How many game-changers do Arsenal have: Wilshere, Cazorla, Arshavin?

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So here we are, nearing the end of another season which has careened from the sublime to the ridiculous. A season where Arsenal has flattered to deceive, and deceive it has for most parts. Sadly, we are only in March, and it will be another season without a trophy.

Frustration has been rife for most part of the season, and a large part of it has been directed towards Wenger, a manager who historically has had loyal support from the fans.

It all boils down to two basic questions at this juncture: How did we get here, and where do we go from here.

Much has been written on the first question, and I will only touch upon it by mentioning two anecdotes which for me are prime examples of Arsenal’s decline.

The first one is that rather infamous tirade Patrick Viera threw at Wenger in the summer of 2001 (http://www.arsenal-mad.co.uk/news/tmnw/vieira_fires_major_gunners_salvo_11449/index.shtml), comparing Wenger’s dealings to shopping at Harrod’s. Funnily enough, Patrick wanted to leave because he wanted to win the Champions League, not just any trophy and claimed that the team at the time (including Henry and Wiltord) was not even going to finish fourth. We know how that ended.

But back then, our team comprised of world class players who could walk into any team. We were formidable, and yes, we weren’t perfect; we had our share of bad luck and Achilles heals, but yet we’d fight and win more often than not.

The second anecdote is a recent conversation with a friend. During the early part of the season when we were struggling (heck, we still are) he put to me that Arsenal no longer has world class players in the same vein as a Suarez, RVP, Ronaldo etc. He was referring to players who could change games. My immediate reaction was to deny it, but then he asked me to name our players who could do that for us and that’s where the conversation floundered.

We used to have RVP, and he’s truly world class. But currently, who else can be classified as a game changer? Cazorla? Podolski? Varmaelen? Wilshere? Walcott? How many of these players can you rely to change games? How many of these would fit into a European ‘big’ team? How many of these players have actually changed BIG games for us this season?

At the time, when I was having that conversation with my friend (incidentally a Man U fan, which doesn’t really help)I had picked Cazorla and Poldi. After all both had world class pedigrees and Cazorla was having a good spell. Wilshire was injured at the time. Interestingly my friend suggested Arsharvin, and I had to agree. Unfortunately Arsharvin despite being world class, never quite worked for us.

If I were to have a go again today at the same question, I’d only pick Wilshere. He’s the only big-game changer that we have. He’s the only one who can be relied upon to have a full go in a big game.

The rest? They may be fantastic players with fantastic pedigrees, but they haven’t shown consistency or been big game changers. Poldi, Cazorla and Arteta have popped up to score crucial match winning goals (3 each) for us this season, but there’s still something missing (incidentally, RVP has got 5, while Bale has got 6 winning goals). Cazorla looks brilliant, but quite often struggles to impact games against big opposition. Walcott can be fabulous, but has also struggled in games where you’d think he’d assert himself. In fact the last big performance (in an important match) from him was that 5-2 vs Spurs last season. Verm I adore, but something’s gone wrong. He’s not a bad defender, but he’s having a crisis of confidence for sure.

So… we have moved from a team with world class players who wanted to win the Champions League, to a team of good players who want to win ANY trophy. Perhaps it has to do with some bad buys (Squillaci, Park)… perhaps it has to do with players with potential not returning Wenger’s trust as much as they should (Arsharvin, Poldi, Verm, Cazorla, Walcott, Gervinho, Diaby), perhaps it’s just a transitional season where we are still discovering our best system with the players still trying to gel with each other, or perhaps it’s because Wenger buys all round players and plays them in THE system, rather than in their best positions leading to their potential loss in form (Arsharvin, Ramsey, even Cazorla to a certain extent). Whatever the reason, and I’d say it’s probably a bit of all of the above plus more, we are where we are.

We are no longer a formidable European team with a fortress for a home. We are at best a good mercurial team, a top 6 team.

So where do we go from here?

In the longer term, I think it’s important for us to take stock and count our blessings. We finally have a team that’s likely to stay together for a couple of seasons at least. We have a good solid core group of midfielders, even if we lack in defense and attack. We have Wilshere, arguably one of the best of his generation (touch wood). We have Cazorla, Giroud, Poldi and Walcott, who hopefully will have gotten to know each other better and also improve individually as the new season arrives. We have good support staff in Ramsey, Gibbs and to a certain extent Gervinho. We have potentially good defenders (even if most of them are out of form) and for the first time in two seasons, we have the makings of a squad.

To transform this into a great squad, dead wood would have to be let go, and possibly three new players brought in: a world class striker (Villa perhaps), a world class goal keeper and world class central defender. I would certainly like for us to keep the Verm, he may be struggling, but to me he embodies the Arsenal spirit. I would be sad to see him go.

So we are in relatively good shape if the right additions are made, to be able to launch a campaign in which we can realistically hope for a trophy, if not the premiership.

In the shorter term, we need to keep faith in Wenger and in what he’s doing. He has been unlucky at times and he has made rather odd decisions at other times, but I have complete faith in the fact that he lives for Arsenal and believes in us returning to glory. At the same time, I’d be surprised if a new manager can come in and help us to win titles, while simultaneously retaining our football philosophy. Pep would have been one, but he’s off to Bayern, against whom we had an almost massive night in the second leg. It was a performance of grit, character and solid defense, and it makes me proud to be a supporter of this club. If only we had let in one goal less in the first leg!

Most importantly in the short term, we have to capitalize on Spurs’ dropped points by winning our next game at Swansea, which will not be an easy one, but This 2-0 away win vs. Munich with a side lacking in Wilshere and Poldi should give the team immense confidence, belief and faith that we’ll be able to get through to the EPL top four.

