack and defence he had etched on the chalkboard a few minutes earlier, cautioning them about moving out of position (the perennial temptation of chasing the ball) and encouraging them to “learn from every minute”.
    The boys were cold, too. They were wearing shorts, socks, boots and long-sleeved shirts. As the whistle sounded and the first drill began, they sprinted into their pre-set positions. The drill was five attackers against four defenders. The ball was thrown to the winger and he looked up, hitting the ball with left-to-right swerve to the winger on the other side. In an instant, after a cross and a lunging header, the ball was in the net. “Fantastic,” Garry shouted. “Now, let’s go again.”
    As I drove home after watching the three-hour session, I wondered just how many aspiring footballers had been playing across our nation on that bitter night. Not just in structured sessions run by professional teams, but also amateur sides, school clubs, youngsters coached by the guy in the tracksuit from the local pub. I wondered about the kids playing on street corners, in back gardens and alleyways, on the playing fields that are slowly dwindling into non-existence.
    David Beckham built his skill playing football with his dad on a stretch of grass near their small house in East London. Joey Barton learnt to play by kicking the ball against a lamppost adjacent to the council house in which he grew up in Liverpool. Nicky Butt played in the ginnel at the back of his home in Gorton until his feet were so sore they nearly bled. With every player who has made it into a top club, there is a story of sacrifice, courage and devotion. And that is just the English players.
    Steven Pienaar, of Everton, grew up in the notorious Westbury township on the outskirts of Johannesburg while apartheid still reigned. He was beaten because of his colour; his best friend was shot dead. But he practised, made it to Ajax’s Cape Town academy, and from there to the Premier League via the Netherlands and Germany.
    Eusébio, who died last week, grew up in grinding poverty in Lourenço Marques in Mozambique (his father died when he was 8), but he lived for football, and at the age of 15 was spotted by a local club. He eventually signed for Benfica.
    One of the deepest mysteries to me after a decade in journalism is the jaundiced attitude we so often have towards football and footballers. With the vast majority of athletes, we approach them in a spirit of celebration. They are heroes, men and women who have made it to the top through commitment and spirit. With footballers, the presumption is often very different. They are invariably characterised as lazy and ignorant. When they earn good money, it is taken as nothing less than a moral outrage.
    I have a very different perspective. When I look at top footballers, I see a group of men who have come through the most exacting recruiting ground in the history of mankind. I see a beautiful meritocracy where children from the working classes can dare to dream, where expensive equipment doesn’t act as a barrier (you only need a ball and space), and where genuine ability has at least a fighting chance of winning out over privilege, nepotism, cronyism and the other covert factors that thwart ambition in our world.
    Most of all, when I look at the extraordinary athletes who play in the great leagues of Europe, I see countless others, like grains of sand on a beach, who have tried, who have practised like crazy, but who have not made the grade. And I think: isn’t this the way the world ought to be? A place where everyone gets a shot and where success is based on ability?
    This is why the skill level of top footballers is unrivalled. It is why they can control a ball falling from the heavens with a flourish of the boot. It is why a team such as Arsenal are able to create a sequence of passes so tightly coupled, so beautifully conceived, that — as in the match against Norwich City last October, when Jack Wilshere took the final touch into the net — it takes the breath away. It is why, in the Barclays Premier League already this season, we have seen half a dozen goals that have subverted our sense of the possible. This, of course, is what happens in a meritocracy: progress, evolution, excellence.
    The idea for this column was sparked by the story that David Cameron’s hairdresser has been given an MBE. It reminded me of just how silly and counter-productive our world remains. Success is so often about connections, covert networks and hidden alliances. It is about who you know, not how good you are. This is why so much energy is devoted not to getting better at what we do, but at greasing the wheels of subjective preferment. Is it any wonder that progress — in everything from banking to politics — is so painfully slow?
    Football offers a signpost to a different world. A world where everyone stands a chance. Sure, the game and its protagonists are not perfect. Some footballers sleep around and get up to no good, but so what? Lawyers, teachers and journalists sleep around, too. Isn’t it time we saw the bigger picture? Isn’t it time we celebrated that the highest echelons of the game are populated, at least in part, by kids from council estates in the UK, from the favelas of South America, from sub-Saharan Africa?
    The irony — and it is a deep one — is that the poor backgrounds of many footballers is often used as a stick to beat them with. We mock their answers in press conferences and ridicule their accents. I often wonder if this is the real reason for the outrage over their high incomes. How dare these chavs earn more than me?
    It is noteworthy that less outrage is levelled at the high incomes of actors. But, then, perhaps they are less threatening. Perhaps there is something particularly subversive about top-flight footballers: working-class people earning tons of dosh in a world in which they are so often excluded.
    I will go back to watch the under-13s of Arsenal this month. I will stand at the side of the pitch and marvel at the skill, determination and commitment of a wonderful group of lads. A few will make it into the Premier League, perhaps even to the first team at Arsenal. Most will not. But all of them will have a powerful consolation and a unique motivating force. Success will be driven by the ability they are able to attain, and will not be thwarted by the dubious connections of others.

