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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Amsterdam Tournament win highlights the Bergkamp problem

The Amsterdam tournament was reassuring for this writer. I was happy to see Ashley Cole in an Arsenal shirt playing to his normal high standard; new signing Alexander Hleb showed good technical ability and an eye for a killer pass; and Mathieu Flamini showed great Parlour-esque energy as the midfield anchor-man.

Moreover - albeit it was only a pre-season tournament - to beat Ajax and Porto on the road must add to the team's collective confidence which often takes a hammering when in Europe.

However, the main player behind the victory should concern Arsene Wenger. He is the one player who the others look up to, and who links the midfield and attack like no one else can.

That player is Dennis Bergkamp.

It is only hypothetical, but if Dennis was available for away games in Europe, there is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal would have fared better in the Champs league in the last six years.

On Sunday, Dennis was rested on the bench in the first half. Up-front Jose was paired with Thierry. Hleb played on the left and Pires again took on the central midfield playmaker role that I envisage he will rotate with Cesc Fabregas this season.

Porto outplayed Arsenal in the first half and deservedly went in one-nil ahead. Arsenal had no passing cohesion, attacks broke down easily, and Porto accordingly grew in confidence culminating in their goal. It was reminiscent of our worst away performances in the Champs League- a pale shadow of our potential.

The second half saw the arrival of Freddie and Dennis. With Dennis on the pitch, the whole team lifted in confidence. They played the ball through Dennis, and the team found their attacking rhythm.

In particular, Thierry always looks a more contented player when Dennis is on the pitch; he is nowhere near gaining a similar working partnership with Reyes.

Within fifteen minutes Arsenal had made the first half domination of Porto a distant memory and were ahead through two Freddie goals.

The contrast of the first half to the second half was marked. And the key to this was Dennis Bergkamp. The fact that Arsenal are still over-reliant on someone who is unavailable for away matches in Europe should concern Wenger. I believe he AGAIN must have taken note of this fact.

I wrote after the Bayern defeat that Mr Wenger's first priority next year must be a forward player who can partner Thierry with the same qualities that Bergkamp possesses. It was always going to be a big ask.

It looks as if Julio Cesar Baptista was ear-marked for this role, but Real Madrid stole in on him. Michael Owen could not fulfil the Bergkamp role because he is a pure finisher, not an all-round team player; hence the Wenger 'no thanks' to making a move for the ex-Liverpool striker.

Arsene's experiment of a defensive 4-5-1 that took everyone by surprise in the FA cup final was not on show at the weekend. However, unless Wenger can bring in a Bergkamp clone to the club in the next few weeks, (or can convince Dennis that flying will not lead to inevitable disaster) I believe this formation will re-emerge away in Europe this season.

With Bergkamp in an unaccustomed target man role, and Reyes in an even more unaccustomed right-wing role, the performance against Man Utd was always doomed to be a failure.

But Arsene won’t repeat the same mistakes again. I think it will look more like this:

_________________Ljungberg__________ Reyes

P.S. I see that Peter 'bad for the game' Kenyon is at it again this morning; this time smirking as he dismissed all opposition for the Premiership crown. Rarely has there been a more deserving candidate for the expression 'pride comes before a fall'.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the team will look more like




8/02/2005 10:39 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's always Bentley...not quite there yet some might argue, but he's got potential,and at some point we have to get the young 'uns in

8/02/2005 10:43 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

just simply play Van persie. Wheter or not he can truly replace the bergkamp-role, remains to be seen, be has 4 things better than bergkamp:

1. He scores goals with his head, although we did not really see last season.

2. He is left-footed.

3. He can curls the ball and better at crossing.

4. He can fly !!!

I think the team will look more like



..............Van Persie


8/02/2005 10:47 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone here notice that, despite our squad is so-called thinning, it's the first time we have real competition in the wingers department.

2 years ago, Freddie and Pires were first-choice, and Edu and Parlour were considered 'back-ups'. Now, we have Reyes, Hleb, Freddie, Pires who considers themselves as first-teamers all competing for 2 spots.

There must surely be some unrest about sitting on the bench this season. But in order to sucessful, we must competitions.

8/02/2005 10:52 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks, TS. Interesting read on the tournament and an unusual 4-5-1 formation potentially for Europe. Now that Chelsea have emerged as a strong contender for honours, along with Man Utd, Arsenal, of all teams, now aim to step up a gear to not only challenge but win the honours going, namely the Champions League.

Where Bergkamp could be an absentee, a defensive midfielder aids to clear the attack as the two central one pick up and release the wingers. Henry on form can be a lone problem for any defence, much less the likes of Ljungberg and Reyes.

I've heard Peter Kenyon this morning. The winners of the title comes from a small group of 20. Goliath dismissed David as a minor opposition, and was felled with one strike. Similar to the Champions League 2nd leg.



8/02/2005 10:53 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think bergkamp can be replaced by one player.

i think he will be replaced by having a more creative central midfield player (pires, eventually cesc) and with van persie up top who can link the play but doesn't have bergkamp's vision.

i also belive hleb could be the key here. he has the vision and passing. can hold on to the ball. i think he'll start wide to get accustomed to the team but will gradually come central to take bergkamp's place.

8/02/2005 11:16 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

in my opinion the team will look

and freddie with pires will cover their flanks and hleb will be something like servant!! about defenders i say that senderos is a very good talented but he has enough experience!maybe my 1 team is 4 derby !

8/02/2005 11:36 am

Anonymous Rex said...

There's no doubt Arsenal would have done better if Bergkamp were available. I wish I had saved the link (possibly OPTA) breaking down our record without and without Bergie in Europe. Even W/L without, something like 10-5 with. Curious why he doesn't even go by train; e.g., Munich when he didn't play the weekend before. In any case, I think the combination of Hleb, Cesc, Henry, and Pires can compensate (hopefully Reyes will contribute in this department as well). Not that it's any indication, but we scored on headers in the preseason as many times as all of last season. Freddie is actually a very good crosser, and his contribution would be so much more than poacher extraordinaire if someone attacked those balls. Based on presason, I think we'll see

European (essentially same as first post by anonymous):

8/03/2005 4:42 am

Blogger T said...

Thank everyone for your comments. The commentator who said that Bergkamp is irreplaceable by any one player is spot-on. I wish he could play on forever!

I like Van Persie a lot- but became convinced at the end of last season that he is not a Bergkamp- but instead a clinical finisher.

He stepped up sensationally when TH was injured- if he could reproduce with TH alongside him it could be the dream partnership. But it needs to be tested out first.

Anyways, if Arsene stumbled upon this site, our comments has given him food for thought.

8/03/2005 11:16 am


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