Two Germans and a famous Dutchman to Manage Arsenal? New Manager Options against key selection criteria

Picking a new manager for Arsenal is no easy task. Gazidis said the BoD are looking for someone who shares Wenger’s qualities, plays progressive, exciting football and gives youth a chance. But of course the new maestro also needs to get Arsenal back into the top-four for CL football (at least), and, if we are looking for a long-term solution, they also need to possess the experience of winning league titles and, ideally, the Champions League.

We are now a big club in Europe in terms of annual turnover with a fabulous stadium and, being based in the metropolis of London and a strong fan-base all over the globe, the sky is the limit for our club regarding our potential to grow even further. This brilliant strategic position is for a large part Wenger’s legacy.

Part of me believes that the new manager has already been selected and contracted, but let’s assume this is not the case. Replacing a manager who has been in charge for 22 years is of course almost unprecedented and really hard to do, especially if that person needs to ‘share Wenger’s qualities’ etc.

Moyes replaced Old Red Nose but this is not a good comparison for the BoD to use. MU had peaked in their last season under Ferguson and initially the pressure was not that high for his fellow Scotsman. He turned out to be a disappointment for the Mancs anyway, though; and the rest is history.

Arsenal are in a very tricky position right now, as we lost our seasonal ticket to CL football in recent years (unless the boys win the UEFA league and qualify for the CL along that route) and look way off winning the title in the near future. We seem to have lost the connection with  the top-four and it is vital that this is restored asap.

On top of that, there is a disgruntled fan-base who may have been appeased by Arsene’s announcement to finally leave the club but will be looking critically at the BoD in terms of making a quality choice for the Frenchman’s successor. There is a risk of the club slipping further down in the coming season(s) and that is a negative spiral we really don’t want to get in to.

Getting it right is vital in more than one way. The pressure is on, and Gizidis and co know it.

Another decision the BoD will have to make is whether they are looking for a 2-4 year solution, possibly followed by a long-term assignment, or a straight long-term assignment, say for 6-10 years. I’d say the latter suits the club’s vision and values best, but club loyalty and ability to achieve continuous success are very rare manager-qualities to find.

A number of managers have been mentioned in the press, so let’s compare these against a list of selection criteria as per below:

  1. Shares Wenger’s qualities – let’s say these are to do with personal presentation, PR, and passion for the game;
  2. Plays progressive, exciting football;
  3. Gives youth a chance;
  4. Has won one or more top leagues, ideally the PL AND is likely to get us back into the top-four within one to two years;
  5. (ideally) Has won one or more CLs;
  6. Will gain the respect of the senior players quickly;
  7. Is tactically astute and will be able to give the team a much-needed balance between attacking and defending;
  8. (ideally) Is looking for a long-term assignment and wants to leave a new legacy

The main contenders (could change over the coming weeks):

Luis Enrique

Great start to his management career at Barca but the question remains whether the players could have managed themselves with the quality and experience contained in that team. Nevertheless he would score high on the above criteria 2, 4, 5, 6, 7. Question remains how well he would do at 1 and 3. No PL experience could also go against him, and from his career until now it remains to be seen whether he would be one for the long run (8). There is something exciting about him, thoug,h and bringing that Barca school of football into the mighty red and white may just be what the team needs.

Mikel Arteta

Love his personality and he is learning a lot from the maestro at MC. But he is a nr.2 there and that is hell of a lot different from being the nr.1. Of the above criteria, he offers 2,3 and possible 6,7 and 8. Too inexperienced and very unlikely to reconnect with the top four anytime soon imo. However, he could join Arsenal as nr.2 with the aim to promote him in 2-4 years….

Patrick Vieira

Love the guy but he is at the start of his trainer’s career. Of the above criteria, he offers 2,3,6 and possibly 1,7 and 8. Would be lovely to see him on the touchline but big risk of not making the connection to the top four imo. He could join Arsenal as nr.2 with the aim to promote him in 2-4 years….

