Arsenal: Why Arsene Wenger's Gunners Are Better to Watch Than Spain or Barcelona
Now, bear with me for just a minute. You might have read the headline and stood stock still, gasping in shock and ridicule. You may even have just laughed. A lot.
But hear me out.
Between them, the Spanish national football team and FC Barcelona have a plethora of honours, gaining international recognition for their stylish passing game and creative approach to football—and that's only over the last decade or so. They have both been viewed as great teams for a long time. There's no denying that.
But a successful team isn't necessarily the best team to watch. They might not be the most creative, exciting or innovative team in world football. Arsenal may not have experienced recognisable success since their 2005 FA Cup win, but they are still renowned worldwide for their rich pedigree of fluid, creative football.
Although he may not be around for much longer, Robin van Persie provided for Arsenal last season what Spain and Barcelona both lack—a genuine centre forward, and a consistently excellent one at that.
Van Persie's goals for the Gunners won them many encounters last season, and he will certainly be missed at the Emirates. Nevertheless, the introductions of both Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud should be more than capable of replicating the Dutchman's fine form in front of goal, given time to settle.
Lionel Messi is certainly one of the most potent, natural goalscorers in the game today—and perhaps ever. But Barcelona's talisman is not a traditional centre forward in the sense that van Persie has been for Arsenal.
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Some of Arsenal's detractors view them as little more than an academy—a point of development for young players, to see them blossom into world-class stars. Indeed, under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, the club has seen players like Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and the aforementioned van Persie transformed from "good, but potentially great" into "phenomenal."
Certainly, this rings true to the present day, where the Emirates Stadium has been set ablaze by the exciting performances of the likes of Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both showing enough guile and panache in their football to carve out a place in the first team for themselves.
But Arsenal is so much more. At Arsenal, players are taught to play football with a definitive philosophy of beautiful attacking football. They are schooled in a precise passing game, creative and innovative forms of play and attacking with flair.
That whole philosophy has become synonymous with Arsenal since Wenger joined the club in 1996—long before "tiki-taka," the style of close-control passing football employed at Camp Nou, was ever the phenomenon it is now.
In short, Le Professeur has revolutionised football in England.
While Spain and Barcelona share many players—Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, to name but three—another crucial facet of the style of football they share is that both teams are predictable.
Not boring, by any means—but predictable.
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Arsenal, on the other hand, are always unpredictable. Part of that comes from the fact they aren't as good a team as Barcelona—that they are suspect to conceding goals, that their defence has been labelled as leaky or ineffective.
Yet this inspires Arsenal's ferocious brand of attacking football to come to light so often. It is part of the reason why Arsenal fans—and neutrals—were treated to cracking finishes such as these so often last season.
The fact that Arsenal are not the best side in the world—or in Europe, for that matter—doesn't work against them in this argument. There is no argument to say Arsenal are the best team in Europe. They haven't won a trophy in seven years, after all.
But despite their flaws and inconsistencies, Arsenal Football Club remain one of the most exciting and unpredictable football teams in the world. Whenever the Gunners step out onto a pitch, home or away, Arsenal fans, opposing fans and neutrals alike are all treated to 90 minutes of unparalleled excitement.
Arsenal Football Club: sometimes heartbreaking, often sensational, always beyond exciting.
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