I was there…

It’s been a strange old week. The Euros have come to an end. The transfer madness can begin (or continue should I say…). But it all feels a little subdued for me. It might be a little to do with where I am. I’m in Charles De Gaulle airport as I write this piece and that’s why I feel a little deflated. Let me further explain.

Aside from the obvious that being in Paris and wanting the city to be bouncing on the back of a home win I’m saddened that anti-football has won yet again. Being at The Stade De France for what ultimately proved to be an anti-climax due to the result, showed me a glimpse of what football could well become over the next 5 years at least and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I’ve seen well known publications that I love reading, making claims that there is “no right way” to win and that winning is winning. It’s all very Vin Diesel. Leicester City have provided a blueprint for ALL teams to follow (not that they were the first by any means) to success. One thing I can understand is Leicester City playing this way, but a team such as Portugal who have an array of talent including Ronaldo, Nani, Sanches, Quaresma, Jao Mario & Moutinho producing an atrocious brand of football is worrying and I’ll tell you why a littler later on. In terms of the night itself I really feel like I’ve adopted the French nationality. I was in the France end and surrounded by the most wonderful fans. So much passion. So much excitement. The guy next to me explained every french song to me and got me involved with it all. It was brilliant. Spectacular. I’ve always had a soft spot for France because of Wenger and the French contingent at Arsenal but I now well and truly feel like backing them with full force going forward (I mean for when England get knocked out onwards, but that basically means at all tournaments). Qui ne saute pas n’est pas francais – eh! Translates basically to “anyone who doesn’t jump isn’t French!”. I sang (not well). I jumped.

Back to why I think this lauding of anti-football could make the next 5 years of football horrible…

Cristano Ronaldo is professed to be one of the best, if not the best player in the world. Now those who claim this (fans, coaches and surrounding people/players) are defending Portugals playing style to the hilt. Ronaldo’s injury was said to have put a spanner in the works for Portugal’s game plan but it didn’t skip a beat. Ronaldo was missing but someone else came in and their style of play continued as it had started. Happy to sit back and counter. Simple. Boring. Leicester. The greatest players in the world have teams built around them to compliment their talents, this is always the case and was the case this tournament. Does this mean to say that “the best player in the world” is only useful in counter attack teams/situations? Is he only capable of being great in a back foot surrounding? Messi hasn’t had the best week and Barcelona’s support of his tax evasion makes everyone want to vomit but historically Portugal have been about the beautiful game. Argentina have been about shithousing. Why then have Argentina built their team around Messi’s strengths and created a brutally attack minded side? Because they have adopted their best players strengths and mounded a team to achieve the best out of him. Portugal have done the same. And while I undoubtedly think Ronaldo is a great great player, I’ll never think he’s the best or the best ever purely because he doesn’t live and die by purist football. He doesn’t demand excellence. He wants to win at any cost. A completely valid motivation, so don’t get me wrong there, but is it one that we would like to associate with wanting to be great? Football first I say. Love the game not the goal. Love the moments not the back page stories. Most importantly, let the fans love the game. Let them see it in its purest form. Let them gasp, despair, exclaim & fantasise of what could one day be.

I would love Arsenal to win trophies every year I really would but I’d rather take a trophy every few years so long as we stayed true to the new identity we have created of the beautiful game in England. I’ve watched a fair few football matches live in my time and there’s no team that’s got me off my seat with their football than The Arsenal (with the exception of Barcelona) and I love that fact. I love that I know I’ll see us try to do things the right way. I appreciate sides that don’t have the financial clout and the talent required to play front-foot football but the teams that have the means really ought to lead by example.

The bigger issue here is that pure talent in the youth development phase is becoming less of a pre-requisite. Fitness, work rate, desire and PASHUN are all traits that are put alongside pure talent. The emphasis on this side of the game is stifling the truly gifted players and it’s the reason we see less and less English players that have any actual technical ability. Across the majority of Europe, in the biggest leagues at least, players are free to develop their technical skills first. The fitness kicks off slow and builds with time. It can’t work the other way. You can’t learn to be skilful once you’ve already harnessed your other attributes. You have to start all over again, which is why first touches of any foreign players always appear to be far more consistent and spectacular in comparison to our English youth. I just want to see every player try to be the best they can be and see the best football being played. We are paying to be entertained after all. I think that it does also come down to the type of football player you are and the players you look up to as to the style of football you might well like. I’ve definitely been spoilt whilst growing up watching the great Dennis Bergkamp and many others may not have had such a talented idol. But we’re now in an age where we could be close to accepting that fitness/work rate is on par with ability. They are both massively important but ability needs to come first. It just needs to!

There’s not much happening Arsenal wise and we’re getting to edgy territory whereby convincing ourselves of signings gets is through the day rather than refreshing Twitter every 5 minutes but we’re not far off. Especially with the Euros now over.

That’s where I want to leave it to be honest. Paris is somber. I’m echoing that mood. As I board my flight the loss for France still lingers. Victory through harmony will have to wait for another day. It could have been spectacular but one day it will be. In any case…I was there.

Have a wonderful week folks.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.


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