Friday, March 1, 2024

Deconstructing Dennis: Analysis of DB10’s take on Arsenal

Speaking to fellow former Gunner Alan Smith in today’s Daily Telegraph Dennis Bergkamp has made some salient points about the current state of affairs at the Emirates.

Reflecting for the second time in recent months the legendary Dutchman touched on similar themes brought up in a recent interview with Martin Keown paying lip service to the mentality of the current squad, Robin van Persie’s best position and the determination of Arsene Wenger.

The key, as always, is to read what has actually been said, rather than get drawn in by the emphatic headlines which have since been spun from the original article.

On the current squad:

“I feel there are a lot of similar players there at the moment. It needs to be more diverse.

“You need a few strong characters who can get the team going, in training as well as matches.

“You also need a few players who can make a difference in terms of scoring goals. I don’t feel there are enough of them.

“You look at the midfield and compare it with ours. We had Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Ray Parlour – when it wasn’t working for one of the big names, one of these could step up.

“You can’t only depend on one or two players. When they’re having an off day, you need someone else.”

Arseblog News says: It’s hard to argue with Dennis on any of the above. The over reliance on Van Persie has been a worry since the departure of Adebayor, while for years Arsenal fans have questioned the decision to buy similar tricky midfield players (of various ages, quality and nationality) rather than strengthen other areas of more immediate concern. Of course the reason Wenger gets the cheque book out for these guys is because of the style of play which he favours…a point the Dutchman also picks up on.

On the passing game:

“Sometimes you need more of a winning mentality than a passing mentality.

“I’m not sure Arsenal have enough of that in their players, when the attitude becomes more important than the ability just to pass the ball.

“I don’t know if the English mentality is missing a little bit.

“We had it with the back four, of course, who had the mentality of thinking, ‘OK, this game is ours now.’

“Sometimes I see their games and it’s always the same way of playing, a bit too predictable.

“They are all fantastic players, that must be said, but sometimes you need a bit more of the other side.”

Arseblog News says: Dennis seems to be suggesting Arsenal are missing two distinctly different things here. Despite admitting that Arsenal have ‘fantastic’ players who are technically very capable, his suggestion that the passing game is predictable seems to be more to do with personnel. Dennis obviously admires a passing philosophy, but as hinted at in his thoughts on the squad it is the personnel who appear to be lacking. You get the feeling he’s looking for individuals who can light up a game, can take a match by the scruff of the neck, inspire others to raise their game. You’d argue we have a few of them at the moment – Van Persie, Vermaelen and Wilshere, but we’ve had more across the squad in the past. Part of this has been down to young players learning from others who themselves have yet to experience success. On another level the lack of squad continuity has also been a problem. Confidence is garnered from the collective, when the collective changes too often confidence is obviously tougher to maintain.

The second point on mentality is harder to quantify. How do you define English mentality? Dennis was privileged to play alongside one of the greatest defences that football has ever seen. The players were English, but their confidence and determination was drawn from a belief in each other…not necessarily their nationality. I think it would be hard to suggest that Vermaelen, Sagna, Koscielny and Szczesny don’t have the desire and heart to win big games…they just haven’t had the break they need yet. To pass on a ‘winning’ mentality (which I think is what Dennis is getting at) you need to have players who have won.

On Arsene Wenger staying for the foreseeable future…

“Yeah, I think so, because the way I know him, he’s a winner. He can’t just let go.

“He would think he hasn’t finished there yet. He would want to finish on a high or at least do something that makes the team successful again.

“So I think he will wait and push as hard as possible to achieve that before he leaves.

“I’ve worked with Arsène for 11 years and it goes up and down.

“You do well, then you need some time to rebuild, then you do well again. But the thing now is that he isn’t winning any trophies.

“That’s what I was talking about earlier. Sometimes you just need to win something by showing a certain attitude to get the team going again.

“That isn’t happening at the moment so it is a bit of a struggle.