  48. mickydidit89 says:

    Ooo err, that is certainly a powerful piece of writing. Thanks for digging that out Arnie.
    Out of interest, how did you do it without going through all comments on every day?

  49. arnie says:

    Micky, asked Google, that fella knows everything

    I typed a longer reply, but WordPress ate it up! 😦

  50. mickydidit89 says:

    Moving on to tomorrow’s game, the return of Theo has given me a massive boost in terms of my Arsenal outlook, as I firmly believe our season went up in smoke last season when he went off in that cup game.

    I appreciate that with the arrival of Sanchez this season, that loss has not been felt quite so much, but my God, the thought of him returning to a side with Sanchez and Welbeck is mouth watering.

    Looking forward to the next game even more than usual.

  51. RockyLives says:

    Top stuff Arnie

    I’m not totally convinced by the “poor upbringing leads to sporting greatness” argument. Dennis Bergkamp had a very comfortable upbringing and he didn’t turn out so bad…

    Great banner Chas 🙂

  52. Big Raddy says:

    Coquelin shipped out on loan to Charlton. That’s his AFC career done. Shame, I thought he had potential but then I got excited about Frimpong before he got denched.

  53. Gööner In Exile says:

    Evening all, nice question Arnie, I often think that ball control is helped by playing on inadequate surfaces during their youth, let’s be honest the players that make the grade in England have often been coached from the age of 6/7 on astroturf pitches or carpets like those at London Colney with perfectly round inflated balls and enough to go round, even over my local park I see kids training sessions with 10-15 kids and a ball each.

    Is that good for technique?

    Does having one flat ball between twenty kids on a dust bowl promote better skills? I’m not sure but I’d guess those brought up in that way can adjust to accept a pass at any height and angle better than those brought up the English way.

    The hunger? I’d guess that comes from within, you don’t become the one in a thousand without it.

  54. Gööner In Exile says:

    Must say I’m surprised at Coquelins loan but he needs football, if they are desperate then do it, no Capital One Cup and a win tomorrow will guarantee progress to last 16 of CL, he is only going to be needed if we have another raft of injuries and you would like to think we’ve had our share for the season now, I do hope Theo doesn’t go with England never feels like he is used or values by the England managers so why risk it?

  55. GunnerN5 says:

    The loan is only for a month so I hope it’s not the end of Coquelin’s hopes at Arsenal. But then again they may be showcasing him for a January sale.

  56. arnie says:

    Micky and GiE. I half-wish Theo does not start tomorrow. Too early for a full return, plus the fear he may be drafted into the England side for Slovenia.

    The Coquelin loan is interesting, in the English sense of the word! 😛 Given our lack of depth in bench, what a calculated risk! What a gambler! Arsene would play poker well! 😛

  57. GunnerN5 says:

    This is a strange season, here we are 26% of the way through the season and Spurs, Liverpool, Man U and Everton have all won less the 50% of the points they’ve played for and West Ham and Southampton are in the top 5.

