Tuesday, April 19, 2005

ARSENAL - "2005-2006: A New Beginning".... You Think???

OK, so lazy bum and coach potato intellect supreme that I am (on top of being a self-proclaimed football guru - although my shape resembles that of a football these days!) - I have decided to dissect/criticize/put forward my highly opinionated views on my favourite soccer team - "ARSENAL".

After Arsenal's majorly mucked up season this time around, son't you think there is a huge scope for improvement for the Gunners? Well I do... so here are my views on what Arsene Wenger and his team of trusty helpers should and should not do for the forth-coming season:

1. OK, so task #1 - lets take a look at the current 1st team that they have:

Goalkeepers Strikers
Jens Lehmann Jose Antonio Reyes
Stuart Taylor Dennis Bergkamp
Manuel Almunia Robin van Persie
Chris Wright Thierry Henry
Jeremie Aliadiere
Adam Birchall
Arturo Lupoli
Quincy Owusu Abeyie

Defenders Midfielders
Ashley Cole Patrick Vieira
Lauren Robert Pires
Pascal Cygan Fredrik Ljungberg
Philippe Senderos Francesc Fabregas
Gael Clichy Mathieu Flamini
Sol Campbell Edu
Kolo Toure Gilberto Silva
Emmanuel Eboue Sebastian Larsson
Justin Hoyte Olafur-Ingi Skulason
Sebastian Svard Ryan Smith
Ryan Garry Jermaine Pennant
Daniel Karbassiyoon David Bentley
Johan Djourou

Heh - I even included David Bentley and Jermaine Pennant in the list, even though they're on loan to Norwich Town and Birmingham City respectively.

OK, so goalkeepers 1st: Lehmann and Almunia both seem to be making the same types of mistakes while on the field - they are both susceptible to the high ball - and what's worse, they both lack a basic sense of positioning for set-pieces (read corners and free-kicks). SO what Wenger needs to do is sell Almunia - no questions asked. Lehmann is at least an old-warhouse with European club championship experience (if memory serves me right, he did pretty well for Borussia Dortmund), as well as having represented Germany at the World Cup and at the Euro Championships. Plus, he is desperate to perform well so that Klinsmann selects him for next year's World Cup in his home country. So my gut feeling says - forgive and forget his current mediocre season - next season he's gonna be a monster (desperation has always been a great adrenaline charger for most players!)
I always liked Stuart Taylor, and he had an excellent season when Seamen was injured a few years ago - but he needs more opportunities from Wenger - at least they should play him in the Coca Cola matches. That should be a good morale booster for him. Chris Wright?? Who's he? If he's one of those young 'uns, then okay - warm the bench and get the big match feel. For another season at least.

My Verdict: Sell Almunia. Fast-track Taylor. Give him more responsibilities. Buy a new goalkeeper to provide competition to Taylor. Also ensure that the new guy is a more than capable back-up for Lehmann if there is an injury down the line. Suggestions anyone?? Howz about Mart Poom?
Of course, ideally I would love it if Arsenal bought Carlo Cudicini - that would worry the pants off Lehmann!

And off to our defenders we shall go: And yes, this is where we got screwed big-time this season - we scored tons (as usual), and as usual we conceded tons as well. But this time it was open season at the Arsenal defensive line - like, "Score one, get another goal FREE!".
Sol Campbell is old - there is no running away from that. And Pascal Cygan is NOT his best replacement. Toure is a good intelligent footballer. But every so often his "midfielder" instinct goes to his head. And he forgets the basics of central defending. Just look how he screwed up against Bayern Munich. Anyway, this is what, his 2nd year as a hard-core central defender? He'll improve - but please, when you're a defender, at least play like one - no fancy foot-work ala Lucio!
Campbell needs to get his England career out of his system and concentrate fully on his Arsenal career, becoz slowly but surely he is going to lose his sharpness. And anyway, he's fast turning into Arsenal's sick-note. (I beg your pardon Monsieur Darren Anderton!)
Ashley Cole MUST NOT be allowed to leave Arsenal at any cost. Gael Clichy and Senderos both have an excellent future over here as well. Lauren must stay but we definitely need a youngster to come up fast as his rival/back-up - if a player as good as Silvinho could be ousted by Ashley Cole, then surely we should be trying to get some one in such a similar situation on the right-flank of the Arsenal defensive line. Hoyte, Svard and Eboue (reminds me of Cristiano Ronaldo once in a while with his fancy dribbling) still need to be nurtured further - next season is still too early for them. Similarly it goes for the other young defenders as well. (I can't even pronounce the name of one of them!)

My Verdict: Get rid of Cygan - buy a real central defender!! An Italian preferably. (I can dream can't I?) Send a few kids out on loan (Hoyte, Eboue, Svard). To me, selling both Moritz Volz and Matthew Upson were big big mistakes. Especially Upson. They could have done it on the Arsenal stage as well - they just needed time to get it straight.
Anyway, we need a central defender, and that is final. And a good one too. Alessandro Nesta is my choice (someone pinch me, I'm dreaming!)

