How many Man Utd players would get into Arsenal’s First Team?

March 31, 2011

I spend much time discussing football with fans of other teams. Inevitably we play the “but he would never play in our team “game, and this could be the first of “How many Arsenal players would get in  ……… first team”?

Let us look at the current leaders of the PL,  Man Utd, taking what I believe to be Mr Wenger’s first choice 11 v Aaron’s view of the SAF’s first choice.

Note Well. This team is set-up in Arsenal’s formation , not the Man Utd 4-4-2 !

 

Van de Saar v Szczesny.

Not as obvious as one might think. Van de Saar has huge experience and has been a superb keeper. Had AW signed him 5 years ago we could well well won a title or two, but at 40 y.o. his powers are fading and retirement beckons. Whereas our new GK is but a slip of a lad and has a glittering future ahead – he dominates the area, is a fine shot-stopper and is learning quickly.  Experience v Youth?  It has to be the Pole.

Sagna v Rafael.

Rafael looks major find. Comfortable on the ball, can cross, likes to attack, and can tackle but he has already shown a questionable temperament and has clearly studied tapes of Dani Alves’s cheating  techniques. Sagna is quite simply the best right back in the PL. I would like to see his crossing improve but in every other area he is superb.

Centre Backs.

Man Utd are truly blessed in this area. Ferdinand and Vidic combine footballing skills and strength. They are both on-field leaders and the rock around which MU function. Arsenal’s first choice CB pairing is unclear, who are they? TV/JD? TV/Kos? Kos/JD?  The JD/Kos pairing seems stable and they combine well but neither is at the level of either of MU’s CB’s

Clichy v Evra.

I love Gael, I detest Evra, but my feelings are not based around their footballing ability.  Sadly, Evra is a fine footballer, a winner and very consistent. Gael, as we all know, has lapses, I think he is a better attacking force than Evra but Evra is more solid. I am afraid Evra gets the shirt.

Song v  Carrick

No contest here. When Carrick was at West Ham he looked as though he could develop into the new Bryan Robson – it didn’t happen, whether through lack of ability or injury, we will never know. Either way, he hasn’t the control or vision of Song who at the tender age of 23 is already one of the most influential players in the PL.

Fletcher v Wilshere.

Jack’s progress is nothing short of astonishing. At the age of 19 to be the central figure in the England team indicates a truly great player in the making, but Fletcher is the key player in a dull yet effective MU midfield. A terrier and a man who doesn’t accept losing – just the type of player we are lacking at Arsenal. So it is with heavy heart that I take Fletcher, because I believe that with him in the team we would already have won the PL, though I fully accept this is a controversial decision!

Nani v Theo

Another tough one. Nani has all the tricks, has pace and a fine shot. He also has a very questionable attitude and dreadful hair. Theo has better hair, more pace, less attitude and could be a future Arsenal great. However Nani has 9 goals and 16 assists and is the most effective player in the PL this season, whereas despite having his best season to date Theo has 7 goals, 6 assists. Shame on me but it has to be Nani

Rooney v Fabregas

This is difficult because they do not play the same roles as MU normally set up as 4-4-2-. If one assumes that Rooney is MU’s playmaker then we have to pit him against our own playmaker,  I could duck the issue and say it depends upon the opposition or shift Rooney out left to be compared with Nasri, but a direct comparison it has to be. Let’s look at this season’s stats – Cesc: 31 apps,  9 goals. 13 assists. Rooney: 29 apps, 9 gls, and 11 assists (?). On these stats Cesc is more slightly effective though both are the talisman of their sides. When either of them plays at the top of their form, their teams win. I love Cesc and this is an Arsenal site so Cesc gets it.

RvP v Hernandez/ Berbs.

I asked my MU mad friend Aaron who would be SAF’s first 11, and he chose Hernandez ahead of Berbatov. I would pick RvP ahead of either of them. Simply put, our Dutch striker is World Class, a player who can score both the spectacular and elementary goals.

Nasri v Valencia

Valencia is a fine player and I expect him to have a major impact on the PL next season, but Nasri is at another level. That Samir became France’s new National Captain last weekend is evidence of his rising stature and reliability. A fine player and with Valencia only just returning from injury, the obvious choice.

So a team of:

Quite how this team would function would be the managers concern though he would have a fantastic bench should the team not perform.

Clearly MU’s defensive steel added to Arsenal’s greater ball control would be a frightening prospect for any opposition and I would expect this side to win the PL, but they would be unlikely to go through a season unbeaten – only a truly great side could do that …. ;-)

Finally, today is the 10th anniversary of Rocky’s untimely death. We all loved Rocky, he was a Gooner through and through, a hero to all who watched his development through the youth teams and into the wonderful player he became. My favourite memory of him was his goal at the Lane in the League Cup Semi-Final – one of the most exciting moments of my life. Gone but never forgotten.