  58. chas says:

    I still don’t think I’ve seen anyone make the argument that “poor upbringing leads to sporting greatness”.

    Surely the whole point was that football allows anybody with talent and determination (and perhaps a little luck) to reach the top, regardless of background.

  59. RA says:

    Hi GN5,

    I might have known your eye would have picked up a piece of statistical info from the league tables!

    In other words, every team below 5th has realised 50% of their available points, or less.

    I would not have even considered that.

    Our harvest is 56.7%, which is OK, the bad news is that the Chavs haul is 86.7% —- bugger.

  60. arnie says:

    Chas. absolutely right. 🙂

  61. Big Raddy says:

    chas. Neither have I.

    Such a statement assumes that talent is created by constant practice which to an extent is true but real talent such as belongs to DB10, Zidane, Messi etc is beyond practice. Otherwise I would have been a tasty winger instead of a piss-poor amateur player – I certainly practiced day and night!

    What is true is that the majority of top players come from poor backgrounds but whether that is the reason they are top players is open to question.

  62. chas says:

    But there are many sports where a comfortable upbringing can make it easier for a youngster to progress for one reason or another.
    Motor Racing, Tennis, Skiing, anything to do with horses, even Rugby and Cricket to a certain extent.

  63. chas says:

    Lacrosse
    Croquet

  64. chas says:

    Squash
    Polo
    Sailing
    Rowing
    Golf

  65. arnie says:

    Yes, Chas and Raddy, I think that is right. Given that chances of success are so low, and competition is so high (everyone can try to play football), perhaps only the poorest and the most marginalised in society would think seriously about taking it up as a profession.

    Personally speaking, I am from a pretty modest background and was good at sports. Mainly cricket in my case, and I learnt it the hard way, playing without proper gear with great risk of injury. Only a makeshift box shared with other kids, no gloves, pads, forget about helmets. In fact, I had some injuries as well that could well have been serious.

    Still when I got the chance to play professionally, I chickened out. It was just too much of a risk. I have no regrets. But if I were someone for whom that would be perhaps the only chance in life, it could have been different.

    This may be one reason why there are more poor people in football.

  66. RockyLives says:

    Carriage driving

  67. chas says:

    Pheasant shooting

  68. chas says:

    Politician

  69. arnie says:

    pocket billiards

  70. chas says:

  71. chas says:

    Nah, arnie, skill and success in pocket billiards is open to the chavviest chav (as seen on a daily basis here in Nottingham).

  72. Big Raddy says:

    Is pocket billiards a rich man’s sport? Just asking.

    Archery
    Show Jumping

  73. Big Raddy says:

    Surfing 😀 😀
    Going to the Emirates

  74. arnie says:

    🙂

    Not quite as pompous, but I have seen this

  75. chas says:

    Going on away trips to Dortmund in a Ford Focus.

  76. chas says:

    Great goal from baked bean head.

  77. arnie says:

  78. arnie says:

  79. Good read and thank you. I was at the hull came and Sanchez was crucial. When we signed Sanchez I was concerned whether that World Cup form for chile another country that impressed me will spill over onto the premier league. His work rate was second to none and against burnley he showed what it was all about. That is what we need. The fact that wenger mentioned the famous back four playing the arsenal offside trap tells me that he is still looking for that and knows the importance. Yaya was a miss and we had kolo in the ranks at that point of time. Will we ever find another viera, Gilberto or a zizou.

  80. mickydidit89 says:

    Very funny chat on here about elitist sports last night 🙂

    And Chas, the Ford Focus is a spectacular motor car, and anyway, it was a massive upgrade on the machine I originally booked 🙂

    Would love to see us start tonight with the XI that finished against Burnley

  81. mickydidit89 says:

    Mark Christopher
    2:20am!
    You’re either miles ahead of us, or ditto behind. Which tribe and from what land do you come, oh distant traveller?

  82. mickydidit89 says:

    Come on Crystals,
    You’ve been up for wee by now 🙂

  83. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Brrrr. Winter coming.

