Sometimes, I dream. And sometimes, it’s about football. And sometimes a dream is an eye opener. Not literally of course, unless it’s a nightmare in which I wake up, bathed in sweat. I do not tend to enjoy those. Mainly because you have to wash your sheets the next day and it leaves you with an annoying feeling all day long.
Anyway, eye openers. I had a dream in which I talked to monsieur Arsene. Or better said, in which Arsene spoke to me. I was led to believe Arsene had lost ‘it’, and by that I mean the formula to build a successful side. But in the vision I had of the vision of Arsene, this was all put to bed with ease. “Unsuccessful, unsuccessful? He argued? We have put together a sequence of only 3rd and 4th places since 2004. I believe we have shown an incredible consistency since then. Perhaps you think: ‘How about Sir Alex? Well, has achieved the same in the league with become 1st and 2nd, but his failure to come through the group stages of the Champions League in that period shows we have been superiorly consistent. We always reach the knockout stages. Consistently for 13 years now. I was still developing a strategy in the earlier stages, so the FA Cup win in 2005 was a mere accident, leading to a drop of two places in the league (from 2nd to 4th), but after that, we have always been 3rd or 4th.’
‘How do I do it? I keep my players hungry and eager for winning things by not winning things. The near League Cup win in 2010 was a sign for me that it was time to sell some of the players in the squad. We are not looking for trophies. It raises a wrong spirit. When the hunger or eagerness is fulfilled, it can lead to complacency. We are not complacent. Still, we achieve. We don’t drop like Chelsea or Tottenham, off to fifth and we don’t risk overachieving in order to maintain a level of consistency. I can only praise the spirit of this squad and the addition of Podolski (always second or third with Germany in the national team tournaments), Mertesacker (always top 3 with Werder bar one season) and Arteta, who after a dodgy start at Everton (4th and 11th) grasped the concept and became 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th there. We now have a squad full of players who know not how to overachive or underachieve, but are used to maintaining a solid level of performance in the Premier League and the Champions League.’
I woke up baffled and since I was awake, I couldn’t dream of arguing. A sign. Arsene knows.