Squad Caps, England Caps and Pub Lies

Twice in the past week I’ve been with football friends in the pub when conversation has turned to the new squad rules. Remember, we each in our own head are the greatest footballer never to have signed professional contracts, and so we each like to think we know best – but some of the stuff I’ve heard is baffling, it’s just not grounded in any kind of reality.

I don’t know if it’s the media and it’s sense of hysteria at anything ‘new’, or fans who just don’t understand the rules (at least 10 minutes of every pub conversation in the last two months have been spent squabbling over what the rules actually are) but people seem to have come up with the oddest opinions.

The best one is the generic “this will change everything“, sometimes presented as the “finally the Sky 4 will have to consider their squad sizes and young players, everything has changed for them now”. Occasionally your mate Dave even trots out the “obviously this will make the gap between bottom and top smaller” line. They’re all wrong.

For a start, any club in European competition in the last 2 seasons has already been playing under those rules in Europe. Remember the hysteria when Benitez dropped Hypia from his Champions League squad? He was the first casualty of the new European rules.

The UEFA CL rules are presented here (go to page 26) for anyone who wants to read them (and the Europa League rules are virtually identical) but in summary:

  1. Maximum of 25 players over 21.
  2. 8 of these must be homegrown.
  3. 4 of the homegrown players must be club trained.

Notice that these rules are identical to the new premier league rules with one important difference – they’re stricter.

UEFA competition states that of the 8 spots reserved for homegrown players (any player who has played for 3 years between the ages of 15 and 21 in the local FA leagues is classed as homegrown), 4 must be club trained. That means they must have been at the specific club they will be fielded by for 3 years under the age of 21, rather than any club(s) in that FA’s jurisdiction.

A good example of this is Joe Cole – he is certainly homegrown having been playing under the Englih FA for 3 years before he was 21. But Liverpool cannot consider him ‘club trained’ because he did not spend 3 years before his 21st birthday with Liverpool.

This additional rule was not adopted by the FA for the Premier League.

United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Villa and Fulham all started last season in European Competition under these rules – their squads will already have been balanced  in such a way as to compete. This season Spurs and Manchester City will compete in Europe and so they would already have been under these constraints going forward. These clubs will actually be under stricter constraints for European competition than they will in the league.

So what exactly does this rule change? The top 7 clubs in the Premier League are already under these rules via European competition,  which leaves the remaining 13. Of those 13 clubs Everton and Fulham were under the rules last season so you can’t imagine either squad changing massively. Which leaves 11 clubs.

No disrepect to the bottom half of the table but can you imagine Stoke fielding a team of 11 Brazilians?  Can you see them financing a squad of 40? Will Wigan ever be in a position to juggle a squad of 50?

The new rules don’t change a single thing.

Of course you could argue that up until now the clubs in Europe could have had a massive squad and just picked their very best 25 for Europe, but it’s a disingenuous argument – no club wants to, nor has the money to (City aside), juggle more than 25 regular first team players.  Training, salaries, man management, rotation – it doesn’t work. You can trust clubs to regulate their players themselves.

When your man Dave starts hilariously saying “it’s illegal, it’s against European law” in the pub, point him to this page and explain to him that the European Commission for Sport have already declared the rules perfectly legal – in 2008 as they were being adopted by UEFA. Seriously, it’s beyond ridiculous that people in the pub think that UEFA or the FA wouldn’t consult their lawyers before making sensitive rule changes.

The other argument I’ve heard that’s made me choke on my coke is the classic – “well it will stop the biggest clubs holding onto the countries talent and never give them a chance”. I’ve maintained this position for years – if a player is good enough he will make it. Rooney, Ferdinand, Terry, Lampard, Gerrard, Cashley, Lennon, Bent – these are all English players who are thriving in the Premiership.

