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Invincible: Arsène Wenger the movie, a review Our ACE arrives Arsène Charles Ernest Wenger = ACE Wenger and he was by far the greatest Arsenal manager in my lifetime, definitely our ace. This documentary is, in many ways, a sad reflection of the end of his days at his beloved Arsenal. Yes, it celebrates his life, his early days, the glory years and above all the invincible season, but perhaps its greatest feat is showing the ordinary man behind the genius, the guy out jogging, being put under stupid interrogation by journalists (?) at the start of his sojourn, and the heartbreak evident in his face as he got pushed out of Arsenal. His top achievement as a player One sure thing I can say about Arsène, is he never boasted about himself, he had a humble upbringing in a small town in France, it was just after the war and everything was scarce. And if he had a humble background, it was even more so in football. He was well down the ladder and it took time to climb himself upwards. Implicit in this film is that he realized he would never be a master footballer so he dedicated himself to the process of becoming a virtuoso coach and manager in his twenties. Slowly his talent was recognized. His ability to work with people is unsurpassed, it is hard to think of anyone who has a bad word to say about him. In contrast to his two biggest rivals, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, who have plenty of players with nothing but bitterness towards them. Jaap Stam, Luke Shaw, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Gordon Strachan, and Paul Pogba spring to mind but there are plenty more. Love wins out at the end? His greatest achievement, to my mind, documented in this film, is when he came to Arsenal in 1996.He really got an unprecedented amount of abuse and piss-taking. Our own Ian Wright said “who?” when asked about him. He was accused without any basis, that he had a private life scandal. Players thought this was never a football man because he didn’t look the part. No foreign manager had achieved much in England and the English football establishment and media perpetuated this myth. Eh, no, Arsène proved them wrong in spectacular fashion by winning the double in his first full season by playing beautiful football. The Double? Easy! The film has its focus on Arsène Wenger and particularly the invincible year. Us Arsenal fans know all the story and there is nothing much new in this movie. For me, though, the surprising thing is how ordinary Wenger was portrayed in many ways and there is a recurring theme of sadness as a great man is laid low, partly, at least, by idiot fans and an aggressive media. A present from our ACE -London Colney He is regularly shown watching matches from his past in a deserted and bleak warehouse on a very large screen. He is alone, as if he has no friends. It really does look heartbreaking. For me it is strange, as I feel such an intelligent man as Wenger must have known it is not a good depiction as a majority of people still believed in him. I knew at the time we would struggle to replace him. Football had moved on and money was king so a new manager had to operate within Arsenal’s financial constraints and equal Arsène’s achievements. There are few such geniuses out there. Maybe we have found one now in Arteta but it still remains to be seen. Another present from our ACE It shows his final days, the protests by the numptys, the constant barrage by the media, and you can see the confusion and hurt in his face as he tries to comprehend how people cannot see that they are asking the impossible – build a new stadium that befits a top team but costs a fortune, and win major trophies with a very constrained budget just when the super rich are clambering into football and spending whatever they like. 100 million was what it cost to run a top team not so long before for a year, and now it might get you a dud player. Time for a major statue outside The matches leading up to the Invincible year are delineated, the inexorable march towards the title, the draws that knocked us back, the wins that pushed us forward. It was an extraordinary achievement, belatedly recognised by Alex Ferguson in this film as he was dismissive of it at the time, saying it wasn’t a record points total and there were 12 draws. However, this video shows a Ferguson who is a big fan of Arsène. Obviously he had a lot more respect for him at the time than he let on but I do feel that the reality was that there was a great mutual dislike. The strange thing, alluded to here, is that Manchester United offered Arsène the role of manager and he turned it down. Wenger doesn’t say when that happened but it is generally believed to be when Ferguson first said he would retire but then changed his mind. So is it worth watching? I would say so for the non Arsenal fan as it gives glimpses into the man who made Arsenal, with its top class grounds, superb training facilities and high standards. It also shows that success breeds discontent, win and you are expected to keep on winning, fans get cranky, abusive and show no respect or understanding for how greatness is achieved. Fans from say West Ham or Bournemouth would love to have the problems Arsenal fans have. Our ACE had a sense of humour Foe Arsenal fans it gives us insight into how a small section of fans were allowed to show their lack of class, how a great man was hounded from his lifetime’s work instead of being allowed to walk away with his head held high when he felt he could contribute better with a different role. He should be like Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish, at every match and applauded. But the overriding feeling instead is that we hurt deeply the man who gave us everything, who took on the Manchester giant who had unlimited cash and gave them a bloody nose. 2 doubles and an Invincible year, 49 matches unbeaten, a record number of FA cups, and yet he is hounded out. He should never had had to experience that and maybe that is why he agreed to be portrayed as an ordinary man watching matches alone in a dark and bleak warehouse. His last day -we will never see his like again Arsène, you were the greatest in my time, you brought in incredible players and you nurtured many others. The football was exciting, the chasing down of teams, the quest for cups, the huge teams coming to Highbury and the Emirates, the respect garnered from every quarter of football and above all else, your creation, almost singlehandedly, of the magnificent Emirates Stadium which has enabled Arsenal to stay in touch with the big boys. That is the one aspect that I am truly grateful for, that Arsenal are among the big boys, and we achieved it with a man whose integrity is unsurpassed in football. Our heads are high in the air with the man who offered Sheffield United a replay as he called foul on himself. Nobody in football wants to do that but he did. A giant among giants and he is ours. Our ACE. Merci beaucoup Monsieur Wenger et merci pour les merveilleux sentiments que vous m'avez donnés.
