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

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

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    Kevsky 🙂

    Thank you for a fantastic post down memory lane re Arsenal’s former African stars and it is also good to see how many young players could be part of our near-future squad.

    More in a bit.

  2. retsub1 says:

    Top article Kev.

    It must have then a lot of digging to find all the information. My favourites are Kolo Touré who wanted to be everywhere on the pitch at the same time when he arrived and Emmanuel Ebouie. ebouie wasn’t the most talented player, but he had a deep affection for Arsenal. He gave his all and was nearly always the last player to leave the pitch at the end.

  3. jw1 says:

    Superb Kev!
    I really enjoy pieces on the club with historical contexts.

    jw1

  4. allezkev says:

    Cheers fellas and thanks for the edit Total.

    Retsub, I met Kolo outside Highbury when he was in his pomp.
    He was just leaving the ground in his car and stopped to chat to fans, he was a really nice, humble guy, who probably would have chatted to the fans for ages, but his agent, who was sitting beside him and looked bored, urged him to get a move on and that was that.

    I’ll see what I can think up from a historical context for future ideas JW, glad you enjoyed it.

  5. njk84sg says:

    We need midfielders from that region due to their strong mentality and never say die attitude. Our defense is just spoiled from the start, and Elneny did all he could to protect the defense.

    The legenda, except for one, who burn his bridges entirely, sums up the team as a whole when they played. Full of passion and they played for the shirt. If the current team do not have this mentality, except for one or two, they can just stay at home.

  6. Pony Eye says:

    Kev, you are the boss. The past the present and the future beautifully wrapped into a piece.

    How I yearn for the energy and never say die attitude of Toure and Lauren in our today’s team.
    Adebayo, labeled by Wenger as lion hearted unfortunately so divisive a personality.
    The affable Ebue who made the Queen laugh when the team visited Buckingham Palace.
    Gervinho whom Harzard credits with teaching him how to make his runs.
    And many others, much thanks Kev, but my last word I reserve for King Kanu.

    Aptly described by Kev as a supreme technician Kanu was one of the loveliest players you ever saw. It appeared that he operated in a different time dimension : he was deceptively slow ; he seemed to have all the time in the world ; you know that somehow time has slowed down for him and all else are mesmerized. That was his magic. He had time to look, to see, to think and to do whatever he wanted to do all in a split second. He sold Arsenal to Africa. King Kanu!

  7. TotalArsenal says:

    Kev

    Once again, love the post. Just want to pick out a few players:

    Kanu: great player with telescopic legs and great use of his body – a fortress on the pitch. I knew him from his time at Ajax so was very excited when he joined the other red and white club (after going to dark side at Inter for a short period – just like another ex-Ajax, ex-Arsenal legend…), where he became a very effective ‘2nd’ striker. PE, Eris, why did he score so few goals for the Nigerian national team (12?) in best part of 20 years??

    Lauren: yes great player and rock hard.

    Adebayor: real shame he did not work out. Just imagine Diaby fully fit and Adebayor as a loyal team player and how different could things have worked out for the club? I reckon the Togolese was one of the best allround attackers we could have had: great use of his physique and athleticism, strong in the air, good technique and very good positioning. He had it all but threw it away. Having said that, he seems to be playing really well in Turkey now with a very healthy goal per game return.

    Gervinho: really liked him and I wished we had let Oxlade go instead of him. Missed a bit of confidence and with that some big and important chances, but he was very strong on the ball and allowed other attackers to get into dangerous positions whilst he was attacking the oppositions’ defences.

    Song: loved him – had everything you needed in a midfielder – a bit like Elneny now. Real shame Wenger let him go. Another one who struggled to fit into the team/ lack of self-awareness/ realisation how good he had it at Arsenal?

  8. allezkev says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it PE, for me Adebayor remains the biggest disappointment, he had everything from a technical perspective, what he lacked was between his ears.
    He could and should have been a huge player for us alongside RVP, but he threw it all away for short term gain. He probably wouldn’t see it that way but hey, that’s life eh?

  9. allezkev says:

    Thanks Total, I really enjoyed the research and writing of the piece, being a bit of an amateur historian it’s not a chore.

    Looking to the future, I’ve read some great things about Amanechi, he’s up there with Smith-Rowe in terms of potential.

    Both Balogun and Saka have that raw talent that if carefully coached could turn them into a duo of dangerous, strong, incisive and pacey forwards, able to play across the front line.

    Periodically our academy finds and develops a group of top talents, who come into the squad en masse. I’ve seen the guys who won the Double in 1970-71, all a lot older than me at the time I hasten to add. Then the Brady bunch in the late 1970’s and finally the last group of Adams and Rocky etc in the late 1980’s. Since then it been a bit fallow with just the odd player coming through.