  84. Big Raddy says:

    Micky. The Ford Focus was fine – the driver less so 😀

    Though I should say that Didit is an excellent driver just a little erratic

  85. Big Raddy says:

    Beanhead 😀 ;.D

  86. chas says:

  87. chas says:

    Proof positive that with a little hard work, anyone can earn a fortune.

  88. mickydidit89 says:

    Hey Raddy
    Just looked at the tables, and if both Arsenal and Dortmund win tonight, we’re through to the “travel round”

    Who would you most like in the next round to go away and win?

    Madrid for me.

  89. I know what Micky will say, but this was one of my fab four favs:

    Morning all

  90. mickydidit89 says:

    Only Boy Bands turn out in the same clothes.

  91. What’s going on with my links to U tube?

  92. mickydidit89 says:

    “Fab Four”…oh make me hurl 🙂

    Ha ha, the vid “does not exist”. Result

  93. chas says:

  94. mickydidit89 says:

    Actually, that’s better than I was expecting ROLF

  95. Big Raddy says:

    Spain or Athens would be good.

  96. mickydidit89 says:

    superb ninja squirrel

  97. chas says:

    There’s a twitter comment (posted twice) in moderation which says that Sanchez ‘forced’ Barcelona to accept Arsenal’s offer which was 4 million less than Liverpool’s. 🙂

  98. Thunder storms in Paradise this morning Raddy 😦

  99. chas says:

    Ant and me in corporate tonight……

  100. If there was a chance of Monaco getting first place in their group, and we finish second then Monaco would be my choice cos then I can get to see a game. If that would be possible!

  101. Big Raddy says:

    chas. Is twitter reliable?

    NB. What a shame 🙂

  102. mickydidit89 says:

    Athens? Rubbish teams though
    Which teams come from nations with the best looking inhabitants? 🙂

  103. Big Raddy says:

    chas. They will walk you in and pour you out.

  104. mickydidit89 says:

    It would have to be an Eastern European side for me. Any left?

  105. chas says:

    Copenhagen had some stunning inhabitants. Berlin was pretty good, too.

  106. chas says:

    BR
    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Micky who started that twitter rumour. 🙂

  107. Big Raddy says:

    Micky. Malmo and Ajax but neither will get through.

    Looking at the leagues, there is a chance that Monaco could advance and that means free accommodation, but most likely we will finish 2nd and as most leagues will be topped by Spanish or Germanss it will be 50/50 which we get.

    Would you be willing to take another trip to Munich, should we not draw RM, AM or Barca – assuming chas can get tickets?

  108. Big Raddy says:

    The best looking East Europeans have left their countries, haven’t they Eddie?

  109. mickydidit89 says:

    Looked up teams in the groups, and problem is, I’ve never heard of some. Any from Prague?

  110. chas says:

    So arnie was invited to play cricket professionally,
    Batsman maybe, as he talks a lot about a helmet and a shared box?
    Though I bet he could give the ball a good tweak as well.
    All-rounder?

  111. Micky
    The Beatles had their moments 🙂

  112. chas says:

  113. RA says:

    They lasted longer than that, Norther, and no viagra in those days. 🙂

    Top of the morning to you, dear boy!

  114. chas says:

    Is this because we take the opposition on less in the area?
    Never actually get into the oppo’s area?
    Or something more sinister?

  115. This was better though…. Steve Marriot had a voice.

  116. chas says:

    Brilliant dog!

  117. Raddy

    I’ve seen that dog on video before, but never in a cabaret…. excellent 🙂

  118. Big Raddy says:

    For some time Steve Marriot lived a couple of doors down from me in Highgate (well, more Archway Road!).

    Sadly, the booze got to him and he was a shell of a man but his band The Packet of Three (great name) could still rock, and his voice was great.

  119. Bloody hell Raddy

    I saw the Packet of Three at Dingwalls, Camden Town in the 80’s

  120. And a top of the morning to you Redders 🙂

  121. chas says:

    Goal at 4:09 in here

  122. mickydidit89 says:

    RA
    Superb vid 🙂

    NB
    Blimey. Early 80’s I lived around Tufnell Park for a bit, and used to go to Dingwalls alot

  123. Gööner In Exile says:

    Isn’t the penalties thing because we have a lot less divers?

