The Strangest Season Ever…

This season has to be of the strangest seasons ever. We started well, flopped against the big teams, got back into it, flopped against the big teams, got back into it, and then lost to Sp*rs, Wigan and Blackburn whilst drawing to Birmingham before and drawing to Man City afterwards. Meanwhile, our north London rivals, Sp*rs, went about winning 11 out of their last 12 to qualify into the Champions League, beating us, Chelsea and Man City on route. Meanwhile, Liverpool finish 7th in the league after being United’s main challengers last season and we have 134 more injuries than any other team in the league. On top of that, we bring Sol Campbell out of semi-retirement – who then goes on to win Arsenal player of the month for April, despite us conceding 7 goals in 4 games and Fulham reach the UEFA cup final, beating the likes of Juventus on the way.

Did this season really happen?

Did Van Persie really miss 6 months of a 9 month season again? Did Cesc, Song, Gallas and Vermaelen all get  injured for the final month of the campaign? Did Bendtner really score a hattrick at Porto? Did this season actually happen? Am I dreaming? Someone pinch me.

It’s funny because a lot of Gooners were undecided whether they wanted Man City or Sp*rs to win last night, with many people lambasting City’s finances and saying they’d be challenging for the title. What happened last night was not what I wanted. It seems like a lot of people forget how much money Sp*rs have and how ambitious they really are. They’ve already got Sandro lined up for next season, practically have two teams worth of players and will probably spend in the region of £100m in summer – where they get the money from is anyone’s guess… but they will not lie down now, this is the chance they’ve been waiting for. They now sit 2 points behind us with 1 game to go. It hurts.

So, back to all things Arsenal, and Maroune Chamakh has all but confirmed that he will be an Arsenal player next season…

“I am delighted to join the English football atmosphere, it is something amazing. I love Arsenal’s game. I know I will have to adapt but I know the short passing game with (Bordeaux midfielder) Yoann Gourcuff. In February, I made my decision. A departure clause (in a potential new Bordeaux contract) was not logical after refusing Arsenal last summer. Arsenal were not alone. There were Liverpool, Tottenham and crazy offers from Russia. But I was only focused on the Premier League. For my last matches with Bordeaux I can feel a lot of emotion. But I am leaving for a new challenge. At Bordeaux I was the club’s child. In London, I won’t be a kid anymore. I have grown, I have things to prove and I am motivated to achieve it.”

Arsene did say he would sign one player before the world cup and it looks like the world’s biggest kept secret – it will be Maroune Chamakh. So what do we get from the Morrocan? Well, we get an absence during the African Cup of Nations. Okay, only joking… (well not really), but we do get a player with an eye for goal, with experience at top level, for club, country and of course Champions League experience. Last summer clips showed his wastefulness in front of goal, but this season he has been knocking them in for Bordeaux and his link up play has been very good.

Next season, it looks like we’ll start the season with 5 international strikers in Van Persie, Niklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela, Eduardo and Maroune Chamakh. If Eduardo and Vela do feature in the first team more – which I think they will as Arsene has spoken how he holds them both in high regard, then it’s anyone’s guess how we’ll set up, who will be first choice and who will play on either side of the main striker. Stick in Arshavin and Walcott and there is a bit more guile and pace, and that should be an impressive forward line. I would expect to see Nasri and Rosicky in the middle of the park if the above players are all available, and looking at the squad, I don’t think we’ll see any more attacking players.

Arsene isn’t a man for buying for the sake of it, and unless we sell a lot of players, they’ll be no room in the 25 man squad. I’d expect him to buy a centre back as Gallas and Silvestre should both be off. Gallas avoiding the question to French media about whether he will sign a contract – and it’s obvious that he won’t. He’s 32 and he can sign for a host of European clubs. I think it would have been beneficial for us if he stayed, but even though Gallas and Vermaelen looked like a great partnership, they couldn’t get the better of the big teams.

So, a centre back could come in, leaving the pool of centre backs: Vermaelen, Player X, Djourou, Campbell and potentially a youth player – maybe Harvard Nortveit, currently on loan at Nurenburg and having a decent season. The other position has to be a goalkeeper and I can’t see how either Almunia or Fabianksi could possibly be at the club next season. I don’t think the fans or players have any confidence in either of them. We’ll see.