    But I know the signs and I’m more optimistic about this group than I have been for a long long time. And maybe, with financial constraints at the club, they’re coming through at just the right time?

  10. allezkev says:

    It also helps when you have a good coach in charge so a special mention for Kwame Ampadu and the work he’s done in carefully developing and encouraging this group of talents.

  11. jw1 says:

    Fascinating stuff Kev, honestly. Well-written too (hat-tip to TA as well).
    If you enjoy it? The historical and research aspects? You should keep on with it. These kinds of pieces are a departure from the opinionated flotsam and jetsam found in abundance on most Arsenal sites.

    Like a prospector panning for gems, I keep at it.
    Every once in awhile finding something worth the time.
    This was worth it. Would very much enjoy more. 🙂

    jw1

  12. henrychan says:

    Hi all.. Great post Kev..
    But not so many African players cross in my mind.. Hehehe..

    Kanu is my man.. A tall and speedy striker.. Love him so much.. I think he is the best Nigerian football ever.. Hehehe..
    Wish him luck with the election.. And he will be the new president of Nigeria in 2019.. As George Weah did..

    Adebayor was supposed to be the next Kanu.. But we know how his story end.. Hehehe..

    Gervinho was my favorite also.. A bit sad about him can’t made it in our team..

    Alex Song.. For me he was our best DM in last 10 years.. After we lost Vieira.. Hehehe..

  13. 17highburyterrace says:

    Just catching up after several days on the run…

    Kev, this is really fine stuff, please keep ’em coming… When I saw Eboue–and his support from Wenger–in 2006, boom, I was in love with Arsenal… It was very much the opposite of the ‘ard, long-ball football I thought the English game was all about… Technical and athletic superiority first, mixed in with a not a small helping of fun… Adebayor was also at the club and trying to fill in for the goals we were missing from Henry while he was on a long-term injury that season… Kolo was a regular as well, trying to anchor things at the back (and both he and Eboue were stalwarts from the choking-est team in Int’l football–the Elephants of Cote d’ivoire ). Those two, with help from Mad Jens in goal and Senderos and Clichy making up the rest of the back line, means that from the very start of my time watching the club, I’ve never seen an Arsenal team that seemed like it wasn’t going to leak goals… 😀 😦

    Which leads me to the previous thread and the game at Newcastle which I actually got up to watch (w/o coffee!!)… I had a bunch of thoughts on that, but mostly they come up to: no MF = trouble. Or maybe, that Iwobi’s staccato style is so very different from Ozil’s smooth running and constant scanning of the pitch and that it’s tough on the whole team when he’s not in there to run the show. Even if the stats total favors us, it all seemed quite panicky w/o real build up towards goal, even if the individuals did well to bring balls under control and get them on to the next fellow. Elneny makes the most space and time for himself and Willock did well enough thrown into the fray, I thought. Iwobi is (very) good too, just not an orchestrator for the attack–yet… Bringing on a third CF (Welbeck) was a hopeful idea but made it (the lack of productive MF play) even worse. Further back, Chambers, IMO, did pretty well at RB (or didn’t hide, at least) but maybe we’re just spoiled by how consistently fine Bellerin’s play really is. especially at the attacking and possession stuff, of course. He’s not so bad at the other end, either. Opposition attackers get by him when he defends, but only to the side he’s giving…which helps the CBs to know what’s coming (which is what our friend, Mustafi, seems mystified about in recent matches)… We can point out the pluses and minuses of individual play (as I’m doing and which is the whole point of player ratings–nothing wrong with them, of course…) but in the end it’s a team game and, IMO, you take out the whole front of our MF (I include the injured Mkhi in that group) and we’re down to hit and hope..which worked for that super-nice goal of ours (I don’t think we should slate Lacazette too much when he can do THAT…) Their goals were quality finishes as well, though, again, all three had nothing in the way of real MF play that led to them. To me, that means that we were out-lucked as much as out-played…

    So, there you go… Back into hiding for me… Cheers again, A-Kev for the excellent post…

  14. Goonereris says:

    Incredibly detailed stuff, Kev. The result of some painstaking research, no doubt; thoroughly enjoyed how you have gone from way back in the past (had forgotten about Le Roux, to be honest) to the recent past, present and had time for a look into the future. My guess is FIFA is going to be legislating over an increasing number of cases of Nationality disputes as co7ntries of origins start to stake a claim on their kids born abroad. Of course, this applies across clubs and not just Arsenal.

    As I can only comfortably speak only from the Kanu era Arsenal, I thought Kolo and Lauren were astute picks by Wenger and they didn’t disappoint. Finding a more committed pair of defenders in one team is becoming a rarity and with Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, it was no surprise our defending was assured. Eboue was skillful and fleet footed on the flanks, very affable but was capable of some flaky moments.