If a player is not good enough for the top Premier League teams he will drop down to his natural level, whether it’s breaking bones for Stoke or Birmingham or assaulting girls in nightclubs in the Championship (on that subject it would be pretty great if Shawcross or Taylor could ‘accidentally’ snap Marlon King, he’s a cretin).

I’ll meet you half way – I fully accept that the new rules will make clubs near the limit of the squad cap less likely to hold on to a player. But I’ll argue that’s not actually a good thing – go back to 2008 and the Hypia incident I already mentioned. Who made way to make room in the squad? The 36 year old experienced defender, not the youngsters on the fringe.

As far as I am aware the big clubs do not ‘stockpile’ talent, they do not sit on youngsters to stop them running away and they do not run training camps where if you fail to get all your headers on target you get sent to the shopping centre to spend the rest of your life filling soap dispensers in toilets. What happens is, if you don’t cut it, you get released. You go elsewhere.

This rule doesn’t change that – it may accelerate it, it may make clubs more impatient, eager to build the even more pefect asshole parade – but it won’t stop clubs holding on to the players they believe will do a job and selling/releasing the rest.

Look at the world of business – no one is demanding caps on office staff even though Barclay’s, Aviva and Vodafone are stockpiling the UK’s finest minds. If you’re really good at your job, you might end up working for one of them, if not you might end up working for Dave’s Deskmakers. That’s life.

So what is driving this rule adoption?

It’s the ridiculous notion (and my favourite pub line) that ‘johnny foreigner is ruining English football’ and that the influx of high quality footballers from overseas has ‘massively damaged the England football team’.

Firstly, the things that have damaged the England football team include (but are not limited to):

  1. Rio’s Drug Taking Fiasco©
  2. Waynes Granny Shagathon
  3. Stevie G Self Defending Another Mans Face
  4. John Terry ‘John Terrying’ Another Mans Partner
  5. Cashley Hole And His Disappearing Mobile Phone
  6. Carragher Deciding He Might ‘Do Neill’
  7. Paul Scholes Being Paul Scholes

Things that haven’t actually damaged the England football team:

  1. Foreign Players

I’m one of those people who thinks (and I appear to be in a minority) that the Premier League doesn’t owe the England football team a single thing.  But here are three arguments why the influx of overseas players hasn’t damaged English football at all, and consequently why the new squad rules are misdirected in trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

  1. Bringing in exciting talent from overseas benefits the players already here. Sure – how many Arsenal players have you heard say that Dennis Bergkamp taught them how to turn, Vieira showed them what it was to want to win and Pires showed them vision. Walcott bangs on about Henry’s influence whenever he gets near a microphone (I think Wally was injured when they covered looking up and crossing in training). Think about the other great players – Van Nistelrooy, Cantona, Torres, Ronaldo and Zola – what have they taught aspiring young English players?
  2. England haven’t won a major competition since 1966. In 1991 (start of the Premier League as we know it) there were just 11 non-British players in the top flight of English football. Who was to blame over those 26 years? The Scottish and Welsh players? LOLOLOLOLOL.
  3. France won a World Cup, won a European championship and should have won another World Cup. And then this year they won just one group game and crashed out. Italy crashed out in the group stages. Have either country decided it must be the foreigners in their game? No, they’ve simply decided that their current crop of players are shit. Argentina got further that England, and they had Gutierrez at the back for fucks sake. A man who wowed the Championship with an own goal last season.

If England want to be the new Spain they need to pay attention to nurturing footballing talent from a young age. Teams like Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham and even Chelsea have successful academies, as do many clubs from lower leagues.

But changing the rules of a league that is the most popular footballing league in the world with half-arsed gestures designed to tackle something that isn’t even a problem… no that isn’t going to make a piss pots worth of difference.

  • devday

    Things that haven’t actually damaged the England football team: Foreign Players

    Classic line there Kieran – excellent article.

  • Kieran

    Shit – I forgot to add Alex Fergus to the list of things that have damaged the England football team. Playing Rooney against Bayern last season meant he never really recovered and had a terrible World Cup.