Carlo Ancelotti
There is an attractive argument that a manager only needs to sort out the defence at Arsenal to make a big step upwards. With a phenomenal attacking force now at Arsenal, Wenger’s replacement only needs to teach the team how to defend and buy one or two CBs and possibly a GK, to make an instant improvement. That man could be Ancelotti who may not set the world on fire (criteria 2), but would score high on criteria 1, 4, 5, 6.7. Not one for the long term, though, and he may be too conservative for our liking, but strong candidate to get us back into the back four , and much closer to title contenders, in no time.

Massimiliano Allegri
Very successful at Juventus and keen to manage a PL team, Allegri is a strong candidate for Arsenal. He scores high on criteria 1,4, 6,7 and probably also on 3,5 (got Juve to two CL finals) and 8. He is unlikely to set the world on fire with exciting football (2) and that might rule him out of the job, but with attackers like Ozil, Auba, Mkhi, Jack (hopefully), Laca and Rambo, the exciting part of football is almost guaranteed. If we are looking for a quick, quality fix with potential to grow into a long-term successful relationship, Allegri could be a great option.

Joachim Low
Currently the very successful national manager of Germany and with no recent/high level club experience. Scores high on criteria 1,2,3, 6,7 and 8. Scores low on 4 and 5 but he clearly knows how to guide his teams to glory. Big question is how would he transition to club management? Given his involvement in the World Cup, he would join the club quite late on which would be stressful in terms of making the relevant acquisitions and prepare the team for the new season. But, as Low would likely be a long-term assignment, next season could be treated as a transitional one. With the BFG and Lehman already at the club, Low has strong (German) support to prepare the team for the coming season in his absence. A further signing of a certain Dennis Bergkamp would make for a Fab Four in management at Arsenal.

There are a few other contenders being mentioned in the press – Maurizzio Sari, Thomas Tuchel, Julian Nagelsman – but  I don’t know enough of them to ‘score them’ (feel free to do so, though).

I reckon Joachim Low is the best man for the job, especially if Bergkamp would join the management staff and become Low’s right hand man (with the BFG holding the left one). However, I could also live with Ancelotti or Allegri taken over with Vieira or Arteta taking over in 2-4 years from now. Finally, Enrique would be a bit of a gamble but our football could be very exciting to watch…. Exciting times ahead.

Who would you go for and why?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Versatile Auba, deadly Laca and Super Xhaka, but Who is MOTM? 8 Observations

Arsenal 4 – 1 West Ham – Monreal, Ramsey, Lacazette x2

Another strong home win was just what we needed for our next ‘game of the season’ on Thursday. It took the boys a long time to crush the Hammers but in the end they did with style and smiles on their faces. Just what the doctor ordered.

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Eight observations from Arsenal v West Ham:

  1. Aubameyang is a much more versatile player than first assumed (by me at least). As soon as he came on we started to click and find the deadly combinations rather than the cumbersome ones. He seems to have a wonderful balance between being selfish and serving his team mates, and Auba also has a good eye for the best possible pass. That is all about experience and we are going to have lots of fun with him next season.
  2. Laca proofed once again that if we feed him the ball in the box, ideally with a bit of space, he will score, and score again. We are crying out for better wing players/wing play; Lacazette loves to get the ball from the side rather than fed through the middle… we need to play more to his strength going forward.
  3. Iwobi struggled to have an Ozilesque influence on the game today, but I reckon he would play a lot better in a combo with Auba and then one of Welbz or Laca, rather than playing with both of them as he did today. Welbeck and Laca are similar players; the former is more athletic and the latter is more deadly when given a chance, but both lack the calm and assist producing qualities of Auba. I am really pleased Iwobi is getting chances to shine in the free creator role but we need to keep reminding ourselves he is really young and nobody is as good as Ozil – and there is no harder role in football of course…
  4. Ainsley Maitland-Niles did very well to replace the injured Elneny (who was MOTM in the first half). Obviously, he is at the very start of his career and plays with a fearlessness that is based on relatively low expectations (ask Bellerin and Iwobi how things change when expectations start to rise), but you cannot but love his presence and physicality on the pitch as well as his calm decision making.
  5. Good to see Koz and Nacho back and firing from all cylinders. Koz almost scored and Nacho hammered one in with venom and precision. It was also good to see Mustafi playing again and getting some of his composure and confidence back; playing with his best mate Koz made a big difference for him today.
  6. Xhaka was once again class. His corners were Ozilesque and his intelligent positioning and crisp and calm passing – making it look so simple at times – were a joy to watch. Very tidy and effective.
  7. With a goal and an assist, the Welsh Engine, had a great second half and drove our midfield on. He is such a Lampardesque B2B player: runs up and down all day long, good runs into the box and strong shots from outside the box. MOTM. Aaron will be vital on Thursday.
  8. It was nice to see Arsene relaxed and happy today. The supporters did their part with the OAW song and the players showed him much respect and love by putting in a committed performance and getting a big, albeit slightly flattering win. He looked ten years younger and ready to face dapper Diego Simeone on Thursday.

