All Guns Blazing: Bergkamp statue perfect for Arsenal’s total footballer

Dennis Bergkamp, Arsenal

Dennis Bergkamp, Arsenal - Credit: EMPICS Sport

On Saturday, the long-mooted statue of Dennis Bergkamp will be unveiled at the Emirates. Much like the title of his autobiography, Stillness and Speed, the monument captures the pure, perfect skill that won over so many Gooner hearts since his arrival in 1995.

Compare it to the three previously unveiled statues that circle the ground. In Tony Adams and Thierry Henry you have passion and heart, in Herbert Chapman the mind, but Dennis Bergkamp was total football made flesh and blood. What better way to cast that than by capturing one of his famous and typically impossible first touches?

In an age where stats and analysis saturates the game, almost every player these days will have his critics. There is always something more they can do in terms of positioning, awareness, composure, but Bergkamp was the rare sort of player who simply belied criticism.

As a young child, my father began indoctrinating me as an Arsenal fan around the same time that Arsene Wenger took over. While the latter found Bergkamp to be the catalyst for his team’s revival on the pitch, as a spectator the Iceman was the catalyst for my own budding love of the club itself.

For even if you disregard his unrivalled talent on the pitch, it was his understated classy nature that became a mirror for everything we associate this club with. In short, Bergkamp was a modern footballer, but infused with the sort of attributes Arsenal’s history has been built on. Even for neutrals, this was a man who did things the right way, with subtlety, precision and a sense of collectiveness.

The most telling fact about his place in Arsenal’s great lineage is that even since the departure of Thierry Henry – widely regarded as the club’s greatest ever player – the one we have been most eager to replace is still Bergkamp. I can’t remember the last time someone said in hope ‘he can be the next Henry’. We’ve always wanted the next Bergkamp.

In the past, that daunting comparison has fallen to Robin Van Persie. Now it has fallen to Mesut Ozil. The latter will need time to carve his own name in the walls of the Emirates, but whether he likes it or not, it will have to be on his own terms. As Saturday will show, there will only ever be one Dennis Bergkamp and we can all be glad that he was ours.

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