What Does 2008/09 Hold For Arsenal?

So the transfer activity is about to reach a frenzy. Well, by Arsenal’s summer 2008 standards anyway. Justin Hoyte is Middlesbrough-bound, denying he and Gavin the opportunity to become a rare case of brothers appearing in the same first team at Arsenal. Apparently, Gareth Southgate believes that Jeremie Aliadiere will help ‘lure’ the unsuspecting Justin to his doom, sorry, the Riverside. And Arsene has told us that there will be a new signing before the second leg against FC Twente. Whether that pans out or not remains to be seen; there have been many false dawns in recent years. Strangely though, there is not much speculation as to whom that might be although there have been so many players linked to the club by the media that it would not be surprising if one of them is able to say, ‘Scoop! The Daily Dogs Doodah’s first told you of this move on May 28th!‘.

The Premier League season kicks off tomorrow with the lunchtime start against West Brom. How this season will pan out is subject to wide degree of opinions and a huge gulf in the placings. Generally, if you believe the pre-season previews by ‘The Great and the Good‘, we are destined to finish a distant fourth which is a curious way of looking at how the table finished last time around. Quite what Liverpool have done to merit such belief that they will improve beyond recognition from last time around is unknown but to be honest, that the team are being written off is useful for alieviating the media pressure. It does not stop the weight of expectation from supporters and that is something of a novelty for this squad.

There are reasons for optimism and some dark clouds that hang overhead in respect of the playing staff. Individually, they are without doubt a talented bunch and as a team, they are streets ahead of everyone else in terms of collective technique. The mental strength they need to win the title was amply demonstrated last season and those lessons need to be learned. If they are, then they have a solid foundation upon which to build.

For a successful title challenge to emerge this season, there are several crucial aspects that need to fall into place. The first is putting an end to the seemingly limitless number of injuries suffered. The omens are not good as this week has shown. ‘Wear and tear’ is taking a heavy toll and the first ball of the domestic season has not been kicked in anger yet. That said, the next month should see all those out now bar Eduardo return and there are several key individuals to come into the side. However, should more injuries strike in the early stages of the campaign and an uneasy pattern will start to emerge.

Considering the knowledge within the club, this situation is strange and cannot all be down to luck; the frequency of absences is simply too high. The reality is that Arsene and his staff probably know the cause and are working to address it but a solution has to be found quickly, especially as the opening three months of the season contain a heavily laden fixture list with club and international matches coming, on average, every three days.

Of equal importance is ensuring that all of the team defend, starting with the front pairing. Too many soft goals were conceded last term, lapses in concentration brutally punished. Toure and Gallas are in the top ten of central defenders plying their trade in the Premier League yet they lacked application of those skills. The former was a shadow of his former self on returning from Ghana in the winter. Whether he was playing with injuries or if it was psychological is unknown. Whatever happened, those ‘cobwebs’ have to be swept from his mind. Gallas meanwhile is under scrutiny for his captaincy. Until St Andrews, there was no question about this; he needs to regain those levels as well as marshalling his colleagues to reintroduce the meanness that has always accompanied a title win.

Much is made of their lack of height but neither are short. They have to utilise their skills in reading the game to win battles against bigger men; the truly great centre-backs are able to do this successfully, compensating for their physical deficiencies in such situations. Perhaps part of the problem was that they felt there was no competition for their spots in the starting line-up and this led to some complacency. Now there is a challenge. Song performed well considering it was his introduction to the Premier League as a centre back; Djourou looks as though he will be able to cope with that position also. This might help the first choice pairing to focus if they know Arsene has options.

Concentration manifests itself most identifiably in clean sheets but it is also a crucial aspect of winning ‘ugly’. The team did that in Arnhem but now must transfer that to the domestic arenas. At times, they will have to win by not playing well. It is something that Emmanuel Adebayor talks of post-Twente. That will be helped if chances are taken in matches seemingly heading for a draw. These scenarios might be helped with a fit Robin van Persie or goals from the midfield. Cesc rectified that deficiency somewhat last season; others did not. Nasri and Walcott have to realise they are not just providers, taking a leaf from Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg who balanced those two areas of their games well.

In terms of players, the squad has two identified areas of weakness. Identified by the manager, not just the supporters – central defence and midfield. The former can be solved internally. The latter, I do not think can be filled by existing players. For once the accusation of inexperience is correct. Some believe Denilson can do the job, I do not think this season he is ready for the whole campaign. Diaby is once more apparently on a cycle of injuries whilst Song and Djourou may fill the gap, the suspicion is that Arsene is bringing in a more defensively-minded midfielder. Fluidity of positional play is a strong point of the current squad but even with this, there has to be someone who protects the back four, allowing Cesc to flourish in playmaking.

Comparisons to last season’s starting squad do not fall as unfavourably as some would believe. If Arsene addresses the hole left by Gilberto and Flamini, then this season’s line-up is stronger than at this stage in 2007 simply because they have a year’s more experience; they have the knowledge of what failure feels like. Hleb has been replaced by Nasri, time will tell if he is as effective. If he scores then the likelihood is that he will be. It would be nice if Sagna, Clichy, Toure and Gallas chipped in with a dozen goals between them this season; last time around they managed seven, Gallas leading the way with four.

