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Dennis Bergkamp; genius

This is a re-run of an earlier piece about Dennis Bergkamp which contained a couple of errors (now hopefully corrected).
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By Tony Attwood
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What can one say about Dennis Bergkamp?
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“He needs fewer touches to score. Sometimes just one, when others need two or three.”
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That beautifully simple comment came from Mr Wenger in July 2006, as reported in the Independent.  And of course now we think of it, yes it is true.
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But what else can one say?
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I want to start with his time at Inter Milan (1993/5) because looking back on it today it just seems so impossible, and in a way is a template for all that can go wrong.
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 The story is that Bergkamp chose to go to Italy from Ajax, and it was the time when Italian football was considered the powerhouse league in the world.  It is said that he chose Inter because of their style of play (among other things).
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But there were problems from the start, for Inter’s form was modest, and it turned out that Inter hadn’t really thought through how Dennis would play in the team, or who would support his unique talent.

Inter changed managers twice in Bergkamp’s two years there, and the Italian press did not take to him.  Attempting to belittle  Dennis, la Repubblica changed its L’asino della settimana (Donkey of the Week award)  to Bergkamp della settimana.

Then Inter was purchased by Massimo Moratti, who started buying new players to turn the poor form of the team around.  It was through this complete revamp of the side that Bergkamp left Inter and came to Arsenal – making him the first transfer under Rioch, although many have suggested that the transfer was done by David Dein – who ultimately was the power behind the ousting of  Rioch to bring in Mr Wenger.

Dennis made his first appearance against Middlesbrough at the start of the 1995/6 season.

On the basis of “why bother to make up a story when you can copy it from somewhere else” the English press picked up on the Italian  commentaries and started knocking Bergkamp after he went a few games at the start of the season without scoring.

I was however at the game on 23 September 1995 when Dennis got his first goals for Arsenal – you could feel the relief around the stadium and see it in Dennis’ celebrations.  The inane press reports appeared to have been getting to him.

But Dennis was playing in a team that had little balance, and although it got to fifth place and secured a European spot at the very end of the season, I don’t think many of us who sat through that season were that impressed by anything much – apart from Dennis.  Certainly not Ian Wright playing on the wing – it all felt a bit like the way Inter had tried to accommodate Bergkamp by shuffling everyone around.

And then the world changed, for along came Arsène Wenger – the man who undoubtedly transformed Bergkamp’s career.

If anyone still needed convincing that the club was undergoing a total revolution, and that Dennis was at the centre of it, the two goals that beat Tottenham at the very end of the game in November 1996 won them over.  The first was a pass from Bergkamp to Adams, the second was scored by Bergkamp himself in injury time.

And then we started to fly – with the double.  Away to Leicester on 27 August 1997, Dennis score a hat trick and was one of the moments Mr Wenger must have thought about in his comment above about Dennis’ unique ability.  One touch to control the ball, one touch to take out the marker, one touch to disorientate the keeper, one touch to score.  Dennis had started his route to being a legend – not to mention PFA Player of the Year.

Even in the times that followed when Overmars and Petit left the club Dennis provided a rock on which the side to depend.  And then next up Henry and Wiltord entered the side.

And so we come to Newcastle United away 3 March 2002.   Robert Pirès passed to Bergkamp who was loitering at the edge of the area.  One flick to control, a quick dart around the player in the opposite direction, and then a shot across the keeper into the goal.  Such moments are eternal memories made of.

March 2003 – after a terrible home defeat which ended our title hopes, Arsenal played Southampton, and knocked in six.  Did it matter?  Well, yes, because it was the start of the 49.  We won the cup as well, and Bergkamp signed a one-year extension and then, unknown to anyone at the time of course, 2003/4 unfolded unbeaten in the league.

At the final game of the unbeaten season against Leicester City we went 0-1 down, Henry scored a penalty to bring relief, and then Bergkamp passed to Vieira who meandered around the keeper to score.  Bergkamp signed a further extension to his contract.

Dennis was actually captain for the game against where we impossibly went 3-1 down to Middlesbrough, and won 5-3.  Following the Cup triumph against Manchester United in 2005 he signed another extension. 

In recognition of everything he had done “Bergkamp Day” was arranged at Arsenal on 5 April 2006 and saw Arsenal up against WBA.   Bergkamp himself came on as a second-half substitute and set up the winning Pirès goal.

So what of the man after he retired?  Dennis didn’t want to scout for Arsenal – instead he spent time with his family.  But in April 2008 he started work on his coaching diploma. He worked with the national B team, and then the under 12 team at Ajax before becoming assistant manager with the under 19 youth team.

What else can we say?  He has a BSc in mechanical engineering gained while at Arsenal.  He was the man who got the Match of the Day “Goal of the Month” and came first second and third in August 1997.  He alternates with Henry in having scored Arsenal’s all time greatest goal.Here’s the record

Club

Season

Total

Apps

Goals

Assists

Ajax

1986–87

23

2

1987–88

32

6

1988–89

34

16

1989–90

28

9

1990–91

36

26

1991–92

44

30

1992–93

40

33

Total

237

122

 

Inter

1993–94

55

25

1994–95

26

5

Total

81

30

 

Arsenal

1995–96

41

16

10

1996–97

34

14

9

1997–98

40

22

14

1998–99

40

16

13

1999–2000

39

10

11

2000–01

35

5

7

2001–02

46

14

17

2002–03

41

7

11

2003–04

38

5

10

2004–05

38

8

18

2005–06

31

3

4

Total

423

120

124

Career total

741

272

?

In 2010 I had the chance to put forward the idea to Ivan Gazidis of statues around the Emirates Stadium, and my first suggestion of Herbert Chapman was accepted for one of the three.  Dennis statue will be the next one erected.

For all the wonderful moments Dennis, I’d just like to say thank you.  It was all truly magnificent.

See also…

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The books…

Other sites from the same team…

 

 

5 comments to Dennis Bergkamp; genius

  • @N5_1BU

    That goal against Newcastle – aren’t you talking about the one he scored at St James’?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paVv3J58grs

    I was living up there then and one of the Newcastle fan sites had a vote for the greatest goals at St James’ the summer after – this goal actually made it into the top ten! Even now if I mention it to barcode mates they sigh and smile.

  • shagx

    Actually, we were playing against Middlesbrough not Forest when we came back from 3-1 down. Thanks to some really doggie goal keeping from Jens.
    It was actually Dennis who brought us back to the game, he made it 3-2 and then before the replay on TV, we leveled at 3-3 within the next minute! What a game!

  • Looks like yet again I have confused myself totally. Not once but twice. I think I am going to have a holiday. But still, happy birthday Dennis.

  • Allan

    Must have been a very good line of view from Highbury straight through to St James’ Park for the Bergkamp goal against Newcastle. I was in South Wales when that game happened and I needed the television to see it.

  • john lynch

    Recently reminded that Stuart Pearce said he was a bad choice and we should have signed Collymore instead!

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