Wilshere is likely to be missing for Swansea as well so the onus will be on the other players to step up their game. I’d really like to see Diaby get back into some solid form, for Walcott and Giroud to score goals, for Cazorla and Poldi to pull strings from midfield and finally for our defense to return to saner footing.

Our club crest says it best, Victory through Harmony, and we need to regain our internal and external harmony, as players and fans both, in order to meet our short term and long terms objectives.

Written by: Umair Naeem.

Umair Naeem is a Karachi-based writer and the author of the novel Drowning Shadows, a spiritual thriller set in Karachi that revolves around man’s inherent desire for control.

He is currently balancing his time working on his second novel all the while rooting for Arsenal to return to glory!

Website: http://Umairn.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://Twitter.com/umairn

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/umairnaeemofficial

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71 Responses to How many game-changers do Arsenal have: Wilshere, Cazorla, Arshavin?

  1. Highbury Harmony says:

    Umair,

    Wonderful maiden post on BK and it was a pleasure to read an article that echoes many of the thoughts, comments etc. that the regulars on BK share.

    Interestingly enough, I too believe that Jack and Santi are the only near world-class players we have. If Jack were more of a goal threat, I reckon he would already be considered world-class, but he’s just missing that something extra in the finish/final third. He’s still very young and I believe a world-class striker would make a huge difference. All our opponents know that our attacks run through Jack, so it’s easy to clog up the center of the pitch and focus on shutting him down. However, throw in a world-class/burgeoning world-class striker into our line-up who can create and score on his own and instantly, the pitch opens up for Jack to score more and deliver more key passes for goals.

    We don’t have a player who can change the outcome of a game on their own, as those types of players are generally strikers. Whatever the reason may be (ex. 1st year in the prem, new position, new teammates, etc.), none of our current forwards have ever been/are that type of striker that our club needs/has been blessed with during times of success.

    I believe that your list of team needs falls short of what Arsene needs to improve this summer. Without a proper beast of a DM, we will continue to get bullied in the center of the pitch and teams will push through our defense with ease. Aerially, we have no presence and defensively our current DMs are not assertive enough. In addition, Arteta is too slow as a DM to help transition our attack and take advantage of the pace our wingers have.

    A DM (Capoue or Wanyama) in addition to a world-class striker (or burgeoning world-class one like Reus or Jovetic), a reliable keeper (Cesar) and a solid, aggressive, technically sound CB (Amorebieta) highlight the immediate areas requiring an upgrade. We would also do well to add another world-class player as an additional creative outlet on the wing, like Isco, however that would be more of a luxury than a direct team need.

  2. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi Umair 🙂

    Many thanks for a very well-written, balanced and thought-provoking article. A great maiden post, chapeau!!

    I know you are still asleep as it is the middle of the night in Karachi, and will only be able to comment later on today/tomorrow.

    The concept of game-changers has never been that important to me, but this season I have thought about it more than other seasons. Do we need game-changers to win trophies? And what exactly are game-changers? You mention Wilshere, so you must think of game changers as players who are just very, very good, rather than necessarily those who score important, winning goals. Although you do mention the likes of vanJ, Bale, etc in terms of winning goals – three pointers – they have scored…

    We scored three goals against Bayern over two legs, and they all were by players who we cannot regard as game-changers: yet they delivered in the most difficult of circumstances.

    Maybe game-changers are very solid defenders and goalkeepers who seldom let goals in. If we had defended as solidly at home as we did in Munchen, we would surely have made it through….

    You can now tell your Manc friend that they also do not have top quality game-changers! 🙂

    How many goals did Rooney or van Judas score against RM? Exactly, and that is a bad return for £24m per annum in salaries alone.. RvP let us down against Milan, where he could and should have changed the game, and he did the same for MU and the Dutch National Team.

    I do agree though that we need more proper, world-class talents. With the incredible competition around us now, and the Oilers being able to select and recruit WC talents at will, it will be hard if not impossible to have more than two or three super quality players in our team; as in they would be selected for a best team in Europe line-up.

    I reckon we will grow some top top players again, and we have to hope Arsene will be able to keep hold of them now. Arsene can hopefully now add one or two great players as well again every season.

    So yes the future looks good and we need to keep the faith, and the performance yesterday gives us new hope again. We will have to see whether Arsene is still the best man to take us upwards and forwards. Let’s see what will happen this summer.

    All agreed on the need for harmony! 🙂

  3. AFC says:

    Good post. Most of our players are good enough to be squad rotational players but in the summer we need to buy players for squad depth and the first team.

    Right now our squad is not big enough and I would like to see the first team improved. I would like to see a older experienced GK, another CB, two DMs (one with the physical attributes and one with the technical attributes), another ST and maybe an attacking utility player.

    We do not need game changers to win things. We just need a squad that is collectively good.

  4. TotalArsenal says:

    good comments HH and AFC – need to catch some sleep, so talk to you all again tomorrow. 🙂

  5. Highbury Harmony says:

    TA,

    Despite how excited we all are about the win against Bayern, I think we must be cognizant of the fact that Bayern didn’t play their best football yesterday. They were playing with the gas off the pedal and to not lose in aggregate score, evident in their non-chalant approach to the game. Guess it’s easier to beat them when Ribeiry, Schweinsteiger and Boateng are all out too (Wilshere, Podolski, Sagna are all good players in their own right but not on the par with Ribeiry and Schweingsteiger for sure).

    The fact is, we struggle mightily against sides that are better than us because we fail to score goals at opportune times in the game (early to give us that 1 goal advantage to let us settle into the game or late to equalize or win). You keep bringing up how van Judas failed to score against RM, which is a bit of a joke really. RM are one of the best sides in the world and even Barca and Messi have difficulty scoring against them on their day. Does that mean that Messi is not a clinical finisher?

    van Judas has more or less single handedly given Manure the title this year and to say otherwise is living in denial and a result of bad blood left over from the manner of his departure. He’s scored and assisted so many times to lift Manure to victories when the game looked certain to be a draw. Rooney’s had a difficult year adapting to his new role, but he’s already started to come good in his last four PL starts with 4 goals and 2 assists. We’d be incredibly lucky to have either one of them in our team this year and we wouldn’t be as much of a laughing stock as we are right now if we did.

