Pires,Bergkamp,Edu & Wiltord: e-Myles replies to your e-mails

By Myles Palmer

From Gareth Masters


I have been an Arsenal fan all my life and I would like to say that your writing on them is the most incisive and knowledgeable I have ever read,and your reading of the game of football is outstanding! Have you ever thought of becoming a manager? Really enjoy the website, and I hope to be reading it for a long time to come!

Myles says:

Thanks very much.Nice to have discerning readers.

Have I ever thought of being a manager? I hope you are not being sarcastic!

I could not be a manager because I am far too emotional and quick-tempered. I’m judgemental and unforgiving. I would scream and shout at the players at half-time. But would that make them play better in the second half?

Managers today have to be made of the NASA-invented carbon-fibre material used in Formula 1 cockpits. The racing car crashes at 200 mph, the wheels fly 70 feet into the air, the engine is smashed to smithereens,and the driver steps out of the wreck, takes off his helmet and walks away.

Top football managers have to do that twice a week for nine months.

They are walking, talking, bionic shock-absorbers whose daily lives involve multi-million pound decisions as well as collaborating closely with 50 people, so they have to be leader/Godfather/doctor/diplomat/psychologist/father/mother.

They have to wear many hats and perform many roles simultaneously. Arsene Wenger has to worry about all the things he has told us he worries about.Plus other things that are happening that we do not know about.

He has to give tender, loving and imaginative care to the Arsnocerous, the 22-legged beast that wears those Dreamcast shirts.

I could not do his job. Arsene puts his head in the lion’s mouth twice a week. The stresses are incredible and damaging and scary. I am not made of the right stuff.I would be going home in an ambulance after every match.


From Kenneth Sterne : Thanks for ANR


I read ANR as frequently as you can put it out and I just wanted to compliment you on your style and perception. I can honestly say that even in these times of “crisis” I can enjoy your webpages and the column that you do for H&I.

I’m a bit of an amateur theorist/tactician myself and your latest views on Wiltord were really the spark for this letter. There aren’t many people,including my mates who I go to matches with, who look at “the game” in the wide sense that I perceive you do and I’d like to know what you think of my ideas.

When we were rumoured to be signing Wiltord, I must say that I was more than a little excited. The Wiltord/Henry partnership, as witnessed when Sylvain came on against Scotland, looked to me to have the potential of being something special, but for some reason not a lot of people picked up on their combined performance in that match.

I think that these two have great qualities that really complement each other and I see them as a kind of 21st century “big man little man” strike pairing.

Where I don’t agree with you is on the issue of Bergkamp. I’m sorry, but I can only see Bergkamp playing a kind of Kanu role in the scheme of things,i.e. two goals down with 20 minutes left, throw him on, but I would play him straight up front with Wiltord and Henry, not down a flank, he’s too much of a liability there.

If he were the axis of a front three “pairing”,playing “one two’s” with two strikers who both naturally get in wide positions, he could create chances for those two with short passes, create chances for himself, or play the ball into the feet of on-rushing midfielders like Pires.

This conveniently takes me into midfield.I would play Pires in the middle with Vieira. Pires is the best passer of the ball that we have and I see him as wasted down the left. I think that he would be much more effective as a creator and goal scorer in the middle.

He is the central midfielder that we are lacking, the one who can get into dangerous goalscoring positions and the one who can open up a defence (consistently)with perceptive passing. I would have Ashley Cole as the wide left midfielder, in front of Silvinho. Lauren on the right, or even Lauren as right back with Ljungberg on the right side of midfield.

We don’t get width, we don’t get wide, we don’t get crosses in, we don’t stretch teams. That is our biggest problem, WE DO NOT STRETCH TEAMS.

We can do it up and down the pitch, by allowing them to come on to us and then break, but the reason that we don’t beat teams like Everton and Derby is that we are not creating space for Henry and Wiltord to run into. The only way to do that is to have players willing to get wide and cross the ball.

Even if we don’t score from crosses, at least we are creating space and equally as important, we are creating THE THREAT of getting wide which makes defensive teams commit players to wide positions which does what? Of course it does, creates space in the middle. Hence my choice of Ashley Cole bombing down the left wing in tandem with Silvinho. I would be terrified of Arsenal playing against that combination. Imagine poor old Luzhny up against those two.

