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Arsenal - The French Connection: How the Arsenal Became L'Arsenal Hardcover – 10 Nov 2012
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About the Author
Fred Atkins was born in Maidstone in 1973 and spent much of his formative years at Maidstone United’s Athletic Ground. He attended Oakwood Park Grammar School, Sussex University and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Strasbourg. After graduation he drifted into the arena of unemployment and barely noticed a difference. He then spent three years as an English teacher, in his words “teaching foreign students how to swear”, before stumbling into journalism with the Maidstone News. He became sports editor of the Kent Messenger and went on to work for the Associated Press, covering the England cricket team for five years, including two Ashes series and the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup. He now works as a copy writer and as the media manager and website editor for the Lashings All-Stars cricket team. Fred is the author of three books. “The Double, the story of Maidstone United’s 2001-2002 season”, followed by “Tour de Kent” (published by Breedon Books in 2009) and “Arsenal: The French Connection” (published by GCR Books in 2012). He compiled “The Arsenal Quote Book”, to be published in autumn 2016. Fred also edited “Stuck In A Moment” by Stewart Taylor, which was longlisted for the 2014 William Hill Award. His first novel, “Welcome to Kent” will be published during the 2016-17 season. He lives in Allington with his wife Wendy and daughter, Sylvia. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
This book is not going to reveal any new sordid truths about life inside the Arsenal dressing room. Other than a foreword from chief scout, former defensive midfielder and cult hero Gilles Grimandi, the author has not had access to any of the players or management, though given the sterile and media-trained nature of most football interviews, this is arguably no bad thing. Instead, the book draws on existing and known sources from England and France (the author uses the widely panned autobiographies of Ashley Cole and Robert Pires as source material so at least you don't have to read them yourself) in order to compile a picture of the each of the players and the events that defined their stay at the club.
However there is more than enough in the public domain which is not widely known for the author to be able to tell some fascinating individuals stories and pick out some common themes in them. For example, the book contrasts the relatively high levels of education amongst the majority of Arsenal's French players against the prevailing attitude within English football of a lack of education being, as the author witheringly notes, "worn as a badge of honour". The book also describes the administrative incompetence of a number of French football clubs in failing to secure the services of some of their best young talent through their failure to complete the most basic of paperwork (which, as the author notes, is ironic given Arsenal's current inability to keep hold of its own stars).
The book manages to avoid a lot of clichés - yes, the likes of Flamini and Anelka were mercenaries and unashamedly so, but rather than simply condemn this as somehow symptomatic of a game gone to the dogs, players and club are seen for what they are - separate, independent entities whose interests coincide for a finite period of time. In this book there are few out and out villains and even fewer heroes (Grimandi excepted). The author expressly states that he's specifically attempted to see all of the individuals covered as rounded, complex (and in Petit's case very complex) human beings.
The book's written by a fan, that much is clear. There are some cheap digs at Tottenham - well, it's what they're there for - and the book takes a fairly robust view on some of the injustices meted out to the club in recent years, particularly at the hands of Manchester United. Those who subscribe to the view of Barcelona as a shining beacon of aesthetic beauty and high moral standing will also have their views challenged in this book. He is, however, dispassionate enough to avoid turning the book into a hagiography; the issue of Henry's reputation as a cheat is covered in some detail, as are the origins and consequences of Petit's victim complex, and supporters of other clubs should not be put off by what is an engaging story even to the disinterested.
I read the book in one sitting and was entertained throughout. Arsenal fans will find plenty in here to sustain interest, whether it be some well put together retellings of the lives of the players that they have cheered on (the chapters on Petit, Flamini and Gallas are particularly revealing), the dry, irreverent style or simply the opportunity to relive the most successful and entertaining period in the club's history in the company of someone who can view those familiar events a little differently.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I bought the book but I was very happily surprised. Instead of an anticipated Who's Who? of Arsenal French players past and present the author tells the story of the 16 years of Wenger's management through the influence of the 23 Frenchmen (Giroud excluded) he has purchased, groomed and mentored. Each player gets his own chapter but the book seems to flow nicely because the players are taken in the order which they signed for the club. Thierry Henry, having come back for his brief loan spell, comes last which makes a perfect ending to an excellent book.
At times I laughed out loud. Author, Fred Atkins, clearly has a good sense of humour and I started each new chapter with anticipation. There was plenty of new information and the book appears to have undegone some lenghty research.
I can't recommend this book too highly. Put it in your shopping basket or start dropping large hints if you want to find it under your Christmas tree!
As a `neutral' I still found it included more than enough non Arsenal content to easily sustain interest, particularly on the colourful history of French football itself.
It was refreshing to read an author so keen to provide his own forthright (and at times amusing) opinions on this era in which his love of Mr Wenger becomes evident.
For fans of football writing I would recommend it as pleasant change from the usual stale `ghost written' autobiography. For Arsenal fans, it really is a no brainer.
With so many French players passing through Arsenal's doors over the past 17 seasons it was inevitable that a book would eventually be written on their comings and goings. Arsenal - The French Connection is that book. Author Fred Atkins dedicates a chapter to each player but this is more than simply a "Who's Who?" of players who have crossed the English Channel to play in red and white. Atkins tells the history of Arsenal since Wenger's arrival through the achievements of Arsenal's French players and the contributions they made to the Club's success during this period.
This really is a very good read and, I wonder, with five Germans in the current squad (not to mention the likes of Messrs Lehmann and Volz) how long will it be before we see Arsenal - The German Connection?
It's a fascinating insight into Arsenal's transformation from the robotic, anti-football teams (at least to opposition fans like myself) of the George Graham era to the free-flowing entertainers of the past 15 years. The author has done an amazing amount of research into Wenger and the players he signed. The chapters on the players are particularly entertaining, especially as they've not all been an unqualified success (for every Thierry Henry, there's a Jeremie Aliadiere).
Recommend it to anyone who's looking for some quality football reading that differentiates it from the other guff out there. It made me think differently about Wenger, who know seems destined to become one of the most iconic managers of his generation.
Plenty of detail, but plenty of laughs too. A fun, interesting read.