  6. Highbury Harmony says:

    foot off the gas pedal*

  7. Bobby Sure says:

    This is all well and good and many gooners echo the same sentiments year after year, well for at least that past 3 or 4. Buy 3 world class players in the spine of the team and viola. Good as new. But we know wenger will never do this. He will go and sign some random player from some other league that we have never been linked with. Thats just how the man operates. Not to mention, you combine that with his unrelenting patience and belief in his players. Wenger will never do a “fifa13” move and buy capoue,villa,valdes for example. So keeping the faith in wenger and expecting big signings are just two incompatible philosophies. One or the other has got to give.

    I actually believe we need an out and out number 10. Its the one thing we are truly lacking in this squad. Theres not one single player that is a natural in this position. Except for possibly arshavin, whose on his way out. Cazorla likes to be 5 yards from where the ball is as does jack. We need someone who is just going to drift between the lines centrally and find pockets to turn and play someone in. In my opinion we need this more than a DM. A DM isnt going to solve our defensive fragility. Sure it may go some way but its about team ethic and the midfield shielding the defence like they did vs bayern. I’d like gourcuff but maybe his ship has sailed as he cant even oust clement grenier as the number 10 at lyon.

    In response to the whole idea of being a game changer for me that kind of means super-sub and we potential have a few of those but wenger waits way too long to bring on subs, its the one thing that irks me about the guy. 70 minute mark no earlier ! He easily wastes 10-15 minutes out of the game where you can see the plan is not working. I’m sure he has his theory behind the 70 minute. Great first article, look forward to reading more.

  8. Highbury Harmony says:

    Game-changers are more than super subs…they’re players you can rely on to score week after week. Their goals early in the game set the tone and allow us to calmly knock the ball around, while their late goals equalize or win us games. We are lacking such a player right now who is composed in front of goal and “scores when he wants”.

  9. William says:

    Arsenal have only a few game changers. I they were to be stifled the gunners will find it tough going. There must be options. Football is a team game.

  10. oz gunner says:

    jesus christ that’s a ripper of a maiden post. Cheers for that!

    I’m very shocked we haven’t seen AA more this season. I thought after the Reading game he earnt more game time. I disagree in regards to needing a world class keeper. Yes Fabianski did well against Bayern but when has Szcz had that same sort of organisation in front of him this season. I really do feel sorry for keepers, a few errors and people close the door on you. He just needs some experienced back/competition behind him to bring out his best.

    It’s one of those positions where you see their errors but you don’t see as many from opposition keepers (for whatever reason: don’t watch opposition games, believing the hype/transfer fee, etc) so you always want someone else.

    They all make them. What won’t make him a better player is fans saying he should be replaced

  11. Highbury Harmony says:

    Oz,

    While I agree with you that we don’t need a world-class keeper to replace Szczesny, fans saying that he should be replaced has no effect on him whatsoever. It’s funny how fans believe they can influence a player’s performance or the outcome of a game, when in reality there is no such effect.

    Players can build up nerves leading up to a game and mentally they can be affected even before a crowd’s reaction, though it comforts fans in believing that they influenced a particular player’s performance. Keep in mind, these are professional athletes who have dealt with adversity, built mental strength and blocked out critics and fans their whole lives.

    But to the original point, I would like to see a back-up keeper to help stabilize the GK position and to give Ches some competition (as Fabianski may be doing now).

  12. OMGArsenal says:

    Hate to rubbish his sincere effort but this is mostly a whiner’s rehash of disinformation and half-truths, as well as unsubstantiated personal opinion on the author’s part. While some of the questions are valid, the answers are far from the simplistic get rid of the deadwood, bring in superstars solution the author proposes. As was amply shown against Bayern, at the Alianz Arena, AFC have the team to beat anyone….but not the belief that they can whenever they want. Most unbiased observers would agree that Arsenal’s second half performances, had they been for the entire game, would have us right up with United, challenging for the title this season. If we are good enough in the 2nd half, how can we be a rubbish team overall. There is no simple answer to that conundrum other than to say that we , as fans , have one unique role to play and that is to support the team and Wenger equally faithfully home and away…the negative criticism and divisive polemics that too many so-called fans engage in, needs to cease.

  13. oz gunner says:

    @ HH

    what’s the basis behind that opinion? Yes they are athletes but they are humans not robots. In a perfect world athletes would probably suggest a fans negative reaction does not impact their performance, however, ask all those athletes who have reacted both violently and emotionally to fan/s (see eboue). Some athletes have the mental toughness others don’t. To say a crowd of people cheering you or booing you doesn’t have an effect is pretty naive, it can decide whether or not you kick in to another gear and give that little bit more. I played Australian Rules competitively for all throughout my youth (including in front of a few thousand when i was 17) and even a small number of people could lift the spirits and boost adrenaline.

    Older experienced heads…perhaps. Young players like Szcz…I highly doubt.
    Confidence is everything in sport

  14. Highbury Harmony says:

    Oz,

    I’m not saying that players will not react to fans, but that it largely does not have an effect on the outcome of a game. I’ve read several dissertation and professional research studies on the effects of ambience and the outcome of a game. At most, it gives players minimal adrenaline that lasts for a couple minutes in a game.

    The only thing that the crowd’s reaction can truly affect is a referee’s decisions in tight games. The studies show that referees are more subject to be influenced by fans and player reactions, than athletes.

