Something rather remarkable happened on Tuesday night. Did you spot it?
No, I don’t mean the FFB (Fat French Benchwarmer) peeing his sky blue pants (size XL) at the very sight of Emmanuel Frimpong.
Nor do I mean two rookie Arsenal midfielders with the amusing acronym of “CoqPong” completely dominating the expensively acquired internationals in the Abu Dhabi City line-up.
Nor even the deafening silence of the Man City supporters (I’ve heard more noise during mime night at a Trappist Monks’ monastic retreat).
I refer instead to the fact that, after our highly creditable defeat at the hands of the Death Star of modern football, the Arsenal faithful were not all grinding their teeth, shaking their fists and muttering “Grrr… Squillaci…. Grrr…”
Sebastien Squillaci – the most maligned member of the current First Team defensive squad (I’m not counting goalkeepers!) – had a pretty decent night.
I read several match reports on different Arsenal blogs and, while no-one was exactly wanting to have his babies, there was a grudging acceptance that the Squid had done pretty well.
I remember writing a post early last season, when we were in great form and looking as if we were on for a real run at the silverware, along the lines of “who needs Vermaelen?”
It was after some excellent performances by our newbies Squillaci and Koscielny, both of whom seemed to settle into the team very quickly (once the Verminator’s Achilles heel developed bubonic plague and dengue fever).
With hindsight it was probably not one of my most prescient posts. It wouldn’t be long before we were praying to The Good Lord Dennis for TV5 to miraculously recover and begging Arsene to buy a burly British CB in the January transfer window.
And poor Sabastien underwent an extraordinary change of phylum, class and order to turn from a squid (loligo vulgaris)into a goat (capra aegagrus hircus). A scapegoat to be precise.
Now, there is no doubt that Squillaci had some poor performances for us last season, and that he and Koscielny did not really shine as a CB pairing.
But I wonder if the experienced Frenchman has copped more flak for our bad season than he ought to have done.
Let’s face it, when things went pear shaped (aka Na$ri shaped) it was the whole team that was at fault, from the captain on down.
With the exception of Prince Robin our strikers and midfielders stopped scoring and they also stopped defending, which left our defenders with a double-edged problem: one, they knew that if we conceded a goal or two our forwards were unlikely to redress the balance at the other end and, two, they weren’t getting the defensive support they should have received from the rest of the team so were shipping more goals.
Along with everyone else, Squillaci cannot have helped being tainted by the lack of confidence and uncertainty that affected even the so-called stars of the team during the final third of the season.
But he just can’t be as a bad a player as he is being painted in some quarters. You don’t get to play hundreds of games at the top level for clubs like Lyon, Monaco and Sevilla unless you’ve got something about you.
And a quick scan through some of the match reports and player analyses from last year shows that he played well in many games for us (and was observed to do so by the AA correspondents writing the reports). Unfortunately those performances were forgotten in the frustration and anger of the late-season collapse and the many mistakes he made during that period.
But this is a different Arsenal now – New Arsenal. Confidence is higher and so is team spirit, so it’s no surprise that he was able to come in and play very well against world class attackers on Tuesday night.
You get the feeling that someone like Vermaelen can impose himself on a game regardless of how his team mates are performing, but not many players have that presence, so in the dismal run-in Squillaci joined in the general dismalness.
But I for one am glad that he had a good run out and played well this week and I am happy to have him in the squad. Of course he’s behind Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Koscielny in the pecking order. He may even be fifth choice behind Djourou. But how many teams can point to a fourth or fifth choice CB with the experience and ability of the Squid?
Let’s support him because there may come a time this year when we need him.
He received too much criticism last year and I hope he takes his revenge in the most effective way that any footballer can: by silencing his critics on the field of play.
Welcome back Squiddy.