It is the other forwards though who must also share the burden. Bendtner managed 5 in 27 appearances (albeit 20 as sub); Walcott 4 in 25 (14 as sub). Double those tallies and the reliance upon Adebayor diminishes. Last season was almost freakish in losing the number of forwards to injury. RvP has returned and needs to stay fit. If he does that, he can be a key member as his 7 goals in 15 appearances proves.

With everything though, fitness is the key factor. Without it, a title win will be extremely difficult, a realistic challenge hard enough in those circumstances. The squad can do it; last season they lost just 7 out of their 58 games, a tally only bettered in 2003/04. Winning 36 of the 58 was only bettered in 2001/02 and 2003/04. The basis is there, it just has to be built on. Can they win the title? Yes. Will they? Possibly, if the pieces fall into place but that element of luck applies to all of the top four.

’til Tomorrow.

Posted on August 15, 2008, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 70 Comments.

  1. Alex Ice Cream

    Hi Yogi,

    Agreed that an element of luck is always needed but maybe Arsenal need more of it in terms of injuries. I can’t think of too many players who have had as many injuries as Titanium Tom, Diaby and Van Pieces. Tom and RVP are also key players and their fitness or lack of it could be decisive. Injuries are our biggest problem at the moment. AW says he’s going to buy a player – CM I presume so this will help bulk-up the squad.

    On the other hand injuries do mean that there may be opportunities for others to do “a Flamini” Djourou looked good v FC20. maybe he can be the “beast at the back” that we need.

  2. 2009 will see finances at Arsenal improving as a result of the completion of Highbury. This will augur well in terms of the club ability to compete with the best and biggest, without a benefactor

  3. Senderos hater!

  4. Your blog is so frustrating!

    I absolutely mean no disrespect as I enjoy reading it, but your writing is too elaborate and wordy.

    You could probably cut it down by about 1/4 by going on a good sub-editing course.

  5. The injury thing worries me. I would like one of those so-called journalists to ask Arsene this.

  6. Verbose FunkyMunkey, the word you were looking for is verbose.

  7. Thanks, I’m always looking to expand my vocabulary.

  8. FunkyMunkey- nobody is forcing you to read this. If you don’t like “elaborate and wordy” pieces you’re better off with goal.com or tribalfootball. That way you can concentrate all the BS and get no analysis!

    As far as injuries go, its tricky. Wenger as much as admitted that injuries to Senderos, Cesc and Toure were his fault because he pushed them a little too hard- they didn’t get the chance to warm up for the season with the rest of the team.

    Apart from that though, its almost impossible to prepare for, although its clear that we can’t have plans for the season assuming Rosicky and Diaby will be fit all year. As you say YW one more defensive minded player would do it for me, preferably a starter. Song is showing that he is an excellent DM at the Olympics… I wonder if that is Wenger’s master plan?

  9. I’m a copywriter – which many may find hard to believe from the standard of my English – and I like the blog. I think it’s cool that the language is so dense. It’s actually refreshing to read a blog this elaborate. So much effort goes in to the writing and as a reader you have to commit to it.

    If you do ever feel like you want to simplify, Yogi, look no further than:

    http://www.george-orwell.org/Politics_and_the_English_Language/0.html

    or

    Click to access Technical%20writing_ver_4_1.pdf

    As I say, I think it’s fine as it is. ACLF offers a real alternative.

  10. Like I said, Gooner G, I really enjoy reading this blog: intelligent commentary, good analysis and lots of updates! It could just benefit from being slightly less verbose!

    It’d take very little to make it truly excellent.

  11. FunkyMunkey

    Pls don’t act like a teacher appraising a student’s essay. Contrary to your opinions, I find YW to be rather efficient in expressing his thoughts in a most readable manner.

  12. Well, Luke, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it.

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while now and it’s just something that frusrates me – this is the comments section and that was my comment. I’ve worked as a journalist and copywriter and I had exactly that problem. In fact, YW’s writing style reminds me of my own, that’s why I felt the need to comment.

    Sorry if it came across as patronising.

  13. YW (not that you need telling) do not change a thing.

    Everyone enjoys it how it is here, so “if it aint broke, dont fix it”.

    I’m sure most of us agree on here….

    People?

  14. My comment from earlier’s still awaiting moderation, but it really doesn’t need to see the light of day because it’s not all that important.

    Anyway, if the injury problems that we’ve suffered over the last two seasons are down to ill fortune instead of some systematic failing in the treatment and rehab departments, then I’m confident for our chances this season because our luck has simply got to change.

    A bit of beef in the midfield – a real ball winner – and we’ll be on our way.