So, a striker is virtually in. A centre back to replace Gallas and a goalkeeper to replace Almunia. Is that enough to turn us from nearly rans to world beaters?

  • Zegooner

    ..all that..a little extra help to sure up Song in the midfield..AND NEW FOUND PASSION AND PRIDE!!!

  • zohaib

    i’d add to that a decent backup defensive midfielder for when Song’s injured or needs a rest. since Denilson and Diaby aren’t good enough for DM. we need one more experienced DM in addition to the striker we’re getting and instead of just one replacement for Gallas i’d make that 2 CBs.
    because i think Silvestre, Gallas and Senderos may all leave/be sold. And even if Campbell stayed another year, i’d not want to depend on him for being a first choice CB who’ll play every 3 days. so if 3/4 CBs are going out, we should get as many to replace them. i think we’ll need to buy 2 and one could maybe fill the slot from our youth – Havard.

    i’m not sure about whether we need a new keeper. we forget too easily that almunia and fabianski have made some decent saves to keep the goals out also. yes they’ve made mistakes but every keeper makes mistakes. cech had a horrible spell recently. liverpool were leaking goals this season.
    i believe the problem in recent weeks was more because we didnt have our first choice defence and because we were kicked out of the champions league and the premier league race which is why we collapsed and started to make more errors because we lost our focus. i agree that almunia isnt in the same league as reina or cech when it comes to quality but i think thats down to confidence. our defence is probably the weakest amongst the top 6, so any keeper would have a tough time at arsenal. lets keep that in mind before we start thrashing our own keepers. if we can improve our defensive play, we won’t get into the situations where our keeper would be tested as much as he currently is. almunia’s a pretty good shotstopper. its the crosses he has trouble with. and i think its linked to the fact that we’re a team that doesnt really believe in that part of the game so i’m not sure we practice that as much – which in turn means our keeper doesnt get to defend against that type of play too often. in any case i believe we need to put more effort into improve our all round game so that we can mix it up. we’re too predictable a side right now. we play short passes with 3 people making a triangle ALL THE TIME and its pretty annoying. its pretty damn slow too.
    plus wenger’s already said the goalkeeper department isnt an area he’s looking to strengthen. so although i’d love a better keeper, i’m not sure we’re buying anybody this summer.

    i’ve just had a look at a number of players who’re out of contract in the summer and Joe Cole’s one of them. if he doesnt cost too much i think we should go for him because we desperately need somebody on the wings who’s better than Eboue and Walcott – specially at RM. If not Phillips, Cole should be ideal. but again i doubt it’ll happen.

  • pumelled

    I was at the Blackburn game on Saturday, took my girlfriend to her first game on a bit of a whim after hearing on Saturday that tickets were available on the day of the game. I won’t prattle on about the game itself as that’s been done to death by now, but I will say a couple of things about the fans.

    The last time I went to see a match at Blackburn was last season, when I went with a couple of Geordie mates to watch Blackburn versus Newcastle. Now as most of us are no doubt aware, Newcastle fans are renowned for being amongst the most passionate, turning out in droves no matter what tripe the team puts out on the pitch week in week out.

    Yet at this game, upon finding themselves three nil down and worrying close to the relegation zone, the Toon Army went a little ballistic. I won’t list the chants, but “We’re shit, and we’re sick of it” was the chant that best sums it up.

    How is that support? I myself am a fairly average footballer, and I’ve found that I’m a real confidence player: if I have a poor first five minutes, misplace a couple of passes or lose possession through a poor touch I’ll generally go on to have a sub-par game.

    While the footballers we all love to watch are professionals, I think they too are affected by the fans in a similar way. Jimmy Bullard for Hull recently is a case in point. He’s by far their best player (not hard when the team is assembled by Phil Brown) and yet he was having an absolute nightmare, culminating in missing a crucial penalty and getting subbed off at half time.