  • devday

    @ Kieran:

    Here is my 29 man squad:

    http://worldofarsenal.co.uk/images/squad_analysis.jpg

    Only 20 are over 21…

  • sycicsid

    excellent post: Agree with everything on this article.
    PS A lot of noise being made by Mertasaker

  • Flamez

    @kieran That has gotta be the single best article ive read on the 25 man rule, but while were adding to the damaged england list can i please add

    Glenn Hoddle and Eileen Drewery’s psychic soccer (damn well wern’t football)

    The Wally with a Brolly

  • Kieran

    @ Flamez:
    Glenda Hoddle was great for a laugh though. Ray Parlour sat in Eileen’s chair and quipped ‘short back and sides please’ – he never played for England under Hoddle again! Classic banter.

  • sycicsid

    Well here it goes,Emmanuels Frimpong has impress me the most in the Emirates cup, he tracks back tackle well he did everything right in those two games that he played at.I hope Wenger took notice of him better that Denilsen & Diaby he goes about doing his job,for me he should be given more opportunity to prove his worth.His not the skillful player around he remind me of Makelele,he does what the manager ask him to do & that is to protect the backfour.Although he was tired in the last 20 minutes as the whole team.

  • dean

    Am i missing something about new squad rules. Ive read, read again and re-read again and im sure that a) we need to have a MINIMUM of eight homegrown players aged over 21 and b) we currently only have seven. Unless I have mapped the squad wrong, I have the seven as Mannone, Djourrou, Clichy, Denilson, Song, Cesc and Bendtner. Is there one I am missing? Theo is classed as under 21 as he was born after 1st Jan 1989 (what a great year that was by the way!!). Or maybe I have misunderstood the rule and homegrown under 21 also count toward the eight? Im sure that they are classed seperately and there must be a minimum of 8 OVER 21. Sol going to Newcastle i think scuppered wengers plans. Im sure he has to bring one in just to comply with the rules. Hart, Given, Jagielka?? We know it will be a CB or GK as thats all we infor with CB seemingly the priority. How old is Cahill?

  • devday

    @ sycicsid:
    Based on the weekend, so you really think he is now better than Denilson / Diaby? That’s a bold statement.

    Personally, I’d like to see a first choice midfield trio of:

    Nasri – Cesc – Song

    and if Song is unavailable than using Frimpong to do the “Song” role would work. If Nasri or Cesc was unavailable then the likes of Wilshere, Diaby and Denilson should be used in those positions.

  • devday

    @ dean:
    It’s a minimum of 17 foreign players (non-homegrown) and a maximum of 8 over 21′s HG – a category which can included players under 21 too.

  • Kodjo

    Wenger can forget about Frimpong playing for England..he is already committed to Ghana!!!! Should be stepping in as Essien and Co fade out of the game.

  • devday

    @ Kodjo:
    Really? Arsene said he hadn’t chosen yet!

  • http://kierandelaney.net kierandelaney.net

    @ dean:
    @ devday:
    It is a maximum of 25 players over 21, of which only 17 can be non-’homegrown’. The final 8 places are ‘reserved’ for homegrown players. You do not need to fill the 8 reserved spots. It is conceivable that a squad could consist of no homegrown players, but they would only be able to name 17 players (i.e. filling all the unreserved spots).

    Under 21′s should be disregarded entirely, you can have as many as you like, regardless of homegrown status.

  • http://kierandelaney.net kierandelaney.net

    In fact that fits in with the article nicely – very few premiership squads are actually at the 25 man barrier.

  • Pete

    Good article Kieran. Didn’t realise that the clubs are only allowed a maximum of 8 home grown players over 21. If thats the case it asks some interesting questions when we look at how many foreign players and under 21′s we have as well as how many home-grown.

    Of all the players currently in out squad, I make it only 12 foreign players, 7 over-21 homegrown players and 10 under-21′s, totalling 29 players.

