Thierry Henry had the flash, Patrick Vieira had the steel, Denis Bergkamp had the craft, Lehmann had the crazy, Freddie had the guile, Pires had the beard, Sol had the muscle, and Gilberto had the class. Together they formed arguably the greatest football team to play anywhere, any time. I don’t have to remind you, the dedicated Arsenal fan, of their accomplishments, but I will just say one thing, one stat that no team has ever matched: played 49, won 36, lost zero.
A super-team, if you will, filled with superstars who propelled Arsenal Football Club into the upper echelons of football and cemented Arsene Wenger as a genius in the annals of football history. It was a team of players who seemed larger than the game itself and who even to this day cast such a long shadow on the club that to some they even seem larger than Arsenal Football Club itself. It’s telling that some of the supporters that Arsenal picked up during those halcyon days can’t see past them, can’t see the value of project that Wenger has embarked on, this new thing, these “Centurions” as I have called them. Some supporters can’t see that Wenger is building a new thing, a team designed to dismantle English footballing giants and their moneyed masters.
And I can’t blame those fans at times. I too want success, though I might define success a little less stringently that they I want it none the less. I want to lord my club’s success over others as I was able to do back in the days of The Invincibles. So, I can’t blame fans for having a hard time seeing the current project’s successes, after all, a huge figure like Patrick Vieira can cause quite an obstruction.
It’s made even more difficult by the fact that they keep coming back to us. If they would just buy an island somewhere and play football in the sand their ghosts wouldn’t haunt us so, but instead they play on.
There he is, the captain, the hero, the man who helped toss the money lenders from the temple, signing for the same people he once despised and now playing for people who once said his name as a curse.
And then there’s Mad Jens, who gave an interview recently. Jens went back to his home but has never forgotten about his time at Arsenal. Sadly, as his career is winding up at age 40 he’s seemingly gotten more eccentric though if you read the article, it’s all par for the course. It’s telling that the headline talks about Arsenal’s keeper crisis, it seems even at 40 and crazier than a shit-house rat, Jens is still the man between the sticks for many.
Theirry Henry as well never really left us. Every striker since has been compared to Thierry and in a moment of what could turn out to be hubris, young Theo Walcott even took his number causing all of England to utter their names in the same sentence ever since as if his name was Theorry Hencott. Wenger is urging caution here with young Theo, perhaps trying to shoo away the vultures that have been circling of late, and reminding us that this young Englishman has tons of talent, and is just 20 years old. It’s natural though, that folks would compare the two. In his early days, Theo was a lot like Henry, as these videos show:
Sure, that’s Henry at age 12 but don’t forget that Theo got a late start on football and at 20 he’s probably closer to Henry at 12 than the Henry we remember at age 25.
As we wait for that experiment to play out the one who has returned to the fold from that Invincibles side, Sol Campbell, is still out there doing the work of a 28 year-old despite the fact that he’s already 35. If there ever was a player who’s legend could grow from that time it’s Sol as he steps into the Arsenal lineup seemingly straight out of a time machine to head away Stoke City’s Long Balls this weekend.
But in the end, at a time when players seem more interested in giant watches, breast implants, bonking their teammate’s wives, and crashing their sports cars it’s a small thing that really casts the longest shadow over Arsenal: Gilberto’s class. I can’t imagine a player like Ashley Cole getting away with bringing random broads into the Arsenal hotel room, not with someone like Gilberto around to cast a disapproving look and to remind him that that’s simply not the Arsenal way. Don’t get me wrong, there have been manufactured outrages in this side, Bendtner was caught with his pants down and William Gallas once had the temerity to be so upset that his team lost that he actually sat down in the center circle after the game. But those “scandals” are not quite the same as selling private tours of the Emirates, or offering your captain’s armband for sale to the highest bidder, or as bedding down with your teammate’s old lady and getting not only the approval of the fans but the approval of the owners and coaches to the extent that you get a week’s vacation in Dubai to smooch on your own wife.
That’s just not the Arsenal way, or as Gilberto puts it ahead of his return to the Emirates for Brazil to play RoI:
I miss everything about Arsenal! The time I had at Arsenal was amazing and I miss everything. But I have great memories about Arsenal, memories I will never forget. For me, Arsenal was a big school, as I learned so many things at the Club. I am very thankful for everything, the Club, all the people at Arsenal, they were so nice to me and very helpful during my time there. Everyone was always smiling, always there to help me. It’s impossible to point to just one thing I miss because I had a great time at Arsenal. I fitted in well with the culture at Arsenal.
Despite their shadows causing some of us to miss the plot, sometimes it’s a pleasure to have the old guys still hanging around and reminding us what Arsenal is all about.