    When it became clear he was having a bad day, the fans went to town on the poor man, hitting his confidence and no doubt making the situation worse. This is exactly what I heard in the stands on Monday from a minority of the fans at Ewood Park. A couple of blokes in particular spent the best part of the last half hour spouting vitriol. How does that help the team? You have a right to express an opinion, but surely not when the team need your support and the match is still playing?

    A couple of moments in particular stand out. One was the injury to Sagna: let’s set the scene. Sagna leapt to challenge for a ball in a manner that from where I stood was total commitment to the cause. He hurled himself into it, his only thought was of winning the ball and regaining possession.

    He didn’t go in a little more softly and negate the risk of injury with the World Cup looming: in that moment he was putting everything into the Arsenal cause. So when he landed badly and I saw the ref gesture immediately for the stretcher (exactly as I saw he did from the stands when Ramsey went down at the Britannia) I was instantly concerned for Bacary’s wellbeing.

    Not so the imbecile two rows behind me, who was yelling “get up you fucking softarse, we’re losing, getting up and fucking play on!”. Disgraceful behaviour given from what we could see, Sagna could well have got a serious injury – his landing could’ve dislocated his shoulder, and given the ref’s reaction that’s exactly what I thought had happened.

    Later on, the loudmouth and a friend started up a nice song of “only one George Graham”. I don’t need to talk about this too much, whether it’s the fact he’s criticising Wenger’s team when it had TWO first eleven players out playing a team who’d only lost three times at home, or championing a man who is equal to Harry Redknapp when it comes to having a predisposition for brown envelopes.

    The final whistle went and as we filtered out of the stand, the resident loudmouth started up again “you’ve lost it Wenger, retire you fucking idiot, you’re shit and your team is shit you stupid French bastard” and there we had it.

    It has been coming, and there we had it: racism rearing it’s ugly head. Let’s make no mention of the faithful service this “stupid French bastard” has given our club or the current injury blight, nope, the team is shit and it’s because Wenger’s French.

    I detest racism in all it’s forms, and have on more than one occasion have narrowly avoided a confrontation on a boozy night out when some uneducated moron spouts off at someone of a different race and I felt I had to say something.

    But this man (and I use the word in it’s loosest possible way) was a fairly typical bloke, probably mid forties with a wife and kids. How would they react if they saw or heard his behaviour? There were kids all around us, families enjoying the game: should we really teach kids to look up to their elders when morons such as that are around?

    Credit to the Blackburn fans though, on the walk back to the train station I got not one bit of grief that went beyond friendly banter, and even managed to pick up a cracking Chinese at a very reasonable price.

    On the train home, we had the usual catastrophist talking nonsense to his mate about how we should buy X Y and Z. As ever the arguments were hilarious, and I eventually had to chip in and take the poor boy to the cleaners.

    “Why didn’t Arshavin start eh?”

    “Because he wasn’t fit to start! If he’d started and got injured you’d have complained about that too”

    “Yeah but we lost without him.”

    “We lost as Blackburn are a solid side at home, know how to push (no pun intended) the rules around and we had a squad decimated by injury.”

    “That’s the modern game though. We need a squad. We should sell Eboue, Rosicky, Theo, Nasri, Denilson and Diaby. Buy Benzema, Hart and Cahill”

    “Pal, you’re talking nonsense. Real Madrid tried that and it didn’t work so well. It might on Football Manager 2010, though. Should we have three excellent left backs so that when they all get injured we have a ready-made replacement? Looking at the players you want to sell, you’re actually making the squad smaller too.”

    “But Denilson’s crap. I watch him every week and he’s always shit”

    “Absolute rubbish. What about Barcelona, when he came on and turned the game in our favour?”

    “Nah Denilson’s shit, look at Chelsea, they have Ballack on the bench.. He’s world class.”

    “Ballack’s been dreadful this season”

    “Yeah, he’s been shit, but he’s still world class, [he actually said that, no word of a lie] wouldn’t you rather have Ballack in the squad than Denilson and Diaby?”

    “Nope, he’s dreadful.”