  15. Malaysiangunner

    YW good read

    This depth in squad issue is getting too real. If we truly have depth then AW will not be in a rush to push Toure and Cesc in to action without proper warm up sessions. We are trying to win things as frugally as possible but as we can see it is nigh impossible and we nearly paid for it by nearly losing out in a place in the CL. Which financially will be a disaster. At this juncture not buying one or two more CM and CB will be more case of penny wise pound foolish. It would also be a morale disaster for the players not being able to play CL football and you bet your bottom dollar the next time Barca comes knocking for Cesc you will have no immediate reply of loyalty if we do miss out on the CL.
    I hope we do all that is needed to stay competitive and only after that can we truly say it was bad luck if we still have a rash of injuries on the replacements. Before that we are just taking what i consider unnecessary gamble on our CL and EPL challenges. We should not have to reply on a Denilson/Ramsey midfield combo to face the Manures and the Chel$ki.

    Up The Arse!!!

  16. Great Post Yogi.

    I have been making the point for a while now, that with 1 new, experienced DM we would be in good shape to mount a challenge.

    It won’t be easy, as the playing field is not equal(as we all know!), but like you say, with a minor improvement from last year, and some luck with injuries we could be good to go.

  17. I am always optimistic until the last ball of the season has been kicked. We definitely look lightweight in CM and mayb Wenger will strenghten with another unknown , although Song may play in this position after the Olympics. I think we r owed a huge slice of luck this season becoz the spate of injuries is nothing less than freakish…Alex Ferguson playing with vodoo dolls? Our main weakness’s last season were conceding silly goals, not being able to hold onto leads, having a small squad due to injuries and fatigue.We simply ran out of steam.Throughout the season I can honestly say there was not one team that outplayed us. I am hoping that we do even better.

  18. hahaha…Stop harassing the monkey he was just being honest. So today’s comments will focus on Yogi’s writing style?
    I’m up fot it, better than going through the daily cyclical debates about who we need to get and how bad we are in the middle of the park.
    Anyways who do we need to get because we are really bad in the middle of the park?:)

  19. Flint McCullough

    Yogi’s has his style, which I think most of us appreciate, Funky.

    Pretty much agree with most of the assessment, YW.

    I also agree with Alex IC, although we could do without the names.

    If it were not for the perennial injury situation, I think we could do it, within the existing squad. They have not solved that problem for many years, so there should be no real reason for optimism, on that score.

    We have adaptable players but I have felt that we need to replace Flamini’s strength & energy, & before Hleb went I still thought we could do with another creative player, mainly because of the injuries.

    Nasri is Hleb’s replacement & maybe Vela can be the other creative player.

    We need a big strong, all purpose player, to fight for a place like the rest of them.

    Our season can hinge on the correct player/s coming in.

  20. God, I wish Flamini hadn’t left. Although, we’d probably still be complaining about something!

  21. Peter Storeys Budgie

    We had a blinding season last season yet still finished behind Man Utd and Chelski.we have to be honest and say the squad is now weaker.Flamini has still not been replaced.the centre backs are a real problem as well

    We will finish in the top 4 no problem but the lack of top class signings and lack of a couple of experienced old heads will keep us in 3rd or 4th place

  22. Malaysiagunner
    Having to rush players to be ready for the cl qualifier has nothing to do with depth of squad.
    If we had many more “top” players they would also have been at the Euros and world cup qualifiers.
    The problem is finishing third last season and spain doing so well in the Euros.
    No matter how many players we had they would still have to be rushed

  23. Flint,

    The names are just a joke. I use them with an element of endearment.

    People who know me will vouch for the fact that I give most people their own nicknames and they are (almost!) always used with fondness and a bit of a mickey-taking!

  24. On the subject of names and phrases, I think that

    “beast at the back” and “monster in the middle” can be used in a similar way to “fox in the box” in terms of the players that we need although I hope that is where the similarity ends.

  25. Such a pity Diarra didn’t keep his mouth shut, head down and work hard last season, he’s just the man we need…

    For me, the main issue in the midfield is ‘who’?
    There’s absolutely nobody i can think of who’d feasibly sign for us…
    It’s a bitch of a situation.
    Xabi Alonso might have come but i can’t see Liverpool letting him go with Gerard only 50% fit…
    i’m not overly worried – Flamini is replaceable.

  26. @ rev

    Diarra is NOT the man we need. As far as I’m concerned, his style of play is not Arsenal-type. Arsene Wenger advocates the 2 touch football (as stated in a TV interview by Hleb, and confirmed by those of you that watched the training on Member’s day). Diarra cannot help but run with the ball, even if it is into a crowd of players who will undoubtedly dispossess him. I think his style is simply Diaby Version 2.0, and will not solve problems in AFC

  27. I am sick and tired of people bringing up Diarra, Flamini and Hleb. They wanted to leave and so they left; we cannot expect AW to hang on to them against their will. More importantly, if AW had been so desperate to keep them, he’d have found a way to do so. The only issue I have about them leaving is not “what if we cannot replace them?”, but the disruption of the stability of the remaining team. Lee Dixson predicted that Flamini has made a mistake by leaving. We’ll all see sooner or later, but he is past tense to me.

  28. Hey Funky Monkey

    I’m loving the fact that you claim: “I worked as a journalist and copywriter…” yet hadn’t even heard of the word ‘verbose’ before.