    Now seeing as the club is only allowed a maximum of 25 players per squad, the first question to ask is who are 4 Arsenal players that have to be dropped in order to reach the 25 limit?

    These new rules seem to have actually promose the use of more foreign players, not home grown. In Arsenals case, with only 12 “foreign” players in our squad so far, under the new rules we actually have room for a maximum of 5 more foreign players over 21. Which isn’t a worry.

    But there is a cause for concern when it comes to our home grownand under 21 players, and here’s why.

    With 7 of the 8 homegrown spaces in our squad already taken up, it leaves us room for only one more player to fill that space. And with Vela, Walcott, Gibbs and Nordveidt all turning 21 within the next year or so, they’ll all be vying for that last homegrown spot in the squad, which could leave the 3 other players in limbo, unless we sell on a player already taking up a home grown spot. So in actual fact, Sol Campbell leaving the club worked out BETTER for the us then having him stay. If we were to sell any more of our home grown players, the only serious contenders would be Bentdner and Denilson.

    Whats more, if the home grown quota is indeed 8 MAXIMUM per squad, then teams like Man City, Man United, Aston Villa and Spurs need to sell a few of their home grown players, as they all exceed the 8 home grown limit.

    So in actual fact, the new rules seem to encourage clubs to actually cut back the number of home grown over 21′s and promote the use of more foreign players.

    Below is a list of the Arsenal players, and which catagory they come under.

    Arsenal Squad:

    Foreign players over 21:
    Almunia, Fabianski, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Diaby, Nasri, Eboue, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh, RvP.

    Homegrown: Manone, Djorou, Clichy, Cesc, Denilson, Song, Bentdner.

    Under 21: Szezcesny, Gibbs, Nordveit, Traore, Ramsey, Wilshere, Eastmond, Frimpong, Walcott, Vela

  • http://kierandelaney.net kierandelaney.net

    Pete wrote:

    Good article Kieran. Didn’t realise that the clubs are only allowed a maximum of 8 home grown players over 21. If thats the case it asks some interesting questions when we look at how many foreign players and under 21’s we have as well as how many home-grown.

    This is not true, Dev made a typo originally, not sure I was any clearer. 8 spots of the 25 are reserved for homegrown players, but you can have as many as you want up to 25. It is only non-homegrown players that are limited at 17.

  • Pete

    Ah, my bad mate. Thakns for clarifying.

  • http://kierandelaney.net kierandelaney.net

    It’s totally confusing! Best way to think of it is –

    1) We can have as many kids as we like
    2) We can have as many ‘homegrown’ players as we like.
    3) We can have up to 17 none homegrown players.
    4) 2 + 3 together must total no more than 25.

  • Kodjo

    2 d

  • Kodjo

    Sorry folks i hit the wrong button…

    @ Dev

    Frimpong has already committed to Ghana…its on the arsenal website…i’d have to dig it out …only thing is he hasnt actually played for Ghana yet. That is what Wenger may be referring to.

    I hope he gets called up into the Ghana team shortly….

  • dean

    So Song is also injured and Wenger wants to start the season with 18 year old. This is just why Cesc wants to leave. This man can never change. He ssaid he looked at the possibility of signing a DM but after seeing Wilshere and Frimpong in the Emirates cup, then there is no need for one. So he wants to now deploy 18 yr old to hold forth for Song. This man will kill AFC this season again. Why can this man buy som quality. Look Khedira wnt to Madrid for 14M Euro. We could have got him. Wenger spend and balance this team. Can you imagine celtic coming back with two goals. Defence and midfield are still lacking. One GK, defender and DM a priority. Arsener Act fast and dont be deceived by emirates cup cos if you dont buy, that will be the only trophy this season

  • Berth

    Dean we all feel your pains because we re in this together. Besides the 18 year old guy, am more worried of the GK and Defence positions.