An Open Letter To People Who Write Open Letters to Arsenal

March 30, 2011

Dear Angry of Internetville,

Yes, we know you’re frustrated.

It would have been good to have won the Carling Cup.

Knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup would have been very satisfying.

It would have been excellent to have beaten Barcelona and progressed to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Some trophies over the past five years might also have been nice.

Maybe some additional world class signings during that time would have helped too.

But none of those things happened and we are where we are.

By all means use the Blogosphere as a forum to discuss the merits and shortcomings of our players and our manager.

But please stop writing Open Letters to Mr Wenger, Mr Gazidis, the Board of Directors of Arsenal FC or all three combined.

THEY’RE NOT LISTENING.

THEY DON’T READ THEM.

AND RIGHT NOW THEY’RE TRYING TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE.

Of course, you already know they’re not listening, but it doesn’t stop you posting your Open Letter on the internet. So why do you do it?

Isn’t it just a way of trying to make yourself seem important?

But I’m sorry to have to inform you that your view is just as unimportant as mine, my eight-year-old son’s, the bloke with smelly feet who sits behind me at The Grove’s and every other supporter’s.

We are all amateurs. The professionals, thankfully, are the ones running our club and the ones who have performed the greatest miracle in modern football by keeping us seriously competitive while moving to a new stadium that will guarantee our future long after the Chelseas and Manchester Citys have gone into post-sugar daddy decline.

Yours truly,

RockyLives


Why Arsène?…….

March 29, 2011

Written by Harry

The inner workings of Arsène Wengers mind have for some 15 years, had the average Arsenal fan’s imagination captivated. We’ve been spellbound by the intricate passing and mesmeric breathtaking counter attacks, in awe of the array of attacking talent on show, which saw us reach the pinnacle with the Invincibles unbeaten run in 2004, a feat unliklely ever to be matched by another team………

Taking Arsenal and along with them the rest of the Premier league to another level, Wenger was arguably the catalyst (along with Sky) to really establishing the PL as the best league in the world. Wenger’s success challenged old red nose, who responded and their personal duel over a period of 6 years has hogged many of the back pages……….

Wenger as we know, changed established habits,  diets, routines, really shaping, maybe even reinventing the culture of the stereotypical British Player, whilst fully integrating the foreign players, sprinkling that grit of the bulldog with the finesse of the European pedigree…..

He has created a training facility to be proud of; moved us from our spiritural home to a state of the art super stadium that is the envy of many. Plaudits and admiration have come from around the globe, vultures circle on our playing staff , the manager himself and even the groundsman, as many of the worlds greatest clubs (equal to ours of course) have come calling……And not forgetting our Physio Gary Lewin was also po0ached by England and let’s not go into the injury situation since his cousin took over…

Along the way we have lost some of our prize playing assets, but always to the financial betterment of Arsenal. Anelka was transformed from 500k to some 23million pounds.  Other favourites departed for the greener grass, but Wenger is a canny operator who has managed his assets as if they were highly spec’d finely tuned racing cars…he instinctively knew when he could move them on and replace them with better more advanced models (Anelka really the only one moving ahead of schedule, his on board computer was playing up), in the meantime he cultivated his youth products to ensure that we had the talent already groomed in the Wenga-ball methods.

Some of these youngsters have moved on, Bentley, Thomas and I suppose the most infamous was AsSHcOLE, but slowly we have seen some make it into the first team, it has been a very slow and at times a painful process as we have came so close to winning silverware but falling just short each time often due to a lack of experience / squad depth and of course the gutter press, along with Hansen, Lawrenson and the rest of MoTD have completely milked the cow at every opportunity to have a dig at our expense.

The fall was from very high up, having been invincible in 2004, the fans expectation was extremely high maybe even lacking a touch of realism, many have criticised Le Boss for some of his decisions probably rightly so at times, there have been tactical errors, failure to make changes when required during games, and the slow or even complete lack of movement within the transfer markets, most notably in the mid season window for a couple of seasons we have had a hole that has needed plugging due to injuries and he has failed to remedy. Another season we needed a striker, this season we really needed another centre back……… but Wenger waits on the return of injured players….

So Wenger is not infalliable, he does make mistakes, but overall he has transformed our club and really changed it from the bottom up, the club now has a solid slab reinforced foundation now that will stand the test of time, when he does go, whoever does takes over will be a very fortunate manager.