“But I wouldn’t say that’s down to Wenger because he has been fantastic and he still is fantastic for the club.

“He brings in young players and sells them on for more money. Financially, he’s doing great.”

Arseblog News says: I don’t think there is an Arsenal fan in the world who doesn’t believe that Arsene Wenger wants to win trophies for the club. We know the boss is stubborn, but his stubbornness has served him well in the past and it seems unlikely he’s going to change this late in the day. It’s interesting that Dennis absolves Arsene of the blame for the club’s lack of trophies in recent years and begins to touch on the financial situation. That he doesn’t go into detail smacks of a loyalty to the guard that Wenger himself puts up when talking about the difficulty of operating in the transfer market in the club’s current circumstances. That he enthusiastically suggests that Arsene is doing a great job at turning a profit on young players (without criticising him for selling others) hints that he understands that Wenger’s hands are somewhat tied. Indeed later in the article Bergkamp brings up the problems with working with young kids these days…

On coaching kids at Ajax…

“We are working very hard to try to keep the players interested. It sounds a silly thing but that’s how it is nowadays.

“I think money plays a big part, so do agents.

“Whereas we always had the drive to win trophies, to be the best, I think the drive of a lot of young players now is to make as much money as possible.

“It’s a different mentality but you have to work with it, try and deal with it.

“We are working hard to come up with things that make the young players enjoy the game so that they come to training every day wanting to get better.”

Arseblog News says: As Alan Smith remarks himself, it’s almost a relief to hear that it’s not just at Arsenal or in England that young players have their heads turned by money. Unfortunately, it is a state of affairs which is unlikely to change unless drastic action (like a salary cap) were introduced from above by the game’s governing body. That Wenger himself doesn’t believe in such action again demonstrates the boss’ Catch-22 situation. Arsenal are committed to buying young players. To secure their services you need to spend big money to persuade them to come to the club. The club also need to offer youngsters long-term contracts and to promise them game time. More young players playing, makes the club attractive to other young starlets – just look at Chamberlain and Ramsey opting for Arsenal over United. Obviously for every exciting talent, you have those who don’t live up to expectations – Bendtner, Vela, Denilson come to mind despite initially impressing.

Is it money? Is it confidence? Is it just an inability to cut it at the top level? It’s hard to point the blame. It’s always a gamble buying a player at 17 and hoping that they develop both physically and mentally to become a top player over the course of five years. Robin van Persie is a prime example. Showing flashes of brilliance at the outset of his Arsenal career the striker’s injury problems were so bad that if Arsene had opted to sell him instead of Adebayor four years ago it wouldn’t have been a big surprise…but look at him now. Talking of which…

On Van Persie…

“To be honest, I would still prefer to see Robin play a bit deeper behind the main striker so that he could pick his moments the way I used to.

“I think he could be even better in that role, but the way he’s playing now you can hardly blame the coach for putting him there.”

Arseblog News says: We’d happily have Robin van Persie playing deeper…but only if the club had a striker capable of playing ahead of him at a similar level. Perhaps more interestingly is the fact that Dennis seems to hint at a return to the old 4-4-2 that he used to function in behind Ian Wright, Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry. Perhaps we should save talk of that though for another day…

Discuss and feel free to disagree.

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I can’t see anything to disagree with in what Dennis said. We have lacked that English mentality in the past, I think he means a Adams, keown type charachter that never gives in. I don’t think it’s as evident with this team. Tv , rvp are leaders. As is shez.
The over reliance on rvp is obvious, we don’t score enough goals from midfield to be able to go into z season


I remember reading an interview – it might even have been in the Arseblog book! – with Dennis where he talked about the dressing room before a match and Tony Adams asking who wanted it more. That was something he’d never come across in football in the Netherlands or in Italy. I think that’s what he means by English mentality. I think that there are players who put their body on the line every game (perhaps that’s why we have so many injuries) but this is something that we’re only just beginning to see again: a never-say-die attitude that brought… Read more »

The Law

Disagree with God? Perish the thought!


this is the difference between a person who loves the club and a critic. every point made by DB10 makes perfect is just great when you hear your club legends sharing their concerns about the club they love.sadly today’s players seem to be like passing clouds.look at the current squad.we have no assurance that our current players will go on to become like henry, DB10 and so seriously hoping RVP would sign a new contract and go on to become another great thereby setting an example for youngsters like chamberlian and walcott.we are such a big club with… Read more »


Great interview and great analysis. Cheers.


