Arsene Wenger has revealed that he knew Robert Pires was a good player when he signed him from Marseille, because Dennis Bergkamp kept on giving him the ball in training.
Speaking to Arsenal’s official website the Frenchman offered an insight into how he comes to early conclusions about attacking players he has just purchased, and it involves trusting in the instincts of the reliable individuals he already has on his books.
Sharing an anecdote from when the legendary Pires first arrived at what was then Highbury, Wenger let on that he quickly realised the Frenchman was a quality player thanks to none other than Bergkamp.
“You learn something straight away [in training],” Wenger said.
“If it’s an offensive player I always put them alongside very good players in the small matches when they arrive for their first training sessions. Then you see how much these players give them the ball.
“When I signed Robert Pires, in the first small-sided training game, I put him in the same team as Dennis Bergkamp.
"After five minutes I knew how good he was because Bergkamp kept giving him the ball! So Bergkamp thought he was a good player, they linked up well together so then you know you have won the battle."
Of course the rest, as they say, is history. Both Pires and Bergkamp became Arsenal legends in their own right, with Thierry Henry possibly being the only man capable of saying he eclipsed the feats of both men. Whilst Pires was a playmaker by trade he also chipped in with more than his fair share of important goals, and as for Bergkamp, his exploits in front of goal need no introduction.
Both men can boast being influential figures in arguably the club’s most notable campaign in its history. The 2003/04 season that saw them go unbeaten - thus becoming the ‘Invincibles - saw Pires and Bergkamp mainstays in Wenger’s first-team, therefore ruling out any possibility of their achievements being forgotten by the Gunners’ faithful.
Times change but as Wenger made clear with his comments, his methods have hardly differed. Perhaps it was Alexis Sanchez who was thrown into the mix with a host of Arsenal’s best attackers last summer, maybe Mesut Ozil the year before; the important fact is Wenger usually gets the best out of his ‘best’ before too long.
One man who might prove to buck that trend is Ozil, who still flatters to deceive when it’s considered just how good he was at Real Madrid. Unlike Olivier Giroud, who took a while to find his feet before becoming the prolific striker that terrorises back-lines now, and the aforementioned Sanchez, who instantly became a hit after arriving from Barcelona, Ozil has plenty of impressing to do.
The German international has shown glimpses of what he’s capable of but it’s rarely been enough. Given the standard of playmakers that have gone before him at Arsenal, are the fans right to want more?
Arsenal fans what do you think about Wenger’s method? Just how good was Pires? Does Ozil need to be better? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.
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