But why highlight what we already know, well at times when things do go awry, and at the moment our season has hit a brick wall, some teddys have been thrown by some fans who I feel don’t appreciate fully what Wenger has truly given us  and just cannot see the wood for the trees. Hopefully if I am still walking this planet in 25 years time, when everyone looks back, we will all be hailing him as a Legend and all of us appreciating what he has done for us..

Coming back to the here and now, and the thing that prompted the writing of this and looking at the whole picture, is something someone had said on one of the comments a few days ago, is just what you would  ask le Boss, if you had time alone with him to talk about Arsenal…..

My top 5 questions for Wenger:

1. Do you feel looking back, that your over 30’s policy that has seen much experience walk out the door has in someway affected our chances of delivering silverware and leaves you with some regret? And of the over 30’s that left which one do you wish you had kept on for longer?

2. At one point we had an abundance of centre midfielders, with Silva, Flamini, Diarra all vying for a space, Diarra was the one we all had high hopes for, but Flamini made it hard for you to drop him, but due to this we lost both of them, do you think you should have handled this differently, as surely now we are very weak in this area?

3. Bob Wilson has been quoted recently saying that you tried your hardest to get Reina in before this season started, do you feel your inability to get a decent keeper in to replace Jens Lehmann has really cost over the last 3 or 4 seasons?

4. Invariably, you do not make substitutions at half time even when we are playings atrociously, why is that?

5. Who is the best player who has played for you at Arsenal and which one has disappointed the most?

What would your top 5 questions be?


Sixty Thousand Voices Singing “Manuel Almunia”

March 28, 2011

Imagine this:

It’s our next home game. The interlull is over at last and we’re playing Blackburn Rovers in the latest ‘must win’ game.

As the players emerge onto the pitch, the crowd at The Grove gives voice as one. It’s a visceral, emotional outpouring of passion, enough to make the hairs on the back of even Gladstone Small’s neck stand up.

And what are these 60,000 people (alright nitpickers, 57,000 people) chanting? It’s this:

“Manuel Almunia, Manuel Almunia, Manuel Almunia etc.”

Just contemplate the impact on our goalkeeper.

A week ago he was a broken man, shaking his head in disbelief and, one must assume, self loathing for his latest clanger (the goalkeeping equivalent of trying to execute a 180 on the M25 in rush hour).

But he will almost certainly be turning out between the sticks for the Blackburn game – and he must be dreading the reception he’s likely to get. The image comes to mind of a baby seal being asked to waddle into 60,000 Canadians armed with clubs.

But what if his reception was a massive outpouring of support? What if the whole home crowd really was singing his name (with fervour, mind; not with irony)?

The more I have thought about this, the more I feel it’s exactly what we, the supporters, should do.

You don’t have to love the man. You don’t have to want him in our squad next season. But when he steps out for us against Rovers you have to support him. You have no choice.

You’re an Arsenal supporter, right? You want us to win the league this year, right? Well you have to support the man in goal because he is playing for us and we need him to be the best he can be.

There’s no guarantee that a vociferous round of support for Manuel will make him less likely to make blunders – but it’s sure as hell got to be more helpful than booing him or cheering ironically, which will only dent his confidence even further with possibly disastrous consequences.

He doesn’t pick himself. If he’s not good enough that’s Arsene Wenger’s fault, not his. So when he steps out for us let’s show him that we are behind him.

It will also show the rest of the footballing world that we are the classiest set of fans in the country.

If you think otherwise, if you think that you would prefer to boo him then, and I do not use this phrase lightly, you are not a true Arsenal fan. If you want to try and damage further an already damaged member of the team I have supported all my life, with the likely outcome of making him even more error-prone with a consequent impact on our chances of silverware, then I can only conclude that, deep down, you don’t want us to win.

The nearly six years without a trophy seems to have produced a masochistic minority among our fan base, people who seem to get off more on the disappointments than the successes.

When we lose, they are the first to get online with an outpouring of rage against the players, the manager and the board. When we win, their silence is deafening – The Silence of the Shams, you might say.

If you really support The Arsenal and you’re going to the Blackburn game, then give your full support to Cesc and Song and Theo and Samir and all the rest of them. And above all, give it to Manuel.

Let’s lift the (nonexistent) roof off for our goalie.

He needs it and, who knows, it might just turn him into the ‘keeper who wins us the league title.

RockyLives



The future is so bright…….Jack’n’Aaron both strut their tekkers…..

March 27, 2011

Written by Harry

As 69,000 and a couple of blow up sheep packed into the Millennium stadium, to watch a home nations clash, something that has sadly been missing from the annual footy calendar, it was however just seen as a mere sideshow to the main event for many gooners…..