    I also liked Somg and really hoped he’d have stayed but maybe, it’s best you allow players leave when they start to feel bigger than their breaches as it would seem Song became when Barcelona enquired. Adebayor? Enough has been said already, I guess. His is a story of what might have been.

    I share TA’s sentiments about Gervinho. He never hid, was strong on the ball and was always a threat, but lacked composure which came from the “love” he was feeling from the fans, who never gave him much of a chance. The fact he went on to make some waves in the Italian league with Roma was testament as to how good he could have become, with a bit more trust. He had some good moments at the club, to be fair and had his fan base.

    What can one say about the one they called “King” Kanu? Beguiling, sharp footballing mind (I feel he will make a great coach, if he chooses to try his hands at that), deceptively quick on his feet, languid in style, yet deadly with the ball. An absolute magician on the pitch who could have 80 minutes of normal play and in a flash, create magical moments for his side. I still get goose bumps from watching/relieving his hat-trick at Chelsea. I guess you meant to write Ed de Goey (Chelsea keeper), when you referred to his dummy of “Le Beouf”. Only Kanu could have conjured that move and executed it. Then, he had the temerity to aim for the top corner with two defenders taking position on the goal line (I guess he didn’t have any options as the whole team had retreated, to defend the ‘draw’, when the Chelsea right back -Le Saux? – latched on to the misplaced pass to Kanu, which Kanu somehow reclaimed). Amazing scenes at the away end.

    I thought Chuks Aneke and Chuba Akpom would have progressed into the first team, on their performance levels at the academy, but these things don’t always work out as one can see with Chelsea who, despite dominating the youth cups and league in the last 7 years, can’t point to one graduate who’s made it into their first team.

  15. Goonereris says:

    TA, to your question on Kanu, my immediate response would be the fact that he was not always considered a striker for Nigeria unless we were chasing a game and tweaked things. He was the creative forward in our team, along with Austin Okocha. If you asked Nigerians, most will be surprised to know he’s got so few goals for Nigeria. When he did score though, they were usually important goals which got the fans crazy. Take his 2 goal performance at the Atlanta ‘96 Olympics, to eliminate Brazil with many superstars in their team and at a time it looked like they had Nigeria beaten. Game was at 3-2 (3-1, at some point) to the Brazilians and they were controlling it as the game approached the dying moments when Kanu made it 3-3 and it went into extra time for the “golden goal”. As soon as the rules were explained (next goal wins it), we all knew Nigeria will win that game because Kanu seemed to be a kind of lucky charm for the team. He did get that all important goal and Nigeria went on to win the finals against Argentina.

    Another factor may be the lack of organization at the FA for much of the period Kanu played for Nigeria. We didn’t play too many friendly games; had to boycott the 1996 Cup of nations in South Africa for political reasons and received a 3 years ban from CAF competitions, which affected the number of games players could notch up stats from.

  16. jw1 says:

    More good stuff Eris– thanks! 🙂

    As a fan, I was never invested much with Gervinho. Saw the skill he brought. Though he always seemed to infuriate with impossible misses on goal. In my day, in basketball there was a phrase: ‘the hoop has a lid on it’ — indicating a team taking good shots but clanging everything. That was Gervinho at Arsenal from my recollection. Was pleased to catch reports of him doing well at Roma.

    Though he and Adebayor seemed ever only to be the ones who left– that harbored ill-will toward the club or AW– that were on my radar anyway.

    Song was one of my favorites. I did understand him leaving. Felt at the time if he were joined with more talented teammates– he could become a great player. But for the injuries, perhaps?

    jw1

  17. Goonereris says:

    …hopefully, PE has a different perspective to that question. 😜

  18. TotalArsenal says:

    Great background info re Kanu, Eris. Many thanks. I did not remember Nigeria’s elimination of Brazil but that sounds like a great game. And what a role for King Kanu.

  19. Pony Eye says:

    TA it was at the Atlanta Olympics 1996 whère Nigeria beat Brazil 4-3 in the semi final and went on to win the gold with a 3-1 win over Argentina. Nigeria’s golden generation with players like Yekini (golden boot Portugal) Kanu (later Arsenal) Jay Jay (later Hull) Omokachi (Everton), Babayaro (Chelsea), Emenalo who later became Abramovich Director of football and so on.

  20. Pony Eye says:

    Eris, I guess you’ve answered TA’s question. He scored 12 goals from 87 appearances playing as an attacking MF for Nigeria.

  21. Pony Eye says:

    @ Wikipedia “Kanu has won a UEFA Champions League medal, a UEFA Cup medal, three FA Cup Winners Medals and two African Player of the Year awards amongst others. He is also one of few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal.[7] He made the third-most substitute appearances in Premier League history, appearing from the bench 118 times.[8] He is regarded as one of the best players in African football history[9]”.

