Super Swede

Back in the summer of 1990 I was a mere 10 year old caught up in the hysteria of England’s march to the Semi-Finals of the World Cup out in Italy.

There are four things that have lingered in my memory from that summer (aside from Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’, Gazza crying & Chris Waddle attempting to take out a Russian Satellite with his “Pelanty“) –

Unbelievable Tekkers

  • David Platt’s volley against Belgium in the last-minute of extra time that put us into the Quarter finals.
  • Spending hours in the garden trying to replicate Platt’s technique (Sadly no video footage exists)
  • My Dad falling through an old garden chair while being forced to photograph me doing the above.
  • Arsenal signing Anders Limpar from Cremonese.

Upon hearing of the signing (There was no Sky Sports News or Internet in them days) my first question was “We’ve signed who from where?”.

Due to the ban on English clubs competing in European football after the Heysel Stadium Disaster in 1985, which incidentally was lifted in 1990/91, knowledge of foreign players and clubs was, in most cases, limited to the likes of AC Milan & Marco Van Basten. No one that I knew had ever heard of the Swedish footballer of Hungarian decent who had been plying his trade at a small Italian side enjoying a rare sortie into Serie A, so when George Graham splashed out £2m on the diminutive winger there certainly wasn’t cries of jubilation.

That was until we got the first glimpse of Anders in an Arsenal shirt at ‘The Makita International Tournament’, a forerunner to the likes of our own ‘Emirates Cup’ which was hosted initially at Wembley Stadium. Arsenal had won the preceding two tournaments, which were the first two, beating AC Milan and Liverpool respectively.

1990’s competing teams were – Sampdoria, Real Sociedad, Aston Villa and the Arsenal.

Anders made an immediate impact opening his Arsenal account after thirty-four minutes in our opening game against Villa – That was it, I was mesmerised and Paul Merson had lost his place in my affections.

For those of you who are too young to remember the original ‘Super Swede’ then basically he was everything you wanted in a winger. He loved to have the ball at his feet, his touch was light, he had pace to burn and an eye for goal. When he ran he glided even though he was so quick. In my eyes he was footballing perfection.

He scored two of my favourite ever Arsenal goals –

The lob from the half way line against Liverpool at Highbury and his goal from a corner at Old Trafford – Can you imagine that being given now? He also played his part in the dust-up that took place that afternoon and saw both clubs deducted points leading to this fantastic team talk by George Graham.

The little Swede was certainly what you would consider a flair player and ultimately that did for him at Highbury as Double G demanded he increase his defensive duties – like we didn’t have enough players doing that at the time.

It’s often said that the football played by George’s Arsenal was dull and boring and achieved nothing more glamorous than slender one nil victories, this isn’t in fact true. Well not for the most part at least.

Under Arsene Wenger we’ve seen some wonderful attacking teams who have played some of the most expansive and expressive football I have ever seen, but as Matt Law in the Express and Blogs on the Arseblog have stated today that brand of football, at least for the short-term, is being curbed. It was much the same with Arsenal under George, his teams played some of the most exciting football I have ever seen – Being born into a family of Gooners who came from Manor House I was always destined to join the ranks of the red & white army but it was Graham’s teams, starting with the side that won the league in such dramatic style at Anfield in ’89 and those which followed, that hooked me on football.

Anders Limpar epitomizes this era for me as much as Rocky, Michael Thomas, Merse, Tony Adams, Uncle Bouldy, Smudger, Ian Wright, Big Dave Seaman and Dixon & Winterburn.

It was a period when we were blessed with players who have entered the annuls of Arsenal folklore and for me the Super Swede deserves his place amongst them. At times when I’m asked to name my all time Arsenal XI he is still placed out on the right flank and if ever I wanted my love for the Gunners to be embroiled with my love for Back To The Future then it would be to either go back and watch Limpar in his pomp or indeed just stick two fingers up at the space-time continuum, fling him in the back of the DeLorean and drop him off at London Colney so he could take his place in our current side. Theo my old mucker, you would be out on your ear.

I was gutted when Anders moved to Everton in March 1994 and I hated seeing him in any sides colours but those of the Arsenal.

Whether you remember him fondly or you’ve never seen him kick a ball I suggest you stop what you’re doing and jump on YouTube and watch goals like this.

A few years ago whilst on a visit to the Swedish capital I was desperate to visit his aptly named ‘Anders Limp-Bar’, especially as we were there for the stag-do of my best mate who happens to be a Sp*rs fan and as Best Man I was in charge of the itinerary. Sadly it transpired that the bar was no longer open for business so I consoled myself with a rendition of…

“Super, Super Swede, Super, Super Swede, Super, Super Swede, Super Anders Limpar”

Thanks for reading.