    Playing in plenty of semi professional games myself in hockey for years (level before the NHL, which is pro) and I can attest to these studies that reveal that ambience does not have anything more than a miniscule effect on performance. You notice the crowd for the first shift or two of the game and naturally phase them out after that. It’s naive to believe that fans’ reactions change the outcome at a game.

  15. Highbury Harmony says:

    Also, misguided fans saying that Szczesny should be replaced online in blogs and free-speech forums will have absolutely 0 effect on how he performs/feels. If it did, he’d have no place being a professional athlete.

  16. oz gunner says:

    I’m not saying blogs would, but fans and media (albeit lowly forms who would do anything for a story) who jump on the bandwagon and shape others opinions. That could carry over to those who attend games. Get enough opinions shaped and you start a chant or a large population sighing at games.

    It depends on a lot of factors though doesn’t it. It’s not a thing that could be proven. A crowd gets under the skin of a player. The pressure starts to build because of a close game. Player gets tackled hard and reacts (anger originated from crowd reactions and compounded by the tackle) leaving him red carded and sent off. Could that not affect a game?Countless things could happen. Yes it may not shape the game but it could impact. It’s all well and good saying studies this and studies that but it’s a variable that would be very hard to quantify. You can’t really measure the human spirit, emotion etc.

    Hockey is frantic though, it’s go go go. Noise from the skates on ice, stick on hockey puck, closer to the coach and team mates. I’d imagine would all shape how well you could hear the crowd.

  17. oz gunner says:

    Also who is to say that couple of minutes of extra adrenaline wasn’t enough to slot that penalty in the 93min of a football game?! Crowd cheering could ease pressure, away crowd jeering could compound the pressure.

  18. Highbury Harmony says:

    Oz,

    The studies were actually measured across various sports and several outliers were taken into consideration. For the large part, these studies showed that crowd noise had a slightly larger correlation in indoor sports actually, mainly because of the echo off the walls and low ceilings, not crowd capacities etc.

    The studies were more done to see whether or not fan cheering/chanting could alter the outcome of a game, not so much individual player performance. A player’s confidence is shattered or affected much earlier than the game itself though. The cheering or jeering can certainly reinforce their belief or disbelief in themselves though.

    Basically, the point I wanted to get across was that “getting behind a player”, whether it be online or during live games has a minimal effect on determining the outcome of a player’s performance, mainly because they are professional athletes who have learned to cope and deal with pressure and adversity. However, you do raise a good point that every individual is different and that studies can never be generalized across entire populations.

  19. Milo says:

    I know that English is probably not the author’s first language, or only spoken language, but he should try to spell our most important players’ name correctly…it’s Wilshere, NOT Wilshire…

    I don’t think that just getting rid of the “deadwood” and bringing in stars, is the answer, or the only solution to our problems…I mean who would have thought that the squad put out by Wenger against Bayern, could get a result like that??? Not many. It just proves that we DO have good players and if we could harness the right mentality and level of confidence before each and every match, that we WOULD do better than we have done. Next season will only tell us if this squad of players has learned from their mistakes or not…I don’t see Wenger going out and spending a whole bunch of cash, to be honest. He will bring in one or two for the first team, and in all honesty, we shouldn’t need much more than that to truly compete!!! We have the quality, the rest all lies within the cranium.

  20. 'mair says:

    Hello all and good morning! Thanks much for the kind words and for enjoying the post and for the very interesting comments… some insightful points have been raised and I’m glad the post has given rise to good discussion.

    Highbury Harmony,
    Completely agree with your comments. For me a game changer is someone who takes BIG games by the scruff of the neck and either puts in a performance that other payers can be inspired with (Tony Adams, Gerrard, Viera, Vidic) or puts in an attacking performance leading to goals being scored or scoring them himself (RVP, Pires, Cesc, Henry, Bergkamp). Of course, this is also someone who will not dissapear during big games, but be there leading from the front. In the current squad, the only player I feel who can stamp his authority without question on any game is Wilshire. Agree with you on the fact that he is ways to go in the final third, and if he adds more experience and goals to his game he’ll be proper world class. Hopefully next season will see more from him.

    Santi is a delight, but I feel that he’s perhaps not playing in the hole close to the striker as often as he’d like too for him to have that ability to change big/tight games. One of the reasons for this is the collective defending that our midfield needs to be trying to do since we don’t have a proper DM.

    So yes, agree with you on the DM front as well. But the problem for me then is how much faith does Wenger keep in Diaby. Can Diaby stay fit? And can Diaby become the DM he’s supposed to be? If so do we really need to buy a DM… I’d still say yes because even if Diaby does become everything and more, it’s always good to have a solid back up (which would be Diaby!).

    Also interesting point on Munich taking the foot off the gas. I wondered how they’d have played if we had drawn the first leg 2-2 or even if we had lost it 3-2. Would have been interesting for sure… my nagging feeling remained that the intensity from them would have right up there and it would have been tougher for us. Having said that, we were missing Wilshire and Poldi, and we were very solid defensively. Thought Kos and BFG had great games. So still, a good solid win.

    TotalArsenal,
    I think the above partially answers your question on the game changers as well. 🙂 I’m reffering to players to can stamp their authority and their personality on games.

    With respect to the Munich game, I do agree that the 2-0 win was a team win and without game changers, but when we were 2-0 down in the first leg I struggled to see who would change the game for us. Of course, a bit of it also has to do with lack of finishing quality (as HH also mentions) so hopefully a world class finisher can help us in that regards.

    Giroud is terrific in terms of team play and commitment, but I think he is still developing his finishing and also his role in the team.

    But the future is what we look towards with hope 🙂

    And yes, gave my Man U friend a taste of his own medicine post the RM loss! Who needs RVP, we’ve got Giroud!

