Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Not to sound cliched...

There is no "I" in "team," and never can an "I" precede the word "team."

Former Arsenal captain, William Gallas, failed to recognize this when he went before the media recently and revealed a supposed "dressing room rift" during the 4-4 tie versus Tottenham. Coincidentally, this press conference was called to reveal Gallas's autobiography. I believe that would define put yourself before the team. This move was all the more perturbing given not only his reputation on the training ground but also because Arsenal is widely known to be greater than the sum of its parts. Arsene Wenger was equally worried and removed the armband from the 31 year-old rearguard who had, in all honesty, been faltering since Eduardo was torn apart at Birmingham City last year.

Wenger yesterday installed 21 year-old dynamo Cesc Fabregas as captain on a permanent basis. Some members of the media are already questioning the appointment but ultimately Fabregas has the links from the starting 11 on down to unite a dressing room recently struck by controversy. Whilst the need of such an appointment has me a little confused, Arsenal has been Fabregas's team since the day Thierry Henry left for the allegedly greener pastures of Barcelona. Here's what I don't understand: what amounts to Arsenal's youth team beat full-strength Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic sides by an aggregate score of 9-0. Such a resounding achievement whiffs of squad chemistry, and if the first team is rid of its aged annoyances, such as Gallas and Mikael "Stick a fork in it" Silvestre, there is no reason why Arsenal can't spring up the Premier League tables once more.

For reassurance, Wenger need only look across the pond to the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. Since the pre-lockout Bertuzzi saga, the former West Coast Express line of Brendan Morrison, Todd Bertuzzi and Captain, Markus Naslund had been a destabilising force in the locker room, battling the Sedin twins for offensive supremacy. The rift was apparently settled when Bertuzzi was shipped to Florida for goaltender extraordinaire Roberto Luongo. The saviour collected 47 wins, tying Bernie Parent's record as the Canucks recorded their most succesful regular season. After a seven game series against the Dallas Stars, the Canucks succumbed in 5 to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Anaheim Ducks. Then 2007-08 happened: the season finished on a bitter note with a 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames and the firing of then-GM, Dave Nonis.

Then, Mike "Moneyball" Gillis took the reigns. Since then, the team was lost just once in pre-season and is 14-6-2 on the year, good for 5th in the NHL. And the reason: locker room unity and camaraderie. A cohesive unit, the Canucks are greater than the sum of the parts. Arsenal should be too. Arsene knows...what he has to do.

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