The Dutch are famed for their open honesty, although in football this tends to cause more problems than solutions.
The latest example comes from Dennis Bergkamp, no stranger to outspokeness – especially when it comes to his own ability (we’ve lost count the number of times he’s included himself whenever asked for his fantasy eleven). The flying dutchman has come out and said what everyone has been thinking – Arsenal just are not the same team without Patrick Vieira. Of course, stating that if you lose a team captain and world class player that there will be times of regret is not particularly insightful – but most Gunner fans would not have predicted quite such a decline.
In a sport where excuses are rampant and fans refuse to face facts until the death, it’s always interesting to see one of the players come out and so eloquently express what is on everyone’s mind.
‘Arsene is intelligent enough to know what that did to the team. People saw how influential Patrick was on the pitch, dominating midfield by himself,’ Bergkamp told ‘The Game’ in The Times.
‘But people also forget how he was off the pitch, how impressive he was in the dressing room, and how important he was for every other player, young and old. I think a lot of people underestimated that.’
Never have truer words been spoken. Most fans, Arsenal or otherwise (i.e. Tottenham), comprehended the kind of impact that losing Patrick Vieira would have simply from the perspective of losing a player. But when you think about the fact that over the past few years Arsenal have swung their transfer policy to focusing on youth, almost to a fault, then the need for strong leadership to guide the new generation into the squad was even more important. Wenger knew that much of the core of the side, Pires, Ljungberg, Campbell, and even Vieira had possibly peaked and that it would take a few seasons to groom young players to replace them – so selling the inspirational team captain hardly made sense. This has been exposed to the highest degree this season as the lack of experience is evident throughout the London club’s squad while the aforementioned core of the team has deteriorated rapidly, in some cases REALLY rapidly.
Bergkamp added: ‘When you hear he is going to be sold you try to think of a team without him – and you have the confidence in the board and the coach that they have something in mind.
‘You can’t just let Patrick go without having someone coming in. But that doesn’t happen. You respect Arsene for what he has done; that is for sure, but to tell you the truth you thought something would happen – and nothing did. So slowly you get into the new season and you realise this is going to be a tough one.
‘We didn’t expect the dip to be this big. It is okay to take one step and two steps forward, but we are not really sure if it just one step back at the moment. It seems more. Somehow we got into a transitional year, and it wasn’t necessary.’