Monday, June 30, 2008

Show me the money

"Alright. Here's why you don't have your ten million dollars yet. You are a paycheck player. You play with your head. Not your heart. In your personal life? Heart. But when you get on the field -- you're a businessman. It's wide-angle lenses and who fucked you over and who owes you for it. That's not what inspires people. I'm sorry, but that's the truth, can you handle it? Just a "question," Rod. Between friends."

- Tom Cruise, in Jerry Maguire.

Spain 1, Germany 0. Noice.

Anyway, I was thinking about the composition of club teams. Every successful team seems to have some dominant culture, something to knit the players together. With Man Utd it was the British core of Neville, Giggs, Scholes, Butt and Beckham. With Liverpool, it was the Scottish/English and the old Liverpool kit room. With Real Madrid and Barca, it's the Spanish players nurtured in their respective academies. With Chelsea, it's their collection of insufferable English jerks (Lampard, Terry, Cole... what a collection, hey?)

I was thinking, what do we have?

In the past, it was the English back five. Then, it was the Vieira years when Wenger went mad and tried to buy the entire French team (I understand the compulsion; I do it with my FM08 side as well). There was a discernible espirt de corps about that side. But now, we're a polyglot collective with no common ground, other than a desire to play pretty passing football.

Is that enough?

When the chips are down, when our players need to score a late goal or to defend tenaciously, what do they have to stitch them together? I'd suggest it's not much. Vieira gave up the chance to go to Real Madrid because he felt that Arsenal was his family. Hleb agitates to go anywhere because he can earn more money. To Hleb, Arsenal's just a paycheck. It'd be nice to win something, but it's not going to kill him if he doesn't do it with Arsenal. With Vieira, being shafted to Juventus still hurts. He felt a genuine affinity to this club.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's a difference between a paycheck player and a player who plays from the heart. A good side is stocked with good paycheck players. A great side is composed of players who play with their heart. If Arsenal's to be successful, I think we need some way to engender a sense of fellow feeling amongst our players. Maybe a roaring campfire, an acoustic guitar and a round of Kumbuya is required.

Or maybe we should've just bought Torres when we had the chance. That goal in the final was millimetre perfect. It still gives me tingles.

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