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All Things Footie | Tuesday, April 27 | Jordan

Did something happen on Sunday?

So far, 15 Premiership teams have tried to beat Arsenal on two occasions (and a further four just once) and, home or away, no team has taken more than a point from Arène Wenger’s Arsenal. They have outscored every other Premiership side, they have the meanest defence, they have set a new record for unbeaten league games in a season, they have the league’s top scorer, the only player to ever retain the PFA Player of the Year award and six players in the team of the year. The thing is that all of those accolades and achievements do not go half-way to doing justice to this Arsenal side. They are certainly on the way to completing the greatest ever league season in England, and are possibly the greatest side in the history of English football.

If one measures greatness on trophies in the cabinet, then there is much that must be left unsaid about this Arsenal team—Nottingham Forest’s team with a pair of European Cups, Manchester United’s two sides with the same winnners medals, and the Liverpool players with more European Cup winners medals than pairs of socks will doubtless have something to say about the ‘best of the best’ tag that Arsenal are being tarred with by the popular press.

I’ve never seen a team play football with anything like the flair, panache or ruthless accuracy that this Arsenal side plays with. Seeing Pires, Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp exchange one touch passess that slice and dice the opposition while running full-pelt towards their goal is a beautiful and absolutely unique sight. The combination of skill, focus and athleticism—there are at least three Arsenal players who could compete in this year’s Olympic Games as sprinters for their country—is truly without comparison in football. I have no doubt that Arsenal _c_2004 would tear strips off just about any of the great historical sides, because the condition of the players in the 60s, 70s and 80s simply wouldn’t stand a chance against such finely honed athletes as play football now. To be honest, many of the top flight teams would destroy their historical superiors on athleticism alone—the ‘old’ players simply wouldn’t be able to keep up for anything like ninety minutes.

The only way to compare teams historically is how enjoyable their games are to watch, how many records they hold or how many trophies they won, not how ‘good’ they are. In the entertainment stakes, Arsenal have no equal that I’ve seen, and in domestic football I’m sure that no team holds anywhere near as many records as Arsenal have set in the past two-years. The question is whether these two remarkable attributes are enough to compensate for the fact that over the last three years they’ve only won four trophies. There is still a question mark about whether they can win the Champions League, and rightly so, but for now I’m just grateful that I get to watch this wonderful, entertaining, and truly great football team.

An encouraging thought is that this truly great side is built on something that doesn’t cost money. While other clubs spent millions and millions of pounds last summer on big name players and sky high wages, Arsène Wenger put his faith in his existing players and in the strength of teamwork and the sixth-sense understanding that can only come with years of playing together. It’s something that any club, from Sunday League to the Premiership, can take heed of, and know that you don’t always need to keep changing if things aren’t going right—patience and hard work are enough. Of course, having the best footballer in the World doesn’t hurt.

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