The midfielders now: Vieira, Edu, Gilberto Silva, Flamini, Fabregas … notice a pattern here? Aren’t all of these central midfield players? At least the 1st 4 are – and Fabregas started the season in that role too. So my question here is, where are the creative midfielders a.k.a. the goal-scoring midfield maestros?
Pires is a magnificent player – but he’s growing older and injury susceptible too. Ljungberg is another outstanding servant of Arsenal, who similarly spends quite a bit on his medical bills. Pennant and Bentley are 2 extremely talented and creative players – and Wenger both loaned them out. I would have thought a season at Leeds (where he was absolutely amazing, by the way!) would have been enough to go by for Arsene Wenger. In fact, half a season would more than have made a man out of young Pennant. He definitely should have been given more chances this season. I seriously fear the same thing might happen to Bentley as well, i.e. he isn't going to be getting many opportunities to play in the Arsenal 1st team. Wenger should have more faith on his English-bred youngsters. They definitely can do the job.
So now the big question – our midfield is solid in the middle – Vieira and Gilberto are quality supreme. Edu should be made to stay back because he’s versatile player, and can even slot in on the flanks. Flamini… hmm. Was he really necessary? Yes, he has had a few good games, but he’s a player who doesn’t add any new dimension to an already heavy-duty Arsenal midfield. We need a solid classy midfielder. David Beckham. He’s suddenly regained his old form and has been instrumental in driving Real Madrid forward. Where’s an Overmars when you need one!

My Verdict: It’s great that we have so many quality and up-and-coming central mid-fielders – but maybe we have too many. Time for the AXE! And I vote for Flamini to go.
Bring back Bentley and play him next season for Chrissake! Pennant looks like a lost soul for Arsenal – another creative player down the drain! So okay, buy one! Beckham, Robben, Duff – or someone who has similar skills. Sheesh, there must be someone out there good enough to score and create goals. And who has a good intelligent footballing brain as well. Joe Cole? Owen Hargreaves? (well maybe not thaaat creative, is he?)… oh I know, how about Shaun Wright-Phillips?

And finally, the strikers: You know, how can I complain about the forwards? They score soooo many goals. And Henry on his own is like a Godzilla for goal-scoring! But what happens when he’s out injured? What then? Well lets look at our options:
Bergkamp is like GOD to me. But I think this just might be his final season. He managed to roll back the years last season, but this time he’s been a peripheral figure on the field, most of the time not being able to keep pace with the flow. I would be very surprised if he was here for another season. At the most, he could play the role of a back-up striker – launch him at the opponent team in the last 15 minutes or so. Roger Milla style.
Persie? Wow! Yes, he has a future. He just needs to take it slow. He’s not gonna be playing each and every match next season too. But he is 100% the next Arsenal star in the making – provided he doesn’t get too many red cards.
Reyes? Aw, I am totally disappointed with him. He started off like a rocket this season – and suddenly, phhhft! The lights have gone out! I hate to say this – but maybe he needs to be shown the door. Either that, or he needs a good shrink. Because it’s not his skills that are letting him down – it’s his attitude. His mind isn’t into the Arsenal mold of things. He needs to ask himself a few hard questions, like, why is he at Arsenal? Anyone who moves to a foreign country and who doesn’t speak the language is gonna take time to adjust. But what’s the point of making that an issue. Be mature boyo – try and adjust faster. Your career is at stake here!

My Verdict: As long as Henry lives, so Arsenal shall continue breathing oxygen. Bergkamp? Ok, sentimental favorite, give him one more year – but play him in a Roger Milla type role. Persie and Aliadiere need to stick around – they are the future. Reyes? If he’s gonna act like a dodo, well, then sell him! To Real Madrid if necessary! And yes, buy someone new for sure – another established forward wouldn’t be a bad idea over here. Suggestions? Ho hum – that’s a toughie – Shevchenko is a wee bit over-the-top money-wise I guess. Then, what about that Argentinean chap Javier Saviola? He’s sorta lost direction in recent times, but under the able guidance of Wenger he might be able to strike the right chord here. Can't think of anyone else actually. And for some reason Dean Ashton's name is floating in my head! Now that would be the suprise of the century.

Final Verdict: We need new players – a new central defender, a few flair mid-fielders, a striker… even a goalie. We need to chuck out a few useless players with redundant playing styles. And finally – with so many excellent youngsters around, Wenger needs to re-vamp his team selection policy and give them a chance. Make them feel wanted. Make them feel a part of Arsenal.

1 comment:

Samita said...

Reading about football is like reading latin for me (no wait, Latin looks easier!)

The 13th (how lucky) point of one of your earlier posts, on the other hand, makes hell lot of sense. If ever you do decide on going ahead with it, please do let me know. I have a few people on my list who need decapitating.