    I add that he started his trophy haul by winning the Under 17 World Cup with Nigeria in 1993.

  22. Goonereris says:

    PE, just a few corrections. Nigeria beat Argentina 3-2 to win gold, not 3-1. Also, Yekini and Emenalo weren’t on that squad. It also had the likes of Taribo West, Uche Okechukwu, Victor Ikpeba, Emmanuel Amuneke and Wilson Oruma. Great lads.

    TA, if you recall Kanu at Ajax, you must remember Finidi George and Tijani Babangida as well, then. Finidi was in the CL winning side, with Kanu while Tijani joined in the late 90s, by which time Kanu had left Ajax.

  23. Pony Eye says:

    Eris, thanks on the currection on the Olympic goal 3-2 win over Argentina that I put down as 3-1.

    On the golden generation, I wasn’t refering specificsĺy to the Olympic gold team of 1996. Remember the National team was rated the 5th top team sequel to the 1994 World Cup and scared the hell out of Maradonas Argentia and Baggio Italy. The nineties was the golden age.

  24. allezkev says:

    HenryC, thanks amigo, is that correct, that Kanu has gone into politics?
    Good luck to him then….

    17tino, glad you enjoyed it, I will think of some other subjects with a historical feel, maybe I’ll do a bit over the summer when it’s quiet, World Cup notwithstanding…

  25. allezkev says:

    Yes Eris, the nationality issue is something that FIFA should address, but tbh it should be left to the player to decide, as the player will know in his heart who he would rather represent and his decision should be respected.

    I think that Iwobi was born in Nigeria, so his decision was obviously the land of his birth.

    Some players switch allegiances depending on circumstances, why wait for England to get their arse in gear if the another country can offer you sustained, quality international football?

    What surprises me is why there isn’t even more talented players coming directly from Africa?
    The raw talent must be there, the kids love football, where’s the next Jay Jay or Kanu or Weah?

  26. njk84sg says:

    Iwobi needs a playmaker to assist him. He is like his uncle Jay Jay, but he is too raw to carry the team on his shoulders.

    We have let many raw talents flow through the door, so they have to be more refined to be able to play in the highest level. And we need a master tactician to make that happen. Someone that can complement Wenger, as his tactics are getting too one-sided and teams that defend well can kill us on the counter due to our lack of steel in defense.

    Bring back Vieira to be our next manager?

  27. 17highburyterrace says:

    Kev (or others) what about the AFCON?… When we have true first teamers (Iwobi isn’t quite there yet, I don’t thing…) going off for 6 weeks for that tournament is a problem, though I can’t remember any seasons where I felt like it was a critical factor in our falling off the pace. Perhaps before my time there were some memorable AFCON absences?…

    To me, the tournament might be a reason you see fewer African Int’l players in England. It might be different if the entire league were given a X-mas break (instead of extra “festive” fixtures)… I wonder… That said, there seem to be fewer Africans (at top teams) in the continental leagues as well… Hmmmm….

  28. jw1 says:

    test

  29. jw1 says:

    About ‘bringing back Viera’ JK?
    Without a ‘fountain-of-youth, so Viera might play again?
    It’s not always a given that a one-time player’s strength translates to his forte as a manager.

    Our basketball coach here in Houston, Mike D’Antoni played his pro career in Italy, at Milan in the ’80s. A storied defender, the fans there serenaded him as ‘The Gentleman Thief’ (a Sherlock Holmes character)– for his quick hands, and ability to steal the ball.

    From an article in Business Insider:
    “A forgotten NBA player, an Italian legend, a twice-failed NBA coach, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, and an offensive innovator — all of these things describe D’Antoni.”

    D’Antoni coached some very good offensive teams. But his teams were under-sized– and his offensive-minded players weren’t so good on defense (sound familiar?).

    Now, here in Houston, D’Antoni has a team that is high-scoring– but also plays good defense. The club has a very good chance of being NBA Champions this summer.

    Hard to predicate how a former player will adapt style-wise as a manager in any sport. It’s been, I’ve found, a truism in sports– that great players usually aren’t the best coaches/managers. Mostly, that they cannot relate to those less-talented than they were; usually expecting more than a player can deliver. Intolerant when they can’t/don’t.

    jw1

  30. Admir says:

    Excellent piece, Kev.

    If there was a player I really, really liked, it was Kanu. My Man United mate always teased me about how ugly our team was and pointed out Kanu as the main culprit (which was a bit rich from someone who had Schmeichel and Yorke).