I can’t see anything to disagree with in what Dennis said. We have lacked that English mentality in the past, I think he means a Adams, keown type charachter that never gives in. I don’t think it’s as evident with this team. Tv , rvp are leaders. As is shez. The over reliance on rvp is obvious, we don’t score enough goals from midfield to be able to go into a season with just one decent striker. None of this is a surprise to most fans I’m sure the only surprise is that when most people can see we have… Read more »


I don’t think it’s an English mentality but it’s the mentality of champions that is needed. I mean i know everyone goes on about how this is the weakest team we have had under Wenger but when i think that Man United have had there worse team in years under Ferguson but the only difference is that any player that goes to Man United believes they are a champion which is why they are either winning leagues or challenging for them on a constant basis.


Sorry for the repost but pressed submit by accident.


DB10 =100% the truth. We need him back at Arsenal as an assistant coach so badly! I think we have a few players who suffer from the “passing mentality” vs a “winning mentality”. Also, if we could get in a class striker to pair with RVP and have him drop back a bit I see RVP being even better. It all translates to more weekends with 3 points rather than 1 or 0. About the young players and money, nothing you can do about it other than maybe rely on club prestige. Right now only Barcelona have the kind of… Read more »


I don’t believe DB10 will be able have his way under AW and hence I’m afraid won’t be as effective. Bould will be a more natural successor to Pat Rice: shore up that defence and let the flair up front score the winning goals. Maybe because Bouldy was a proven CB of our famous back four, maybe because I feel Pat Rice is two generations too far removed; nonetheless, I feel Bould will do a better job on our defensive side of things.

Andy Mack

It’s very difficult to have a senior staff member that can’t attend all the away games in europe. For that reason alone, I doubt DB can come to us in anyposition with the senior squad. Great Shame!


That’s an excellent idea to have DB back as assistant to AW. Here is a man who has thought deeply about the game and, if listened to, might well solve some of Arsenal’s problems.


We really need Bergkamp at Arsenal. If he becomes Wenger’s assistant I can see him freshening everything up. Every interview he gives seems to back this.

Imagine you are on the training ground and the king of technical ability starts telling you that it comes second to spirit. You’d certainly listen.

Merlin's Panini

absolutely. I would love to see more legends on the training ground. If you were a youngster, or even a senior player and you are getting advice from Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Vieira (even though he’s whored himself to City), Adams, Keown… you’d listen to everything. These guys were massive for Arsenal and the young players now would have been watching them from a young age. What’s more, these guys would provide character for the youngsters to look up to and be inspired by, and they would also be listening to Arsene themselves, as they learnt a lot of what they… Read more »


Bergkamp would be the perfect addition to our coaching staff if he was willing to fly.


Exactly! He would be great as a coach, but never assistant manager as he would miss half of the games every season

Merlin's Panini

good point.


The thing is, it is nothing we haven’t all heard before. It’s just that it is coming from an Arsenal legend and not a spiteful journalist such as Steve Clark(The Sun) who who is taking an opportunity to lay into the team he hates. It is pretty obvious that Dennis means well, and wants the best for the team. I just feel he could have gone about it in a different way, without coming across as too critical and harsh. Take Martin Keown for example. He is able to see faults, like he did with the defence when things were… Read more »


I don’t think he bashed the team at all. Frankly, I just saw it as advice from a club, country and football legend.