TA 

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Arsenal v West Ham Preview | Line-Up

WEST HAM: A DRESS REHEASAL FOR ATLETICO MADRID AND A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR OUR DEPARTING SERVANT.

Wenger is class. We will immortalize his name. Meanwhile we switch our attention back to West Ham, the job at hand.

Prior to the Newcastle match the vast majority of opinions wanted wholesale changes made to the team. Many even asked that the kids be given a chance as the outcome of the match is irrelevant. To the shock of the observant, when the match was lost, it got everybody reeling and many swung as far as being convinced that Atletico Madrid is going to spank us silly.

There is now an urgent need to re-establish confidence in all before our 1st leg match against Atletico. This is done with a victory against West Ham today. We don’t give a damn anymore about Burnley overtaking us (I privately do and am glad they lost to Chelsea), but we do give a hell of a lot of damn to go into the Atletico match with our confidence intact.

Luckily, Arsenal have four days separating the West Ham encounter with the Atletico one. Nothing stops us from fielding our best available eleven against West Ham particularly after a full week of rest. The risk to injury is more than offset by a regained momentum. Apart from that, it is not desirable to rest the first team players in this match as that would have some of them going a full two weeks without a game. We know how fast the cobwebs can appear.

Mustafi is a curious study. The chorus to yank him off the team has become deafening. Yet the reputable WhoScored rates him our best player and the 12th best in the league. The equally reputable and sophisticated Squawka Perfomance Score Index for those who have played up to 1500 minutes rates him our second best behind Ozil per 90 minutes of play, and the 23rd best in the league. His performance last Sunday suggests that he belongs to that grade of players whose level drop dramatically when fatigued. If all the stress arising from traveling between London to Moscow, playing a match, back to London and then to Newcastle, all within two and half days, can be imagined then we would begin to understand why Cech, Mustafi, Monreal, Lacazette (i.e. those who played in Moscow) performed below par at St James’ Park. Elneny also played in Moscow but his all day street football as he was growing up in Egypt, according to his story, must have made something else of him, which should go a long way in explaining his MOTM performance at Newcastle.

Apart from using the West Ham game to regain our confidence, it makes a lot of sense to use it also as a rehearsal for the Atletico match. Wenger hinted on this. Atletico is a 4:4:2 team who defend compact and transition quickly. In La Liga they have conceded only 18 goals which is the least of any team in the 5 major European Leagues. In comparison we have shipped in 45 goals! We stand no chance against Atletico were we to leak goals against them like we’ve done all season. Something has to be done.

We cannot get away from the fact that our full backs operate as wingbacks. Neither can we pretend that we have a defensive midfielder. Our recipe makes for goal leakages. And because we concede rather easily when the opponent have possession, we take refuge in hoarding the ball when we get it, afraid to lose it. Hence our backwards/sideways passing, so appropriately  labelled ‘sterile possession’. In a few words, we leak goals and lack guts or incisiveness in attack.