    Kanu is a rare player in the world (I can’t think of anyone else, actually) that was invincible with two teams. First time I saw him play, he was playing for unstoppable force that was Van Gaal’s Ajax 1994-95. Ajax were destroying Hajduk Split in the second leg of Champions League QF and Kanu scored the opener (Frank de Boer scored brace to complete a 3-0 rout). Kanu wasn’t the only Nigerian that impressed in that Ajax side – Finidi George, a superb winger who had a spell at Betis, was one of the most dangerous players in that brutal force that no pre-Bosman team could have dealt with.

    I thought his career would be over after his heart problems popped out when he was at Inter but he joined Arsenal in 1999 and gave our attack (if I recall well, it was the worst scoring and best defending side in Wenger-era) a much needed refreshment so that we could take the title race with the best Man United side ever down to the wire. We were one point short of retaining the title and lost that FA Cup semifinal to United.

    As for other Africans at Arsenal, I have a fond memory of Eboue. For all his flaws, I thought he was immense during our Champions League run 2005-06 in the absence of Lauren. Speaking of Lauren, he was a real rock and the main reason why Freddie Ljungberg could play with such freedom. As Freddie once told, he knew that Lauren would be there to kick the shit out anyone who fouls him. 🙂 I’m not sure that we have a single combo of that kind in today’s Arsenal. If opponents decide to kick you, there is nobody (apart from Seo and Jack) who will run into the fight.

  31. jw1 says:

    Though Admir? I’ll give Holding points for facing down Diego Costa. Bullying the bully.

    Sensing Holding has mettle, and will develop the ability to marshall a defense. The right partner, a Koscielny-in-his-prime, would be a fine fit.

    jw1

  32. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers PE, sounds like a great time for Nigeria in terms of football starts and achievements. 🙂

    Eris,

    I know Babangida well…. from my home team Roda JC. He was a fans’ favourite, always smiling, super fast and deadly in front of goal. He came to Kerkrade when he was only 17 or so and eventually broke through. I will never forget his wonderful smile.

  33. Goonereris says:

    Admir, we did lose Kolo and Eboue to the AFCON on occasion and I recall we missed Kolo, in particular, on one of those occasions (2006 ?). But the problem appeared more pronounced at other clubs than at ours, to be fair. The defensive performance (9 -or was it 10 ?- clean sheets in a row) during that 05/06 champions league run was so good, the contrast with recent Arsenal sides is inexplicable.

    It pleases me to know you are also one who likes to see teammates retaliate perceived fouling of another; Wenger’s sides in the early days had a few of such players: Vieira, Petit, Palour, Lauren, Cole, Keown, etc. we’re bound to avenge their smaller teammates. That nasty streak is missing in the recent sides. It does help team spirit. The other day, the crowd rose to celebrate Sead Kolasinac for confronting a Southampton’s Stephen, who tried to rough up Jack. He was so quick to confront him I was worried he would lash out. We need a bit more of that……

  34. Goonereris says:

    TA, that’s Tijani Babaginda, alright. His speed was his key attribute. Had a good time in the Eredivisie too. Now a coach (or, at least a coaching staff) of a clubside in Nigeria’s professional league.

  35. TotalArsenal says:

    Eris, there was also Sunday Oliseh. I really thought he would become big but I lost track of him once he left Ajax. What happened to him?

  36. jw1 says:

    Off-topic, but a great story:
    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/apr/18/atlanta-subway-soccer-fields-marta-streets?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=271874&subid=19721106&CMP=GT_US_collection

    Went to high-school in Atlanta, Georgia USA in the 1970s. Was first team keeper for my high school club my senior year. Playing ‘soccer’ in the US in the ’70s was an uncommon thing — especially in the deep-South.

    The geography of Atlanta as a city is one of rolling hills and winding roads as the terrain north of the area turns mountainous (Appalachians). Getting around town at any distance requires a vehicle. Buses and light-rail are mostly for those who can’t afford one– and in general inconvenient.

    This story, considering what I knew of the city long ago– is amazing to me.

    jw1

  37. 17highburyterrace says:

    I’m gonna take up JW’s off-topic stuff… As it leads (for me) into basketball, which seems like a spot where he and I might have some banter over the next 6 or 8 weeks… 😉

    The article is worth a read, esp. if you’re not so familiar with white-flight, or the great migration to the suburbs that followed from desegregation of schools, urban renewal and other social phenomena in the States starting in the mid 50s… Now, in many cities, there’s a different problem with wealthier (read: whiter) people moving back to the cities, raising housing costs and pushing out minority communities that their parents (and grandparents) left behind in earlier times…