The headline was harsh, the actual criticisms were were calm and measured, and on mostly target.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

If Dennis speaks then the press will quote him second hand and they will add a heading of their choice to it. The heading will colour the view of the people who read it so that they will interpret it in accordance with the wishes of the headline writer. If the heading said “Bergkamp Loves Arsenal. Has Some Good Advice For Wenger” then you would not be feeling that Dennis “bashed the team”. You have reacted to the headlines you have read, not Dennis’ words of wisdom. This is how the press works. Be wary. Do not be deceived. Skip… Read more »


On the topic of having the great man back at arsenal. I think of all the great players from our recent past Dennis is the one man we should have back that will make the difference. The guy is super intelligent, he’s Dutch but has the English winning mentality if such a thing exists. Has the stature of being one of the truly great players of all time. And he has won things and been brought up on the traditions of arsenal. Love to see him come back. Honestly believe under wengers guidance he could do for us what guirdiola… Read more »

Cygan's Right Foot

As said in interviews, we wants to make sure he gets a good level of coaching experience before he comes back and also to give back to Ajax what they gave to him.

I’d personally like to see maybe Adams as assistant next season if, as reported every season, Pat Rice finally retires. I think he’d have the right winning mentality and would also be good at making sure our younger players stay grounded as he’s been there and done it (hence why he set up his charity).


Bouldy for me as replacement for Pat Rice. He’s been learning on the job, inside the club, so that puts him in pole for me.

Cygan's Right Foot

But then would you want to lose him from the under 18’s when you consider the talent coming through?


Fair point, but I think you’ve then got the opportunity to bring another Arsenal man in to replace Bouldy. Keep the chain going.

Cygan's Right Foot

Yeah, i see what you mean.

Maybe even get Bergkamp back to continue his youth training (although he’s now assistant manager at Ajax) or Henry when he retires. Former players with a never-say-die attitude have definitely been better as our youth coaches than just any old bloke.


Agree with everything Dennis says (surprise surprise). I am from Amsterdam and come from a family of Ajax fans and they have very similar problems regarding lack of perceived ‘winners’ and youth that leaves all too quickly. I think by ‘English mentality’ as blogger seems to infer he does mean a winning, but also a never-say-die, or even (controlled) aggressive mentality. In Holland when you have players that are fighters we call it ‘English mentality’ – i.e Nigel de Jong and van Bommel in the national team is as close as we get. In our current team how many of… Read more »


With Ajax it’s more an issue of players developing into talent that’s attractive to suitors in more competitive/glamorous leagues. With Arsenal it’s either leaving for more money (Clichy, Nasri, Adebayor, Ca$h Cole) or for Trophies.

Burak E.

I may just be seeing what I want to see, but to me it seems like Koscielny is another fighter coming into the mix. It’s difficult to deconstruct the social hierarchy within the squad from our limited exposure, except for the top dogs (e.g. RVP, Vermaelen) and bottom dwellers (e.g. Squillaci, Almunia), but Koscielny seemed to respectively defer to his more senior teammates when he first arrived. Now he’s taken much more control in his part of the field, reliably interrupting and dispossessing attackers, and restarting our passing game.

Oleg Luzhny

If the problem up front is obvious to us, then it’s been obvious to Wenger well before. We had bad luck with Eduardo and all of a sudden we were a 4-3-3 team by default. Since then it hasn’t reverted and football in general is favouring that formation atm…one can only assume in the wake of Barca’s dominance.

A return to 4-4-2 wouldn’t be the worst thing. It would leave us with one or two stroppy CMs but hopefully one additional world class striker.


He is correct

gooner sami

‘The over reliance on Van Persie has been a worry since the departure of Adebayor’
Wtf! Adebayor was poor during his Arsenal days


Is that cunt any good now???
The guys work rate sucked.


cmon, let’s not fool ourselves! Adebayor was a great player when he was motivated. It’s a shame he’s a lazy moody cunt most of the time


How can anyone disagree with Dennis.. i just choose to kneel down and nod my head in approval..