As GIE pointed out yesterday, watching Jack and Aaron go head to head was that added ingredient that made watching an England match worthwhile, perhaps even more interesting than John Terry’s love life for a change…..I must admit as much as I am proud to be English, at times I have found it hard to watch them play, often more painful than sitting on a whoopee cushion full of nails…

On to our two boys, I am not sure Jack looks quite as good in an England shirt, perhaps it was a bit over stretched from Frank Lampard normally wearing it…………

Aaron looked the part as the new Welsh Captain, the youngest in their history, lining up in the tunnel. Aaron understandably looked very nervy and as the play got underway, his nerves were certainly unsettling our welsh maestro…..But a game of this intensity can only help Aaron get his sharpness back..

Jack settled very easily and as England dominated early doors, he just seemed to glide around the pitch as if he was dancing on ice. His movement and positioning just seems so second nature, he makes the side tick as he moves through the gears more effortlessly than Jordan’s knickers come down. Tenacious in the tackle, strong on the ball, his maturity is only blighted by his occasional reaction to certain situations where he feels he didn’t get a decision from the referee……but in some ways that’s his desire to win which sets him apart…..

As the game developed  Wales were still predominantly on the back foot under immense pressure from England, Aaron’s Captains armband was weighing heavy as he tried too hard to affect Wales play. You could see the frustration etched on his face. It just seemed that everything he tried didn’t come off, with some missed passes and losing possession under pressure on a more than a few occasions……

Jack really seemed to be the lynchpin as he continued to probe, always open for a pass, at every opportunity he took the ball and moved it on quickly, often getting a kick for his troubles, his vision saw him set Bent free on more than one occasion with subtle and sublime passes, the only thing Jack lacks for me is a more selfish streak when the goal was in range, because he really has a powerful shot when unleashed.

Although Ramsey will probably want to forget the first half, his presence throughout the 2nd half saw him become more influential as Wales made a more of a fist of it, but in truth they never really looked like getting back into as England stood firm.  Aaron looked calm on the ball and controlled in possession but just lacked that bit of sharpness which would have aided Wales more.

Overall I though the game was disappointing and became a bit flat after England went two up, perhaps caught in two minds as to go for the throat or hold what they had……A welsh goal in the last 20mins would have made the match interesting, but Ramsey and Bellamy couldn’t get a shot on target…

An unbiased opinion from me saw Wilshere get England MotM (ahead of Young) and I gave him a solid 8 for both halves, he was withdrawn on 81mins…..

Ramsey gets a 6 overall, 5 for the 1st half, but a much improved 7 for his endeavours in the 2nd half, where for me he was Wales best player in last 30mins…..

The experience both our young stars will get from games like this can only be good for Arsenal, next season I really think these two will help fully establish Arsenal as a dominant team in the Premiership. Both have great individual talent and confidence to dominate and control games, adding that little bit of difference when needed, a drive and determination to succeed.

Both are leaders in their style of play and the confidence they have to play football, is what will see them become more influential as their careers develop, without doubt Arsene has two of the most talented youngsters in Europe within his grasp……

Both have room for improvement and they are not there yet, but I feel there can only be exciting times ahead at the Emirates with these two, I just hope we keep them both for the next 10-15years…………….


Rambo vs Jacko

March 26, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Not an ex commando out for revenge going mano-a-mano with a chirpy painter and decorator from south London, nor is he taking on a resurrected white gloved moonwalker.

It is instead a reason to watch an International involving England for the first time in as long as I can remember. I have revelled in many moments over the years of watching International football, normally when the team still played the English game. Italia 90 and Euro 96 spring to mind as great England teams neither of which contained many players from the Arsenal side. I have given up more recently as our approach to International football has become more cumbersome and quite frankly boring to watch.

Today, hopefully, we get to see two young skilful ball players go head to head in the centre of midfield, and more importantly they are our young players, and they are the future of the Arsenal central midfield.

A year separates the two in age but their progression through International ranks has been very similar, Ramsey started in the U17’s at 15, and during the next three years played 15 times at that level, he subsequently played another 12 times for the U21’s before stepping up to full international duty. He has 11 full caps and given that he is only 20 and spent the last year in rehabilitation that is an impressive record. It would be more impressive if the Wales squad was not full of Championship footballers, only three in today’s squad play in the Premier League.

Wilshere has always played above his age group at International level, at 14 starting two games for the U16’s before at 15 starting with the U17‘s and going on to make 10 appearances, subsequently he has played once for the U19’s and 7 times for the U21’s. He now finds himself thrust into the senior side, having made his debut at 18, and his full debut at 19. This has been achieved despite the availability of many players with far more experience and to this extent you could argue that Jack’s achievement has been more impressive.

