05 March 2015

Invincible by Amy Lawrence

  • Much enjoying this now, about Arsenal's unbeaten 2003-2004 season. I just love reading about "dream teams". Throwback to my banking days.
  • "‘Star of Stars’ was the headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport, in recognition of the 1995 World Player of the Year, George Weah. A beautiful, baroque ceremony in Milan was attended by the football world’s glitterati, to acclaim the top three footballers of the time: Jürgen Klinsmann, Paolo Maldini and, in first place, Weah. Hearty applause greeted the Liberian, a player who combined grace, power and imagination so naturally, and then the atmosphere suddenly changed when he said he would prefer the award not to be for him. He wanted to give it to his mentor, and called a French manager who was working in Japan to the stage. Up strolled a slightly embarrassed but deeply moved Arsène Wenger. It was not an exaggeration to suggest a large number of people in the audience were not too sure who this lean, bespectacled figure was. ‘He deserves this more than I do,’ said Weah as he handed over the prize. ‘Thanks Mr Coach for everything.’"


Taichiseal said...

"The shrill ringtone of a mobile phone disturbs the focus that Arsène Wenger appreciates as a foundation stone for concentrated work. ‘He was trying to tell us off, but it wasn’t his way, really,’ remembers Ray Parlour. With perfect comic timing the chiming suddenly turned into a chorus. ‘About four mobile phones went off, just like that, all at the same time, and he said: “Right, that’s it! No more phones! Next phone that goes off, £10,000 fine.” And he was serious,’ adds Parlour. A couple of days later, at the team hotel, the players went through their normal routine. Go for a walk, back for a twenty-minute stretching drill, then lunch. The stretching was always quiet, no chatting, a time for easing mind and body. All of a sudden a phone goes off. It keeps ringing and ringing. The players, transfixed by this soundtrack, looked nervously at each other. ‘Whose phone is this?’ queried a stern-faced Wenger. But it didn’t belong to any of them. ‘OK,’ he said, walking back towards his bag, ‘it must be mine.’ His face creased into a giant smile, as he confessed, ‘That’s £10,000 for me!’ Parlour retells the story with classic mischievous schoolboy spirit. ‘He broke the ice with that. He was a very humorous man. People don’t see that, but he was great fun. I loved him to death.’"

Taichiseal said...

Reflecting on those players, can you express what was special about them in your eyes, starting with Jens?
To have such huge desire was his quality. He was a player who was ready to die to win.
Fantastic personality, underestimated player for me. Top quality and a real fighter as well.
Massive passion for the game, technically much better than everybody thought he was, and a happy boy as well. He brought such enthusiasm to the team.
A deep thinker. When you get to war you can stand next to him. All these players were very intelligent, but as well Sol was a strong personality.
Ashley Cole was a regret of my career. He left on a misunderstanding between his agent and the club. A fantastic fighter as well. I recall I played him the first time against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and he showed straight away he would never get out of the team again. The rest of his career has shown how big a player he is. It should have been here, though.
Another strong personality, very focused to win. He came to see me the other day and I said to him, ‘I remember coming to see you when you lost with Sweden against Portugal in the European Championship.’ Two days later the guy at the hotel said he has not moved yet, he was so disappointed. He was an unbelievable fighter. Even in the Champions League final against Barcelona he was immense. He could find resources even when he was dead, because of his fighting spirit.
Patrick is one of the legends of the club. I think I owe him personally a lot because he was the first player I brought here and he gave me a lot of credibility. He had all you needed. The charisma, the class, the fighting spirit. He is just Patrick. Since he came to England every year people say, ‘We have found the new Patrick Vieira,’ and yet nobody found him! He was amazing because he could turn the game forward with two guys against him. I’ve seen Patrick having a go at the central defenders: ‘Give me the ball.’ ‘But you are marked.’ ‘I don’t care!’ He still always managed to turn the game forward. An amazing football player.
Gilberto is, for me, class. Modesty, humility, on a human front a top-class person. He was ready to sacrifice himself for the team. When you analyse it well, all these players were talented and intelligent, but when you look at the success of the team, you need that screen player in front of the defence who is ready to do the dark and dirty work for other people. Gilberto was that kind of player. I bought him when I saw him with Brazil at the World Cup in 2002 and I thought here is the piece who will give us something special. He was a good football player. After that World Cup, I walked in the dressing room and the way he behaved and the discretion he showed meant you would never for a second think this is the guy who has just won the World Cup.

Taichiseal said...

Robert is as well one of the legends of the club. A top-class football player, and the smiley killer. He killed you with a smile – but he killed you. Give him a football, you have him on your side the whole day. He loves the game, passionate, and such a great finisher, an unbelievable finisher. He was so intelligent in his movement he was always free. I still curse myself even today about the day he got injured in 2002. We played Newcastle and I said to myself, I overplayed Robert. I wanted to rest him. I always said, OK, the next game. Before the Newcastle game I thought, This time I really have to rest him. In the end I played him and thought, I will take him off before the end. We started the game and he was world class. Suddenly he hurt his cruciate. Honestly, after that he was never the same player; he lost just a fraction physically, even if he was the same with a football. Before he was injured he was the best player in the world in his position. When we won the Championship you could see the way people reacted in the ceremony.
Dennis is the science, the intelligence, the charisma. A strong character, very determined, super professional. I have seen Dennis from the first to the last day of his career focusing on every single pass. Dennis was the intelligent perfectionist. Dennis needed to control the world through his perfection. When he missed something he was always unhappy. He had an intrinsic desire to be perfect in what he did. His teammates admired him, which was very important at that time. When your big players create a good understanding, and they respect each other, it makes your team stronger. For a while there was a big competition between Thierry and Dennis, but because of the age difference, it made them work together. When they got to that stage we became unstoppable.
Thierry was a super, super talent. This guy could do absolutely everything. What symbolizes Thierry are those special goals – the goal he scored against Liverpool, or the goal he scored against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu. That showed you how immense this player was. He was Usain Bolt with a top football talent. He had everything you dream to have as centre forward – pace, super intelligent, analyses very quickly everything, calm in his finishing. Even in France he is underrated. Sometimes he was perceived behind Zidane, but for me he was a dream striker. He was one who when we were being dominated could create a goal on his own from nothing. That gives a team such strength. Just find him once, he will do it.