“English mentality” is such a ridiculous and over used phrase in the football world, we’re a nation who has won the world cup once, and even then not for 40 odd years. I’d rather our players all had the current Spanish mentality, or a Brazilian mentality – as Arseblog says, a winning mentality, strange hearing someone as successful as DB refer this English Mentality. John Terry is what I think of when I think of the English mentality, a dirty bastard who’s not very good at football.

Cygan's Right Foot

I think he meant the English mentality 10-20 years ago, which was to not give up or let your head drop. The game is only over once the ref blows the whistle but a few players seem to forget that.

Unfortunatey, the english players recently have been part of the very successful “golden generation” (how do you portray sarcasm on here) while only now are we seeing young players who play without fear but due to the rewards on offer, many still stray and become arrogant, egotistical failures (again, see the golden generation).


You could say the golden shower generation!

Malaysian Gooner

Again, if only the other fans out there read arseblog. It’s fuckin’ excellent!


I think alot of what Dennis says rings true, however some of his comments sound like those of someone who has not watched us on mass this season. Winning mentality has been one of our biggest improvements this season, shown at Sunderland, Chelsea…. Lack of quality has been our problem. You can have all the will in the world to win but if you lack the personnel to do it, you simply can’t. Last season we had the quality in different areas (Fabregas/Nasri) but they didn’t have the desire. This season we have been victim of 2 things only, injuries… Read more »


How many people would like to see DB10 come to Arsenal as an assistant coach under Wenger being groomed to take over (ala Pep Guardiola did at Barcelona) and bring Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen with him?

Cygan's Right Foot

I think his fear of flying would prove a stumbling block as you’d lose him for an extra couple of days for a few away games. This could really disrupt preparations for those games.


“English mentality” is such a ridiculous and over used phrase in the football world, we’re a nation who has won the world cup once, and even then not for 40 odd years. I’d rather our players all had the current Spanish mentality, or a Brazilian mentality – as Arseblog says, a winning mentality, strange hearing someone as successful as DB refer this English Mentality. John Terry is what I think of when I think of the English mentality, a dirty bastard who’s not very good at football. ^^^ 100% spot on. When I hear English mentality I think of Kick… Read more »


I think one main ingredient we are missing is a good CAM who can score goals, Wenger has thrust ramsey into the forefront and made him work tirelessly, Ramsey doesn’t give up but for me he does not have the qualities to be the main attacking mid in our team because its his first year back from injury in a position where he has little to no experience so can’t blame him. Everything dennis says is spot on although I feel that guys like frimpong,coq and wilshere are all different kinds of mids and can be great for us in… Read more »

Boris Pimple

I love Dennis Bergkamp


Still we have the same wilshere comments like: “You get the feeling he’s looking for individuals who can light up a game, can take a match by the scruff of the neck, inspire others to raise their game. You’d argue we have a few of them at the moment – Van Persie, Vermaelen and Wilshere, but we’ve had more across the squad in the past.” I don’t really remember Wilshere grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and inspiring the team to any victories last season in his one and only season he has had for us. This… Read more »

Cygan's Right Foot

Arsenal career: 64 games, 4 goals, 10 assists, PFA Young Player of the Year, part of PFA Team of the Year and Arsenal’s Player of the Season last season.

He’s also been compared to Paul Gascoigne (style wise, not drinking wise), has always played in the above age group in each level of football and made Xavi and Iniesta look ordinary in last seasons champions league games.


he also battered Kevin Davies in training .