Invincibles Our best ever? New Boys Or could these be? Player + age Lehmann 34 Ramsdale 24 Lauren 27 Tomiyasu 24 Cole 23 Zinchenko 26 Campbell 29 Saliba 21 Toure 23 Gabriel 25 Gilberto Silva 27 Partey 29 Vieira 28 Xhaka 30 Bergkamp 35 Odegaard 24 Pires 30 Saka 21 Henry 26 Jesus/Nketiah 25/23 Ljungberg 27 Martinelli 21 Are we better than the Invincibles? Ramsdale above Lehmann? Of course, Gus, you are joking, right? Better than the Invincibles, our greatest ever? I think we have to call BS on this one. Eh, no, let’s take a look at what we have and what we had and then we can say more clearly. Now, for sure, we are looking at different systems, different eras, different challenges but still there are similarities, maybe the most massive being a giant from Manchester is standing in our way. Plus, the Invincibles were a seasoned, hardened team who knew how to win big trophies. In comparison, we are a bunch of kids with potential and we are unsure if they have that killer instinct, that never say die attitude, or even the skill level required. Sorry Jens, I am a bitter man But let’s start at goalkeeper Lehmann vs Ramsdale. I am going to go Ramsdale as I was never a huge Lehmann fan. Maybe it is the Champions League final that sways it for me but it seems I am a petty man with a grudge. So 1-0 to the Arsenal, sorry, to the new boys. When I see 1-0 I automatically say to the Arsenal. Lauren vs Tomiyasu. Now first I have to say that I am choosing Tomiyasu over White as I feel he can put players in his pocket better. Lauren was a super player, unruffled and reliable. A good body of work with Arsenal and 7 trophies, I probably have to give it to him just about. Tomiyasu is similar, reliable, works hard and doesn’t let us down. A very tight 1-1 so. Cole vs Zinchenko. Tricky but if we take Ashley Cole’s career as a whole, his 107 caps for England, his huge trophy cabinet and compare that to Zinchenko’s body of work for us it is hard not to give it to him. Cole was under-rated at Arsenal but not at subsequent clubs or internationally. A lot of Arsenal fans can’t forgive him but I feel they should have recognized that he was world class. We had Gael Clichy waiting in the wings and I feel that was a big influence on the decision but Arsenal have always had a touch of stinginess about them. Maybe they should have given him the money his class deserved. Zinchenko might surpass him and I would love if he did but for now 2-1 to the Invincibles. Sol Campbell vs William Saliba William Saliba reminds me of Campbell. Both unruffled, classy in the tackle, comfortable with the ball and above all reliable. Big names can appear against us but these type of guys give us confidence. Campbell is a huge favourite of mine and he was part of the holy Trinity at Arsenal, him at the back, Vieira in midfield and Henry upfront. You have no idea how happy I would be if Saliba turned out to be better than Campbell. But for now it is 3-1 to the Invincibles. Kolo Toure vs Gabriel Magalhães This is tough. Toure combined very well with Campbell and was almost Bobby Moore like in how he won the ball but his career was never as good when he left Arsenal. I feel he was in the right defence and maybe looked a bit better than he was. So I am going to give it to Gabriel. I would certainly pick him if forced. 3-2 and one back for the new boys. Gilberto Silva vs Thomas Partey The easy answer every time for this exercise is Invincibles first but Partey is good, very good. If he had gone to Barcelona or Real early on I might have to give a different answer here but marginally the vote goes to Gilberto, I mean he won the World cup, his body of work is stronger. Again, though, Partey could change my mind over the next seasons. 4-2 to the Invincibles. Patrick Vieira vs Granit Xhaka Xhaka has done miracles, we can all agree, but Patrick is Patrick. Maybe we will never see another midfielder as good as him. 5-2 to the Invincibles. Bergkamp vs Odegaard Dennis - better than all the rest? Of course here the systems make it difficult and Odegaard plays a different role but I feel it is the closest comparison I can make. Bergkamp did not play on the wing so I can’t compare him to our wide men. Thierry Henry says that Bergkamp was the best he ever played with, which means he is up against Messi and Zidane and wins. The amazing thing is that maybe Odegaard could surpass Dennis. He is good but Dennis was Dennis. 6-2 to the Invincibles. Robert Pires vs Saka Nowadays, Pires would be criticized because he wasn’t a great defender whereas Saka can and does do both. Pires body of work is greater but I am just going to give it to Saka because I love him so much. 6-3 and another back for the new boys. Thierry Henry vs Gabriel Jesus/ Eddie Nketiah Well, you all know the answer to this one. Our greatest ever up against either Jesus or Eddie Nketiah as I am truly not sure who is better for the team, but Henry would go in all day long. We had 4 unbelievable strikers in Henry, Bergkamp, Wiltord and Kanu then, and maybe we will have 4 similar in Nketiah, Jesus, Balogun and Trossard to terrify the opponents, but at the moment I would certainly put Henry, Bergkamp and Kanu above anyone we have now. 7-3 to the Invincibles. Kanu- an Invincible sub would get into our new team? Ljungberg vs Martinelli Freddie just kept on doing it, he was loved by us all and Martinelli is also strong in our affections. Ljungberg had a more all round game and played a different role than Martinelli and I feel that I have to pick him for now but that could change in the future. 8-3 to the Invincibles. So, there you have it. A comprehensive win for the team of 2003/4. I doubt if anyone would give me a serious argument at the moment but in all seriousness, if this team could surpass our legends and go on a ten year run like the great Liverpool and Manchester United teams of the past, winning leagues and Champions league with abandon, then you can all come back to me and say, Gus, you were talking nonsense, our new boys, let’s call them the Incredibles, are better than the Invincibles and hardly any would get into an Incredible 11. Ah, I can dream.