A very pertinent question, and one of many addressed in Arsenal: The French Connection – a new hardback published this month by GCR Books Ltd.
The French Connection does what it says on la boîte, taking a look at the influence on Arsenal’s squad from across the Channel since Monsieur Arsene Wenger arrived in the autumn of 1996.
The opening chapters offer context by meandering through sections of Arsenal’s earlier history according to the author, Fred Atkins’, will. He juxtaposes the days of a brutish, unwelcoming Woolwich Arsenal with the more precious and sophisticated teams that Wenger has nurtured in recent times, before providing a chronological account of Arsenal’s foreign signings over the decades.
A pleasant and easy read, it devotes 40 pages to the man himself – Wenger, that is – in a section certain to divide any fans who place themselves in the (somewhat odd) polar camps of “AKB” or “binbags”. The author’s own view on the manager couldn’t be clearer, as he eulogises:
“Even describing him as a genius is to sell him short… Wenger is exceptional multiple ways. As a teacher, linguist, artist, diplomat, mentor, economist, architect and more.”
If you have any vehemently anti-Arsene mates, maybe buy them this book for Christmas for a laugh.
A personal work, it is not light on opinion, often touching on enough of a polemical slant to happily betray the author’s views. It recounts a smattering of anecdotes, and is co-devoted to the author’s grandmother – the daughter of a cartridge inspector at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. Enough eyebrow-raising facts are included to entertain, although, to pick on one example, the assertion that Stanley Kubrick was a Gooner has previously been denied in other quarters.
The bulk of the copy, as one might expect from the title, is dedicated to French players that have represented the Gunners during Wenger’s reign to date. With a chapter named after each, no fewer than 23 footballers are examined by the author. While one expects to see Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira et cetera, the likes of David Grondin and Gilles Sunu are also included – and are in some ways more interesting and entertaining to a geeky, Arsenal mind already saturated by reflections on the big guns. Note, however, that the chapter on Grondin is not even two pages in length.
As well as being a personal book, this is very much a fan’s book, and includes plugs for the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust, Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association, and Fanshare at the back. Written by a fan for the fans, and now YOU, dear fan, can get your paws on a copy…
Or for your chance to WIN a copy, click on the Contact tab above and send me the answer to this simple question:
Which of David Grondin’s former clubs shares its name with a 1990s indie-electronica band?
Update: well done to David Messer from Suffolk, who won a free copy of the book by correctly answering “Saint Etienne”.