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Fergie Praises Wengers way


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Wenger's young thoroughbreds will outrun United in the long term

http://sport.independent.co.uk/football ... 341278.ece

by James Lawton

It was the kind of thinly disguised disparagement which would have been more familiar on the lips of Ars?ne Wenger after his latest banishment from Europe but it was Sir Alex Ferguson, the new favourite to win the Champions League, who suggested the '07 vintage was looking distinctly thin after Barcelona's death on the vine at Anfield.

No, said the man who knows his way round a good Burgundy or Bordeaux better than most, he couldn't pick a dominant threat among the quarter-final survivors. Bar?a had been the class product of 2006 but in the end you could scarcely distinguish them from a jug of sangria.

So for Fergie, he made it plain, it is a case of taking what comes along in United's currently shaky pursuit of the historic treble they landed in 1999 - and without too much trepidation.

In fact, you could make a case of roughly equal force for the remaining English runners: United plagued by a sudden dose of injury and suspension and the impending departure of the marvellous Henrik Larsson, and desperately searching for the slick coherence and beautiful passing which gave them such momentum before Christmas; Chelsea refusing, so far, to lose focus despite ever more explicit civil war at Stamford Bridge, and Liverpool, Rafael Benitez's course specialists of tigerish tackling still striding along in the absence of a creative thought in their heads.

But what of Arsenal, the team who fell so badly, so disconsolately, the least sentimental elements of the bookmaking trade have already made them odds-on (10-11) to go through next season without landing any of four available trophies? For the foreseeable future are they really at the end of their road? No. Though it is fashionable, and perhaps unavoidable, to take aim at the embattled Wenger, it also shows a shocking failure to understand that for many reasons, including the one made by Ferguson that it is not a time of extraordinary development in any club in Europe, there are different ways of measuring success in today's game.

One of them is Arsenal's only way of comforting themselves at this moment as they stand so forlornly on the jetty while the rest of English football's elite march into today's Champions League draw. But it is not a bad one; indeed, some of his rivals might kill for the right.

It is to ask a question that has never been more important than in this age of grossly inflated transfer market values and the signal failure of a club as mighty as Barcelona to build on the foundation of extravagant talent. Who could Wenger possibly envy as he reviews the progress of young players who will be at the core of his team for at least half a decade?

The answer could not be more emphatic. There is nobody in English football who has stored such riches. He has been as larcenous as he has been superbly acute in assembling such lion cubs as Cesc Fabregas, Denilson, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Adebayor, G?el Clichy, Armand Traor? and Johan Djourou. These are not objects of speculation. They are keepers and they will grow up, you could put the mortgage on it, in the soaring Emirates Stadium which for a while curbed Wenger's spending powers but now underpins the club's future.

Once, in his little office beneath Liverpool's old rickety main stand, Bill Shankly was explaining the club's future with the passing of such bedrock figures as Ronnie Yeats and Ian St John. He said that he had gathered together a bunch of young players who eventually would explode into the sky like a "great bloody bomb". The impact of this statement was not lessened by the fact that in order to make it the old warrior had clambered on to his desk, stood to his full height and then violently clasped his hands together.

Wenger, a more cerebral figure when he isn't ranting at the moon over some perceived injustice, is generally not given to such extravagant gestures, but who could have said he would have been wrong to have touched on a little of that bombast after the brilliance displayed by his young team in completing the double over Manchester United and, with the football equivalent of a stable full of two-year-olds, outplaying Chelsea for a good part of the recent Carling Cup final?

Shankly, sadly, was wrong about some of his youngsters, though not over the flyer Steve Heighway and Emlyn Hughes. Wenger by comparison appears to hold pretty much a full hand.

It is the most spectacular pure achievement in English football since Ferguson brought through his production line of young talent in the mid-Nineties, and under circumstances that the manager of United would be the first to agree have been changed quite radically by the FA's pursuit of a playing field that is level. Back then Alan Hansen declared that you don't win with kids, but of course Ferguson did, as Sir Matt Busby did before him. Everything depends on the kids.

Among Jose Mourinho's recent taunts is that he cannot afford to dally over the nurturing of young players. He has to win. When you have been given a budget guaranteed to make the president of a small republic drool, there is a certain obligation to get on with the business of winning, today.

It is not as though Wenger has detached Arsenal utterly from the game's glittering prizes. In a time of transition which is required by all those who lack the resources to make instant teams, he has taken his squad to a European Cup final, gone to a Carling Cup final in a campaign which was turned into a field exercise for his youngest first-teamers and contenders, and is on course to qualify again for Europe.

Whatever you think of some of his recent behaviour, it would be absurd to say that Wenger has been left behind. In a field which even the front-running Ferguson admits is not exactly loaded with distinction, he has lost an important race. But then it will resume in the autumn, when the shrewd betting has to be that Arsenal will be that much more experienced - and handily placed.

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Being as this Arsenal loving interests me I thought I would post this and although I can see sense in some of it, I think its starting to look a bit ridiculas :lol:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/ ... 489923.ece

Losing in style: How Arsenal discovered an ugly truth about the Beautiful Game

Simon Barnes.

