A few months ago, (I‘ve mentioned this before) I started re-reading one of my all-time favourite books, Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid. I had revisited some of my favourite chapters before, but this was the first time I embarked on a complete re-read. Adding to it, it was my first time reading the updated edition, meaning new facts mixed with forgotten ones.
Among those, I found myself learning about Arthur Rowe’s push-and-run Tottenham and how they had taken the Scottish passing game and moved forwards with it in an age when the purest form of the WM still reigned supreme. It dawned on me that, for all my love for Arsenal, it had actually been their derby rivals that historically had represented the values I hold dearest when it comes to football. The love for the beauty in the game, the refusal of winning at all costs and, let’s admit it, the tendency to pay the price for it. It was Tottenham that had the links to that inception of the passing game of Queen’s Park and “Toffee” Bob McColl. It was Tottenham that, through names like Rowe, and Nicholson, and Venables and Hoddle had kept those ideals alive, even if not to the same standard as Ajax or Barcelona.
Arsenal had always been the serial winners. The club’s greatest contribution to the history of the sport is (effectively) the exploit of a rule change and the conversion of a largely creative role into a disruptive one with the WM. It’s the club that at one point had football’s minimal result etched into their name.
At the same time, it dawned on me that, had I been a few years older and come across the Premier League in the early 90s rather than the early 2000s, there’s every chance I’d be a Tottenham fan, or at the very least, not a Gooner. No way I would’ve been as enthralled by the club had I been subjected to George Graham’s boring boring Arsenal. I commented this to a friend who’s a Spurs fan; she said the idea that, had I been older and wiser, I would’ve chosen Tottenham over Arsenal was one she could get behind. To me, however, it just signified how much I owed to one man, Arsène Wenger.
I’ve talked in the past about how, despite coming from a football-crazed country, it was actually Arsenal and the Premier League that became my gateway into the game. Most importantly, it was Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal. Having only been exposed to Argentine football’s often mediocre on-the-pitch show (and with no allegiance to wash over that), I was fascinated by Wenger’s team. The quick passing combinations, the artistry of the movement, and the cavalier attitude to hold one’s ideals above the rest. Wenger and his team became key in my understanding of the sport.
As such, the series this long, self-indulging introduction is meant to present is as much a work of analysis as one of love. We’re going through Wenger’s career using Football Manager as a lens to see what we can learn, to see how his team’s played, how we can apply those tactics into the game. Moreover, it’s also as a tribute to the man and his life’s work, to the trials he had to endure, the successes he enjoyed and the failures that haunt him.
Hope you enjoy them!