Players Out Of Time: No.1 Anders Limpar
A break this morning from the unrelenting transfer gossip; nothing is going to happen today on that score. Even Mr20%s like to have one day of rest. Instead the first in an occasional series about players who were outstanding in their day but in the modern game, they would have been sensational.
For someone who only made 116 appearances for the club – less than 1oo were starts – Anders Limpar had a massive impact on those of a certain age or older. I genuinely have not met anyone who looks back on the Swede’s time at the club with anything other than affection. Not many players can claim that kind of response from such a short stay.
Limpar was an archetypal George Graham signing. Seriously, he was. Well, maybe a archetypal signing before 1992. Brian Marwood and Ian Allinson before him had been busy wingers, Marwood an excellent crosser of the ball. Limpar left the hard work to others, he the creative director would not sully himself with such matters. Give him the ball and let him wreak havoc.
The Swede joined Arsenal from Cremonese in 1990. The first glimpse many of us had of him was The Makita International Trophy, a forerunner of the annual Emirates bash. Nobody particularly cared for the trophy save for the fact that the 1988 tournament featured the first ever meeting between Arsenal and Tottenham at Wembley. Forget 1991, this 4 – 0 drubbing was the first. Limpar mesmerised the Aston Villa defence two years after that, scoring the opening goal after 34 minutes.
At that time, Swedish players were true to their stereotype; blond, athletic and hard-working. Limpar had Hungarian roots and that ancestry prevailed in his footballing world; skilful, artistic, creative, powerful of shot, fleet of foot, quick of mind. More Puskas than Andersson.
The World Cup had come and gone, Gazza’s had cried a river and it seemed, English football had come of age. Limpar fitted in perfectly. He teased, twisted and turned from the off. He was the blueprint for Robert Pires, happier creating for others than scoring himself. His goalscoring record was not bad at the club, 20 in 116 appearances. It could – should – have been more but when he contributed, there was something special about them.
His most memorable? For me, at Old Trafford back in the days when referees and linesman were not scared to give a contentious goal or penalty against United. It was the day of the infamous brawl, Limpar’s spikey character shown by his involvement and subsequent fine from Arsenal.
The two goals we all remember are in this extract from the Season Review of 1990-91, thanks to Dmitry for this:
Limpar’s finest goalscoring hour came in the last game of that season, a hat-trick against Coventry. Once more Dmitry to the rescue.
The Swede was a pivotal member of that team but his inconsistency was becoming distrusted by Graham. For all of the explosive appearances, FK Austria Vienna could not cope with him during the club’s return to European football in a 6 – 1 rout at Highbury, there were equally anonymous performances. In 1992/3, he did not make either of the finals against Sheffield Wednesday, a far cry from the torrent of torment he heaped upon them during the title-winning season in a 7 – 1 thrashing. He left to much disappointment but little surprise, for Everton the following year, his relationship with Graham finally tortured and broken.
Would Wenger have got more out of him? Probably but his career trajectory would be similar to that of Arshavin or Nasri. Infuriatingly brilliant and lacklustre but what an attacking difference to this team he would make. van Persie would love him in the same way Ian Wright and Alan Smith did.
Most certainly he would have thrived in the fluid attacking play of recent years. The 2007/08 team would have particularly benefitted from Limpar. Hleb / Walcott, Limpar and Fábregas supplying van Persie / Adebayor would have been sumptuous in full cry.
Now? I am not so sure that he could have lifted a whole team on his own but certainly he would have been less likely to be channelled into dead ends. The unpredictability and delivery would be something in the final run-in that could have turned narrow defeats into draws or draws into victory; a little edge that swings title races.
Freddie Ljungberg might well be this generation’s Superswede but the reality is that Freddie needs a new title. Anders Limpar owns that one outright.
Still, if this young gentleman carries on the way he is going, we might refer to him as the next Anders Limpar.