We need to turn our quasi fullbacks into full fledged wingbacks by employing three central defenders. But that is not all. We need to then show greater courage with the ball. It is better to go down with our guns smoking than in a whimper. This is the least we can do. Anyway, what do I know?

With Ospina back from injury, one wonders whether he’d be returned as the cup goalkeeper at this crucial stage of the competition. It’s a crossroad for me as Cech seems in poor form. Against a counter attacking, ball-over-the-top Atletico team we need a goalkeeper who is quick off his line. He has to act as a sweeper for the team and that’s far from Cech’s cup of tea. Anyway, if Wenger would insist on Ospina as our cup goalkeeper, then there is a need to play him against West Ham to help return him to match fitness.

As for Europa cup-tied Aubameyang, there is a dilemma on whether to play him or not against West Ham. Wenger described this match as more of a preparation for the Atletico game. If it is so, common sense says don’t play him. Across the aisle however, other pressures say that our world-class-most-expensive player’s clock has to be kept ticking. For many, the flame of their long term hope is still flickering because he is in our midst. Another crossroad decision on the table.,

My guess at the line up against West Ham (with an eye on Europa semi) is:

http://football-formation.com/lineup/67088/formation.png

Bench: Cech, Holding, Mailand-Niles, Elneny, Iwobi, Wilshere, Laca. (All things being equal, game time should be given to Lacazette, Wilshere and maybe Elneny).

What a class act it would be were the whole stadium to give a round of applause in appreciation of the departing gentleman and philosopher, the incomparable servant of the club, the one and only Arsene Wenger.

We are on the threshold of a new challenge. COYG!!!

By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 67 Comments

Arsene Wenger: The Last “Company” Man(ager) is Leaving Arsenal.  For Better or Worse

Until Death Do You Part… As they say, when people take their marriage vows…

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Wenger and Arsenal WAS a marriage, and today, as we hear that he will step down as manager at the end of the season, I feel that we are witnessing something akin to a death.  

Marriage and Death may seem like overblown metaphors and many will prefer the more pragmatic notion that this is Wenger retiring, or, if it suits certain segments of the support, it is a much needed sacking, but, perhaps, done right.  After all, Wenger has always maintained that he sees out his contracts and surely he wanted to see this one out, believing, as always, in his ability to serve the club well.

Retirement or sacking, let’s call this an end to era as well as to one man’s job, an epic 22 year professional commitment, the likes of which, in this day and age are not seen in many professions, let alone football management.

What does a person have left when they’ve given their full commitment to a job and the end comes?  Many people simply can’t do it, and the stories of people dying soon after ending their working lives are legion.  While some tiny group of Gooners have been so vile as to wish for his death–at least from behind the safety of their keyboards–let the rest of us hope that AW lives a long and fruitful life and enjoys the legacy of all he’s given to the club he served for 22 years.   

I’ve told (and re-told) my story about how I landed at the address I’ve taken as my screen-name (17 Highbury Terrace, N5) in the autumn of 2006, Wenger’s first season in the new stadium, which, I believe, will ultimately be named in his honor.  If you want to read some of that story, mixed in with my personal history of watching sports and finding sports heroes, here it is. 

Being in that part of North London at that time was great.  I was new to Arsenal but you could feel the enthusiasm as crowds made their way to the new stadium.  There was (big) turnover in the team, but Arsenal had made the final of the Champions League the previous spring, and the economy was booming; tickets were expensive and very hard to come by.  In fact, I never got inside the stadium, but nonetheless I immersed myself and, despite Arsenal’s difficulties on the pitch, I could sense Wenger’s vision for the club. My take on that probably repeats my personal story a bit much for many, but there you go.  We live in a culture of narcissism and I don’t want to throw any stones in that glass house. 

One thing I could surely see–right from the start–was that nobody I’d ever seen in sports represented his club as completely as Wenger.  I was impressed.  So, for me, watching and admiring Wenger as I have for a dozen years and sensing that this is the close of his Arsenal career IS personal.  