    Brilliant. 🙂

    Good post by Yogi. And well-written. 😉 Although no mention of El Carlos Vela who could have a surprising tally of goals to contribute in his first season.

  29. Kelsey Skirton

    Well, I think we all have some misgivings about what the season has in store, but isn’t it great that we’re only one day away from the start of a new Premiership season!
    I thought Gallas would be stripped of the captaincy and would leave as a consequence, to save face. I’m still not sure that Arsene is right in giving him a second chance.

    I worry that with Hleb gone and no Cesc tomorrow, we won’t have anyone capable of making the killer pass and I am also concerned about the vulnerability in the centre of defence. I see there are a lot who share these fears.

    But, with a new season, hope springs eternal and the beauty is that there is every possibility one or two players will step up to the plate (like Flam last year)and we’ll all be marvelling at the new “find”.

    There are plenty of potential candidates, but the one who excites me the most is Wilshere who, I thought, displayed extraordinary maturity in the Emirates Cup.

    I can’t wait for Elvis’s “The Wonder of You” to start up!

    Thanks, Yogi, for all the blogs and for keeping going through a long and frustrating summer of speculation. Thanks also to all other regular bloggers on this site for the entertainment.

  30. I think the “one midfielder” has always been a smokescreen. I don’t believe Arsene will sign one. I think there is a strong chance we will actually, now that all the speculation has died down, sign Micah Richards for £15m. He would become first-choice centre-back and also offer cover at right-back. The second central midfield slot will become a battle between Denilson, Djourou, Song and Diaby.

  31. Davebluez

    I totally agree about Vela, being left footed I can’t imagine that it is going take to long before he makes that left wing position his own. And with Rosicky eventually coming back taking the right wing position, which will solve the Eboue issue, it could be Theo who finds himself in the cold.

  32. Crafty Bison,
    How will Micah Richards solve our CB problem? He’s very similar to Toure and Gallas. Extremely quick and good in the tackle but his positioning isn’t the best, leaving him to use his pace to correct mistakes. He also isn’t that great in the air.

    Do agree about the smokescreen though- who knows with Wenger but I expect at least one midfielder to come in before September

  33. YW,
    Nice positive feel to the forth-coming season analysis while being balanced.

    Kinda off topic to what everyone is discussing today but in terms looking ahead into the season

    YW, had written about a PlanB a few months with the occasional long ball to break down defensive teams. I’ve been wondering about a similar one (Plan C or PlanB2) to address the same issue as well as providing more cover at the back. (Yes, I do confess that I posses no professional knowledge of the game at any level). Our wide players are not naturally wide players they are all either converted play-makers (Rosicky, Hleb, now Narsi) or attackers (Eduardo, Walcott, Vela?, Wiltord, Reyes) (I don’t want to include Eboue or the aspirational Tarore as they are not the typical wide men AW has used, they seem to be a new line of thought in Wenger’s head – converting full backs into wingers) & hence all seem to regularly cut-in or pull-back rather predictably. Crosses like the one Eboue landed (!!) on Ade’s head this pre-season or in the season before last on Henry’s, seems to be few & far between. Ok, Henry was no great header nor probably is Ade but we do have Bendtner, maybe Vela (Eduardo when he comes back) who could do a lot with crosses like the ones Beckham used to whip in for van Nistelroy. This would help in –

    1) Break down teams which ‘park the bus in front of the goal’ (using a spl man’s words)
    2) In match play – allow the full backs to spend a little more time in defence & hence covering for the respective CBs, instead of their routine overlapping runs & stretching our defence. Over the season – I believe our full backs are one of the most over worked players as compared to the full backs of most other teams & we don’t have quality cover in those areas in case of injuries other than moving the CBs over which has not particularly worked well

    Last year Sagna’s absence was felt & Clichy has been giving us good cover for over a season now (I hope I don’t bring some curse on him by stating this particularly cos of the injury crisis we already have & Clichy’s injury history till 2 season’s ago!!). With Hoyte on his way & possibly the likes of Tarore/Gibbs going on loan as well (no I’ve not heard any news but someone like Tarore who has all the qualities just needs the experience to really challenge/cover Clichy effectively!) as part of the growing-up we don’t need a repeat of last season on either side of the team!

  34. Who is responsible for ‘The Wonder of You’? I find it toe-curling.

  35. Big Al,

    Just released your comment – double links are the killer. Apologies – only just got back online as Mrs YW had a hospital appointment. The Orwell piece is in the ‘writing folder’ and has been for ages. Haven’t had chance to look at the other one but will do later.

    All,

    Thanks for the comments and please don’t have a pop at the Funkster. He was offering an opinion and did so, I thought, constructively. And that is the sort that anyone should welcome.