    *The rest of the carriage of Gooners and Blackburn fans agree with me, and I give him a prawn cracker to keep his mouth from talking more nonsense.*

    It’s just an exercise in futility. He’d make some unfounded statement, I’d counter it with evidence and he’d either repeat what he just said or say something else. The above is a fairly accurate transcript of our conversation. God help Wenger if these are the fans he has to please.

  • pumelled

    Here’s five reasons why I am happy it is them rather than their opponents that will get the prize of fourth place and a spot in Europe.

    1. The City juggernaught gets held off for another season

    In modern-day football there are essentially two things that attract the biggest and best players: money and the opportunity to play at the highest level. City have the former in abundance but missing out on the Champions League for next season means their bargaining power with the very best players will not be as strong as it might have been.

    As such, their ability to challenge for the Premier League title has been put off for another year.

    2. Tottenham cannot win the league

    Although this is not technically true – after all, any team in the Premier League can win the league, even the dregs at the bottom – the reality is that there will only be three teams challenging for the title next season. Tottenham have done well this season, have a strong squad with good depth and will hope to build on this season’s effort. But they won’t win the league.

    Indeed, juggling Champions League football with an assault on the Premier League is something that both the man in charge and most of the players involved are new to, and it’s likely to take its toll. That means one less title contender than there would have been had City finished fourth and spent big and it makes Arsenal’s job of winning the title just that little bit easier.

    3. The North London Derby will intensify

    No Arsenal fan will want Tottenham to overtake us, yet the local-born supporters will be licking their lips at the prospect of the North London Derby being taken up a notch. It’s good for the game and football in general to have such an historic derby leveled up slightly and it makes for some epic contests next season.

    Just ask Manchester United.

    4. Joe Hart is far more likely to sign with Arsenal

    The news earlier in the week was that Arsene Wenger is readying a bid to make Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart his No1 goalkeeper for next season. Now that City have missed the Champions League, that possibility must surely have increased.

    No matter how much he loves money, Hart will not want to play second fiddle to Shay Given in a team playing Europa Cup football, nor loaned out to Birmingham for another season when he can be the first-choice at a club that will be playing in the Champions League. He is an ambitious young man with aspirations to become England’s first-choice stopper and he can achieve that quicker if he makes the move to Arsenal.

    5. Emmanuel Adebayor got what he deserved

    A heart-warming example that although nice guys have a tendency to finish last, bad guys don’t always succeed.

  • Yemi

    @ pumelled:
    The team is good, but lets be honest to ourselves, without any reinforcement, Do you actually see this team winning the league next season ? or the champions league ? The answer is an emphatic NO.
    The team is excellent as a base team, but with two or 3 additions, we would be world beaters. We just NEED the right additions to the squad.
    For me, and like i have been saying since November/December, We need 3 players.
    1.) We need one CB. if gallas remains, we will have gallas, djourou, vermaleen, Sol and one player from the youth team. Silvestre should be shipped out! Even if gallas goes, if we get a cahill with the current squad, we are ok.

    2.) We need a DM. It is clear that all those who have tried to deputise for Song have been failures in that position.

    3.) We need a striker. RVP is class but has never finished a season without injury. I would not want to rely solely on B52 to supply my goals with the horrible tally of misses he possess. I am sure if he had put away half the chances he squandered we would not be where we are at the moment. Edu needs time to get back on course, he really needs a psychologist to take care of the emotional part of his injury cos i know that is the only problem left with edu.

    We do not need any more attacking midfilders, we already have tooooo many. Cesc, rambo, nasri, rosisky,diaby and the list goes on.

    One thing i can’t really say though is that do we need wingers ? or looking at the right flank for instance, can walcott, sagna, ebuoue be though how to cross in the ball properly ? can they be though how to take on defenders one on one ? Big question.
    I think traore should be struck off the list of defenders cos he never does that duty. He would be better as a midfielder. On the left, can clichy regain his days of putting the ball perfectly in the box ? Can we continue to use arshavin as a winger ? Can vela step up his game ?

    What more can i say. Arsene please do the NEEDFUL. 3 is the minimun !!!