    AFC,
    I agree that it is a team game, but within every team there are players who can influence the team’s performance as well.

    Bobby Sure and William,
    Good points!

    OZ Gunner,
    Ah you are so right on Fabianski and Sczesny. I still think Scez is the better keeper who needs to be developed more, but he somehow lacks presence. Fabianski was very good with the communication yesterday, and you could see there was presecne. The defensive organization has been abysmal for most of the season, but was good on the night which definitely helped Fabianski. An organized back 4 can make any keeper look good (Manone at the start of the season). A good GK someone like a Reina can definitely do wonders for Scez’s growth.

    Also, on the crowd factor, my two cents would be when a player is struggling and wanting to do well, then the crowd turning against him can be a factor that can possibly bring a low for him and vice versa. I think in Scez’s case he’s been quite confident, and needed a breather to take stock of his own development and performance.

    OMGArsenal,
    Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  21. 'mair says:

    Milo,
    Point taken. Jack Wilshere FTW!

  22. Milo says:

    Yeah, I’m sorry I had to point that out…I probably shouldn’t have…

    I agree that we do need more big match players…some of our current crop COULD evolve, in to some though…like Podolski or Giroud…they have never been before, BUT sometimes if the situation demands that someone step up and be counted on, they can do that…doing it consistently though is another matter.

    On Isco, I’ll eat my computer if he comes to us!!!…I mean he’ll most likely go to City or stay in Spain, or maybe even go to Chelsea, although they seem to have a surplus of players in his position…anyway, I’d be very surprised if he came here. Even Gotze would be a pleasant surprise!!!

  23. bobby says:

    I agree szczesny better than fabianski and keep the faith with wenger.

  24. oz gunner says:

    @ HH

    Without doubt you are correct in your point and I’m not trying to dispute that. I just don’t think it can be measured fairly unless both sides are 100% equal (obviously something that could never be replicated). Chuck out 22 evenly skilled robots with equal mental capacities then we are talking. I think athletes can handle opposition taunts (heck I never gave a sh*t, if anything it spurs you on), but it’s the jeers from your own supporters that would be a dagger to your heart.

    Is all this just your way to shift your guilt after ruining Giroud’s run of good form? 🙂
    If you even get a knock on the door and get belted over the head with le pénis you’ll know he blames you and that he reads BK. 🙂

  25. oz gunner says:

    @ mair

    Surely a judgement call needs to be made on Diaby. We can’t sit here season after season wondering if he is going to stay fit, or keep him just in case he develops into a picture of good health like RVP has done. His injuries are only slowing down the development of coquelin, yennaris, etc.

    I’m sorry it’s unfortunate for Diaby. It’s sad he hasn’t got the best out of his career but it’s not all bad…he’s made a pretty penny doing it! To the Arsenal glue factory with ye!

  26. Gerry says:

    Excellent blog, Mair. And, as shown by the follow ups? You have got people’s attention?

    I love it when OZ and Double H go head to head with their entrenched positions … you kept it civil this time gents, ha ha

    Many other good point raised and answered. For my part, which for me will be brief as time is pressing today, is that the ‘super star’ thing if flawed is there isn’t a back up of solid, hard working team mates who make up for what they may lack in tricks and flicks in sheer effort and commitment to the cause? They cannot all be ‘The Man’, but at the same time they need to have quality both in ability and a team ethic that means they work for the team and not just for themselves?

    I touched on this yesterday with regards to transfers. If you bring in egos for big money you could easily fragment the team on the field, especially if the ego fails to deliver? Then it becomes destructive? A player like Cavani looks like he combines both, which is why fans would get excited if he were a new signing. But there is a danger that even he could make the rest in such awe of him that everything revolves around him. That I think is what happened with RVP last season, and why the new signings like Giroud and Podolski might have found it harder to gel than if a lesser player had left? Arsene, I am sure, will disappoint many in the TW because he will be looking beyond the hype and expectation. However, he may still make the right choices as regards the team as a whole. Be patient on that one?

    The Bayern game, at last, showed when even our ‘non-world class’ players put in a ‘team’ effort they can change expectations? However, this Swansea game is, as they say in tennis, you are only as good as your next point. We have to reflect that same effort and commitment to get the win. That in turn will create a sense of belief in the ‘team’ that rotation will happen without destroying what has been built. That way, there is no reason why we should fear anyone in our remaining games, and then see where that take us regards next season, and attracting positive signings?

    Repeat, excellent blog.

  27. Red Arse says:

    Hi ‘mair,

    Congratulations on a first class debut Post on BK.

    You have taken a well worn subject of discussion and imparted a refreshing, well written and interesting précis of the gradual decline in both player expectations and player quality at Arsenal.

    Hats off to you, my friend! 😀

  28. oz gunner says:

    @ Gerry

    Always civil with HH. He’s a stubborn sod, but so am I. Wouldn’t dream of saying anything bad about/to him.

    Bang on about the team thing.

  29. oz gunner says:

    @ ‘Mair

    Anyone following your post has a night’MAIR on their hands!

    Exit…stage left!

  30. TotalArsenal says:

    Morning fellow fine Gooners 🙂

    Really good comments overnight and in the morning.

    HH, there is not much I agree with in your comment to me, but hey we all have different opinions and that is just fine. 🙂

    Catch you guys later.

  31. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers ‘Mair, I can see now what you mean with game changers. In that respect, we have Jack – who has all the potential – Santi (proved it again against Munich: he was the best of all 22 players), and Podolski; but he would have to play centrally to be a game changer. I would argue that Koscielny has potential for it, and so do Gibbs and Jenkinson, and this is not just based on their incredible performances against Bayern on Wednesday.