    Cheers

    YW

  36. Peter Storeys Budgie

    Naija Gunner

    If Diarra is not the man we need can you please explain why Wenger bought him then in the first place

  37. algerian-gooner

    my starting eleven tomorrow

    almunia
    sagna
    gallas
    djourou
    clichy
    denilson
    eboue
    nasri
    vela
    adebayor
    rvp

  38. Happy to oblige, PS Budgie.

    Remember that at the time Diarra was hankering for a move out of Stanford Bridge where he felt unappreciated by Mourinho. Same as in Arsenal, he felt he deserved a starting berth and did not see it feasible anymore in Chelsea. I suspect (judging from the amount he was sold) that Mourinho himself could not be bothered and he he was offloaded on deadline day.
    Of course, prior to this time, Arsene Wenger had denied any interest whatsoever in the player (how many times does he say this??). After his purchase, which I assumed was for the bench, Wenger mentioned that his major reason for buying him was that he came cheap (and could play in a number of roles).
    Let’s face it, Diarra was a Bischoff-esque buy which did not pay off.

    Who was he to bench? Fabregas? Flamini? I think not. In the same team that a “wet behind the ears” Nasri was considered for a place in the midfield, They only found space for Diarra as third choice RB.

    Now tell me why gooners are moaning about losing him????

  39. Malaysiangunner

    JohnN

    I beg to differ. You assume that he will be European and his country would have qualified and played all the way to the finals and won. Well he could be English or African or his country would have been knocked out in the first round in the EC.

    Come plse have more credible arguments.

    We have no depth hence we played Ramsey and Denilson in a winnable game but very very damaging if we were to lose.

    We were gambling with the season.

    Up THe Arse!!!

  40. I’m for the following lineup tomorrow:

    Almunia
    Sagna-Gallas-Djourou-Clichy
    Walcott-Denilson-Nasri-Vela
    Adebayor-RvP

    I think this is very strong XI.
    What do you guys think?
    (the possibility of the above: less than 1%, have to admit))

  41. Alex Ice Cream

    Malaysian,

    I am with you on this and have made similar comments myself this week. In fact I used the same phrase “gambling with the season”

    Now AW says that King Kolo may be rushed back! Another gamble. Its crazy that we have a number of injuries and yet we are risking injured players which could put them out for longer.

    A club like ours should not have to gamble like we should instead have more of a squad.

  42. Alex IC,

    I think AW will start with Gallas-Djourou, and keep Toure in the bench since Hoyte is not available. And hopefully, Toure is not needed.
    I have a feeling (or wishful thinking?) that Eboue will be RB cover later in the season.

    “A club like ours should not have to gamble like we should instead have more of a squad”

    Would you be happy if Senderos was available and kept in bench?

    This happens to all other clubs. Even ManU.
    We cannot expect a size of squad to be adjusted based on the worst possible scenario? This is just freakish time with so many injuries, and those injuries are much down to the lack of warm-up. If it has to happen once in every season, it is better to be now than later.

  43. THERE IS NO PROBLEM AT ARSENAL, WE JUST NEED TO THE BALANCE RIGHT, IE LESS CHANGES IN THE DOMESTIC CUPS TO GIVE MORE STABILITY AND SO THE REALLY YOUNG KIDS ARE PLAYING ALONGSIDE MORE EXPERIANCED PLAYERS. SO NO MORE 5 CHANGES FOR A TRIP TO MANCHESTER IN THE FA CUP. WE NEED TO REWARD PLAYERS WHO ARE PLAYING WELL IN A WINNING TEAM, NO MATTER WHO IS KNOCKING ON THE DOOR, IE DROPPING SENDEROS IN FAVOUR OF TOURE RETURNING FROM THE ANC
    GET THE BALANCE RIGHT GET THE TROPHIES BACK. THE BOSS IS GREAT, THE PLAYERS ARE GREAT, SO IS THE STADIUM, WE JUST NEED SOME FINE TUNING, AND A BIT OF GOOD FORTUNE

  44. Alex Ice Cream

    Scotgooner,

    Its not a freakish time though; we have had many injuries over than last 2-3 seasons and this shows no signs of abating.

    I cannot believe that the injuries are just down to a lack of warm-up! This is a mistake for even the most casual of sportsmen/women never mind Arsenal. Our players seems to take longer to recover also.

    The problem is exacerbated by having Diaby, RvP and Rosicky in the squad who are seemingly permanently injured.

    AW knows all of this and still has not done enough about it – other than gamble. The new signing, if he arrives should help but we need to work out why we are getting so many injuries.

  45. It has been confirmed that Arsenal have held talks with Liverpool about Alonso.

    There have also been reports in the last few days about a meeting between Inler and Arsenal.

    Wenger also confirmed that the shortlist was very short.

    So, Inler or Alonso it looks like. Be very surprised if it was not one of those two.

  46. Alonso is Cup-tied; that signing wouldn’t make a lot of sense. I would be curious to see Song or Djourou in the DM role, although it’s a little late for experimenting now. Whether Diarra was an ideal Arsenal fit, he did have value that he could capably play several positions (as could Flamini). I’m a little surprised by the Hoyte sale just because of the lack of depth at fullback.

    Regarding injuries, it’s easy for us to notice Arsenal’s injury list, but other squads have similar problems. Rooney breaks his foot every year, plus Saha is always hurt, Neville has been hurt for like 27 years. It’s not only Arsenal that deals with injuries. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something that could improve Arsenal’s situation.