* Instant addition to the Arsenal Hall of Fame*


well said….gone are the days when there was excitement for a pires , campbell coming back from injuries knowing full well the team will be better again,,,,now we get excited over a kid whose not the finised article yet & the likes of diaby , a player who plays well when he feels like it. I know what DBs going one about, when pires got injured, freddie stepped up to the plate. When DB was out we could always rely on kanu, heck a great player like edu wasnt even first team. Come to think of it, for all the… Read more »


Maybe wenger needs someone as great as bergkamp to be critical of some aspects of his team play, selection,quality. I believe it’s time for a shake up on the coaching side too. With pat rice retiring, it would now be a good time to bring in someone who can keep wenger on his toes!.
He’s so right about the team being predictable in their play. Every team needs a few sloggers as well as fancy players. They need to get all those no hoper


**glitch** continued.. To get the no hoper loaned players off the books, and free up the revenue there costing to part finance some new players. I know they say finance is not a problem but…… Anyway I still have confidence in wenger … Bring in db10…. Onwards and upwards….. Arsenal forever


A very find analyses by dennis.what pains me about our arsenal analyst is that when we just bought a player,they telling the good qualities about these new players and fail to talk about there weakness which is very well more than their qualities.and about dennis- i remember he does not travel by plane when he was at arsenal and that was why he missed away matches(except it was by train),i know it was because almost the whole of his family had a plane crash. so has that spell been broken.if not, he wont coach during away matches.


Even if he still couldn’t fly it wouldn’t be the biggest of problems if he was a coach as when the team fly’s abroad to play european games he could stay at home and coach the players that haven’t travelled Arsenal has a bigger coaching network so i think we would be able to cope with it easier now than when he was clearly our most important player.


I don’t think he directly mentions the English mentality anyway. He must have been asked if Arsenal do miss it, and he replies by saying “I don’t know if they miss the English mentality a bit”.

So any analysis of that quote in particular is almost a waste of time. I don’t think he’s said anything that most of us would disagree with, or could counter. Wish he joins us. 🙁


Would quite like to see us playing a 4-4-2 again and I’m quite surprised wenger hasn’t tried playing RVP & Theo together upfront, though i must say i doubt it would really suit wilshere’s game…. and seeing 2 of our 3 most promising young players (frimpong/coquelin) are centre midfielder’s i would expect to see us playing with 3 in midfield for a while! As for tonight i would like to see a 4-2-3-1 with arteta and song holding and a trio of TheOx, Arsh and theo supporting van persie… reckon it would give milan a bit of a shock especially… Read more »

Vincent O'Carroll

Much of what Dennis said is bang on the money. Every fan always looks at his team and wants better, however in my own honest opinion what we are really lacking is ” fighting spirit” for years we were blessed to have Rocky, Ray, Freddie, able to score valuable goals but also willing to roll up their sleeves when required or in fact capable and willing to put the boot in if needed…..with Theo and Arsharvin this is sadly lacking and the consequence for the team is obvious….every defender in the league knows that Theo is windy…..every defender knows that… Read more »



Please see the comment policy for future reference.

North Bank Ned

What caught my eye was that Bergkamp didn’t consider Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires and Ray Parlour as big-name players. I don’t highlight that to suggest he was being negative, or disrespectful to those three. Instead I think it speaks to the overall quality of the team he played in compared to the one we have now. Today’s is very good, and great in parts. His was great across the board. To his predictability/passing game points: the high-possession, pressing 4-4-3 game requires holding the ball with short passes until the attackers can work openings in the opposing defense. That is as… Read more »


yes bergkamp is right but what about a solution? we dwell too much on the questions and not the answers.

Jay Wadadli

I cannot disagree with Dennis. I’ve been saying this for a long time we need to go back to 4-4-2. If you cannot afford to buy a striker. promote one! For year I’ve been hearing about this Benik Afobe. Yet he is not good enough to play for the first team. I don’t want to hear that he is too young. Nicolas Anelka was young too and look what he did.


Actually he’s just come back from a long term injury. He played with the first team in pre season but I think he got injured at the start of this season. he might be available in 1 or 2 weeks
ps he just turned 19 so i think he may well be able to play for first team

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