    Anyhow, back in my city days, basketball was a great place for the races to mingle with the 5-a-side nature of the game being pretty ideal for pick-up games. It was a lot of fun for me and one of the things I missed the most when I moved to mountains. There is basketball up here but all the good athletes are out on the snow (or trails), leaving a bunch of big (white) guys who can’t run well in the thin air. This means (expensive) league play with (paid) refs–and a running clock, even for free throws–so, not much of a role for little fellows like me who prefer the running game. Ah well…

    Regarding former players becoming managers… It’s the mental and technical skills they can teach, in that order, which seem most essential. Given the small ball and 3-point shooting (highly mental…) emphasis in basketball these days, it appears that Steve Kerr is esp. well placed to be a strong coach… More winkys…

    Seems a similar thing in football… Sorry JK, Dennis Bergkamp (or Mikel Arteta) would be my choice over Vieira at Arsenal…

  38. jw1 says:

    HT–
    There is so, so much to your post that I’d like to expound about– but can’t at present.
    Will do so when time permits!

    jw1

  39. Goonereris says:

    TA, Sunday Oliseh did go on to play for Juventus, after Ajax. He then joined the Bundesliga winning Borussia Dortmund side of the early 2000s, which also got to the final of that UEFA Champions league, same season they won the Bundesliga. He was coach of the Nigerian National team for about a year (resigned) after a not so bad run of results.

    Recently, he was fired from his last job as manager of Fortuna Sittard (hope I spelt that correctly) in the Belgian league early this year. Irreconcilable differences…..

  40. allezkev says:

    17tino, regarding the ACoN, if, as I think we should in the UK, introduce a midseason break, then I think the issue of losing players for 6 weeks won’t be as problematic.
    Tbh a club as big and as wealthy as Arsenal should actually have a squad strong enough to deal with it anyway.

  41. allezkev says:

    Thanks Admir….

    Let’s hope that Chelsea can beat Burnley today as that situation and playing a qualifier for next seasons UEFA Cup is coming uncomfortably close to reality….

  42. jw1 says:

    HT–
    Regarding the white-flight phenomenon and Atlanta? More pronounced for several reasons.
    The 63-mile highway that rings the city proper is I-285:
    https://www.google.com/maps/vt/data=I27iMnUIs4-AhdHzXiZAe4cdcRvE88OX4pu1cW2oDJFdoCQTMb_Ro3o7L863YYmBwkPuR1_Ue9RHMw8ObmzguYGQAD9qfOLbZGcZPOfiFct7OyrYT9no4Y62pb1U17YecZukljRYMbBOnMnlUKumE00momwcsQI8qMMFjS9jKQ-GN01OANy5d4_LmI_LKetMe9aksps5wxgFKoKPCkOZ0UJDswV6g-3kypkvycB6plyNMU13

    Inside that ring there are some enclaves of very expensive (nee, very white), neighborhoods of upper-class homes. But those are located just outside the county lines of North Fulton County and South Fulton County. Those counties and the city of Atlanta are predominantly populated by African-Americans, and represented by AA officials for over 30 years. The outlying counties north of I-285 are practically all-white, middle- and upper-middle class residentially. I lived just outside and north of I-285 while in high school in the 70’s. This is a visual expression of the divide– red = white; blue = black:

    I’ve no reservations expressing that racism is at the heart of those divisions.

    The article’s inner-city soccer/football aspect is intriguing to me. As, in the past 15 years there have been an influx of Latinos, mostly Mexican and Mexican-Americans to the Southeastern US. This might actually be a way to not only bring AA youth into football– but create a way for the 15% Latino population to commingle athletically.

    jw1

  43. jw1 says:

    My apologies about links instead of images folks.

    jw1

  44. njk84sg says:

    Jw1, agreed that Vieira might not be a good coach. However, you will see that he is doing decently at Citeh’s sister club at New York.

    I understand where you are coming from, 17ht, and if both wants to come back I am all for it.

    We need someone that can continue the traditional Arsenal play. Moo man does not cut it for me. The current Chavs manager is a good manager with brilliant technical and tactical mind. And our board is one of the best at giving what the manager needs, so he will be good here.

  45. henrychan says:

    Hi all..
    No Kev.. Let’s hope Chelsea vs Burnley is Draw.. So each of them lose the point.. He still want to be in the fifth.. Hehehe..

  46. TotalArsenal says:

    Eris

    Of course Oliseh was at Fortuna Sittard recently (you spelled it correctly!); I had forgotten about it somehow. Fortuna are not in the Belgian league but in the Dutch ‘second’ league, very close to promotion to the top league. Funnily enough, Fortuna Sittard are Roda JC’s arch-rival and I have been to many games between them in the eighties and early nineties. I believe Sunday did a very decent job there; I will check with my dad, who is still in contact with some FS supporters, what happened to Oliseh in the end.

