Reviewing a poetic tribute to Arsene Wenger in the style of Dr. Seuss
Arsene Wenger is the most successful manager in the history of Arsenal Football Club. This is an undisputed fact no matter what you think of the man; no matter where you stood on the divide that plagued so much of his final years at the club he gave so much to.
So, it wasn’t surprising when the tributes poured in after his resignation announcement (including one by yours truly). We all want to be a part of the collective outpouring of commemoration and remembrance, especially for a man as special as Wenger was for Arsenal and the amount of people he impacted, directly or indirectly. What isn’t very common is a poetic tribute to the man in the style of a beloved children’s writer. Enter Dave Seager and Poorly Drawn Arsenal (this Philly man describes himself as having “questionable artistic skills and a love for Arsenal”).
Dave’s first book was the compelling Geordie Armstrong on the Wing, and his second, Supporting Arsenal is a Funny Old Game tackled the irresistible, almost fated connection between supporting the Gunners and being a comedian. When Dave announced that his third book on the Arsenal was imminent, I don’t think anyone could have guessed the form it would take. And even when the news broke and he said it was a book about Arsene Wenger, it wouldn’t have been an unfair assumption that it was about Wenger’s most famous achievement, that glorious unbeaten season. Instead, now that the dust has settled on Le Prof’s career, Dave chooses to take us back in time to a time that preceded the Invincibles.
From Arsene Who to In Arsene We Trust
“At first, I thought: What does this Frenchman know about football? He wears glasses and looks more like a schoolteacher. He’s not going to be as good as George [Graham]. Does he even speak English properly?” (Captain Tony Adams)
But this tall, bespectacled professor soon earned their respect and affection and, in his first full season at Arsenal, went on to become the first foreign manager to win the Double. Much of this is now club lore. His new signings of Nicolas Anelka, Christopher Wreh, Gilles Grimandi, Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars; their strong start to 1997-98 before struggling and ending the year in sixth place, well behind league leaders and predicted title winners Manchester United; Wrighty being booed in the final game before Christmas; the urgent and intense team meeting that followed; the miraculous turnaround.
For the years that followed, Arsenal were right up there as contenders, but flattered to deceive. Until 2001. Wenger had convinced Sol Campbell to join the club on a free transfer from none other than Tottenham Hotspurs, thus fortifying a defence in transition; Academy graduate Ashley Cole came in as first-choice leftback; recent signings Freddie Ljunberg and Robert Pires had settled in; Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were in dangerous form. On their way to a historic second Double, the team scored in every single league game and were unbeaten away from home for the entire season. The crowning moment, of course, was securing the league title against Manchester United at Old Trafford. At the end of that season, Wenger dared to suggest that his team could go unbeaten and was roundly ridiculed. And we all know what happened, albeit a season later.
These moments, small and big, are a well-known, often-reminisced part of Arsenal’s legacy as a club; and important memories in the minds and hearts of fans of the cannon. The club’s most successful era under its most successful manager. Already part of the DNA of those who were around to see it and of those who these stories will be passed on to.
Arsene Wenger: A Cool Cat in his Magic Hat?
And why not poetry as a medium to pass on these stories to the newer generations of fans while also providing cozy remembrances for others?
Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel, more popularly known simply as Dr. Seuss, wrote most of his children’s books in anapestic tetrameter (two weak syllables followed by one strong syllable aka “the beat”), which, many say, accounts for its popularity. It’s a rhythm known to be catchy and pleasing to the ear, and used a lot for comic verse.
In Arsene’s Double Double: A Cool Cat in his Magic Hat, Dave takes inspiration from this rhythm, and not only effectively and succinctly captures the two historic Double-winning seasons under our favourite Professor, but, in not taking himself too seriously, also steers clear of sentimentality and a desire to immortalise. Poorly Drawn Arsenal’s illustrations complement this affectionate levity, and the result is a fun, nostalgic tribute that never belittles its subject matter, yet isn’t afraid to make tongue-in-cheek statements or observations.
“We fans sang long and loud and for us it was no trouble
To remind our chums from White Hart Lane that Sol had won the double.”
Considering what Tony Adams once said about Wenger’s sense of humour (“Not only does Wenger love a good laugh, but he can laugh at himself. He is this gangly wise man.”), you can just imagine him, next to the fire on a cold winter’s day with a glass of wine, chuckling at and appreciating a tribute of this sort, that cheeky Arsene smile on his face.
“Such was our form since February, Wenger was heard to utter
His team could go a season without defeat; most thought him a nutter…”
Whether you’re a long-time Gooner, a new one, or any sort of Gooner at all, this is a lovely little book to treat yourself to or gift to the fellow Gooners in your life. It’s the Wenger book you never knew you needed.