Unprofessional Foul


December 18, 2009

What is right with Arsenal is also wrong with Arsenal.

Arsenal Academy Bootroom

Arsenal Academy Bootroom

The Daily Mail has a great feature on the Arsenal youth academy.  The story provides a good look into this football factory that keeps turning out prodigious talent for the North London club.  The academy is what Arsenal and Arsene Wenger do so well, keeping the club swimming in young talented footballers.  Oddly, enough the feature also reveals what is wrong with Arsenal. 

The facility itself is spectacular.  It is maintained to the particular fastidious standards of the club’s manager.  Guests must wear shoe covers, like those that they have at open houses, to keep the facility clean.  Boots are not allowed in the lockerroom lest mud be tracked into the area. 

The academy, ironically, seems to be run to an exacting Teutonic standard although it is a Frenchman heading the club.  The new recruits have there standard tasks given to those on the lowest rung of the ladder.  Although, they aren’t degrading just menial. 

But, a secondary feature reveals what soccer fans have always suspected.  The aesthetic is a far greater goal than the result at Arsenal.  The Daily Mail talked with Cedric Evina, who has been with Arsenal since he was nine years old–half his life, about the youth academy.   Evina exposed the flaw and the truth of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, and the academy.  When talking about their training Evina says:

That’s the big thing they always hammer us with here, pass the ball quickly. When you do that, teams run after the ball. It looks nicer and it’s better to have the ball and keep passing it sharp, playing between the lines.

Emphasis mine. You see, it’s about the pretty play. It looks nice and that is the goal, if you can win that way great, but if you win and don’t look pretty, there is something wrong with that according to the Wenger Way. 

Arsene, for all his good traits, cannot escape his desire for things to be in order and to look nice. The latter essentially makes him an honorary German. The Academy just reflects Wenger’s nature.

Football is art and Arsene wants to create art.  But, at some point, Arsene will have to allow the kids to color outside the lines because that is when the game really becomes art. Color by numbers is not art, it is just following directions.  If he does not change, “pass, pass, pass, don’t shoot, pass, pass, pass” will not be just a punchline but his epitaph.

(Of course, I could be just winding up Gooners and making huge leaps in logic.)

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The Fan's Attic


  1. Highbury Library

    On December 09, 2009 @ 16:38 Highbury Library says:
    I know that’s the system and Arsene’s word is final but is it really killing the system if someone takes an uncontested shot from 25 yards every once in a while, especially when it’s obvious throughout the match that they won’t be able to pass the ball into the net?

    Needless to say, I vomited when I read Evina’s quote.

  2. ebullientfatalist

    I think Wenger needs to get Pierre-Gignac in the transfer window; a big striker who wasn’t formed in the mold of the Academy.

    @TFA: In theory, Wenger’s brand of football is correct – pass and move, let the other team chase. But goals are what win games, and until we are able to score more than one away at Burnley, I’ll be disappointed in this season.

  3. Just having a bit o’ fun.

  4. dmvdc

    I keep saying: Arsenal is the retarded Barcelona.

    BTW, the more I watch of Barcelona, the more I think that Zlatan was very much worth Eto’o + 40m. It’s not just that Zlatan is bigger. He’s bigger, and he’s damned skilled on the ball. Zlatan was exactly what Barca needed for balance.

  5. Keith

    I think someone just needs to tell Arsene that 4 passes can be just as effective as 15 if they’re all positive.

  6. @dmvdc: Ned will disagree with you. Believe me, I think I have had that argument and the argument that Zlatan is one of the best players in the world and as good, if not better, than his beloved diver Wayne Rooney at least three times. He’ll fight you tooth and nail.

  7. dmvdc

    But Keith, 4 < 15.

  8. dmvdc

    @TFA: Well, I don’t know about “one of the best players in the world.” I’m just saying that he is exactly the right fit for Barca, and that he was worth the price, as such.

  9. At that price, he better be one of the best in the world.

  10. I guess I look at it as which forwards wouldn’t I swap for Zlatan. Torres (I am biased), Ronaldo (if you count him as a striker), Villa (maybe), Messi (if you count him as a striker), Pato. Drogba is in great form but I would still swap him for a man 4 years his junior or whatever it may be. Benzema is a tough call given his age, but I would probably still take Zlatan over Benzema. I would take the creativity and size of Zlatan over Rooney, but Rooney’s work rate and age help him make that a tough swap.

  11. Autoglass

    Beautifully done, TFA. So often I feel so lonely on this blog. It’s good to see that someone else can see clearly…

  12. You feel lonely because you don’t write enough. I don’t think there is a gooner on here who doesn’t realize the aesthetic sometimes gets in the way of points. It’s frustrating, but it’s part and parcel of being a fan of the club. Just like sometimes Chelsea fans have to grin and bear that they have a handful of the most despicable footballers in the EPL on their squad (and that’s after Drogba has cleaned up his act). You still cheer win you win and rue the days you lose.

  13. umlaut…this isn’t a place for calm, rational thought. we want gut reactions and spur of the moment opinions.

  14. You know what? F**k you!


  15. >Color by numbers is not art, it is just following directions

    Yes, and Holland74 and totalfootball can be pulled off by anyone, its just making passes, right?

    That is art my friend… what Arsenal does is the closest thing we have to art right now.

    If Wenger’s epitaph is similar to Cruyff and coach Rinus Michel, I think he will sleep well.
    But who knows, maybe they will put the 2003/4 unbeaten
    season there as well. Its only the EPL, I know but I think some will remember.

    There wasnt much leap in this logic as much as you were trying to do what bloggers do best… make something out of nothing.
    That is magic too sometimes. Then again, sometimes its like one too many stale farts.

  16. Yeah, except Barcelona puts Arsenal to shame in the art department. So, Arsenal really is not the closest thing to art out there.

  17. James T

    @seks fibreglass

    How many trophies/accolades did that amazing Holland team of the 1970s win?

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