Like Arsene and Arsenal, my wife and I almost (well, kinda-sorta) have similar last names (she’s kept hers) AND she has committed her entire post-graduate career (thus far) to one institution (a community college as we call them here in the States) while my “job” (or long-term commitment) has been to support her, mostly by using some skills I’d acquired in taking care of and working on our house(s)–including managing its rebuild after a forest fire.  (Like Wenger, doing this work and more generally, I have always been a “home economist,” prioritizing functionality and financial stability over shows of luxury.)  An even bigger responsibility was being the primary care-giver (“stay-at-home dad”) for our boy, now 16 years old.  

At my son’s current age, like AW managing Arsenal in recent years, that latter “job” is somewhat thankless these days, or maybe satisfying results seem harder to come by.  Still, like Wenger, I feel compelled to “honor my contracts,” even if my “baby” is rapidly moving on from under my direct supervision and care.  On this front, I need to step down.  Or maybe I’m getting the sack.  Hard to say.  Ask my son, these days he knows everything…

Please pardon the tortured analogies.  Still, in a world where even the stewards of entire countries (remember, I’m writing from here in the US) seem most concerned with fame and fortune and place conventional morality and norms neatly to one side, a man of Wenger’s character seems worthy of praise and emulation.  He’s been a inspiration and model for me. He may not be your hero, but he is mine.

Back to the pitch.

Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal divides somewhat neatly between the Highbury years (good ones, very good ones) and his time at the new stadium, generally characterized as a long, slow demise.  Personally, coming in when I did, I don’t see it that way. Yes, there was a big emphasis on young players of dubious quality and an attendant trophy drought. Financial stability and top-four league finishes that might give us a chance in the European Champions League were priorities.  In 2009 we reached the semi-finals of the CL but were given a drubbing by Manchester United. In most seasons, however, it began to feel silly to aim so completely for a tournament many believed we had no chance of winning.

In more recent years, we’ve competed more successfully on the domestic front, winning the FA Cup in 2014, 15 and 17, while our best shot at the league title was the intervening season, 2015-16, the year that Leicester City won their miracle title.  Ours was undone with winter injuries to Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, yet we still pipped our arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, on the final day to finish 2nd.  It hasn’t been so rosy since, and Spurs finishing above us these past couple of seasons has been a source of real misery, especially for local fans.

The ENTIRE time I’ve supported Arsenal, Gooners have wanted Wenger gone.  It was only a few voices (and bloggers) who took this tack early on, but, over the years, more have joined in and the intensity of his critics, most certainly, has increased.  I’m his biggest supporter, but even I believed his situation seemed untenable some 14 months ago when we were dumped out of the CL (by Bayern Munich) by an aggregate score of 10-2.  That was compounded by losses at West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace that, in effect, made a top four finish all but impossible. With pressure mounting but a new contract on offer, Wenger, often criticized for his inflexible tactics, tried a three center back formation and won nine of his final ten league matches and semi-final and final FA Cup matches at Wembley.  It seemed a miracle to me, but of course, it did not stop the pressure on the man. Once a Gooner goes to the darkside, it’s hard to see the light, I guess.

And, have no doubt about it, Arsene Wenger took on FULL responsibility–the full weight of representing the club through these ever darkening times, becoming, through no fault of his own, a truly divisive figure.  As such, to my mind, for many on one side of that divide, the idea of Wenger Out became an all-purpose solution for all of Arsenal’s ills.  For me, it mirrors the darkness of the politics of our time, with similar divisive tactics and rhetorics of blame bringing far-right parties and candidates to power.  If you buy into these ideas or you’re able to  ignore the real-world problems (and extreme amaturism) some of these folks have brought with them, you cannot overlook the entertainment value they embody.  I mention no names, but, again, I’m writing from here in the States.

