Arsenal's Invincibles need to be inducted into board of management to get the club back to days of yore
Thierry Henry. There. Some of you Gooners can almost taste his delicious volley against Manchester United, his glorious solo run versus Tottenham or his audacious backheel goal against Charlton in 2004.
Try another one. Dennis Bergkamp. Surely the Dutch master’s unbelievable pirouette and calm finish against Newcastle has to go down as the greatest Premier League goal ever?
As I type the names Sol Campbell, Freddie Ljunberg, Robert Pires and Patrick Viera, mouth-watering memories come flooding back.
Regrettably, there will probably never be a team like The Invincibles again. But does that mean that their immense talents are lost to Arsenal forever? Is the only thing left to do for the Arsenal media team to have a couple of them round for a nostalgic chat over a cup of tea? Absolutely not.
The emergence of a sporting director or“director of football” in many of football’s top clubs has become apparent in recent years. Leonardo at PSG, Uli Hoeness at Bayern Munich and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid come to mind. They can act as an attractive figurehead for the club, a go-between between board members and the manager, and someone who can make up for a manager’s lack of competency in a specific area.
A director of football would be a welcome addition at Arsenal, in my opinion. It would be so satisfying for Arsenal fans to know that someone like Tony Adams or Sol Campbell, such monumental figures for Arsenal, are marching us toward a new era of success.
I have had these fantasies ever since I heard that Adams had made an application for the position of chairman after Peter Hill-Wood stepped down. So you can imagine my incredulity when I found out that his offer had not even been replied to by the club. Why wouldn’t you want someone so loyal, so passionate about the club to be chairman?
Sir Chips Keswick was appointed instead. Yeah, I haven’t heard of him either.
Turning down Tony Adams was an incredibly short-sighted decision but the situation is not irredeemable. Pires and Ljunberg have already agreed to become ambassadors for the Gunners and the Arsenal board must make sure that when Henry and Gilberto Silva retire, they do not befall the same fate as Patrick Vieira.
We cannot allow Henry’s huge influence and aura to be harnessed by another club, just as Viera is being used by Manchester City.
Sheep without a shepherd?
While I am delighted that Pires and Ljunberg have been recruited, the Arsenal board should not become complacent just yet. Monsieur Henry has already made one return to Arsenal. His magical loan spell at the club in January was proof that Henry and Arsenal are a potent mix.
He has often spoken of his desire to return to Arsenal in some capacity, be it coach or board member or even manager. His love for the club is apparent, all the board need to do is ring him up the second he hangs up his boots.
By enlisting the help of our former greats, Arsenal can build a culture of success at the club that can be passed on to our youngsters.
Wenger’s youth policy is all very well, but these starlets need role-models to be present at Arsenal, not just names that are merely mentioned in the same sentence as the North London club. We’ve got Pires and Ljunberg, and hopefully soon we’ll get Henry. Who knows? Perhaps we may even be able to lure Dennis Bergkamp away from his assistant manager position at Ajax.
We won’t be able to get all the Invincibles back, nor do I suspect that we want all of them back. Ashley Cole would not find welcome in the hearts of many Arsenal fans, but creating a culture of success is so important that personally I wouldn’t mind if ‘Cashley’ came back.
By Matthew Hurlow