I’ve been reading a lot lately about beautiful football and how Barcelona and Arsenal supposedly play that way. Now, Barça I can understand. They do the tic-tac-toe build up with ultra-talented midfielders and very capable strikers. They have Messi to make sparkling runs whenever things get clogged. They have capable fullbacks who can make a stop and make the right pass. Arsenal, alas, has none of that.
Arsenal’s infants are talented – which is because Wenger’s scouting system is first-class, I’ll give him that – but they have neither the experience (since they’re all under 22 and just got done playing in their local house league) nor the technique (because they haven’t had time to learn it). I can appreciate that Wenger wants to play a certain way; but you need to go get players to fit in to that way. In Arsenal’s case, everything revolves around the central midfield. Cesc Fàbregas is an outstanding player, perhaps one of the top 25 in the world, off the top of my head. But he can’t do it all himself. Thus, as in Football Manager, Arsenal’s midfield needs balance; it needs a holding mid with power and poise. In short, it needs its own Genaro Gattuso. Unfortunately, because of Wenger’s asinine transfer and contract policy, he’s not able to hold on to players when they reach their prime. Thus, Arsenal’s desire for beautiful football – meaning flowing runs and passes right onto the feet of those runners – is stillborn.
That is not to say that the potential for beautiful football isn’t there. Theo Walcott is a gifted athlete and a talented player but in no way can he be considered a world-class player. His skills need refining so Wenger should look for a technically gifted winger on the downside of his career to come in and tutor Walcott for a couple of years. It would do wonders for the boy and, perhaps, for Arsenal’s vision of itself.