The sports blog: Style over substance - or is that the other way around...

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I’VE heard a lot about ‘brands’ of football over the last few years, and it’s starting to grate with me a bit.

I mean, how much do fans really turn up at games eagerly anticipating their team’s players to produce a masterpiece of footballing talent? To dazzle supporters with their silky skills and elegant footwork. This isn’t ballet!

You may have guessed that I’m no Arsenal fan. In fact, it’s the north London club that seems to have instigated this country’s obsession with ‘sexy’ football. They haven’t won anything for six years by the way.

When Arsene Wenger eventually steps down from Arsenal - he’ll have to because he pretty much has the safest job in the world - he’ll leave behind him a real legacy, not just at the Emirates, but in England in general.

But that legacy looks like being one of playing pretty football, but without having a whole lot to show for it. I’m also no Spurs fan incase you were wondering!

Of course you can’t fail to be blown away by Arsenal’s style of football - although I’d be far more impressed if he got a few more kids from Islington to play like that. But if the Carling Cup final the other week taught us anything, it’s that sheer determination and desire will ultimately triumph. You can knock the ball about as effortless as you want, but if you haven’t got some big centre forward to bundle the ball over the line then what’s the point?

Barcelona gave Arsenal a referee-assisted lesson in football the other night, and if I was Wenger, I’d be wondering why I bothered. If they had a tough tackling brute of a central midfielder in there kicking lumps out of Lionel Messi and company then they might have stood a chance. I’m not saying Birmingham City would have played them off the park, but you know what I mean.

The problem is that doesn’t match Wenger’s footballing philosophy. In fact just writing that term makes me think it’s something of an oxymoron. Football isn’t about philosophy, brands or styles, it’s about 22 blokes going out there and hoping the ball bounces for them better than the others.

I think you can often be blinded by philosophy, or a desire to stick to your guns even if things aren’t working out the way you want. Perseverance is a trait to be admired, but where do you draw the line. Six years?

The reason I bring the subject up isn’t just that the two clubs generally considered to be the two best ‘football’ teams in Europe locked horns this week. But also because talk of style isn’t just restricted to the elite.

Karl Robinson can’t be the first manager working in the third tier to preach about style of football, but is it really necessary? Why isn’t winning in itself enough any more!

At the moment Dons are enjoying the perfect combination of playing well and picking up results, but at some point they’re going to need to get down and dirty.

With 10 games to play a place in the play-offs is looking increasingly likely - in fact the top six already looks pretty settled. But if Dons are to make it they’ll come up against sides equally adept at attacking with pace and flair - and so Robbo might need to mix it up a bit. As Wenger found out to his cost again this week, there’s always likely to be someone better than you, so make sure you bring your ‘B’ game as well as your ‘A’.

If the Dons boss wants to be remembered for something at stadium:mk, I’m sure he’d rather it be promotion, than for pleasing on the eye football.