Paul

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The new fellas

So as one window closes another one opens, or so they say. Actually it might be doors not windows, but in this case it matters little because it is certainly the summer transfer window that has closed and will remain closed until the winter transfer window opens.

Windows don't open at the grove

Anyway it is neither windows nor doors I wish to talk about today. It’s dust, or rather the settling of it. Because now it has all settled down we can actually get back to the very simple matter of watching people kick a football and more importantly the people we’ll watch kick said football.

By now we all know enough about our early (in Arsenal time) acquisitions Jenkinson, Gervinho & AOC – we’ve even seen them play already. Oh yes, we signed Joel Campbell as well didn’t we, hmm. You know, I get more sceptical about the Costa Rican and the likelihood of him ever playing for the Arsenal with every passing day. But I don’t know why?

Anyway it is the five players who came in post OT that I want to look at a bit more, especially as we won’t be seeing much of them over the next week or so unless you’re willing to find a stream of their national sides games.

The kidnappers have made me hold this shirt

The first to arrive in the wake of the United defeat was Park Chu Young. Or you can call him Chu Young Park or Young Park Chu although he wants us to call him Ju Young Park…

It was actually the eve of Old Trafford that we first started to hear rumblings that we had pinched the Korean literally from under the noses of Lille. JYP had undergone part of his medical with the French Champions ahead of a proposed move with relegated Monaco and was thought to be in a hotel room watching the French version of ‘One man and his dog‘ (Although he assumed it was some kind of interactive dinner menu)

They call him 'Le Cat' in France

Dressed head to toe in black Gilles Grimandi crept into the Korean strikers room and knocked him out with chloroform before tying him up and bundling him into the back of an old Citroen Normale – It was completely needless because Arsene Wenger had only asked Giles to give Park a lift to the airport. Apparently officials from Lille actually did give chase in an attempt to stop the Korean talking to us.

As I previously said I really don’t know much about Ju aside from the fact he is Ji Sung Park’s cousin and he is due to return to his homeland in two years to undertake national service – frankly I can’t possibly base a profile of the man around those two facts. Can I? No..

Well the only other info I have on him is that he is the current captain of the South Korean national side and he has pledged full alligance to the Gunners cause and he was a snip at just £3m.

While he may not be regarded as a prolific scorer of goals he is certainly regard as a player with a footballing brain (which is very different to a ‘footballers brain’ such as those retained inside the heads of Paul Merson, Chris Waddle & Ryan Shawcross). At six foot he’ll add some much needed height to the side but must be wary of heading the ball in case he damages his IQ of 150.

He’ll be contending with Marouane Chamakh for the role of RVP understudy number 1 (if you can call it a competition right now?. I could probably get a game ahead of the Moroccan) now that Nicklas Bendtner has moved to Sunderland on a seasons loan – supposedly the Danes dream move… Of course it is Nik.

Along with Ryo, JYP will certainly help to bring in the cash from the far east but that is not Wenger the economists sole reason for signing either.

Better than Juan?

The next to join the ranks was Brazilian left back Andre Clarindo dos Santos (I’m assuming he’ll just have ‘Santos’ on his shirt?)

Again I know little about him (Am I even qualified to do this?) but what I do know is the amount of experience he brings to the side. After starting his career with Brazilian side Figueirense in 2004 he moved to Corinthians in 2008, either side of loans at Flamengo & Atletico Mineiro, before moving to Fenerbache in 2009.

Whilst at Fenerbache Santos competed with perhaps the worlds most famous left back, Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos. In fact Santos managed to make the left back berth his own and Carlos moved back to Brazil & Santos’ former side Corinthians.

It was during his time with the Turkish side that Santos made the breakthrough into the Brazilian national side. And had mixed fortunes under former boss Dunga. After making in roads and appearing in the Confederations Cup, the pre-curser to the World Cup, in 2009 he was left out of the side that competed in South Africa for the title of world champions a year later.

Since Dunga was replaced by Mano Memezes, after the sides disappointing showing on the biggest stage of them all, Santos has worked his way back into international favour and to date has 17 international caps.

There is no doubting that the left back position was in desperate need of strengthening. You’ll know I wasn’t too disappointed to see Clichy leave us but I was also unsure of Kieran Gibbs ability to make the role his own. It’s no slight on the young Englishman’s footballing ability, it’s just a sad fact that we’ve not seen enough of it due to his persistent injury problems.

With only the now departed Armand Traore as back up, along with the none too popular option of shifting Tommy V across to LB, it was one of the areas of our side most in need of reinforcing. That the club have gone out and signed an experienced Brazilian international to follow in the steps of Sylvinho and Juan (remember Juan?) is impressive indeed and allays some real fears.

Ze German

The third man in was German international giant Per Mertesacker.

