I managed to pick up an invite to the premiere of the documentary Arsenal commissioned into the Invincibles. It was held at a very sweet little cinema in Hampstead. I approached the door, there was a cameraman. The sign on the door said ’50 Shades’… that panic moment when you think you’re going to watch football but realise you might have to watch a sex film about hardcore bondage.
Anyway, fears soon alleviated. Sol Campbell just inside the door looking smart and slightly glazed as usual. Paul Davies with his son or young lover. Bobby P standing next to me for one, sweet, sweet moment. All a bit weird. All a bit sexy. Then I saw Ray Parlour and thought, if he had his own culturally relevant documentary right now… it’d be called ’50 Shades of Ray’.
Anyway, as you can see, I’m writing this instead of mingling. I don’t really care much for famous people, but there’s something very grounding about standing next to your childhood heroes. You realise you’ve achieved nothing next to those guys and in some cases, you’re just never to be that damn handsome.
Those chaps blew my mind. So many beautiful moments. So many iconic memories. So much good feeling. To be in the same room as so many of them was embarrassingly scary.
The guy who led the charge on the documentary stepped up to say some words. I think it’s important to note that this documentary felt more like a brand introduction piece. Taking one of the greatest stories of modern football and introducing people to the Arsenal brand. It was put quite nicely…
‘Teaching the world what it is to be Arsenal’
I also think it’s worth mentioning it wasn’t heavily funded and it was created as a side project. This production is a labour of love, which I can’t help but admire, because documentary making is a slog.
The story was fronted by 6 people. Wenger, Sol, Jens, Keown, Parlour and Thierry. They talked through some entertaining moments. Wenger said the players ‘in their own way, blamed me for the collapse the seasons before’, because he put too much pressure on the players.
Jens was the star of the show. He has Mourinho like arrogance about him. I’m sure he’d either make a spectacularly bad manager or an absolute hero of one. There’d be no middle ground there. He was major banter from start to finish.
It was also notable that the club had all but expunged Ashley Cole from proceedings. Amazing really. A player who wouldn’t contribute to Amy Lawrence’s book, cut out of history. I’m sure he’ll stick a middle finger up at us with his Champions League medal, but ultimately, it’s a sad story for me. He’ll never be loved by anyone. But there you go, up to him.
Arsene Wenger was good fun. Very humble, very open. It all got a bit sycophantic at the end. The marketer in me kind of feels like the club go hardcore on things like that to remind fans that Wenger was once a magical wizard of a manager. His vision no doubt carried us through those years, it’s just a shame he can’t find it in himself to reignite that side of his game.
The best part about the documentary is the secret fist pumping every time we scored a goal. You relive it. Your heart starts pumping even though you know the score. The goals, the power, the pace, the skill… the tension, the fight, the passion… so much to enjoy about that team. A group of gladiators who went to war on the pitch, even in training. All driven by the goal of winning the leagye. All driven by the team, not the individual. Such a well spent hour…
A great story and well worth watching.
I guess the second part of the story we’ll get in years to come. I want to hear about the fights. I want to hear about grit. I want to know the inner workings of how that squad was built. I WANT IT ALL.
But hey, I’m a nerd of a fan. The documentary wasn’t about that side of things and I think the Arsenal Media team have done a terrific job condensing an incredible sporting achievement into a one hour special. They should all be proud and you should be too when you watch it this Wednesday.
My final point is this… I’m all for celebrating these achievements. But we need to move on from this. The club need to craft the next generation of ‘wow’. I don’t want to get into a situation where we’re 1966ing it because it’s all we have. We need to create the next chapter. The invincibles will never be forgotten, but if we want to be classed as a giant of a club, we have to build something that will eclipse that achievement… because here’s the thing, if you tell yourself that achievement can never be surpassed, you’ll always be chained to the past and you’ll always have an excuse for failing to hit the right standards.
We’re still fighting big money, but we have big money as well. If our only answer to big money is to give up, then we’re doomed from the start. Money doesn’t mean intelligence. It doesn’t mean drive. It doesn’t mean creativity. Arsenal need to reframe the battle. We need to work out where we can win. Where can we find those extra percentage points we’ve lost over the last ten years. We need to consider every single detail. Sport is littered with stories of teams who refused to accept the status quo. The invincibles didn’t accept the status quo which stated categorically no team could go invincible. We shouldn’t accept that money wins out… we need to go toe-to-toe in a different way.
We need to find a new path to greatness and use the Invincibles as a benchmark, not a distant unattainable pipedream.
Anyway, tune in below.
Sky Sports: This Wednesday at 10.15pm