    We all cannot pretend we don’t know why Fab wants to leave. The manger keeps making crucial decisions in a terrible way and he takes decisions without sometimes analysing his team the right way.U consider making share – holders happy at the expense of the fans and the team. Fab, arshvin, V.P, Gallas and now Sagna have all complained of the need to add to the team in the past.

    But I think what Fab is trying to do is – you can fool me once but not twice – The Gaffer is becoming too predictable, he surely needs to reinvent himself with new ideas and be more of a realist than a fantasist

  • sycicsid

    Hey Dean I actually believe Wenger and the rest of the Division, are awaiting the Man City jumble yard sale. City have to decrease their squad size. Maybe Kompany, SWP or Ireland. Who knows, except that there will be movement. Come on You Reds. Cheers

  • Flamez

    this is the arsenal interview about frimpong and ghana

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/frimpong-free-video

  • Gooner Get Ya

    So far we have spent around 3 million pounds on transfers:

    Chamakh – Free
    Kos – 8-10m

    Eduardo – 7m

    My question is why? we can’t possibley say we have no money as we all know we should have at least 20m – 30m to spend.

    I understand that AW doesn’t want to buy a DM but we really need another CB and a GK? That gives us up to 10m on a GK and up to 20m on a decent CB. Get it done!!!

    I have a feeling we will only get one more signing and that will be a CB. I have come to this conclusion after AW said that he doesn’t like signing more than 3 players.

  • pareshpatel

    I would rather let Wilshere play in a starting midfield than Denilson any day of the week. The boy has class oozing out of him, he’s tenacious, has drive and appetite for the big games, and is not afraid to put the boot in a few tackles, something Denilson seems totally lost on. As much as an attacking threat Wilshere is, he does more of a defensive role than Denilson offers. I still have nightmares of Rooney’s goal last year with Denilson jogging back while a jet-heeled Rooney punished us once again. Diaby has no self awareness in midfield, if he loses a ball he’d rather contemplate on what was so nearly a good pass or goal, rather than turn and get the ball back. Wilshere displayed a hunger for the ball and will to win seen in this years Emirates cup that is all to absent from our so-called stars. There were times when Wilshere was playing intricate 1-2′s being fouled in build-ups yet jumping up to carry-on and retrieve the ball again. That is the sort of commitment I and I’m sure many Gooners would like to see from every Arsenal player.

  • Kieran

    @ dean:
    You genuinely think Khedira, one of the stars of the World Cup would want to come and sit on Arsenal’s bench whenever Song is fit? Odd.

    I imagine that if Song is injured for big games (like the opener against Liverpool) Diaby will play in defensive midfield, just because he has Frimpong and Eastmond for emergency cover, it doesn’t mean he’ll definitely play them.

    @ Berth:
    Fabregas leaving has little to do with who Wenger does and does not want to sign. Look at Ronaldo, did he leave United because they didn’t buy big names or did he leave because it was his life long dream to play in Spain? Fabregas is from Barcelona, he grew up at Barcelona, his best friends play at Barcelona.

  • Kodjo

    Hi folks:

    One thing that must be reiterated is that Wenger is not the sort of chap who will go out and buy without due consideration to the budget…economics…

    Wenger will always live within his means and that means we will not see the 15-20 million signing that guys are craving for…besides looking around how many quality midfielders are out there…???

    As Kieran pointed out is Khedira better than Song?..Probably not…will he be willing to sit on the bench and wait for his chance when there is an injury to Song?

    Wenger will not pay top wages to players and have them sit on the bench…Chelsea and the likes of Man City can afford to do so…but not Arsenal. Even Man Utd are moving away from the days when you had 15-20 million players sitting on the bench. The economic realities of today mean that Wenger has to be pragmatic by making responsible economic decisions…regardless of who the largest shareholder/owner is.

    Going down the path of Man City and the financial mess of the likes of Man Utd., Pompey, L’pool is a no-no.

