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Is Arsene Wenger moulding a newer, better and younger form of the Untouchables?

By: Jordan Taylor-Bartels

Despite being the youngest, and theoretically, the least experienced team within the ‘elite four’, Arsenal has consistently, and against all odds, silenced the provocative British press. Having, been branded as a ‘no hope’ during the summer of 2007, the Arsenal side were to face a long and arduous season without French superstar Thierry Henry who left for the Nou Camp in the transfer period.

However, whilst the Arsenal youngsters are adolescent at heart, they are extremely professional and mature when it comes to class. The architect, Arsene Wenger, has been renowned for playing with a certain quick and highly appealing style, and Arsenal, this season, were not to disappoint. Despite the absence of star striker Thierry Henry, Arsene Wenger held strong, and reiterated to the press that he had full confidence in his side of young men. The likes of Theo Walcott, Gael Clichy and Francesc Fabregas all had the potential, but all three did not publicly excel. The pressure to succeed in the most difficult, and most elite, competition in the world seemed to be getting to the worst of them. Yet, the departure of captain Thierry Henry, allowed for the young buds to blossom into threatening and dangerous football players.

Arguably, Ashley Cole was one of the best full-backs to ever play the game, and despite some off the field controversies, he did not disappoint fans on the field. Converting from an attacking position, Ashley Cole, during his years at Arsenal, played in the Left-Back position for almost his whole career. With immense pace and attitude, Cole controlled the proceedings of every game, and even to the shock of viewers, scored some miraculous goals that one would expect from an experienced striker. Ashley Cole left after the 05/06 season, to League and London rivals Chelsea, and has still not played at the same level as he did under Arsene Wenger. This triggered the rise of Frenchman Gael Clichy, and this season, he has been the best fullback of the season, carrying almost identical characteristics as past Left-Back, Ashley Cole.

Arsenal, who were coming off a powerful run, experienced a somewhat unsatisfactory January in terms of display – not result. However, after scoring 9 goals in three games against Newcastle and Manchester City, Arsenal are now back on track for global, or at least domestic, domination. With Adebayor and Bendtner seemingly calm and scoring with attitude, Arsenal are now displaying a message of violent passion, unbreakable unity and a desperate need to win this season’s English Premier League Title.

Whilst Adebayor’s clash with Niklas Bendtner was horrific, for the purpose of relevant discussion, it is important to see beyond an ever-so-common team conflict. Arsenal’s 2003/2004 ‘Untouchable’ squad had three key characteristics; skill, passion and attitude. The skill and passion are the obvious ones, however, it is the team’s attitude which was unique and separated Arsenal from the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. Through the likes of Vieira, Henry, Lauren and most importantly Keown, we can decipher the otherness in which Arsenal possessed. Arsenal’s FA Cup clash with Manchester United highlighted this to its greatest extent. Vieira was sent off for a foul in which he didn’t commit, and in result, a riff between Arsenal and Manchester United players evolved. Anger controlled the proceedings, with Vieira’s red card being the catalyst for Arsenal’s FA Cup win. Whilst violence on the field is disgraceful in almost all extents, to some degree, it portrayed a side of Arsenal that made them special, unique and pure. Now the infamous moment of that match, is of course, not only van Nistelrooy’s penalty miss, but also Keown’s ‘karate’ chop on the melancholic penalty taker.

As said earlier, violence should not be condoned, however, in terms of football, it can distinguish the best from the great. The similarities between Arsene Wenger’s two prototypes is so uncanny, that it is almost impossible to distinguish the characteristics between the two.

This team is quickly showing signs of the 03/04 ‘Untouchables’. With passionate rage, we are reminded of Martin Keown, with the precision and control we are reminded of Patrick Vieira, – all executed and nursed by the witty and zealous Arsene Wenger. The likes of Chelsea and Manchester United must watch out, as a fiery and unified group of youngsters are on their own desired path to glory!