All summer long we’ve been linked with Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Chris Samba & Scott Dann and at one point or more we we’re supposedly only hours away from signing one or more of them. In truth we had bids rejected for Jagielka and Cahill but I’m not sure how much of a real interest we had in the other two, who will now link up at Blackburn.

Mertesacker has been linked with us on and off for a few years now and I must admit I thought it was one of those lazy stories that journos used to fill column inches. I think that the fact the six foot six centre back has won 75 international caps for Germany tells you pretty much all you need to know about him. To achieve that in just six years is no mean feet and certainly confirms that we do not have another Seb Squillaci on our hands as some have strangely suggested.

As we’ve mentioned he is tall, real proper actual tall and that is something we’ve missed from our back line for a fair while now. His height doesn’t make him just a defensive version of Stoke super striker Peter Crouch, and by that I mean he isn’t just a lanky gawlper, he’s strong and won’t be bullied by Ork like centre forwards. His positional play is as efficient as his heritage suggests and he isn’t a slouch on the ball either.

£8m is a snip when you look at the £15m & £17m Everton and Bolton wanted for Jagielka and Cahill. Imagine if either of them had 75 England caps, fees of £40m upwards would be floated about which is utter madness.

My biggest concern with Mertesacker comes with the Koscielny – Vermaelen partnership in mind. Now I can’t see Ze German wanting to sit on the bench in all but FA & Carling Cup games but at the same time I’m slightly reticent to see the Kozzer & Tommy task force broken up when it is starting to show promise. That said, it was an experienced CB we wanted and it’s an experienced CB we’ve got so I guess this was always going to become an issue but it is most certainly a good issue as opposed to one of those bad ones. We all hate those don’t we?

The next in was maybe the biggest surprise of the five, even when you consider that a hell of a lot of us had never heard of JYP.

Yossi

Yossi Benayoun has joined on a season long loan from Chelsea, and for the most part I think it’s a decent move. We knew we were light in midfield especially from a creative standpoint and the Israeli certainly reduces that weakness.

As captain of his national side it is yet another leader on the pitch and the fact he has played in England for six years means he doesn’t need any time to adjust to the pace of our game. His time here after moving from Racing Santander has been quietly impressive but without really moving any mountains. But it isn’t often that a bad player slips through the Ajax academy and Yossi is certainly not that.

He’ll add that creative guile we’ve seemingly been missing so far this season and while others may differ I kind of want to describe him as a mix between Samir Nasri & Tommy Rosicky. I expect him to create more goals than he scores but he certainly has the ability to get the ball in the onion bag which is a massive bonus.

One for the ladies

If he had been our only midfield signing, then, without doing the man a disservice, I think we may have been disappointed somewhat but he wasn’t because he came in just a short while before the club announced the signing of Spanish genius Mikel Arteta.

Maybe the little midfielder can’t be described as a ‘wow’ signing but it was most certainly the one that got us Gooners most excited on Wednesday.

For as long as Cesc was linked with a move back to Barca Arteta was linked with filling his compatriots boots (So that is forever) but this summer his name appeared to have been omitted from the list of so-called pretenders to the throne until the last few days of the transfer window.

Reports suggest that we first went in on Tuesday with a bid of £4m which was quickly rebuffed by Everton but the Mersey men must have made it known that they were prepared to do a deal because we went back in the following day with an improved bid of £10m. There was a point during the malaise that it all seemed to have died a death and it created a distinct air of disappointment. It was the player himself who pushed for the move to happen and if reports are to be believed he has taken a cut in wages in order to make the move, which speaks volumes of his desire.

Like Benayoun Arteta already knows this league inside out and can make an instant impact in our side alongside Jack Wilshere. There is no doubt that he could slip into the Cesc role with ease but it remains to be seen if we’ll line up like that this season. I would imagine that he’ll take over corner and free kick duty from RVP which will be a relief, mainly because we may now score from set pieces a little more regularly.

He has everything needed to be a hit at the Arsenal as long as he doesn’t suffer any long term injuries. At 29 this is his last chance to have a crack at top level football (sorry Everton) and with that in mind you can understand why he pushed for the move after six years service with the toffees. Oh and of course he brings Mrs Arteta with him…

HELLO!

So in all the fantastic five are just that in my view. They give our squad everything it’s been crying out for and I think they all have a winning mentality and the desire to achieve as much as possible in the game. I am very much looking forward to seeing each and every one of them in the red and white this season. If only the curssed internationals weren’t delaying that.

If you like numbers and you believe they may either back up or destroy everything I have written above then take a look at these stats on all our new signings on the official Arsenal website.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

Pat Rice..Tasty Goal & Protest views

*Originally posted 27th April 2011

Afternoon all,

You may have noticed that over the last week I haven’t been blogging all to frequently, there are a couple of reasons for this but the main one is the current level of negativity aimed towards Arsenal by many fans. In equal measure I think it is easy to get caught up in the angst and difficult to remain solely positive so I have tried to compose my thoughts and asses my opinions without blurting them out here, even though I guess that kind of goes against the idea of having a blog!

