Things to Know:
Bergkamp was schooled in Total Football, a playing style and philosophy which relied on versatility. This was primarily to maximise the footballer’s potential; players tried out every outfield position before finding one that suited them best.Every age group at Ajax played in the same style and formation as the first team – 3–4–3 – to allow individuals to slot in without effort when moving up the pyramid. Bergkamp “played in every position apart from goalie” and believed he benefited from the experience of playing as a defender, as it helped him “know how they think and how to beat them”. When he made his debut as a substitute against Roda JC, Bergkamp was positioned on the right wing, where he remained for three years. During his time at Inter Milan, Bergkamp was switched to the position of a main striker, but failed to cooperate with his offensive partner Ruben Sosa, whom he later called “selfish”. Furthermore, due to his introverted character, he was accused of lacking consistency and leadership skills by the Italian press, and struggled to replicate his previous form during his time with Inter. When Bergkamp joined Arsenal in 1995, he enjoyed a successful strike partnership with Wright, and in later seasons Anelka and Henry, playing in his preferred position as a creative second striker. The arrival of Overmars in the 1997–98 season enhanced Bergkamp’s play, as he was getting more of the ball. Between August and October 1997, he scored seven goals in seven league matches. A similar rapport developed between him and Ljungberg during the 2001–02 season. Although he was known for his composure and ability to score several goals for his team as a forward, Bergkamp was also capable of playing behind a lone striker, where he essentially functioned in the number 10 role as a playmaking attacking midfielder or deep-lying forward, due to his ball skills and creative ability, which enabled him to drop deep between the lines and link-up play. A quick, elegant, intelligent, and technically gifted player, his excellent first touch, quick feet, dribbling ability, and change of pace enabled him to beat defenders in one on one situations, while his attacking movement, physique, balance, and close control allowed him to hold up the ball and create space for teammates; his vision and passing range with both feet, despite being naturally right-footed, subsequently allowed him to provide assists for on-running strikers. Bergkamp often stated that he preferred playing in this deeper role, as he derived more pleasure from assisting goals, rather than scoring them himself. Throughout his playing career Bergkamp was accused of diving, and was referred to as a “cheat” and “dirty player” for retaliating against players who had previously challenged him, something his former manager Wenger denied. In an interview with The Times in 2004, he said that while he was at Inter Milan, he realised the importance of being mentally tough in order to survive: “A lot of people there try to hurt you, not just physically but mentally as well, and coming from the easygoing culture in Holland, I had to adopt a tougher approach. There, it was a case of two strikers up against four or five hard defenders who would stop at nothing.” Bergkamp says his aggression often stems from frustration.