    We need more of those sort of players. A beast of a DM is my first priority, a good CB my second, and another experienced striker and goal keeper my third and fourth. They don’t have to be all game changers, but at least very good at what they do. However, either the CB or the DM, or ideally both, need to join Jack, Santi and Lucas as one of the potential game changers.

    Re the world class striker scenario: I doubt Arsene will buy one.

    I reckon Arsene does not want to rely on one ‘world class’ striker anymore, but wants all the attackers to score. If he wanted to replicate last year’s scenario he would have replaced VanJ with Podolski, who is also a very good finisher; and if the team would work for him like they did last year for VanJ, he would have scored a similar number of goals as VanJ has now/ last season imo.

    But we are spreading the goals between the attackers and that makes sense. Getting the attackers to gel and get the best out of themselves is still a work in progress, and I do believe they will get better. I can see us getting an experienced striker like David Vila or Benzema this summer, but not a £30-40m top striker like Cavani.

    In the big games, we have shown time and time again that we can play really well, create chances and score. We need to both be tigther at the back, as we have given games away time and again, and/or finish our chances better. If we do the former, we will at least draw our games with the top teams, if we do the former and the latter we will start winning most of our top encounters.

    With Santi and Jack we have two massive drivers in the team; let’s add a bit of defensive/midfield steel and become sharper up-front, either through getting the forwards to gel better and/or add a bit of extra quality; But it is unlikely going to be a ready made world class striker imo. Not only because Arsenal don’t spend that sort of money on one player, but also because we don’t to be too dependent on that player.

  32. alexgunners says:

    Umair,

    Loved the post and what you have written is what ‘Most’ of us have been thinking.
    We don’t have any real game changers. Wilshere is as close as we have to a world class player, but i dont believe he is a game changer. He can weave around defensive players and perform some magic, it seems to go to waste most of the times. He simply does not Great players around him to make his hard work count. That is why i say that he is not a game changer YET. It must be frustrating to him as he sees his hard work leading to next to nothing. He will change games when people around him can make it count and put some goals away. Wilshere is not a goal scorer but he certainly will be a legend for us.

    We do need some new blood coming in and I fear that will only happen if we qualify for the CL.

    @OZ
    Completely agree. We need to make a decision on Diaby ASAP. How much longer are we going to pay for him to be rehabilitated and not use that money for someone who will make a difference to the team.

    Yes, it’s another fruitless year but we are not too far from being competitive.

  33. oz gunner says:

    @ TA

    Benzema would be a great buy. I remember Arsene saying that he rated him highly whilst at Lyon and that he would do his best to bring him in once he left lyon (something of that nature) but unfortunately a year later Real Madrid came calling.
    Here’s hoping huh!

  34. TotalArsenal says:

    Yes Oz, that’s true. RM had a cheque book of £300m to spend on players that summer and Benzema was one of them.

    The rumours re Villa were very strong at the last TW, and I can see why Arsene would want to add the finished product who has a couple of years left, so the likes of Theo and Giroud have time to come fully good. Benzema would also be a great option, and so was Huntelaar.

    But Arsene is just as likely to get Jovetic; once again not a prolific goal scorer, but somebody who will contribute to the overall quality of our football and help us move upwards/forwards? (I am starting to do a ‘Gerry’ by putting more and more question marks at the end of my sentences hahahaha 🙂 )

  35. alexgunners says:

    VCC,

    Here are my predictions for the UMF

    Man$hitty (A)
    QPR (A)
    LPool (A)
    THE ARSENAL (A)
    ManUre (H)

  36. TotalArsenal says:

    CL Draw:

    Malaga v Borussia Dortmund

    Real Madrid v Galatasaray

    Paris St-Germain v Barcelona

    Bayern Munich v Juventus

  37. Gerry says:

    TA – a ‘?’ is not a bad thing, as it means you are open to a counter point of view. And of course, ‘doing a Gerry’ is not a bad thing either .. ha ha

  38. Gerry says:

    Bit tied up with the racing today, but I’ll follow the threads … Saturday is nearly upon us ..??

  39. TotalArsenal says:

    Haha Gerry – doing a merry Gerry is definitely a good thing 🙂

    Indeed kick-off in 27 hours. Bring on the Jacks!

  40. AFC says:

    HI TotalArsenal, I have sent you two email. Can you tell me when you have received them or if you have received them.

  41. TotalArsenal says:

    AFC. I have just emailed you back. All received well, although that picture…… 😈 hahaha 😛

  42. AFC says:

    TotalArsenal, that picture just had to be put into the article. When writing the article thought of who we think is the biggest traitor. To our club in recent times. Found the perfect guy and the perfect picture to illustrate this.

  43. TotalArsenal says:

    AFC, definitely bulls-eye on that one and it does fit your article really well. 🙂

  44. VCC says:

    Cheers Alex. Your odds are = 35-1.

    Friday afternoon guys. Please submit your UMF selections. Entries to come from =

    Rocky
    Total
    Oz
    Herb
    HH
    PPP

  45. Highbury Harmony says:

    In response to the Benzema suggestions, he is close to a world-class talent, just never been given the full opportunity to prove it in Maureen’s stupid rotation policy.

    Also, Maureen’s bad at developing players and likes to force them into specific roles, where I see Benzema flourishing under more of a free role, where his creativity is encouraged. His combination of sublime skill and pace would terrorize the PL and he could be the perfect number 10 (can play as the line striker too).

    He’d be much better than anything we currently have up front, so fingers crossed Real is looking to sell this summer!

  46. TotalArsenal says:

    Hi HH,

    I wish we would play Podolski in the middle for the rest of the season, as I think he would do very well there.

    Benzema next season? Yes please! 🙂

  47. Highbury Harmony says:

    TA,

    I don’t agree with most of what you say in regards to RVP, but it’s ok to have differing opinions. At least most of the world and the experts agree that RVP is world-class and one of the best strikers in the world.