And the defence, well, I’m a 4-4-2 man, but a 4-4-2 that relies on two very good central defenders, one of who would have to have pace. So why mess with Keown and Adams? Sure they have their off days, but they are formidable. These two allow the wide players to get forward and Vieira is a natural at covering space left open by forward-running backs.

That’s why we conceded four to Spartak, Vieira would have dealt with the last two.

Well, hope I didn’t bore you with that. I’d be interested in knowing what you think and thanks again for ANR.

Myles says:

You could be the manager Gareth is looking for!

Ian Grant writes the ANR column in H&I, not me.

I think a football team’s performance is usually related to the performance in the previous game or games. Success and failure are cumulative. It is a game of sequences where, as Wenger says, you gain confidence slowly and lose it quickly.

George Graham once told reporters that it’s not black and white, it’s a combination of little things, an accumulation of 5% here and 10% there,which slowly adds up and clicks into place and provides a rolling, winning team.

Basically, Arsenal’s form disappeared down a coalmine in the eastern Ukraine. The team went into a black hole and forgot to come out.

Donetsk started it, Derby continued it, Everton confirmed it, Moscow multiplied it and Leeds won luckily with a deflected free-kick.

We don’t stretch teams across the field? Yes, because we don’t play that way. Any successful team is an exercise in geometry. You have to choose one type of geometry and work on it, and then develop variations.

Man United tend to attack in oblongs, while Arsenal tend to attack in long stiletto stabs because they have pace but don’t have players who can head or volley and convert crosses and rebounds.

So United’s style is based round Beckham while Arsenal’s style is based round Bergkamp. All coaches play to their strengths.

George Graham’s Arsenal attacked in oblongs from 1986-91. Then the fullbacks got too old to overlap, Ian Wright came, and they played eight defenders and just kicked and flicked it through the middle for Wrighty from 1991 to 1995.

Then Bergkamp came. Then Overmars and Petit came to complete a balanced team that was almost invincible.Then that team got too old.

Is Bergkamp becoming our Teddy Sheringham? An ageing supersub? I don’t think so. Bergkamp is a half-striker, but a versatile footballer who can play with anyone and perform in any system.

But he is a big guy who gets rusty on the bench and needs four consecutive starts to be at his best.

Pires is NOT wasted on the left. He does NOT hug the touchline. He roams carefully. But he cannot be Petit because Petit has four lungs. Petit is a power player with some craft. Pires is a craftsman with some power. You could not play Pires in central midfield, except in a 3-5-2. In a 4-4-2, Arrigo Sacchi, the Pope of pressing, decreed that midfield is a war-zone requiring warriors (Desailly, Albertini) supplemented by creative flankers (Donadoni, Savicevic).OK?


From Charles Sultan : Wiltord, Arsenal and integration

Hi Myles,

I like your assessment of the game and I believe the only way at the moment that we can integrate Wiltord and Henry is to sign a creative midfielder like Edu or Flavio Conceciao.

Petit provided Overmars, Henry, Anelka and sometimes DB10 with the killer pass because he had the vision and he played further forward than Vieira. In fact the two of them often alternated in the double winning season.

At present we can’t do this because Grimandi is not a long ball passer.Also he is not a natural central midfielder. So we have Vieira who is worried that if he breaks forward then there is a massive hole left behind him. This is especially evident when Grimandi is out of the team as he shields the ageing centre backs.

Wiltord is our best option up front because he is more direct than DB10 and NK25. He is prepared to penetrate the box. We need the central midfielder and then things will start to happen. Otherwise we will have to play 4-4-1-1 like you say, or 4-3-3 with DB10/NK behind Henry and Wiltord.

Myles says:

Absolutely right on Edu.

Arsenal are struggling because they have not replaced Petit. A piece of the jigsaw is missing. They sent our Edu back. That is why the team has not won in five games. I think Edu will come soon and be fantastic. Silvinho is easily Arsenal’s best player at the moment. When Edu comes, Silvinho will score even more goals.

I see Flavio Conceicao as a power player rather than a perceptive passer. A half back, not an inside forward. An anchorman, not a playmaker.

Like you, I enjoy Wiltord’s directness. But he needs to vary his game more. And be, perhaps, less busy. Become more of a team player. At the moment he gets the ball and shoots.

Scouts tell their managers : Wiltord shoots every time, from silly angles, from 30 yards. He is too eager, too predictable. But trying too hard is a good fault. As soon as he relaxes,stops shooting and starts passing, he will score. That is how perverse football is!

Have a good weekend. Don’t worry about Southampton. Arsenal will beat them.