This Arsenal team this season has looked like a shadow of former sides that were coached by Arsene Wenger. In his first full season at the club, 1997/98, the Gunners won the League and beat Newcastle 2-0 in the FA Cup Final. We even got to the semi-finals of the League Cup before losing to Chelsea on aggregate despite beating them at Highbury. They played 54 games in total over the season and didn’t complain that they were overtired and the squads were much smaller in those days. Nigel Winterburn played in 48 of those matches, Patrick Vieira 43 and Marc Overmars 45. The players knew they were the best and everyone else knew too. Pat Rice, who was assistant manager to Wenger at the time described it like this…..
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“They were confident, they were so confident,” Rice said on Arsenal.com. “They knew they were going out [to win], and they had no fear.
“They knew in their own hearts that they would create chances to win the game. Of course, with the speed that they had up front, anything can happen. Of course, it did happen. The flick on, and then Overmars is in, and then the goal is scored. It was fantastic.
“When we were up against it and whenever we were playing at that time, even when we were a goal down and sitting on the line, you thought, ‘Don’t worry, somebody else will pick up the bat and somebody will do it’.
“The other thing as well is that with those type of players, they weren’t frightened of having a go at each other. They would have a go at each other, but they had so much respect for each other – I can remember players really getting into a tussle out there but coming off the pitch they would be arm in arm.”
So what has happened to that belief? Is it because there is so much money that the players have become soft and spoiled? Or do they simply not believe in themselves any more?