    He wasn’t clutch against RM this year or AC last year, but not clutch in the PL this year? Goals against all the top 6 clubs in Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham this year would like to disagree with you.

    Also, let’s not forgot who scored to get us past BD in the round of 16. Bitterness and resentment are bad colours, don’t let it cloud your judgement on a great talent, who just happened to be a treacherous traitor.

  48. TotalArsenal says:

    HH 🙂

    If you must I will say it again. When it really matters, RvP is not good enough. Good PL striker, yes, excellent even. But in Europe and international level not good enough. If you would analyse his performances against Milan and RM, and indeed his international matches, you will see he is not top quality. He misses composure and is not cool-blooded enough. And he definitely is not a game changer when it really matters at top level. The PL is not top top level; definitely not this season.

    Yes I despise him, but I say this as I see it, not as I feel it. But I must admit I take great pleasure to see him prove my point hahaha 🙂

  49. 'mair says:

    oz gunner,
    I agree. A final call has to be taken on Diaby and I thought this had been taken back in Jan when supposedly we were after a good DM, but then Diaby got back into form just around the time the window shut. I’d love it if we get a good solid DM and keep Diaby in the back up. If he’s good enough, he can challenge for the place and make it his own, but there has to be solid competition.

    Gerry,
    Thank you 🙂 and you raise a very interesting debate. Having world class players, game changers can tend to shift the balance of the team in a way that the team becomes over reliant on the said player… as was the case with RVP. So the tricky thing is the balance. I think even if we get someone like Villa, a good consistent finisher, and Wilshere develops furhter, we’ll have a couple of solid world beaters to go with a good commtted squad.

    Red Arse,
    Thank you 🙂 Glad I got to share my thoughts and talk to fellow Gooners!

    oz gunner,
    Got a good laugh out of that one! Good one! 😀

    TotalArsenal,
    Good point… I agree, the over reliance bit was probably on Arsene’s mind this season, and that’s why he’s consistently reiterated that the burden has to be shared. My only qualm is that it works if there is consistency in finishing chances. In a tight game, you might get one or two chances, and you have to put those in to get a result. Kinda like the Bayern game, when in the first half we had two chances and took one of those. Unfortunately that hasn’t been happening as often as it should be… I think a Benzema or a Villa will go a LONG way in improving that situation and also taking some of the preasure off Giroud who I think will develop into a top player for us. And yes, in Santi and Jack, we’ve got brilliant talent. Let’s hope it all fits in 🙂

    alexgunners,
    Thank you! 🙂 Fair point on Jack, but hopefully has he gets more experience and starts to add goals to his arsenal, he can be a bigger game changer for us. We need to remember this is his second full season in a way!

  50. Highbury Harmony says:

    Hi TA,

    I see no reason to not play Poldi down the middle for the rest of the year, but unfortuantely AW is a stubborn man and will not play him there. He has some infatuation with forcing Giroud there and clearly, it is not working. At this point, I really feel as though he wants to prove his point that OG was not a mistake purchase and that we are all wrong in assuming he’s only a good and not great striker.

    However, Poldi was never a clinical finisher himself. He’s certainly a more accomplished one and a good finisher in his own right, but he’s never topped 20 goals in a single year (or Bundesliga season) ever. I believe he would fit better in our set-up as the lone striker, but we’d lose the aerial ability that AW seems to be dead set on forcing (is that becoming a pattern hahaha?). Poldi’s skill and pace along the ground are superior to OG’s and hopefully we wouldn’t see him blasting shots from 40 yards away on a counter attack when we have the opposition outnumbered :).

  51. TotalArsenal says:

    HH, agreed the Pod has not got a prolific scoring record. I just think he has all the qualities to become a 20+goals PL striker for us. But I reckon Arsene just does not want to become one-dimensional again and in the process not score enough goals (under RvP we never got above 1.95 goals per game on average).

  52. Highbury Harmony says:

    TA, fair enough but I wouldn’t let his performances with the Dutch National team affect your judgement too much. I hope you’re not still sour over losing to Spain in the 2010 WC :). I think there are just too many egos on that squad and the play is very selfish and individual for any striker to succeed right now. The team generally just implodes on their own and RVP and the whole team certainly flopped in the Euros last year.

    However, I’d go as far to say that if Ronaldo and Messi can flop with their respective National Teams, it can happen to just about anyone. The lack of familiarity, chemistry and the demand for immediate results from a team of individuals forced together seems to be a recipe for disaster. Spain has been so dominant because they play a collective team game, in addition to having plenty of world-class playmakers (who happen to mostly all play for Barca too hahaha) and a clinical finisher of their own up front in Villa (though he was not their main striker in the Euros last year).

  53. Highbury Harmony says:

    Oz @ 7:04,

    LOL! Imagine I was trying to retrace my steps on Giroud to make myself feel better about ruining his run of great form. He was not even on my mind when I posted those comments in regards to fans’ words affecting player performance. Hahaha now all I can picture is him signing onto BK and reading my comments!

    However, I’m quite confident that while Giroud is a good striker who offers more than just goals, there is and always will be a discrepancy between a good and great finisher. For example, Benzena is a GREAT striker, not necessarily world-class yet, but he has all the technical and physical abilities to reach that level. I just don’t see that when I watch Giroud play, there’s too many holes in his game (pace, decision making, composure, ball control, playing with his back to goal, ability to hold up the play, chasing the game, etc.) to make me believe otherwise. However, you do have a point that we’ll have to wait and see because we can never truly predict how a player’s career will turn out!

  54. Red Arse says:

    This might cheer up the Glicster!! 🙂

    Though don’t hold your breath, buddy.