    What Wenger has done is to have a good enough 1st 11 supplemented by talented youngsters who are being groomed and willing to bide their time …on decent wages knowing that they are a year or 2 away from being starters.

    I’m afraid some fans have to accept this policy or go support Man City…it’s as simple as that!

    Yes finding a decent goalkeeper is imperative but at what price? Schwarzer at 37 years is definitely not worth the 4 million being quoted plus wages. If Arsenal get a good deal for Almunia …I’m sure Arsenal will accept it …but will the wages being offered be attractive to Almunia? Probably not so he will stick around …until a buying club can at least match his wages…and if I were in his shoes I’ll do likewise. Wenger is not the type to viciously kick players out of the club…even though business is business!!!

    I’d love the goal keeping situation cleared up asap.

    Yes there is a price to pay for living within your means.

    Certainly the likes of barca who have bought success and racked up piles of debt does not attract me one bit…ask Henry…if winning the champions league is everything in his life…he’ll tell you that barca on the outside is not the same inside. That champion’s league medal is hollow to say the least! Yes you still find players and fans alike, who are happy to win at all costs…even if it results in bankruptcy.

    At the end of the day it come down to one’s perpesctive and values in life.

  • Kodjo

    Just an addition to my previous post for guys who are crazy about Wenger not siging world class players…

    Walter Broeckx has written an interesting article at UNTOLD ARSENAL on the subject matter. Definitely worth reading.

  • Berth

    kieran Your opinion isnt exactly accurate neither is mine – am only speculating and my speculation looks more realistic than yours at least 65 perc.

    The truth Kieran is we need to start buying and we need to change our attitude of economising to the point of madness.Will you not be happy seeing players like Ozil wanting Arsenal or players like Yaya coming here or even Fab not hiding in spain, declaring to see Barca fans more often.

    I would not hav bordered commenting on Arsenal again, but the way things keep unfolding is not in my best interest as a fan. U see as an international Arsenal fan, my perception is not like the pure English Arsenal fan, I would like to associate myself with success and so does everyone in this forum – the only worry is that Wenger has redefines success from winning trophy to finishing fourth which 75perc of the fans have unfortunately bought into.

    Whenever I read Devs blog i sense his fears but he tries as much to be neutral and supportive of Arsene so does Kieren and the rest of you fine bloggers. But please u bloggers should try to say things the way they really see them. We are all in this thing together, we feel the pains together and feel the joy together.

  • Berth

    kodjo ur opinion is right, but you see it from a different view. I see Wenger differently, I see him as some one obsessed with his ideaology of youth policy. Obsession is the name and nothing more. You cant tell me Shwartzar is the only keeper that can be of help for 4 million.

    Kodjo lets see it this – you have frimpong play 3 non premiership matches; his only 18 and u call him a back up for song! We really need to wake up, we have so many sleeping fans. And pls whenever someone raises his voice criicizing Wenger, pls dont rush concluding the person should go to another club. We have to be critical and thats the way forward for every institution. Not even the perfect man can be spared from critisism.

  • Kieran

    @ Berth:
    I’m not sure what you think is factually inaccurate in my statement?! Fabregas came from Barca, he grew up at Barca and his mates play at Barca – they are facts!

    You’re right that neither of us know if he has any other motivations for wanting to leave – which is why I ignore any speculation on them!

    Although I think you misinterpret some of our feelings – 4th place is not success, it’s a minimum expectation. However, it is certainly not the end of the world either, there are 92 worse positions to be in in English professional football!

  • Kieran

    Kodjo, lovely post fella, I certainly agree. I would rather do things the Arsenal way than the Barcelona way – I just can’t see the appeal in tapping up players, spending beyond your means, making £70b losses and having to take out emergency loans just to pay your players wages.

    We do need a keeper, and we do need a defender – anyone who read the official site today will see confirmation that Nordveit is actually a right back, not a central defender despite what others may have you believe.

