Wenger on verge of eighth successive top two finish
Mr Wenger never fails to impress this writer.
Approaching the end of his eighth full season at Highbury he selected a young team with a few older heads to take on the champions league finalists from Merseyside last Sunday.
It is a measure of Arsene's coaching quality that his team featuring many young and developing players were favourites for victory, and went on to achieve it with a strategy of total football that the Liverpool of the eighties would have been proud of.
Wenger congratulated Benitez and Steve Heighway before the match. After the match I'm sure Rafa was searching out Arsene to offer his respect for the style and manner of football that is consistently produced by Wenger's Arsenal.
Without the many millions that Mourinho and Ferguson has spent, Wenger is producing another team at Arsenal that is punching above its weight. Arsene's is the example that Rafa should follow.
The return to optimism at Highbury has been tracked on EFT.
The first article on EFT was a preview of the Bayern second leg. In it I focused on the importance of partnership's to the success of Arsenal football club. Since then I have written most of all on Vieira, Gilberto and Senderos. These players are at the fore to Arsenal's new found ability to keep the goals against record down whilst still retaining attacking strength.
In that first article and in subsequent ones I predicted (not a difficult prediction but one that Vieira critics didn't seem to be aware of) that for Pat to be at his rampaging best he needed someone he could innately rely on to deliver a defensive job alongside him, a'la Petit, Grimandi, Parlour, Gilberto, Edu. The return of Gilberto has proven this to be correct. With Pat and Gil at the centre, Arsenal's team is now geared to perform at the highest defensive and attacking levels.
Also in that first article I wrote that for the hugely talented Kolo Toure to be at his best he needed someone alongside him in whom he could have confidence in. Cygan gave him the shakes and consequently he self-destructed in Bayern. In contrast, the introduction to the first team of Arsenal's answer to Roger Federer- Phillipe Senderos- has boosted Kolo's game to the max.
Note the camera shots of Phillipe and Kolo in conversation before yesterday's match: Phillipe was issuing instructions and Kolo was responding enthusiastically. The body language between the two suggested they had complete confidence to rely on each other and that they were to be a team on the pitch. This has been the case game in-game out for the last two months. And they are getting better each game!
The result is a mass of clean sheets and Sol Campbell wondering when he can get a game. No one could have predicted this situation in those dark winter months of defensive frailty. But it HAS happened.
Springtime in London has coincided with the emergence of a younger Arsenal that is still capable of producing 49ers total football while looking more defensively solid than ever.
The introduction of- the just turned 18 years old- Fabregas onto the right-hand side is another key to the added stability. Unlike Freddie, Francesc never gets lost on the right wing. He is forever coming inside to support Gil and Pat in intercepting attacks and creating attacks.
Pat loves this! And the whole team is benefitting from Francesc's qualities. As a consequnce, Freddie will seriously struggle to regain his place on the right- especially in games against quality opposition. As stated in my last article- Francesc MUST play in Europe on the right hand side next season
Mr Wenger should take a bow. He is on the verge of completing his eighth full season: and each one will have seen a top two finish (subject to miracles for Man U in the last two league games this season) while producing total football. This is some accomplishment.
And the signs are that the Wenger mission is not close to its end just yet. His message to his young players after Sunday's match should have been this: If Liverpool can [reach a CL Final], we MUST.