Live von der Insel - The English Football Column : Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!

Arsenal love to build statues. On Sunday they revealed another one - this time of Dennis Bergkamp. As another barely retired player is immortalised, our columnist despairs at the fetishisation of the Premier League Era.

Dennis Bergkamp's statue was unveiled at the Emirates on Sunday.
Dennis Bergkamp's statue was unveiled at the Emirates on Sunday.Foto: afp

Here, dear reader, are a few facts about Arsenal Football Club.

Arsenal FC was founded as Dial Square in 1886 by workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. It later moved to North London, and has since become one of the most successful football clubs in England.

Arsenal FC, and their long suffering manager Arsene Wenger, currently endure unrelenting criticism from the media, opposition and their own fans for a reasonable, admirable and unique policy of promoting sustainability over short term sporting success.

Arsenal FC love building statues.

Really, there is nothing they like to do more. In the nine year absence of a major trophy, the club have decided that bronzeware, rather than silverware, must be their thing, and are erecting statues left, right and centre.

Some of them make sense. Herbert Chapman, for example, the man who revolutionised football tactics with the “WM” in the 20s, and brought Arsenal to the top of the English game for the very first time, was honoured with a vague metallic likeness in December 2011.

That seemed appropriate. Chapman had been dead since 1934, and Arsenal’s tantrum prone modern following certainly need a sense of perspective. Evoking the memory of Chapman served that purpose.

The rousing triumph of genuine retrospect over the insufferable introspect of modern football was tempered somewhat, however, by the statues which were unveiled alongside Chapman’s. Tony Adams, then 45 years old, and much adored former club captain, and Thierry Henry, one time prolific goalscorer turned clean shaven Friend of Roger Federer.

Adams and Henry were central figures in the most successful Arsenal side of all time. But Henry was still a professional footballer when his statue was raised at the Emirates, and Adams was struggling as a manager in Azerbaijan. Both were part of the team that went unbeaten in the 2002/3 season, but neither won a European title with Arsenal.

It was modern football at its most ridiculous. Immortalising players in bronze just figurative moments after they had left the pitch for their final – gloriously extravagant – farewell benefit match. Cementing the memory of those golden years with Henry up front and Adams at the back in Arsenal fans memories forever – memories that happened as long ago as less than ten years, and are still relivable on most wet Wednesday afternoons on Sky Sports.

It was further proof of the unstoppable fetishisation of the Premier League era, and an insult to Chapman’s memory to place his statue – which had taken nearly a century for the club to build - alongside those of players who had only left the club a few years previously. The move was greeted with fitting derision.

Nonetheless, like a dedicated winter sport fanatic, Arsenal are determined to pursue their sculpting hobby in the face of all adversity, and on Sunday they unveiled another statue – this time of Dennis Bergkamp.

Bergkamp, with not a grey hair on his head, was present at the unveiling. To the delight of the Arsenal fans who had assembled,  he even hinted that he wanted to return to the club as a coach at some point.

Which makes one think, does it not, what would happen if Bergkamp did return to coach the Gunners. What if he couldn’t coach at all? What if he got them relegated? What if he laughed in Arsene Wengers frugal face and spent all the club’s meticulously saved pounds on a great big bronze likeness of Pascal Cygan? Arsenal fans would be doomed forever to walk out of the stadium past the immortalisation of the man who had destroyed their club.

Worse still, what if Thierry Henry, Tony Adams or Dennis Bergkamp spent the many years of working in professional football ahead of them working at Tottenham Hotspur? One Spurs fan was clearly already dreaming of this cruel hypothetical irony, when he dressed Henry’s statue in a Spurs shirt earlier this season.

The likelihood is scarce, but as long as they keep building statues to people under the age of 45, Arsenal are running a high risk. In the meantime, though, they can relax, and wonder what to do with all this excess bronze that they’ve notched up over the past few years.

I suggest the creation of a Mesut Özil statue. After all, he did have a very good debut.

Kit Holden (@kitholden) ist Engländer und sitzt gerade in der Tagesspiegel Sport-Redaktion. Er schreibt auch über deutschen Fußball für die englische Tageszeitungen "The Independent" und "The Daily Mail".


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