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Sep 5, 2007

Dein's 'vision' is not wanted or needed

Arsenal turned in a thoroughly impressive performance to beat Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth on Sunday afternoon to move up to second place in the Premier League, level on points with leaders Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger's young team eased themselves into a comfortable 2-0 half-time lead courtesy of goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabreagas. Adebayor coolly slotted away a penalty after Robin Van Persie had been dragged down by the on-rushing David James in the 8th minute. The early lead settled the team and put them firmly in control.

Fabregas added the second ten minutes before half-time. From a Tomas Rosicky corner, he controlled a Gilberto header and turned it into the net from close range. As the teams disappeared down the tunnel for the break, the Ashburton Grove crowd were looking forward to more of the same in the second period.

Any half-time thoughts that this game would turn into a Sunday afternoon stroll went up in smoke five minutes into the second half when Philippe Senderos found himself on the wrong side of Kanu, fouled him and was dismissed by referee Halsey for being the last defender between the striker and goal. It was hard to complain about the decision, but there were more than a few groans that yet again Senderos had got himself into an unnecessary tangle.

From there, with the Gunners down to ten men, the game changed in tone. The tempo got more frenetic as Pompey tried to capitalise on their one-man advantage, but for the first time this season the class and burgeoning maturity of the young Arsenal side really began to shine through.

Arsene Wenger did not make any rash adjustments following the sending off. Robin Van Persie was asked to play a bit deeper but that aside the Frenchman stuck to his game plan. He was rewarded on the hour when Fabregas and Rosicky combined to reap the maximum benefit from some sleepy Portsmouth defending as the young Spaniard slide the ball into the Czech's path from a quickly-taken freekick and he fired the ball into the far corner of the net.

The crowd had barely finished one chorus of 'we've only got ten men' before Kanu immediately pulled one back at the other end with a typically opportunistic effort. Faced with a similar situation in the last couple of seasons Arsenal fans would have been worried. Worried that the ten-man team would lose its nerve, that heads would drop and further goals would be conceded and the game drawn or even lost. There was not even a hint of concern on Sunday. The team kept their shape, upped their effort and even could afford the luxury of substitute Abou Diaby squandering a glorious headed chance following a quite wonderful passing move.

At the final whistle, the stadium rose to acknowledge the victory with a great sense of pride. For the first time, we had seen Arsene Wenger's vision for this team start to show some tangible green shoots. Against a very handy team, the young side had dominated the first half and when the game took a wrong turn for them, they adapted, adjusted and rose to the challenge. It was the perfect antidote to the speculation in the press during the week of all the behind the scenes machinations following David Dein selling out his Arsenal shares to a Russian investor.

Ever since being fired as a director and unceremoniously marched out of Ashburton Grove back in April for conspiring against the other board members, David Dein's personal publicity machine has been working overtime. Stories appearing in the press about takeover bids during the summer have almost certainly emanated from his camp.

The current board of directors have enough of a shareholding not to be worried by such talk should they not wish to sell. So there has never really been any crisis behind the scenes since Dein was shown the door. The news that he has sold his shares to Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and had been appointed the chairman of the laughably named 'Red and White Holdings', the company that holds the shares on behalf of the Russian, really does seem to reveal Dein's true intentions.

After courting the investment of Stan Kroenke several months ago, it appears that the American now no longer wishes to involve Dein in his plans. Consequently, it seems that Dein has gone out to find himself a new investor and someone who can deliver what he wants - to be made chairman of Arsenal Football Club. It really does feel like Dein's vision is far less about making Arsenal 'the biggest club in the world' and much more to do with his own ego and vanity and putting himself in control.

David Dein claims that Arsenal need to seek foreign investment to not fall behind other clubs in the Premiership. This notion is so flawed it borders on the ludicrous. After a hard couple of years building Ashburton Grove - a plan that Dein opposed, preferring to rent Wembley instead - the club has got through the pain of moving and is now in a good financial position and has massive revenue-earning potential. Why would current shareholders want to sell up at this point when the biggest hurdle has been cleared and the new stadium now fully-functional? Foreign investment is not going to get more people through the turnstiles - the stadium is full every week and the season ticket waiting list is years long.

Dein's argument is that new investment will give Arsene Wenger more money to spend in the transfer market and the ability to bring the biggest names to the club. The irony of this is that Wenger is probably the last manager you would pick to handle that sort of situation. If he was given £100m to spend, would he know what to do with it?

Over the past three years, he has actually made a profit on his transfer dealings. Money has been available to spend; he just hasn't wanted to spend it. Instead, he has built a young team from scratch. Having lost players of the class Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira, Lauren, Jose Antonio Reyes and Edu all in such a short period of time, what Wenger has done in rebuilding the squad is already a phenomenal achievement and there is surely only better to come from them.

The team that beat Portsmouth cost less than £30m but, when you consider who has been sold over the last few years, the team actually cost nothing and yet they have taken ten points from a possible twelve in their first four games and have seen themselves safely into the Champions League. Arsenal fans are starting to feel that the old adage that 'Arsene Knows' might be proving itself a truism yet again.

Throwing money at a situation is almost always the wrong thing to do. During the summer, Spurs spent £50m and so far have looked no stronger than last year. Aston Villa and Manchester City have been the beneficiaries of large foreign investment but that has not turned them into title contenders overnight. Arsenal have always had a strong tradition and have always had their own very proper way of going about things. Only one team can win the Premiership every year and only one team can win the Champions League. No team can win both every year so it is more important that clubs take a long term view of things and stay true to themselves and retain their own personality and style.

Arsene Wenger has turned Arsenal into one of the most attractive footballing sides in Europe over the last ten years by sticking to his principles and he is possibly on the brink of achieving something special with his latest crop of players. If he can win trophies with that ethic, it will be far more satisfying than picking up silverware with a collection of overpaid mercenaries who have no real feeling for the club. David Dein and whichever allegedly shady, fly-by-night moneyman he is going to flirt with next are not needed and not wanted.

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, Arsene Wenger will sign a new contract and we can all get back to concentrating on watching him try to turn this fast-developing squad into the finished article without any more off-the-pitch speculation.


• If you have comments on this article then email the author David_J_Young@hotmail.co.uk

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