  • walter

    We should buy more world class players. It is a sentence often used by fans who want us to buy more.

    So maybe we could try to find what is exactly meant by “a world class” player. If I think of world class players I think of players who can turn a game and win a game. Players who are so excellent in some skill they have, be it dribbling or the vision to deliver the killer ball. Mostly they are players who play in an attacking position or from midfield. And then I come up with names like : Christiano Ronaldo, Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder, Kaka from a few years back, and well that is about it. The only other real world class player I can think about is the one we have: Fabregas.

    Now just the fact that you put two world class players in one team does not automatically give you titles. Because it can happen that the two players don’t match together and the balance in the team could get lost. But if we take a look at the players who are named I think we all can understand that those players are out of our reach. We would have to pay not only over the odds to buy them from their current team but we also will have to break our wages policy. And this could be the start of a negative spiral in wages. Other players will look at the superstar who gets far more than they and could end up saying: so you receive double of my money, so you run twice as much as I do. I think we can understand that this would bring trouble in the team.

    So it is fair to say that those big money signings and big earners are out of our reach.

    But I understand that most people talk about world class defenders and maybe a world class defensive midfield player. If we start with defensive midfielders I really cannot think of many names that look better than the player we have as a first choice for the moment. I really think I would take Song over Diarra (Real Madrid), or Busquet (Barcelona). Maybe I would have Essien from the last years but he looks to be very injury prone for the moment and will he be the same player that he was before his injury? No one can answer that question so I would stick to Song as he is younger and will improve in the next years. After all it was only his first year as a player who got a starting place in the team.

    Melo is a name that is often mentioned but I really don’t know if he would be good enough. He is a player that likes to change teams a lot in his career and when he finally got to a top team, Juventus, he failed. Also his attitude on the field and sometimes a lack of composure cost his team, just as it cost Brazil in the game against Holland at the last world cup. So I think I will take Song over Melo also.

    And let us not forget we have now with Frimpong a young Gunner who is having a great pre season and who is impressing in every game he has played so far. So I feel rather confident with Frimpong as a cover at defensive midfield. Let’s grow our own world class defensive midfielders.

    Then let’s move on to the heart of the defence. If you can give me names of world class defenders I would welcome it. I think in defence you must always have a good partnership between two players. If played alongside another they could look average or even poor, but when you sometimes put two players together they form a natural partnership and both look great. I think Vidic and Ferdinand are the most obvious example. Vidic was mostly unknown but he seemed to match with Ferdinand and they both formed a great defensive partnership in the last seasons.

    So it could well be that a player who looks good on paper (or on your TV) is only looking good because of his partner. So if you buy a defender it could well mean that you take him away from his natural partner and that the so called world class defender becomes an average one just because his partner is missing. So one has to be very careful in buying a defender just because he looks good in his team.

    A name that is mentioned a lot is the name of Mertesacker of Werder Bremen. And yes I would love it if we would buy him. But I wouldn’t be sure that he would be the best buy we ever made. It could happen but it all depends on how he integrates with the other defenders we have for the moment. It could be that a natural partnership arises but it could also happen that both defenders play on an island and don’t connect with each other.

    And while speaking of writing people off too early I also would like to remind you of the career of Mertesacker, who is one of the fan’s favourites to sign this summer. When he was around 18 years old he was considered as an average player and he even thought about ending his career at that time. He then got a chance to play for his club Hannover against FC Koln and was substituted at half time as he was playing so poorly. And it took him another few years to become an established player for his team.

    It was only a few seasons later his talent was recognised and he was noticed by the bigger club: Werder Bremen. And Mertesacker who never got a call up for his national youth teams before the U20 team became the defender he is today. So let us not write players off before we have seen them play for a proper amount of time.