    I think you could probably count on one hand the amount of times an Arsenal player has stuck his leg out to make contact in the last few years, whereas Hazard has perfected the artform, guessing he learned from Oscar who is also very good at buying a penalty.

    But when we do get given a dodgy one is it only me who thinks there’s a mighty big furore made in comparison to the others?

  124. mickydidit89 says:

    Chas
    When you say Corporate, is that Box level or Club with frills, and also, does this mean you’ll be sneaking out before the end of each half for extra nibbles and sherry 🙂

  125. chas says:

    Micky
    Not sure.
    One of Ant’s mates works for Nissan, so we are their guests.

  126. chas says:

    I did think about the diving element, GIE, and then forgot to type it.

  127. chas says:

    I think we’ll just have the sherry on the train on the way there.

  128. mickydidit89 says:

    Raddy
    Sorry, your dog vid.
    Also, just seen your other question.
    I can’t stand Monte Carlo, but yes I’d go to Munich again.
    Things about tickets is at the airport to both Dortmund and Munich, there were Gooners with spares. Obviously best if Chas can come up with them, but if the destination was top and against a top side, I’d be tempted to chance it. What could possibly go wrong? 🙂

  129. mickydidit89 says:

    Are they feeding you as part of the deal, or is it a brown paper bag job 🙂

  130. chas says:

    All food and drink is free. 🙂

  131. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. Exactly. It is amazing how a “warrior” like Drogba or YaYa hit the deck when touched by a defender.

    Dingwalls. Almost my second home. Saw some fine bands play there – probably my fave was a Dr. John concert. Best piano player I have ever seen …

  132. chas says:

    17:30pm Access to Champions Club
    Champions Club is located in the Woolwich Suite (Level 1, East Stand)
    On your arrival into Champions Club you will be greeted by a Nissan hostess who will present you with a goody bag. There are no designated Nissan Motor GB tables. You are welcome to take seats as you wish within the hospitality area to enjoy dinner.
    18:00pm Buffet style dinner will be served
    19:45pm Kick-off
    20:30pm Half time
    20.45pm Second Half
    21:30pm Final whistle
    23:00pm Champions Club Close

  133. mickydidit89 says:

    Chas
    I suppose the only remaining questions is: will they let you in, what with your unusual dress sense, or are you popping out to Primark this morning? 🙂

    ps If it’s a box, remember to scrunch some of your pork pies and cheesey wotsits into the carpet. Of course, I hardly need to remind you cats to give the waitress a really hard time.

  134. Big Raddy says:

    chas. Sounds fantastic

    The only time I went to Hospitality at Highbury we lost by 6 to MU in the league Cup. Just as well I’d imbibed heavily.

    Though I went to WHL with hospitality a couple of times and both times we beat them 😀

  135. mickydidit89 says:

    Ok, couple of things from that agenda.

    “Buffet style dinner will be served”. Eh? Buffet is help your bloody self. Sounds like cold sausages and bloody vol au vents.

    Good news. Final whistle 21:30. Free bar closes 23:00 🙂

    We expect the Ant ‘n Duck Show from on high tonight.

    Shit 9:02. Later

  136. chas says:

    I was thinking full Wham outfit would knock ’em dead.

  137. Gööner In Exile says:

    I still think it is a good plan that AA choose a Cat C fixture and get a box sometime. I really think it should be midweek and we can put the “complimentary beer for the entire match day” to test. Arrive at 11’ish and start about the bar. 😀

  138. Rasp says:

    Excellent idea GiE, you are officially appointed Entertainment and Events Manager for the site 😛 Can you research availability and forward a proposal?

  139. Big Raddy says:

    I wonder if I can drink enough G&T’s to justify the airfare?

  140. This geezer had style…… saw them at the Brixton academy

  141. Raddy
    That’s a shock…. didn’t see you as a G&T drinker… 🙂

  142. Morning all

    We have a New Post ………………

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