  47. allezkev says:

    HenryC, yep, I see your point, but I’m more worried about dropping to 7th rather than finishing 5th, which is highly unlikely imo…

  48. Goonereris says:

    Ah, my bad, TA. Not sure why I thought it was in the Belgian league. 😃 Maybe, something to do with Oliseh’s last club being Belgian, before his retirement.

    It will be nice to get a view on his leaving the club (even though he was deemed to be doing well) from a neutral. The club said one thing and he’s said another.

  49. Goonereris says:

    Yep, Kev. Rather stay 6th than drop to 7th….behind Burnley. And that’s whether we win the Europa league or not. It won’t be the end of the world (both Chelsea and United have suffered similar fate recently) but we must not finish behind Burnley.

  50. allezkev says:

    Can you imagine Eris, having to play qualifiers for the UEFACup and losing all that dough from pre-season friendlies, I’m sure that I could take it…. 😉

  51. Goonereris says:

    Arsène Wenger on the recent low attendance at the Emirates:
    It’s not a big concern because our crowd is very solid at the moment,” Wenger said. “We have played on some special days, we don’t go for the league [title].

    “I believe we have a very faithful crowd, very faithful fans, who will always be there and support the club. When you look at the renewal numbers for next season, they are absolutely outstanding.

    “We are sold out in every single game so I don’t know where the problem is at the moment. If you feel like next season it will not be the case, then we’ll have to face it. But I believe that, if you look at our numbers and how much people want to renew tickets for next season, I don’t believe that we have a major problem.

    “We have a major problem at the moment because we’re not in a position to win the league. That’s our biggest problem. The biggest problem is not the number of fans who are behind the team.”

    Arsène is, without doubt, one of the more intelligent managers about, with the sagacity to diffuse an otherwise tense exchange that had a potential for an inflammatory response, which is what the media would love. One of the reasons I only have love and respect for the man and will want him to leave on his own terms, in spite of the noise out there. Contrast that with responses of a few of the others.
    I understand if this isn’t a popular view, though.

  52. jw1 says:

    Seconded Eris.
    From my rounds today at other Arsenal sites– responses are mostly bombastic, then parroted.

    In other sports, I’ve seen long-tenured head coaches (managers) unceremoniously axed, whether due to egotism of the owners, or over-sensitivity to loud, hyper-critical minorities of the fanbase. In each case it’s most affected the longtime fans and supporters of a team– who had stood by the coach (and team). In one case there was instant success due to the change for 5 years– then mediocrity and subsequent fan apathy for the last 20 years. In the other case, the owner reacted in knee-jerk fashion to a very vocal segment of the fans, fired the had coach of 25 years. Those fans got their wish. And were likely satisfied until sometime during the next season. That team has been mediocre to poor since 1995 to present. The head coach has since expanded his name among the city and state as a successful brand in businesses, flourishing charities and community-building aspects. That owner? Long-since sold the team and slinked off.

    I’ve also seen it done right, with honor, for everyone involved to enjoy and celebrate. The team continued its’ traditions, maintained its’ character, and to a great degree, level of success over the next 25 years.

    In the first two cases? Whether immediate success followed– or mediocrity was the best that could be achieved? Both teams have a majority of their fanbase that no longer view the franchise favorably.

    There’s a right way to do this.
    And those who are the most vociferous and ardent for change? Will get over it.

    jw1

  53. Goonereris says:

    …sagacity to defuse..****

  54. Goonereris says:

    Hmmm. Arsenal is sure on Atletico’s mind. Lost 3-0 to Real Sociedad (a team with potential, if you ask me) tonight. The Chavs are doing okay against Burnley as well, leading 1-2, with about 8 minutes to go.

    Atletico will have a much longer rest period than we will, that’s for sure. Another pointer to the FA that sometimes, their fixture scheduling doesn’t help English sides that are in Europe.

  55. Goonereris says:

    Agree with you there too, jw1! Very well said.

  56. Goonereris says:

    I take that back. Madrid does appear to have a fixture on Sunday. A result of playing catch up after their winter break.

  57. TotalArsenal says:

    Good morning FFGs 🙂

    Those Wenger quotes reflect little doubt or humility and I wonder whether he ever meaningfully asks himself the question: can I really still get this team back to title contenders (or is this all just about me)? We are so far off at the moment and tactically well below our competitors. The club exists because of the supporters and to ignore the fact that so many do no longer turn up – which I believe is the right way of ‘demonstrating’ your discontent – is a sign of arrogance. I also reckon he is bluffing re season tickets sales for next season. TBC.

  58. TotalArsenal says:

    The question for the weekend is: are we going to take the Hammers game serious or is everything focussed on the all-important Atletico game? A win would do morale good but for that the lads have to put in a performance and Wenger will have to select quite a few of his stars, which could lead to injuries… A B-team would probably lose against a WH team fighting for survival and that would not be good for those remaining supporters and morale in general. So what will it be?