Arsenal: a nation mourns. They lost the Carling Cup final, despite playing better than Chelsea. They were knocked out of the FA Cup, despite playing better than Blackburn Rovers over two matches. They have lost all chance of winning the Barclays Premiership, despite playing better than Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. They are in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League next season, despite playing better than all the clubs below them. And now they are out of Europe?s premier club competition this season, despite playing better than PSV Eindhoven over two legs and playing better than all eight clubs that remain in the competition.

It?s not really fair, is it? But then Arsenal?s football was not better in terms of goals and victories and all that; it was better morally. Arsenal play the right way. They play with style and brio, with beautiful passes, with intricate patterns, with wit and charm. They also play with youth, plucked from the ranks and taught to seek and find greatness.

This season Arsenal produced a team of pure and dizzy talent, the distilled essence of football. They embodied every kind of footballing virtue. Question: does defeat in four competitions destroy the moral argument? Does rightness depend on victory? Or is there really a right way and wrong way to play? Is it better to lose the right way than win the wrong way?

After one season in which Arsenal had the upper hand over United, Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said that his team may have lost, but they played the better ? ie, the more attractive ? football. The comment of Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has gone into legend: ?Everyone thinks he has the prettiest wife at home.?

But this season, Arsenal really are the prettiest. None but the most besotted and uxorious of one-eyed fans can deny this. They are better than everyone else, but not good enough to win anything. Where does that leave us?

Well then, what does being the best, the prettiest and most morally perfect football team entail? It is not a question of good behaviour, keeping to the rules, not diving, not kicking opponents. Arsenal have been guilty of all these things, but that does not contradict the belief that they play ?the right way?.

No, a team that play ?good? football are one that please the senses of the observers. They are just nicer to watch. There is unquestionably an aesthetic dimension to football. The famous Danny Blanchflower dictum ? that the game is not about winning but about glory and doing things in style ? still has a deep resonance.

In 1988, when Liverpool played Wimbledon in the FA Cup Final, people wrote that Liverpool were ?playing for the good name of English football?. Liverpool were morally good because they played a game based on passing and cute triangles. Wimbledon were morally bad because they lumped the ball up the middle at a beastly centre forward. One team were moral, one team were immoral. The immoral team won 1-0, proving what?

In the early 1980s, football people were outraged by the theory of POMO: the Position Of Maximum Opportunity ? ie, whack the ball into the penalty area as many times as possible and it will end up in the net by sheer statistical inevitability. This was rejected by many as heresy, not just because it is less effective than pretty football, but because it is morally wrong.

Cesc F?bregas, the heart and soul of the young and lovely Arsenal team, rebuked Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager and a former Barcelona player, because his team ? successful against Arsenal in the FA Cup replay ? did not play ?Barcelona football?. As if this failure was a moral outrage.

Blackburn played defensively, sought to stifle and intimidate, imposed themselves as far as the laws and the referee would allow them. Is that immoral? Would they have been more moral if they had, despite lacking the playing resources, attempted to play like Barcelona (or, for that matter, Arsenal) and lost 4-0? You tell me. We all know that football has no marks for artistic impression, but as a neutral I still wanted Arsenal to win. I can argue long and hard and probably correctly that Arsenal?s moral stance is utterly bogus, but I am still a sucker for glory and doing things in style.

We all are, except when we have partisanship to deal with. In the rugby union World Cup of 2003, England were criticised for their lack of style. Is that all you?ve got? Look at the bloody scoreboard, we replied. Style is for wimps, we?ve got Jonny and Jonno.

Yet, when England choose to kick a penalty rather than run it at Twickenham, there are always boos. The crowd wants victory, but the right way, with lots of running and passing and rolling mauls and line-breaking forwards. A bit of glory. So why aren?t the Barbarians everyone?s favourite rugby team? They always go for glory. But it doesn?t convince us because we know that there is nothing at stake. It?s not real, it?s just a bit of fun. We want glory in the context of the search for big prizes and persuade ourselves that there is a moral rightness in that course.

There is a tendency to see all those who play extravagantly as morally right because they entertain us. But do we really want every athlete to be like Henri Leconte, a tennis player who cared little whether he won or lost so long as he went the pretty way? Ilie Nastase was adored at Wimbledon for his style and swagger; he was twice a finalist but doomed to lose. Pete Sampras, one of the all-time greats in all sports, was disliked because he was ?boring?; this was seen by some as a moral failing.

In the 1960s, cricket became so attritional, so totally based on defeat-avoidance, that they had to invent a new form of the game. One-day cricket came about because the traditional version of the game had turned its back on style and glory. The primacy of one-day cricket in the sub-continent can be traced to the hideous excesses of negativity in Test matches orchestrated by Sunil Gavaskar, the India captain from the late 1970s to the mid1980s.

Logically, we must always support every athlete?s right to seek victory in whatever legal fashion he chooses. Logically, we must accept that sport is only incidentally entertaining; that the only duty of the athlete is to struggle for victory with perfect sincerity; that when an athlete seeks to be an entertainer, he loses the sport in himself.

But all the same . . . Sobers, Best, Campese, Warne, Pel?, Maradona, McEnroe, Jayasuriya . . . Pietersen, Muralitharan, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinson, Federer . . . yes, even F?bregas, Henry, Denilson, at least to an extent. Style may not be a moral imperative in sport, but sport is more amusing for its presence. To say that style doesn?t matter in sport does not mean that there is no style in sport. It only means that you lack this quality yourself.

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