I’m NOT saying you’re a fascist if you’re happy that Wenger is (finally) out.  In fact, it could easily be seen as a progressive move and a toppling of conservatism at the club. What I am saying is that sports (more than politics, I would hope) is most certainly an entertainment industry, and something (anything) new, including a new coach, presumably bringing in new players, means the entertainment value at Arsenal should go up.  Already, with the appointments of Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi we’ve seen big action in the most recent January transfer window.  Now a new manager (or first-team coach) must be selected. Unlike Wenger’s near complete control of the club, it should be management by committee going forward, with the on-pitch guy expected to produce results.  I would expect supporters to give a new manager a bit of patience: at least one season to bed-in and show off his (or her…haha, Arsenal aren’t that progressive) ideas, with little pressure for immediate improvement in results.  That second season, however, had better make Arsenal great again.

Or maybe not.  Perhaps Gooners will come to realize that so much in the world of football has changed and blame and simple solutions are not the answer.  Starting about fifteen years ago, a handful of English clubs sold out to the princes and emirs of the world, including billionaire American owners, like our own Stan Kroenke.  Simply put, the game is now consumed as much on television and the internet by a worldwide audience as it is by those who go to the stadia–with attendant monies pouring into the game.  That’s something few would have imagined a generation or two previous.

So, just like the rest, I cannot predict the future.  Maybe I’m the one who has become conservative, simply wondering if Arsenal (or America or our increasingly global culture) can EVER be truly great if we don’t have a committed figurehead who will take responsibility for the present AND future of the club.  Stan (or Josh) Kroenke? Ivan Gazidis? Sven and Raul? Where does the buck stop?

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Consider me scared, or at least wistful, which brings me back to marriage and death and why Wenger’s commitment to Arsenal has meant so much to me.  53% of all marriages (again, in my home country, the United States) end in divorce and those that don’t end in death.  Likewise, 100% of all lives end.  Ideally, one enters this world with (nothing but) hope (from others already here) and leaves it with (nothing but) memories, good ones, ideally. When Wenger arrived–as with any football manager–there was hope, and with his leaving there will be memories, lots of them, and probably, for most Gooners at least, memories of things for which they couldn’t have hoped.  

I’d argue that a big reason we should celebrate these memories–and something that makes them EVEN BETTER is the FULL COMMITMENT and TRUE PASSION that Arsene Wenger gave to his, no OUR, club.  And his satisfactions–along with his struggles–were borne fully, which, I believe, added to the experience.  All I really know is that they, and thus the man himself, have been an inspiration to me.  Hopefully, for you too.  And, hopefully, they will inspire our players in his final seven (or, possibly eight) matches…and well into the future.   

So, for Arsene and for Arsenal, (and for myself, I guess…) I say…

Go on then…

By 17highburyterrace    

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Immortal Arsene Will Leave a Legacy Behind for which all Gooners Will be Grateful

The Arsene Weng-era is coming to an end. Even though most of us saw it coming, it still comes as a shock. It is a big moment in the history of the club and years from now you will still know where you were when you heard the news. I must admit that I felt elated with of course more than a tinge of sadness.

It is the best decision best for the club and the Man in Full that is Arsene Wenger. The secret of a long life is knowing when it is time to go, and it really is now time to let somebody else take over from the great man. Regardless of us potentially winning the UEFA League and thus still qualifying for the financially so attractive CL, which would be a big achievement for the club and the manager, to most of us it is clear that we need a new manager to take us forward.

The PL may not have all the best players of the world, but the best managers, give or take a couple, are leading our competitors on these shores. The lack of balance in the team resulting in poor defensive team performances, the number of PL games lost this season, our dismal performances away and the humiliating exit from this year’s FA competition, and of course our poor position in the PL table, meant that a change really had to happen this time round.

But let this not take away from Arsene’s enormous achievements in over a fifth of a century at the club. You all know the stats on Arsene’s silverware, and two things stand out to me: the 49 Unbeaten Invincibles and him winning the FA Cup a record-breaking seven times.