    I am so excited for the season to start.

  47. california gooner

    I do not think that Hoyte added depth at fullback. Every time he played there he was awful! However, I am with this general consensus that seems to be forming (I know, not all of you will agree) that we are a couple of players short to challenge Man U and Chelsea, who look incredibly strong right now. I think that Nasri is a big question mark; he will be different than Hleb but will that make us better or worse? Our DM is what everyone is focused on, for obvious reasons. And of course their is the issue of our defense; Djourou’s performance gives reason to hope that there are solutions within the squad. Anyhow, I was very optimistic about the squad this time last year and thought that they would surprise everyone. I think they did even if they came up short. But one could see how they performed in the two pre-season cups that some psychological force had formed, a belief that carried them right through to March. For some reason that I find hard to explain (its in my gut) I feel much less optimistic right now. People talk about how good it is to win ugly, but I think that psychologically the squad could do with trouncing a few teams and gaining some swagger.

  48. Possible areas of concern:
    Central midfield,
    Cover for Clichy,
    Someone to fill Hleb’s shoes(Hopefully Nasri or RVP)

  49. Paulie Walnuts

    I have the same gut feeling as California. We really need a fast start as young teams can lose confidence very quickly.

    Djourou can make the CB position his own if he gets a run at it. I just hope he can keep his concentration & form a good partnership with either Gallas or Toure.

    All the young lads are going to be inconsistent but Vela looks particularly bright to me.

    Hopefully Nasri can start well & maybe get an early goal to help him settle.

    We have a strong & talented squad & with one or maybe two late additions we can surprise a few more people this season.

  50. Will Cesc play 50 games this season? Will Nasri, Van Persie, Rosicky? I think not. (Indeed we know not in the case of Rosicky who won’t be back till mid-autumn at best.)

    Fifty is what you’re looking at, even if you ignore the FA Cup. Cesc played 47 last season and Flam 45, and remember we used the Carling team for a couple of CL group games, which may not be possible this year, and exited altogether in the quarters.

    It all depends on the signings. We need a serious one now and probably another in the January window (when we discover that Rosicky hasn’t recovered). Without that – well, I’d take third and CL semi with both hands. That would actually be an improvement on last year and with a side which – at present – looks significantly thinner and weaker to me.

    California, you say everyone is focused on the defensive midfielder. Most people probably; Wenger definitely. But count me out of that consensus. It’s the attacking midfield that is most vulnerable in my view.

    I think we’ll have an interesting season and play some nice football, but I don’t at the moment fancy our chances. Perhaps the signing will change that. But please not Alonso: I quite like him but I’d be horrified if we bought a player who wasn’t available for Europe.

    I never fancy Chelsea, but am always proved wrong. I often fancy Liverpool – again always proved wrong, but they do, despite making some terrible signings, usually come good in April and May. ManU – hard not to fear them, especially if they buy the sleepy Berbatov and he decides to wake up.

    I have some mild fears of the teams below us. Mark Hughes’s sides always over-achieve, mainly through thuggery, but this year they’ve got some very talented players as well. Villa look decent pre-season; so sadly do Spurs. They can’t blow it for ever – or can they?

    Listening to Five Live a minute ago, I was depressed by their optimism about us. Last year they all thought that we’d struggle, lazy, ignorant, star-struck bunch of pundits who imagined that the virtually crippled Henry rather than the clever, ever-fit Hleb was the key. I didn’t; I thought we’d improve and I was proved right. This year I’m much less sanguine. I desperately hope that I’m wrong.

  51. Alex Ice Cream

    Paulie,

    I hope that Djourou gets his chance as he looks more composed than Big Phil and has more pace. Senderos has had his chance so it should be Djourou’s turn now.

    A couple of late additions would be lovely.

  52. California Gunner,

    Good post. The reason why I read this blog.

    What I want to know is why there is an automatic assumption that Chelsea and Manchester United are incredibly strong and why they are going to coast to the title.

    Ok. There is the obvious. They were the CL winners and runner up. They finished in the top 2. They have strengthened with new signings.

    Chelsea with Boswinga, Deco. Manchester United with Berbatov (not yet confirmed, but he is rumoured to be having a medical today).

    Ok. Let’s don the rose coloured spectacles, and look at some of the ageing players in their squads:

    Van Der Sar : 37
    Giggs : 34
    Scholes : 33
    Neville : 33
    Silvestre : 31
    Saha : 30

    Ballack : 31
    Shevchenko : 31
    Deco : 30
    Lampard : 30
    Drogba : 30
    Carvalho: 30
    Belletti : 32
    Ferreira : 29

    Where does that leave us ? With modern diets and a strong squad, one can argue that these ages are not a problem. There’s plenty of experience here, and in the cases of the defenders, Arsene has always said that defenders get better with age.

    The only question marks I would pose are Van Der Sar, Deco and Lampard. In the case of Van Der Sar, given his age, could there be one or two mistakes in his game ? In the case of Deco, I am not convinced. Whenever I’ve see him for Barcelona he looked like he had lost his cutting edge. In the case of Lampard, yes, he is a very good player, but can he continue to produce 20 goals a season ?

