Having momentarily denied it, Arsenal have confirmed that Dennis Bergkamp will be the next to be cast in bronze at The Emirates. A fitting tribute to, in this humble blogger’s opinion, is the best footballer witnessed in the Premier League era. It was curious that Bergkamp was omitted from the ‘first run’ of statues but you understand the reasons why; it is a tricky balance for the club to strike. Over-emphasis on the modern era might appear to dismiss the likes of Wilson, Armstrong, McLintock, Bastin, James, Lambert, Hapgood, Mercer and others who made no less significant contributions in their time at Arsenal. Many more statues and there is a danger that the concourse may look like an audition for the latest installment of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Nonetheless, it is hard to argue against honouring Bergkamp for his contribution to Arsenal, as a player and as a role model. I cannot recall any hint of scandal attaching itself to him during his decade in the red side of North London. The scent of blood in media nostrils would have been too much to resist were that the case. Like Henry, the bronze will help any future coaching application forms. When they come to fill in the box on the form which asks why they are suited to a position at Arsenal, the answer will be, “Ivan, look outside your window. No, not at the building works, on the concourse.”
Talk of the past and players of that high quality, draw uncomfortable parallels with the present, of how a seemingly poorer club was able to entice one of the acknowledged stars of the modern game to Highbury, as well as David Platt, at the time England’s pre-eminent midfielder. That theme has been warmed to once more with the publication of the interim financial statements. Briefings to the media have begun in the lead up to season ticket renewals being sent out, a signal of the Summer’s intention to improve the squad. Of the four major signings in the last two transfer windows only Monreal and Cazorla were squad strengthening; Podolski and Giroud designated as replacements for the presumed departed Robin van Persie. This morning’s batch of stories on the Mail and Telegraph websites smack of the build-up to tickets pushes rather than a determined plan on the part of the manager. Buying a ‘name’ is nice but right now Arsenal need more than one signing to compensate for the shortcomings exposed this season.
Cazorla spoke in the lead up to Sunday’s NLD. Avoiding defeat is imperative for Arsenal with the re-arrangement of the Everton match. By the time kick-off comes at the Liberty Stadium a fortnight later, Arsenal could be seven points behind if they lose this weekend. Alternatively, we could be a poiut behind with a game in hand. The Spaniard noted,
To beat them and get into the top four and the Champions League, which is our aim for the season, is essential. We know how important it is and I hope we can rise to the challenge
Winning isn’t going to get Arsenal into the top four but it certainly helps along the way. Despite Chelsea’s best attempts to implode, defeat would be not quite be a fatal to Champions League ambitions but certainly more than a flesh wound. The performance on Sunday needs more concentration than shown in previous visits to White Hart Lane. Considering how we used to look on these as an almost racing certainty for an away win, not having won a Premier League match there in five years is disappointing (says the master of the understatement). It is something to look to rectify this time around, especially as the home fixture last season was the start of the charge turned limp into third place.
The gap arising between fixtures is a double-edged sword. The squad will be nicely rested ahead of the trip to Munich with the coaching staff having time to concentrate on the one fixture. Problematically, it is almost too much time for players to think and we know how confused the little loves can get. The biggest bonus is in terms of any injuries, plenty of time for the physicians to heal the wounded.
Who knows, maybe Sunday is the time for someone to stake a claim to a future statue at The Emirates or whatever it is called then.