His biggest achievements, though,  are  the lasting shift in values, the (financial) stability of the club, our style of play and beauty of our game. This was based around a vision of how the game should be played – beautiful, winning football rather than calculated, safe winning football – and the hygiene factors required to bring this to fruition. From a classy, brilliant new stadium to excellent training facilities, and from new fitness regimes to attracting some of the best talents this country has ever had the privilege of watching week in week out, Arsene made a fundamental, long-lasting change to our club, and PL football in general.

With these achievements, Arsene will always be immortal at the club and for the fans. He is leaving a legacy behind on which the club can build further in a highly competitive environment, both home and in Europe. Arsene played a pivotal role in letting our club grow with the times, and now we have everything in place to compete even with the Oil-sponsored clubs in the PL and CL. Our biggest competitive advantages are our culture/values and strong ‘natural’ financial basis.

We as supporters, but also the BoD, have a duty to protect the values going forward, and I reckon we are in a very strong place right now thanks to Wenger.

And for that I say thank you Arsene.

Thank you for staying put and give your all to us for 22 years.

Thank you for the fabulous football and achievements, and for all those moments of delight and passion on the pitch.

Thank you for the legacy you have left behind.

You have become a Gooner for Eternity.

Now let’s end the season on a high by winning the UEFA Cup and add a big price to the Home of Football’s trophy cabinet. Manager, players, supporting staff and supporters should all unite now to give Arsene Wenger a great farewell.

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

From Le Roux to Kanu to Lauren to Zelalem: African Gunners’ big Influence on Arsenal

When I started looking into the subject of African footballers and Arsenal, I thought that it would be quite straightforward and easy to research, but the more I delved into it the bigger the influence of African Gunners became.

The Arsenal Academy, excluding Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Nwakali, currently has up to 16 players with some African heritage, players who could one day represent, Nigeria, England, Ghana or even Ireland; and it’s quite possible that an Arsenal matchday squad, within the next four or five years, could have five, six or even seven African heritage players wearing the mighty red and white colours…

Although this all seems like a modern day phenomenon, the Arsenal – African link actually goes way back to the 1950’s, when South African winger Daniel Le Roux spent a season at Highbury, playing five games in the 1957-58 season. But it would be another 40 years before another African would don the famous Arsenal shirt. During that time the growth in African football had seen the trickle of talent into Europe, become a flood; Eusebio, from being the exception, soon became the norm.


Progressive managers like Arsene Wenger and explosive imports like Tony Yeboah opened people’s eyes to the talent that Africa had to offer. And so, it was no surprise when the man who had developed George Weah decided to sign his cousin Chris Wreh. Now Chris wasn’t George for sure, but during that memorable 1997-98 season he did score a few vital goals, not least in that tight 1-0 win up at the Reebok. In 46 appearances our Liberian striker got only five goals, but that night in Bolton is happily burned into my memory whilst the trip back to London on the coach was one long sing-song.

Two years later the man with the big plates of meat (feet) arrived from Milano and, despite all the health scare stories, became a folk hero at Highbury and made half of his nation into Gooners, into seemed. Yes, I am talking about the one and only Nwankwu Kanu, with his long legs, long arms, sharp elbows, toothy grin and mesmerising ball control, he left many a Premier League defender on his backside. I was at Stamford Bridge on that day that he single-handily destroyed Chelsea on a waterlogged pitch and left them traumatised for several seasons afterwards. I still cannot help myself laughing when I see him dummying Franck Le Beouf for that winning hat-trick goal. Another goal from him that sticks in my mind is the cheeky backheel he got at the Riverside, with his back to the goal he let a pass run between his legs before carefully deflecting it into the goal. It was a magic moment from a supreme technician.

Kanu got some 44 goals in 198 appearances, none better than the dummy he used to send the Deportivo goalkeeper the wrong way at Highbury before slotting home. I’m sure many of you have your own favourite.

Cameroonian International Lauren arrived from Real Mallorca in the following summer of 2000, or Ralph as he was affectionately known by the fans. He came as a midfielder but was converted into one of the clubs best ever right-backs; we all loved Ralph, he was as hard as nails but a top top quality footballer. A nerveless penalty taker who made 241 appearances for the club during its glory years under Wenger, scoring nine goals.