    More unconvincing for me is the Chelsea strike force, and Manchester Uniteds reliance on Christiano Ronaldo. Chelsea strike force – Shevchenko, Kalou, Anelka, Sinclair and Drogba.

    Shevchenko has lost a half yard of pace, and unless he benefits from Scholari’s new attacking revolution, will not match his Milan form. Kalou to me has never convinced but I don’t know enough about him. Anelka and Drogba we know about. These are exceptional players, but 30.

    Ronaldo is the reason why Manchester United won the title. If he is absent from key games in the CL or premiership, then Man U will almost certainly suffer.

    What then of Arsenal ? Well, with the rose tinted glasses, we clearly need players to hit form and return from injury. Imagine Van Persie returning to his free goalscoring form like he had in spells in 2006, 2007. Imagine a fit Rosicky and the return of Eduardo.

    These players, Eduardo, Rosicky, Van Persie, + Fabregas, Walcott, Vela, Nasri, Adebayor, Bendtner all combining and hitting form could give us unvelievable attacking options.

    Most gooners are worried about the solidity of the defence. Well, if Sagna and Clichy can repeat last years form, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t, and if we can get a central defence pairing that gels, with a central midfield player to support the back 4, then who knows ?

    Unfortunately there are question marks about all 5 of our central defenders, including Song. Nobody seems convinced, and this is perhaps where the title could be won or lost. We need to concede less than the 30 goals of last season. Maybe we can achieve it by reining back on our attacking philosophy and trying to cut out the stupid goals (remember Middlesborough, Birmingham last year).

  53. Alex Ice Cream

    Mia,

    Have Tom and Robin even played 50 games in their entires careers with us combined?

    The chances of them playing 100 games next season are between nought and zero.

    You make an interesting point about attacking midfield. Cesc will not have his old mates Flamini and Hleb for company which makes it important that Tom stays fit and that Nasri contributes.

    Still need a monster in the middle though.

  54. Muppet:
    I aggree with the point that you’re trying to make, with regards to age and comparison with other teams. Only a retard would argue that Arsenal are not better or atleast at par with the other top 2. I personally hold the view that our starting 11 could take out anyside in Europe convincingly. However the only problem is that the chances of putting out my starting 11 for more than 10 games looks really grim. And for that matter your’s or most gooners starting 11, that would have a fit rosiscky, nasri, Diaby, eduardo,RVp, Cesc, Ade and the usual back four. So the chances of fieliding these players in more than 10 games together are slim, because of the injury situation.
    Everyone hails Flamini for stepping up last year, but more important than him was HLeb because after febuary with rosiscky out. Cesc and Hleb were the only 2 play makers left, and they worked their *** off. Add to that the fatigue to Cesc. And right now we’re relying all out on Nasri to fill in Hleb’s boots, and if he fails to do so, like many players fail to adapt to PL, do we have a backup? Even if he fills in properly, we still need one more to be cover for rosiscky. So MIA is right that more than a DM we need an attacking midfielder, who can retain possession. Let’s just hope Nasri and RVP somehow or the other manages to pull off a Hleb this season(with goals offcourse).

    By the way is Xabi cup tied?

  55. Xabi is cup tied till January, yes.

  56. Paulie Walnuts

    Mia,

    I heard the Radio Five season preview too & along with most other pundits they were made to look foolish last season when our demise was predicted & don`t want it to happen again.

    Funnily enough I feel Alonso may be the player AW brings in now as his value will have depreciated with him being cup tied in the CL group games.

    Same for Barry. What are the odds of him joining Pool for £3/4M less than originally thought & Alonso moving to us in a likewise cheaper deal. AW has always liked a `bargain`.

    Muppet makes some good points about the ages of Chelsea in particular but Man Utd have the right combination of age range I fear.

  57. hnmm…..so he’ll probably cost less, and we can make it without him in europe, till january atleast. Why not?

  58. Just read it that Arsenal was involved in trying to get Alonso. But apparantley the move failed. A bit ambigous news to me though, as far as if it’s still on or off.

    http://m.goal.com/goal_news.php?a=820706&PHPSESSID=c000cfff361b6152340faa7cdbc0ca84

  59. YW:
    Can someone assume that people that comment on blogs like yours are from a good cross section of Arsenal fans?

    It seems to me no one really enjoys or look forward to just watching the team play.

    Personally I don’t care who plays, who Wenger buys. I believe in the quality of the team and coaching staff.
    If it is Ramsey and Denilson in midfield on saturday. That is good enough for me, Wenger rates both enough to include them in the first team squad.
    I proudly watch a Flamini and 18 year old Cesc play in midfield again the might of Chelsea two season’s ago.