    And those who are looking at the last 20 minutes against Celtic and point the finger at our defence I would also like to consider the following facts: our normal 3 defenders from last season went off at that time. And also the defensive work done all game by the rest of the attack and midfield stopped for a big part. Some players did not track back any more and let their players run at our defenders who were outnumbered on a few occasions. We can blame the defence but I think it is wise to remember that defending is a team effort and team work. And I mean the whole team and not just the 4 defenders.

  • vj

    i really hope we sign a CB by the final friendly, i don’t think we will sign a GK, wenger annoyingly will stick to almunia mannone and fabianski this season. but i really want a quality CB to support vermaelen. Koscielny, Djourou as back ups, I think Nordveit will do very well as well when he plays in carling cup probs. Prefrebly if wenger does sign a GK then were looking at
    GK
    Sagna Vermaelen CB Clichy
    Song Fabregas Nasri
    Arshavin Chamakh Van Persie

    second team

    Almunia/ Mannone/ Fabianski
    Eboue Djourou Koscielny Gibbs
    Diaby Denilson Ramsey
    Rosicky Bendtner Walcott

    not to mention wilshere Nordveit Traore Frimpong Eastmond Vela
    thats a quality squad

  • Kodjo

    @ Kieran

    Good response with regards to the situation at arsenal and @ Berths thoughts…

    I find it hard to accept that for Wenger 4th place is equal to success. Especially for a coach of his calibre and for someone who has won the championship and close to winning the champions league on virtually the same budget.

    Reality is this…

    Wenger does not have the funds that he used to have in the past…as such cannot afford to buy the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Messi etc…

    Make the best out of the situation…meaning

    Buying world class players outside of the bracket mentioned above, to add something different such as Arshavin’s transfer.

    Develop our own players like Cesc, RVP for now…Vela, Wilshere, Frimpong, Randall, JET

    Augment with good players from other teams who are not yet in the limelight like Kos, Chamakh and Vermaelen

    Most importantly tie up the existing players on long term contracts while at the same time keeping their wages in check.

    In light of what is happening at Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd …there is no level playing field. Throw in dubious referee decisions, bad luck with injuries, problems in defense and you see where Arsenal is at…..

    Do i hope that we win the league and more trophies, ofcourse … but at the same time i will not be blinded by so much passion that i fail to recognize or factor in the cold reality of life that, there can only be one winner…by fair or foul means. And that there are other teams competing to win trophies as well.

  • http://kierandelaney.net kierandelaney.net

    Emir Spahić linked with Arsenal today, superb defender who would be exactly what the supporters want imo. Tough, uncompromising etc.

  • http://kierandelaney.net kierandelaney.net

    Ah, last post was a quote from my twitter.

  • Berth

    Kodjo – try to reason with me.

  • Kodjo

    @ Berth

    I did reason with you in my post. I understand your concerns with a player like Fimpong but remember that the coaches at arsenal deal with these players on a day to day basis as such know when they are ready.

    Yes he has to play a lot more to develop his game which means he will make his mistakes…but so has every great player. Look at Cesc for instance…Wenger has groomed him for the past 7 years mistakes or not bcos he knew it will pay off in the end.

    Yes Yaya Toure would have been a good additon but at what cost…will it mean that wenger will play 2 defensive mids? or either Song or Toure sits on the bench???? it means that a player like Frimpong would have had to go out on loan…but usually if Arsene feels that a player is close to breaking through he keeps them close to the first team.

    At the end of the day if you good enough you will play.

    It would also be helpful if you give us list of goalkeepers who cost around 4 million and are world beaters.

  • Berth

    @ Kodjo: “Look at Cesc for instance…Wenger has groomed him for the past 7 years mistakes or not bcos he knew it will pay off in the end”.

    I would like to know in what way Fabregas has paid off for us fans – He is only going to make money for us as a club which I see as the Wenger’s Arsenal way. Fab is asking out now who know who else will want out; maybe Song, V.P or vermlean. That has been our way these few years and do not pretend you don’t know that.