We miss players with not only his quality, but also his character.

2002 saw Kolo Toure arrive: a wild, talented, enthusiastic player who was developed by Wenger into a top centre back and who thrived in his partnership with Sol Campbell. Kolo made 326 appearances for the club scoring 14 goals before differences within the club saw him leave.

Emmanuel Eboue 2005: 217 apps 10 goals was versatile and a great team player.
Alex Song 2005: 218 apps 10 goals, did a solid job in midfield before moving to Barcelona.
Emmanuel Adebayor 2006: 143 apps 62 goals, was a dynamic centre-forward who should have been a club legend, but isn’t.
Marouane Chamakh 2010: 69 apps 14 goals had a mixed career in the shadow of Robin Van Persie.

Gervinho 2011: 63 apps 11 goals was a player who arrived with huge reputation but proved unable to live up to it.

By the early 2000’s the Arsenal Academy was developing many players, some born in the UK, who could represent the country of their parents, like Emmanuel Frimpong, Chuks Aneke, Daniel Boateng, Fabrice Muamba and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie.

And today we have Mo Elneny and Pierre-Emirick Aubameyang playing key roles in the team and carrying on that legacy created by Kanu and Lauren; and then there’s Eddie Nketiah, who could play for Ghana if England take their eye off the ball.

But it doesn’t end with Eddie.

Jordi Osei-Tutu and Yunus Musah have links to Ghana, Stephy Mavididi has connections to the DR Congo

As for the Nigerians, well have a look at this lot PE:
Xavier Amanechi, Joseph Oluwu, Tolaji Bola, Aaron Eyoma, Marc Bola, Tobi Omole, James Olayinka, Folarin Balogun, Bukayo Saka, Arthur Okonkwo and finally Armstrong Okoflex who was born in Dublin and who could represent Nigeria, England or Ireland. Making up the 16 is Gedion Zelalem, Ethiopia/Germany/USA….

Arsenal’s link with the second largest and second most populous continent is as strong as ever, and long may it continue!

By Allezkev

Posted in Uncategorized | 72 Comments

Arsenal V Newcastle United: Gunners’ Player Ratings – Mo of the Match

Arsenal fried a big fish on Thursday and then it can be hard to motivate yourself for a game in Tyne and Wear on an early Sunday afternoon. Wenger left midfield beasts Ozil, Jack and Rambo at home and also gave full back Bellerin and central defender Koz a break. With starts for Iwobi, Willock, and Holding and Chambers, Arsene rotated his squad and they started well.

In the first half we played well and should have been leading by one or two goals, but in the second half both tiredness and continued rustiness of our attackers showed and we paid the price for leaving our quality midfielders at home.

Player Ratings:

Cech: 7 – distribution was not great again and should he have been beaten so easily at the near post for the first goal?

Monreal: 6.5 – would have expected more composure from him at the back for the second we conceded. Some good crosses into the box and he always gives his all.

Mustafi: 5.5 – asleep for the first goal. Seems lost without the calm leadership of Koz next to him. Great block in the second half to prevent NU’s third goal.

Holding: 6 – relatively calm and solid, nothing spectacular.

Chambers: 5 – defensively okay but too slow and heavy to play as a full/wing back for Arsenal in the PL. Some poor decision and final touches when supporting the attack.

Xhaka: 7.5 – solid and intelligent play in midfield. Found his position in the team.

Elneny: 8 – the engine for us and could be found everywhere on the pitch. Such a tidy player. MOTM.

Willock: 6 – added bite to our midfield but not enough to our attacking play, but good game given his experience and age (18).

Iwobi: 7.5 – another engine for us on the pitch. Fine movement and intelligent play but the attacking three lacked telepathic connection to really hurt the Newcastle defence.

Laca: 6 – good goal and decent movement and involvement in the game but needs to stamp his authority on games more. Will come… next season.

Auba: 6.5 – great assists and good involvement in the game but did not get the midfield service he deserves.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 50 Comments