Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wenger's Mission Statement

"It was just a memo."

- Tom Cruise, to the fish, in Jerry Maguire

I'm sure everyone's read the leaked memo Wenger sent to all the players before the Bolton game. If not, it's here from the Guardian. It's a fascinating insight into the inner workings of a professional football side. Evidently, Wenger's much taken with motivational quotes and quasi New-Age movement known as team-ism. 

I've always felt that the great Wenger teams have always displayed exceptional togetherness. The early 00s team was notable in that the players had been together for three years before they emerged from their chrysalis, blinking from the splendour of their beautiful game. Vieira rejected a move to Real Madrid because he didn't want to break up the family. 

It takes time to build a great side. The early 00s side had that time. Coincidentally, the current side has had three years as well. If we're working on the same time frame, we should be buying trophy polish pretty soon. We were very close last year, and if we'd kept the team together, we would be one of the favourites for the title this year. 

But we're not. 

The crucial difference is that this side keeps changing. And it makes me wonder how much togetherness is in this current side. Hleb and Flamini both broke up the "family" without much remorse. Adebayor wanted to go the same way. And even Cesc had his flirtations in the past. When we enter a transfer season now, I'm expecting at least one of our established players agitating for a move. 

Is there a difference in the culture of the two sides? Is the lack of success and the exceptionally thin squad eating at the minds of our players? Or is it that Arsenal's inherent frugality is out-dated in this era of the morally dubious sugar-daddy? Do our players value money and instant success over working for something greater than themselves (i.e the team)?

I don't know. And what really troubles me is the idea that some of our players would just roll their eyes at the memo, screw it up and toss it in the bin. Wenger talks a good game, but how much does teamwork count when Chelsea and the Manchesters are hoovering up all the players in the world? And paying them a lot more than Arsenal can afford?

Maybe Bob Sugar was right - it's not "show friends", it's "show business". 

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