By 1970’s Gooner
It has really been amazing to watch this young Arsenal team play such wonderful football with so much ease, skill and technique.
Each and every player whether a defender, midfielder or attacker possesses an astonishing amount of talent that allows him to be almost equally proficient in various positions and areas on the football pitch.
It is reminiscent of the “total football” (or Totaalvoetbal in Dutch) that Ajax introduced with great effect to the world in the early 1970’s.
Although its foundations were laid much earlier at Ajax by Jack Reynolds it was his disciple Rinus Michels during his tenure at Ajax that really perfected it.
Ajax won the equivalent of the Champions League (then named the European Cup) in three successive seasons, 1971, 1972 and 1973.
The Dutch national team under his tutelage reached the Final of the 1974 World Cup beating Argentina, Brazil and East Germany on the way. They lost the final narrowly to West Germany 2-1.
Total Football is a system where a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another and in this way the structure of the team is kept intact.
In this fluid system no position is fixed and at the extreme any player can be an attacker, a midfielder or even a defender.
And judging by Arsenal’s performances so far in the Premiership Arsene Wenger seems to be a modern day Rinus Michels.
He has resurrected total football again. A first in the Premiership.
We have often seen the Arsenal players leave their original positions and venture in areas where the opponents would not have expected.
As Markus Hahnemann the Reading goalkeeper said after the game:
“They constantly drift into new positions and organising a defence is very difficult. Our back four and midfield couldn't stick to their own positions because their men were moving all over the place"
A prime example is Alexander Hleb who wonders around all areas of midfield, left, right and center weaving his marvelous magic.
Eboue was also doing it against Reading coming infield and at one stage playing as a second forward; Clichy was covered by Flamini when he ventured forward and even Toure was trying his lack further up the field.
Fabregas found himself in the box laying the ball back for Arsenal’s center forward, Adebayor, to score that sumptuous second goal.
The same can also be said of Flamini who of all people was in the centre forward position to receive the ball from Hleb and score the first goal.
Adebayor, the center forward, was the supplier of the wonderful through ball to Hleb who then gave the assist to Flamini.
The case of Hleb is however particularly poignant when comparing the total Football played by Arsenal with Ajax of the 1970’s.
And the unavoidable comparison is with the great Dutch forward Johan Cruyff who was the system's most famous exponent.
Although Cruyff was fielded as a forward, he wandered all over the pitch, popping up wherever he could do most damage to the opposing team. Just as Hleb is doing for Arsenal.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that Hleb is of the same stature and influence as the great Cruyff.
But he has the potential to get there. As Arsenal have the potential to emulate the Ajax team of the 1970's.
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