Natalie Portman’s character hallucinates to success
Paul Hayward furthers the Arsenal in crisis trope which is a particular favourite amongst sports pundits. The central theme revolves around a group of disillusioned players who want to leave Arsenal because it has consistently defied the usual barometer of success. Breathing titles is healthier for team morale than living off the same stale fumes of a winning legacy that burned out a considerable time ago.
The fundamental question remains can Wenger’s experiment of buying underpriced raw talent and developing them into world beaters be considered a failure? In principle, for football or for any sport this remains the most attractive of proposals. In reality, it is rife with the vagaries of the learning curve. After six years, Arsenal have hit a ceiling. Wenger’s revisionism from the original outcome to a far less substantial one in order to deem his experiment a success reeks of desperation. An inadvertent admission of failure which his critics have latched onto.
In Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Black Swan”, the chief protagonist a mentally rigid but gifted ballerina has to find another doppleganger to play the part for which she feels no emotional attachment. Success comes at a high price leaving her shredded of sanity as she descends into an underworld of hallucination and self mutilation. There are some undeniable parallels in Arsene Wenger’s unyielding personality and his rejection of financial doping to pay for talent.
Unlike the one off performance of Natalie Portman’s character that characterize the fraught and ephemeral world of ballet there appears to be no indication the Arsenal manager will ditch his philosophy. That is because the advent of FIFA’s financial fair play rules keeps alive his original intent as well as shifts the focus to the winning attributes of the club, its enviable financial stewardship and self sustaining model. In a few years Wenger believes he will be vindicated when a level playing field provides a true measure of his accomplishments. His challenge is to find players who believe in that day.
There appears to be a solution in the more subtle Anglicization of the squad with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, the two players groomed to take over midfield whose pride in their club shines through. Samir Nasri might leave this year or next but his desire has not matched his creativity. Fabregas has worn out his heart on the sleeve and awaits his homecoming. Wilshere and Ramsey’s chin up attitude should steer their English teammates Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott towards more positive performances and augment the true believers – RVP, Song, Thomas Vermaelen, and Wojciech Szczesny. With the sale of Arsenal’s biggest assets Wenger can afford a few canny additions like Gervinho, Juan Mata, and Gary Cahill without double dipping into Arsenal’s accounts and spurning his philosophy for Socratic style dialectics.