  60. I am all for Toure being first choice CB but if Djourou gets dropped for him tomorrow I will be gutted for JD and I think it would be the wrong decision. Toure would be rushed back – hardly trained, little pre-season, risk on re-injury etc. its not like he is John Terry or Rio Ferdinand either. JD has had an excellent pre-season. he was MOTM against Twente and can use that momentum to Arsenal’s benefit.
    Nasri would be a concern for me, for similar reasons – lack of pre-season and still settling in. But if eboue is dropped then I wont complain!
    There are no real options in the midfield other than Ramsey and Den. Eboue? No. Toure? No Djourou? No. Randall? No.

    Team to be:
    Almunia
    Sagna Djourou Gallas Clichy
    Walcott Ramsey Denilson Nasri
    Ade RVP

    Eboue will come on, I think for Nasri later on. Bendtner and Vela might get a run out late on as well.

  61. William i was of your opinion a month back, but ive realized that the only thing that will keep the squad together in the coming years is a good season. Now it’s quite subjective how you judge a good season to be. But players would usually judge it with what they’ve won. ( yes i know the counter argument about ronaldo and blah blah)

  62. I think Djourou is potentially the better partner for Gallas anyway. As Gazzap said, he deserves to play purely on the basis of his performance against Twente. Give him a few easy-ish games while Toure is unfit and see how he does? Won’t happen, though, will it?

    Ateeb, Paulie, I see the point about Alonso perhaps being a bargain, but we’d then have to play Denilson in Europe without giving him any other opportunity to form a partnership with Cesc – wouldn’t that be hard for them both, as well as potentially risky if we’re in a very tough group? Would Alonso be eligible for Europe for us after Jan? I’ve never figured out the rules.

    I’m just praying that the midfielder we sign now can play wide right as well as in the Flam role – for which, in an emergency, we’ve got an improving Denilson and Song.

    I’m not denying that a beast-enforcer would come in handy, especially for the Premiership, just fearing that we’re placing an unrealistic weight on Cesc and an untried Nasri’s shoulders. Even if they were fit and brilliant for every game of the season, who will play right midfield most of the time? Exactly. Walcott or Eboue. The ever-crocked Diaby, Eduardo, Vela and baby Wilshere are all left-sided players, I think, which means our right side, as so often before, is relatively weak.

    Alonso can’t play right midfield, can he? Quite apart from his being cup-tied, that signing doesn’t fill me with hope. Don’t let it be true!

  63. MIA:
    What you’re looking for is not 1 but 2 players . I don’t think you’d get a Defensive midfielder who would also be a righ attacking midfielder, and really good at both the positions.

  64. Ateeb, dead right I am, but if I have to choose between a beast-enforcer and a creative right midfielder, I’d go for the right midfielder. I think we might just scrape by with Denilson and Song; in fact I think Denilson might improve and do pretty well.

    Looks like the Inler deal is off. Steve Stanners has said so on Arsenal tv. (I’m not watching it, but have just been told by someone who was.)

    Alsonso then? Grrrrrrrrr.

  65. Another great post Yogi’s and by the way no need for a style change, if there is a word I don’t understand…I will take the time to look it up, just as you take the time to write. I guess that’s how you increase your vocabulary? 🙂
    ==

    I hope the season will not be all about “I told you so”…without going into much details we will win something this year, if we and as Wenger always say “have the belief” that we can win…if we don’t as fans, why do we expected the players to win anything?

    Love you Arsenal in good times and bad times just alike…

    .::G4E::.

  66. I think JD should start 2morrow. I doubted him and lumped him in the same group with Eboue and Senderos. His performances during pre-season games however, have been solid.

    Djourou has height and pace and is cleaner in clearances and tackles. He needs to have sustained run of games to see how he can perform. We know Senderos and he’s had his chances so now is time for Djourou.

  67. california gooner

    Hey, thanks for praising my early post. It always feels good to be appreciated. I agree with Mia that replacing Hleb might be as important as replacing Flamini. With three great passers in the midfield and our forwards, who are also good, we rarely lose the ball. Subtract one and we aren’t quite as good, two and we are in trouble. However, I like Alonso as a signing because of his PL experience and the quality of his passing. Ditto Denilson, who will give a lot of support to Hleb, and will be a future Marco Senna (but ten years younger). We will be fine in CL until February without him playing. Mia, if we do sign a CM I think we can push Ramsey out wide where he will be a very good role player.

    William: I think we are all looking forward to the game…but some of us feel the need to chat about the team while waiting.

  68. california gooner

    One more consideration: a player who can actually score from free-kicks. Right now we have RVP and then…nobody! (No, I don’t take Kolo’s Roberto Carlos attempts seriously). Any ideas? It doesn’t seem like a wish that will be fulfilled.

  69. Strangely though, there is not much speculation as to whom that might be although there have been so many players linked to the club by the media that it would not be surprising if one of them is able to say, ‘Scoop! The Daily Dogs Doodah’s first told you of this move on May 28th!‘.

    Hahaha, excelent stuff, Yogi.

    I agree with people saying Djourou should start tomorrow. If Kolo’s not 100% fit, don’t play him. If we need him to fill the bench, in case someone gets injured, then no problem, but the season’s long, so I wouldn’t gamble. Djourou has been playing quite well, also.

  70. California: Veloso can do that, but I don’t think he’ll be the one coming.

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