  59. Pony Eye says:

    BREAKING NEWS!!!

    WENGER TO LEAVE AT END OF SEASON.

    http://c.newsnow.co.uk/A/934209643?-19387:844

  60. Pony Eye says:

    Am far from saying a hurrah, rather it feels like a bereavement. I hope on Sunday the Emirate would be packed full and its voice express its gratitude to the man who hoisted our flag at the peak of the mountain.

    All hands on deck to crown his glory with the Europa Cup and a trip back to the CL

  61. Pony Eye says:

    😪😪😪😪

  62. Goonereris says:

    Yep, PE. Just inundated with that bit of breaking news too. End of a great era, if you ask me.

    All I asked was he must be allowed to leave on his own terms; not sacked with ignominy, so this is okay. He’s done well, even if we’ve struggled lately. Hopefully, the boys play a blinder to win every game till the end of the season.

  63. Goonereris says:

    TA, my point is it is okay to “bluff”, with a European semi-final in the horizon. It isn’t a case of delusion or anything like its being portrayed to be. Fact is season tickets sold out but attendance is another thing entirely. So, in a way, it hasn’t hurt the club financially and I believe Wenger himself will know that if he doesn’t have the trust of the fans, it may be time to walk at the end of the season. Trouble is do you allow the media build up a crisis situation scenario at the club, or defuse that narrative and announce your departure, hopefully to unite the fans again?

  64. jw1 says:

    Eris–
    You must have had the vision– just hours in advance of the announcement. Your perceptive abilities quite accurate.

    Regarding accuracy? Recall several months back in a back and forth with TA– I predicted that this would be the case– though the timing of the announcement was to be the week prior to the final PL home match versus Burnley on 5/5 (now on 5/6). The news to be made public likely on April 27th.

    I was simply one week off.

    I’d looked at the situation through a marketing and public relations lens– and decided (as Eris eloquently stated upthread) that for– “him to leave on his own terms”? Right about now would be the time.

    I’d stated several times that Arsene Wenger had stayed in his position– to steer the ship through this last season of tumult. That he had done the club (and we fans) a huge favor in doing so. Behind the scenes he has undoubtedly assisted the new decision-making team to ready the ship for its’ next voyage.

    As ever, he did so with class.

    jw1

  65. Goonereris says:

    It was coming, with all the fans unrest, and it is merely the end of an era, indeed. One of highs (2 Doubles) and lows, great things (going a whole season -a run that ended after 49 games – unbeaten), and the not so great. From A whole load of “sausages”, he got the fans used to Caviar and the fans just wanted more and more….
    I only hope fans fill the stadium till the end of the season to just celebrate this great man!

    It always comes to an end one day.

  66. jw1 says:

    (Guardian) A stroll with Amy Lawrence:
    https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/apr/20/arsene-wenger-arsenal-miracle-worker-lost-his-touch

    Though wondering if it was written sometime back (like the Queen’s obit?). 🙂

    jw1

  67. Goonereris says:

    Nice read….at times. 👍🏽

  68. jw1 says:

    I think I get your drift Eris about the Guardian read.
    But, being honest with ourselves? Part of it is accepting the man’s imperfections.

    In the mostly-general post I wrote upthread about the 3 long-term head coaches? One was the head coach of the team I’ve followed all my life. Oddly, he too, early in his career– led his team to the only unbeaten season in NFL history. He spent much of the next 20 years trying to repeat the alchemy. Coming close but never again winning a title.

    He was the head coach who was forced out due to zealotry of loud fans and disrespectful media. That team hasn’t had so much a sniff of the NFL Super Bowl for the last 22 years.

    This is the beginning– of “doing it the right way”.

    jw1

  69. njk84sg says:

    Felt a surge of feelings when Wenger announced his retirement. From Arsenal.

    Maybe it is also because of the tasks i had on hand at work is finally getting almost done, that i had some time to sit down and eelax. And saw the news about Wenger.

    More about the times when Vieira and Dennis got everything going and proud to be wearing the shirt. Those mentality were not found by the team in the past few years when we struggled with consistency.

    We are now at a point where it is a touch and go situation. Will the next manager be a long term figure like Wenger or a short term success story like Guardiola who likes to jump clubs to aim higher?

    17ht and TA and a few others had voiced their views here about this and the conclusion i had then was that we are likely to become manu** when SAF retired. We will become that when we do not have a proper succession plan in place. Or we will become another Barca who choose managers who have the Barca spirit. I am more inclined to thinking that we will become another Barca, and continue the Total Football that Wenger envisioned.

    What say you guys?

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