  • zohaib

    interesting read pumelled. agree with your assessment of some of our pessimistic fans. although i guess i understand where they’re coming from – only arsenal, it seems, have this rare ability to bottle up and collapse or have insane amount of injuries.

    anyway. i’d like to talk about transfers. do you think we need any additions ? if yes, do you have any names in mind ? any suggestions at all ?

    in my opinion, if joe cole’s on a free we should get him for right-midfield. we should maybe get joe hart if we can, if he’s not too expensive ! and most importantly we need to get some backup for our central defence as well as maybe a backup defensive midfielder.
    i think if we want to win something next season we’ll have to stop hoping denilson would be able to deputize for Song when he’s injured. he’s not quite there yet. maybe a couple more seasons.
    that said i do hope and expect ramsey to improve. nasri to improve. rosicky to improve. eduardo to improve. arshavin to improve. and i hope wilshere, vela and walcott improve to play a bigger role in our next season. somehow i feel walcott’s being wasted on the right wing. he should either be playing left wing or striker.
    and hopefully diaby eboue and bendtner can improve too :P

  • devday

    @ zohaib:
    Getting in Chamakh and then Joe Cole, would be two awesome free transfers. We could then actually spend big on one or two players.

  • devday

    @ Yemi:
    If Sp*rs can go away to City and play 4-4-2 with Modric and Huddlestone in the middle… surely we can play 4-4-2 with Cesc and Song. Does this obsession with playing another central midfielder ultimately hurt our style of play and shape?

    Just imagine:

    [New Keeper]
    Sagna – [New defender] – Vermaelen – Clichy
    Nasri – Song – Cesc – Arshavin
    Chamakh – Van Persie

    in a 4-4-2.

    Cesc & Song are better than Modric and Huddlestone for sure…

  • pissed off

    Arsenal fans : Wengers philosophy has affected our attitude

  • goonerman

    so now daily mail are recommending that spurs buy the likes of sergio agureo and di maria! lets be honest they have got into the champions league but only in january harry was told he would have to sell players to buy new ones and you can only make so much money from getting into the champions league! aguero would demand around 150k a week which spurs will never get close to!

  • zohaib

    @ dev
    mate thats exactly what i was thinking. why dont we play 4 – 4 – 2 ?! something tells me we can now that song has improved so tremendously. but i have my doubts about the wings. although maybe playing 2 strikers up front would help create more space for the wingers. i still believe though, that we need to learn to play a bit wider. we play too narrow and tight even when we have the ball. it basically helps the team defending to defend. we need to learn how to stretch them more like chelsea and manutd can do. they can mix up the on-the-ground pretty football with the lob-pass football.
    i dont understand what’s so ugly with lobbed passes anyway. whats the big deal ? if somebody has the vision to find a teammate with a lofted pass, can it not be a piece of quality skill ?! somebody tell that to wenger though

  • Berth

    @ Zohaib: Hleb has been missed.

  • Demzzz_W9

    i agree! a 4 4 2 is what we was made chapions with i just feel the 4 3 3 seem way more open.. then turns into a 4 5 1.. means the top is isolated i feel.. and we dont have aot of defensive minded players hence why we dont break down or pressure the ball we always standing of allow teams to play there game while they are stopping our game!

    im with dev for the team.. just hope chamakah and van da man would be greater then rooney and ronaldo and drogba and anelka and gerrard and torres because we do need a good partnership! take alot off fabergas! he to young to hold a team!

  • yemi

    @ devday:
    in your team, we have a new CB, thats nice. it means we can have djourou and sol as backup. we can ship out silvestre to france. we also have a new CF which is also good. B52 and edu as backup. a new GK? not really. if you expose any GK the way ours are expose, they will look ordinary too but if our defence is water tight, even alumina will look world class. so what is left in my opinion is a backup DM, we don’t have anyone deputising for song but in the AM position we have cesc, rambo, nasri, rosisky etc. and as for formation, we should be able to adapt based on our opponents. 4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2, 4-4-1-1, 3-5-2, 3-4-3 it doesn’t matter

  • zohaib

    @ Berth
    mate i have to agree with you. I’ve missed Hleb. I’ve also missed Reyes ! …. and how I’ve missed Henry :(