    — “According to the Daily Star, Arsenal have made the £30m valued Malaga youngster Isco their main summer transfer target.

    It is thought that boss Arsene Wenger could have a potential £70million budget at his disposal following the results of the club’s financial health, and the need for quality to be added to the squad.

    The Gunners have gone eight seasons without a trophy and it seems as though the Arsenal board will look to put an end to it with Isco top of the list to help change the club’s fortunes.

    Isco has been in lightning form this season for Malaga, which has seen the 20-year-old receive his first call up to the already competitive Spanish national side in February against Uruguay, and is one of the hottest young prospects about.

    He scored Malaga’s first goal in the club’s crucial 2-0 victory over FC Porto on Wednesday night to qualify for the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

    Arsenal are likely to be one of several clubs in the running for the young star and could face serious competition from other sides across the continent.

    The North London side have previously dealt with the Andalusian outfit after securing the services of left-back Nacho Monreal during the January transfer window so this could give them an advantage.”

    The Star is Hill Woods favourite mouthpiece, I think, so maybe he has tipped them off. 🙂

  55. VCC says:

    Hi Red Arse,

    If this is true and Arsenal sign Isco…….GLiC will probably get a season ticket, if he can acquire a day release from Laincestern mental home.

  56. Highbury Harmony says:

    Just because Glic has the biggest infatuation/man crush/disturbing fetish/demented wet dreams about Isco, does not mean he’d be the only one cheered up by that news Redders ;).

    Let’s not forget the handsome and intelligent gentleman that introduced Glic and many others here on BK to Isco :).

  57. Red Arse says:

    Hi Fellers, 🙂

    HH, “Let’s not forget the handsome and intelligent gentleman that introduced Glic and many others here on BK to Isco”, — are you talking about VeeCeeCee, again.:D

  58. VCC says:

    Redders/HH…….. 😉

  59. Highbury Harmony says:

    Redders,

    I said handsome and intelligent, not old, wise and senile ;).

    I’ll post another instalment of Isco up soon here for you all the drool over. I still remember the first time I introduced Isco on here and all the pedros that were instantly pitched after viewing the video hahaha!

  60. VCC says:

    Careful HH, I’m delicate you know, and not so much of the wise 🙂 At least I can predict 5 teams results 😉

  61. glic says:

    Now listen here Vaginadactyl`s, there`s only one handsome, intelligent bastard in goonerdom and that`s yours trully !.

    Thanks for the Isco info Redders, but I had already “come” (hahaha) across it in the Daily Star today !. It was quite a surprise as I normally buy the paper for the pictures of the girls who fantasise about me !. I had to roll the paper up to cover my embarrassment of the excitement !.
    I shall put the link on site, but carefull lads, it`s stronger than a XXXL dose of viagra, so no bringing up link if your picking your kids up from school !. hahaha

    http://www.dailystar.co.uk/football/view/303689/

    The missus has just called dinner, I shall have to try and calm down, I dont want to raise the dining table off the floor, it will make her suspiceous !. hahaha

    PS
    Knock out maiden post Umair. I would like to comment on it , but the blood has rushed from my head to my bleep , oh the excitement !. hahaha

  62. glic says:

    Hahaha Redders buys the Daily Star and not The Daily Nuclear Dictionary !.
    No, I dont believe you found it on ” Arsenal Newsnow ” !. hahaha

  63. glic says:

    I reckon Redders is a regular writer to ” Just Jane “, the Daily Star agony aunt !.

    Dear Jane.

    I was at my local Library in the “P” aisle, when I caught the eye of a stunning half naked women in her early twenty`s. I was already aroused by the news of Arsenal`s interest in Isco when we “accidently” brushed into each other !. She appologised and said, ” I`m looking for a book under……Penis “, I nervously laughed and said, ” It`s just up from the book I`m looking for…… Penicillin ! “. We now have regular dangerous ” P ” aisle sex, the excitement is over ruling my fear of getting caught , what shall I do ?.

    Jane says.

    Just a few books along from Penicillin and Penis is ….Penitence….if this doesn`t help, then a few more books and there is……Penitentiary……a place where you`ll need more than Penicillin !.

  64. bobby says:

    Just off topic guys, i was wondering why is it when we are 1-0 or 2-1 up with 5 or 10 minutes to go, Wenger always pulls off an attacker or midielder and sticks a defender on ?

  65. glic says:

    Spend the money Stan !.

  66. Milo says:

    This is off topic, but does anyone else find the Szczesny situation a bit funny??? I mean he is still pretty young, and I wouldn’t be so quick to get rid of him, if I was Wenger…although he knows a lot more than I do. I think getting an experienced back-up option in would be great, but I don’t know if I’d be buying a keeper to replace him…That would probably upset him and make him lose confidence, like what happened to Fabianski, when we brought Szczesny in to replace him. Then we would have another talented but flawed keeper on the sidelines until he either decides that he’s had enough, or that he will keep fighting for his place and win it back. Maybe that is what Szczesny needs??? For some reason, I don’t think so. He is very close to being a top class goalkeeper, if he works on his issues. I wouldn’t give up on him yet, and I find all this speculation about Wenger looking to replace him, a bit distressing and frankly, annoying.

  67. VCC says:

    Sorry to be a pain guys, but I have a busy day tomorrow. If it’s possible can you get your selections in asap.

    UMF 1 is waiting for =

    Total
    PPP
    Herb
    Rocky
    Oz
    HH

  68. VCC says:

    Just found out tomorrows game is live at my local. Appy dayz.

  69. oz gunner says:

    My UMF’S

    City
    Villa vs QPR draw
    Pool
    Arsenal
    Totts vs Fulham draw

  70. TotalArsenal says:

    New Post – New Post! 🙂

  71. Pingback: On #Arsenal | 'mair

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