Anyway, having now had time for reflection here’s today’s musings…

It seems that these days you either need to be in the ‘Arsene Knows’ camp or the ‘Wenger Out’ brigade, as if it’s that black and white, that cut & dry and that easy to call. I don’t think it is and, like many others who have come out in the last few days to admit they have no allegiance to either movement in particular, I still think that Arsene Wenger is the right man to lead our football team but… our football team only.

Sadly Arsene hasn’t been the only member of the management/coaching staff to have their future questioned or to come in for criticism of late and it has bugged me for a couple of weeks so whilst we seem to be in the midst of another news blackout from the club I thought I would share my views on the subject.

Recently there have been calls for the return of David Dein, especially in the wake of the takeover, believing that he can put the pressure on Wenger to spend a little extra on transfers, that he can be more influential in contract negotiations and remove some of the pressure from the manager, that a return of their old double act can bring a return to the days when we were winning doubles and bringing in players like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires & Junichi Inamoto. It’s as if David Dein is some kind of board level messiah.

We should remember that not every supposed messiah can be in the mould of Kenny Dalglish since he took back the Anfield hot seat and we should also remember that our former vice-chairman made a nice tidy £75m by selling his shares in the club to Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings.

While all of this recent praise and wanton return of Dein has been taking place a man who has been alongside Wenger since day one but associated with the club for much much longer has come in for some criticism and if rumours are to be believed is set to retire at the end of the season – it is not for the first time that both the criticism and rumours have circulated.

Pat Rice, a man who knows the Arsenal inside out, knows what it means to represent the club at every level and Arsene’s right hand man has come in for a lot of flack not just this season but for a few years.

The Northern Irish man signed for Arsenal as an apprentice in 1964 and went on to make 528 first team appearances (He started 521 of those games), winning the double in ’71, becoming captain in 1977 and leading the team to FA Cup victory over Manchester United in 1979. After a four year spell at Watford at the back end of his playing days, Rice returned to Arsenal as youth team coach in 1984, a post he held until becoming Wenger’s assistant manager in ’96.

If the rumours are true and Pat does decide to leave the club at the end of the season then he should do so with his head held high and to rapturous applause, not under a cloud of criticism and murmurings of ‘About time too’.

There are many who say that Rice has to go, that he is too old (although only seven months older than Arsene Wenger), That Boro Primorac is Wenger’s real right hand man, that he is a mere yes man and that someone more tactically astute should take his place. These are most likely the same people who say we lack a voice and leadership behind the scenes and off the pitch, in the dressing room and on the training ground, a proven leader who knows what it takes to win. We have all that in Pat Rice but it seems easily forgotten. The only reason he should step aside at the end of this season is because he wants to.

I’ve already listed his achievements as a player, but how about his achievements as youth coach for twelve years, think of some of the players that made it all the way to the first team in that time, Paul Merson & Ray Parlour to name just two. Look at his achievements as Assistant Manager.

I’ve heard many people say that a lot of Ferguson’s success at United is down to the fact he changes assistants so frequently, maybe that is true but those changes have not always been made out of choice – Brian Kidd left to manage Blackburn, Steve McClaren left to manage ‘boro, Carlos Queiroz has left twice to manage Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team respectively. Jimmy Ryan lasted only a season and Walter Smith was almost on a very very later life work experience at Old Trafford for a few months.

Most of those mentioned above had ideas that were somewhat above their stations, they all thought that they could make the leap from apprentice to master. If you don’t know much about the managerial careers of Kidd, McClaren & Queiroz then I’m sure Google can provide you a laugh or two.

Pat Rice has stayed loyal to this club for the majority of his life and he has stayed loyal to Wenger, the job he has done and the input he has provided over the years should not be undervalued nor forgotten.

I am all for the introduction of fresh blood, as it were, joining the coaching staff. New ideas and input would certainly not go a miss regardless of Pat’s involvement. As Arsenal supporters we are always crying out for more experience within the club and often for the return of former stars in some capacity, but if Pat Rice does indeed decide to step down at the end of the season, or whenever the time comes, I hope that whoever comes in has at least half of his know-how & knowledge, experience & loyalty but above all I hope they have the same dedication to Arsenal Football club.

In other news – I am sure you are all aware of the planned protest by ‘We want our Arsenal back’ ahead of the game against Aston Villa on May 22nd. You can read their latest press release here and once you have done so I suggest you take a look at the latest blog post of The View from N5 as way of a counter argument.

Thanks for reading.

Up The Arsenal!

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