Book Review: 'The Glorious Game - Extra Time'

Last updated : 11 November 2004 By Brian Dawes

It was my intention to read just these four chapters on my laborious Piccadilly line trip to Heathrow. But such was the pleasure of my read and such was the delay to my flight, that I re-read the entire book before landing in foreign climes. Other than the minor irritant regarding the ‘last season' quotes in the first fifteen chapters referring to the 2002-3 season it confirmed pretty well what I thought first time around. This title is the best objective assessment and insightful description of the Wenger years yet to have hit the bookstalls.

The additional four chapters start at Old Trafford and give the finest considered account yet written on the events following Van Diver's pathetic display and the root causes that initiated ‘Keowngate'. That Henry's classic San Siro performance should be followed by yet another European exit was clearly regrettable but not in Wenger's eye's the end of the world. His balanced, calm and considered opinions are always welcome and it's as clear as it can be that his and Arsenal's immediate destiny is one and the same thing. The narrative within this volume pretty well confirms what a lot of us have felt for some time. Arsene's destiny is to take Arsenal as far as he can because he enjoys doing what he's doing and he enjoys working with the people he's working with. Surely Mr. Wenger has found the perfect job, having arrived in England at the perfect time to fulfil both his and our destiny. The only doubt can be whether that destiny will be merely great or something far better.

Access to key individuals at Arsenal Football Club, most notably Arsene Wenger himself plus behind the scenes access which includes input from David Dein, Liam Brady, Bob Wilson and Peter Hill-Wood paints a picture of the man who has been the biggest single influence on the Club since Chapman. The introductory chapters give an understanding into the manner of Mr. Wenger's introduction to the Club. Profiles and insights on and by Henry, Campbell, Vieira, Bergkamp and Pires show both the relationship and influence of Wenger on his players. Which just as you would expect is enormous.

Just how important Wenger rates at Highbury can be judged by his input into every single aspect of the Club as is very evident throughout the text. The Directors appear to have total confidence in his judgement, which is of course just as it should be. Dein describes Arsene's ability as ‘digging diamonds out of the dust'. Which with our current financial tightrope walking, also extensively covered, is just as well. Since the financial chapter was written our circumstances have altered slightly, as the more recent story of Reyes transfer indicates. However there can be no doubt that Arsenal, if you consider our financial handicap, have been fighting well above their weight under Arsene which makes his achievements all the more remarkable.

Arsene's arrival and the changeover period where players like Tony Adams showed initial scepticism contrasts markedly with our greatest ever captain's views as he departed the Club. This is just one example of how Wenger has changed the face of football not just for Arsenal but throughout English football. Arsene's footballing philosophy is clearly spelled out for anyone who hasn't quite grasped the point yet and an insight into the changes he has initiated since his arrival are well worked into the text.

Numerous snippets of information throughout include everything from the way in which David Dein conned Arsene into attending the BBC Sports Review of the year, where he was presented with the ‘Coach of the Year' award. To the number of times Arsene believes you can rollock a team in a season.

Our failure to win the big one says perhaps more about our expectations, and everyone else's, under Wenger than anything else. I found the chapter on Arsenal's youth set up to appear as if it was almost scripted for the benefit of Liam Brady, but this apart the book is extremely objective. Time Out wrote of the hardback edition ‘Gets closest to an understanding of the man, his motivations and methods…' and that is a very good summation in my opinion.

Arsene Wenger's influence has been extensive, obvious, considered and the major factor in Arsenal's recent resurgence. One Gooner described the Club as being born in 1886 and reborn in 1996 and there can be few better tributes than that. To put it in a nutshell this book tells us just how this came to be and what has happened since. The paperback edition at £7.99 might not be brilliant value for those who already own the hardback, but for those who don't it is surely both a bargain and an absolute must.

The Glorious Game - Extra Time: Arsene Wenger, Arsenal and the quest for success by Alex Fynn and Kevin Whitcher
Published by Orion
Price £7.99

You should be able to order this title from any decent bookstore if you quote the following reference number ISBN 0 75286 400 9

Your favourite online bookstore will no doubt also oblige but if you're off to Highbury in the near future the Matchday Fanzine & Memorabilia Stall in Gillespie Road, opposite the North Bank entrance, are currently selling the book for a bargain £6.50