By Myles Palmer
Dennis Bergkamp looked awesome scoring two slick goals in the 88th and 90th minutes at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
But will he start instead of Wiltord?
Dennis has said he just felt fit from the first day of pre-season. And,according to whispers from the training ground, he is still very fast.
Two weeks ago Arsene Wenger, the stopwatch king of English football,held a series of 40-metre sprint races.
Can you guess who are the four fastest Arsenal players over 40 metres?
I tried and only got the first and the fourth.
1. Thierry Henry
2. Jermaine Pennant
3. Dennis Bergkamp
4. Ashley Cole
Readers will have their own views on that list. I’m not sure what to make of it myself. I thought Pennant was quick, but not that quick. And I didn’t reckon Dennis was still the third fastest player at the club.
However, what I would say on Bergkamp is this : he is a thoroughbred running machine whose power has always been disguised by his elegance and fluidity. You see him sprint, but you never see him out of breath, chest heaving.
There is a lot of training in what he does, and a lot of
concentration, but he makes it look easy.
We think of Dennis Bergkamp as a skilful player but when Arsenal were motoring to the Double in 1998 he was a power player at the hub of a power team.
Soon after Wenger took over at Arsenal he was asked if, having worked with Bergkamp, he was the player he had expected to find. Wenger said,“He’s stronger than I thought he was.”
Leeds United? If Harry Kewell was 100% fit he might give Lauren a torrid time. But since he’s rusty he won’t.
I think Arsenal will win because they have Pires. He will make the difference. Leeds don’t have anybody as creative as Pires.
It would be irresponsible to predict a battle tonight. The crucial factor will postional discipline by the midfield quartet, which I expect to be Parlour, Vieira, Van Bronckhorst and Pires.
Arsenal must protect their centrebacks as never before because Adams looked off the pace with those two late tackles at Middlesbrough, and Sol Campbell is making his home debut against the roughest, toughest team in the Premiership.
Fortunately, Sol has a calm temperament, so the pressure will not bother him. And being kicked and elbowed by Alan Smith will not bother him either.
If players are getting angry on a football field Sol will be the last player to get angry – or the only one NOT to get angry.That’s just the way he is.
His even-tempered nature will be a big asset to Arsenal over the next few months and years.
21st August 2001.