Ramsey has scored 6 goals during his brief international career two in each of the juinor ranks and two for the seniors, Wilshere so far has mustered just the one goal for the U17’s.

Ramsey has also received the honour of captaining his country, a big ask for someone of his age, but I would hope evidence of a maturity beyond those years. Unfortunately a neanderthal centre back playing for a pillock manager for a team in the midlands has deprived us from seeing this from Rambo.

Gary Speed clearly sees something similar in our Welsh prodigy “He leads by example on and off the pitch and I think everyone looks up to him as well” he went on to say “I made the decision because I thought it was best for the team and Welsh football going forward. There have been young captains in the past. I think Cesc was very young when he got captain of Arsenal, Tony Adams was also very young. Once I had stopped worrying about other factors – what people outside the team think – it was a no-brainer in the end.”

So what of young Jack and what of his chance of captaining England one day, in his press conference Capello was asked about Wilshere’s likelihood to follow in Ramsey’s footsteps and become captain of his country, he answered “It will not be my problem. But I think he is a really good player, to be a captain you need to be a leader and I think Wilshere will be captain in a really short time.” This is something I think most of us assume him to be capable of having seen his impressively mature and hard running performances for the Arsenal this season.

So what can we expect International responsibilities to do for our youngsters. I think the relative qualities of the two players is pretty much self evident, both are good passers of the ball, Jack is probably the better dribbler, but Ramsey appears to have the eye for goal. But who will benefit most or be harmed most from representing their country.

Rambo probably has the easier time of it on International Duty, as captain amongst a team of average players, he is the shining beacon, he is the one others will look to to take the team forward. Also given the low expectation on the Welsh team he is unlikely to suffer the same media criticisms that Jack can expect if he is ever to become the scapegoat for the English tabloid press gang, thankfully Capello is bearing the brunt of their current venting.

Unfortunately for Jack he will have to play amongst the egos of the England team the players who continue to try the same things that haven’t worked for them for the last 10 years. Against Denmark Wilshere struggled to convince teammates to pass the ball to feet, or to give him the ball when he had Danes in close attention, it will be interesting to see how Ramsey is treated differently by his Welsh teammates.

Whatever the result tomorrow it will be an education for us to see the emergence of two future Arsenal stars at International level.

But please……..don’t tackle each other!


Those Rose Tinted Glasses and Me

March 25, 2011

Life is strange; I have just sat and watched the budget and our elected representatives in their place of work. There they were, the guardians of our votes and futures, seemingly incapable of listening to each other. Argue oh yes, quoting the figures and highlighting the same points, anything that apportions blame as directed by the spin-doctors who briefed them.

Members of a tribe every one of them, not an original thought allowed among them. Simply regurgitated negatives or positives depending which tribe they belong to. Mind numbing stuff, but say it often enough and the morons out there who vote us in will believe it.

Sound familiar folks, we read blogs and articles, listen to experts and pundits, pore over Magazines and papers, devour radio and television, produce statistics and facts and now in this digital age, prolong the agony and the ecstasy by publishing them on line in a continuing roller coaster of argument, agreement/disagreement, discontent and sometimes anger. What then is the cause of this mental anguish? Why a professional football club.

Grown men and women unable to agree on what they saw, what is happening and why and what will be the final outcome. All this activity based on the antics of 11 guys who spend their working lives training, practising and up to twice a week, kicking a ball around for a hour and a half in front of thousands of people.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, we watch the politicians with something akin to contempt, thinking if our children acted like that we would sort them out. Then unthinking we turn to AA and begin to air our own prejudices, likes and dislikes and battle is joined again.

Of course we have areas of agreement times of purring contentment and blissful exhilaration and these are enjoyed to the full as the belief floods across the entire fan base.

But now as the season nears it conclusion, animosities and divisions begin to manifest themselves among the faithful, as doubt and despair begin to overtake the more negative of us, made worse by the certain cheerfulness of the positive types, who believe it ain’t over till its over and the manager knows what he is doing anyway.

Nine games to go, second in the league, five points behind the league leaders, a game in hand and they still to come to our place. The potential for a verbal on line war is enormous as the countdown begins, will we, wont we, Can the Spuds do us or will we win the damn thing at WHL as in days of old? Will Chelsea do us a favour and nick some points from Utd whilst continuing their charge up the table? All fascinating stuff, guaranteed to  ruffle the decorum of the blog as we count down the games.

Me I can’t see a problem, why? I have rose tinted glasses, don’t I, Its going to be doddle, sit back folks, pound the keyboard and enjoy the ride to glory.

Written by dandan


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