Koscielny? BFG? Vermaelen? Vote for Arsenal’s Team of the Decade Part 3: Centre Backs

February 8, 2020

As we continue to build Arsenal’s “Team of the Decade” from the last 10 seasons (2010 – 2019) it’s time to move on to one of the most crucial positions on the pitch – central defence.

If you have not yet voted in the goalie and fullback categories, you can find the links in the menu bar below.

Choose your TWO preferred CBs from the list and cast your votes accordingly. Results will not be revealed until the entire team has been compiled.

As a reminder, for simplicity we are going with a 4-3-3 formation so please make your choices with that in mind. Some players (such as Sol Campbell, who only had a handful of games in the decade in question, have not been included).

Centre Backs

Thomas Vermaelen

The “Muscles from Brussels,” our hard hitting Belgian, was not actually from Brussels, but the “Twerp from Antwerp” didn’t sound as good. Tommy V was with us for five seasons before leaving for Barcelona and was a mainstay for much of that time.

William Gallas

Scrapes in because he started 26 games in the 2009-10 season, but left the following year.  Undoubtedly a capable player, but perhaps his best years were at Chelsea. He’ll always be remembered (not favourably) for sitting down on the pitch and going on strike in the game where Eduardo’s leg was snapped in half.

Laurent Koscielny

There were doubts about Kozzer when he first arrived but in time he became a very successful CB for us. His predilection for throwing his face in front of opposition players’ boots, knees and elbows was an additional source of entertainment.

Sebastien Squillaci

Arrived in the same window as Koscielny, but The Squid never established himself in the same way and was on his way after only 38 starts.

Johan Djourou

I have a theory that big Johan could have been a top player for us, but his reputation went down the pan when he was forced to spend an extended spell at right back due to an injury crisis among our fullbacks (sound familiar?). He was just not cut out for that role, and although he generally did well for us when playing central defence, he never recovered from his dodgy time at FB.

Per Mertesacker

The BFG arrived as a seasoned German international and World Cup winner and very quickly made us better. A great reader of the game and an excellent distributor from the back.

Gabriel Paulista

Gabriel got 53 starts in two-and-a-half seasons. He looked scary enough to frighten opposition strikers half to death and was not a bad player, but failed to cement a role as a first choice CB.

Rob Holding

It’s been a stop-start career at Arsenal for Rob. He did have an outstanding game when we won the FA Cup in 2017.

Shkodran Mustafi

Currently out of favour after recent blunders, but it wasn’t always that way for Mustafi. When he joined we went on a long run of games in which we were unbeaten whenever he played. He was a pretty consistent presence in his first three seasons, with 37, 36 and 38 starts respectively.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos

Sok gets in in the last season under consideration here (2018-19) with 39 starts. Big, solid and brave, he has been a fairly reliable presence without (I think it’s fair to say) ever fully convincing the supporters that he’s the answer to our defensive woes.

RockyLives


Vote for Arsenal’s Team of the Decade Part 2: Fullbacks

February 7, 2020

During the winter break, when we’re denied our fix of regular football, AA is asking readers to vote for our team of the last decade (2010-2019).

Yesterday we went through the options for goalkeeper (you can find the link in the sidebar below if you missed it).

Today we move onto the outfield players, starting with fullbacks. There are separate votes for Left Back and Right Back.

I should note that although we have played many different systems during the decade (including five at the back), for the purposes of this exercise we’ll be voting on the basis of a 4-3-3 set up. So that means your fullback choices should be as traditional FBs, not as wing backs.

Results will not be revealed until all votes for all starting positions have been cast.

Right Back

Bacary Sagna

A classic Wenger signing – a promising French player – Bacary was our go-to right back for many years and had some memorable moments in the red and white. His headed goal to help drive our 5-2 comeback against the Spuds at the Emirates stands out for me.

Emmanuel Eboue

An enigma, a joker, an ever-smiling character who ended up leaving the pitch in tears on one awful occasion… but on his day Eboue was a talented attacking fullback even if he probably never lived up to his full potential.

Carl Jenkinson

We all loved Corporal Jenks. An Arsenal fan all his life he looked for a while as if he could be the answer at RB and was never anything less than fully committed to the cause.

Matthieu Debuchy

On his way to the Emirates after signing for Arsenal, Debuchy walked under a ladder, had a procession of black cats cross his path, smashed a mirror and opened an umbrella indoors. Has there ever been an unluckier player at our club? I was excited by his signing (I’d been impressed with him when Newcastle played at the Emirates the previous year) but cruel luck with injuries meant his Arsenal career never took off.

Hector Bellerin

Hector has been making regular appearances since 2015 and has sometimes seemed like he could be one of the great right backs. Again, injuries have made his progress stutter but his speed and composure on the ball are still huge assets.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Although not a RB by choice, AMN has proved himself a very reliable stand-in and it has been the position he has occupied more than any other in his Arsenal first team career.

Stephan Lichtsteiner

Probably a good player in his day, but in his single season in N5 he seemed too old and too slow for the pace of the EPL. He had a good line in hard man tackles, however, which was occasionally enjoyable.

Left Back

Gael Clichy

The Frenchman held down the LB spot for several years before moving to Manchester City. Although never a spectacular player his consistency was high and you never worried about the position when he was playing.

Kieran Gibbs

When Clichy moved on, Gibbs seemed ready to make the LB position his own. He had speed, control and good defensive awareness. His best season was the 2013-14 one, when he made 41 starts, but injury after injury blighted his career.

Andre Santos

The Brazilian wasn’t with us for long but he scored one memorable goal in a stirring 5-3 win at Chelsea.

Nacho Monreal

With Gibbs’s frequent injuries leaving a gap at LB, Monreal was brought in and quickly made himself indispensable. He was a very reliable mainstay of the team for years and had the versatility to play at centre back when required.

Sead Kolasinac

Our Bosnian beefcake is perhaps better suited to a wingback role than being an out-and-out fullback but his strength is impressive and he has made many goals with his surging runs down the left flank.

RockyLives

 

 

 


Arsenal’s team of the decade Part 1, vote for your favourite : Goalie

February 6, 2020

During this boring winter break we thought it would be fun to get AA readers to vote for their team of the past decade (2010 to 2019).

Today we start with the position that attracts the craziest men in football: goalkeeper.

During the decade seven players pulled on the green (or yellow, pink, blue, black, aubergine etc) jersey and took their pace between the sticks for Arsenal: Almunia, Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny, Ospina, Cech and Leno. We’ve left out Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey because they made only a tiny number of appearances.

Have a quick read, then cast your vote. You won’t be able to view the results in real time because we want to keep everyone guessing until we reveal the final ‘Team of the Decade’ line-up.

Important note: you’re voting for them based on their Arsenal career. So, for example, you shouldn’t vote for Cech because he was brilliant for Chelsea or for Szczesny based on his performances at Juventus. It’s how they played in Arsenal colours that counts.

Manuel Almunia

The Spaniard was never really taken to the fans’ hearts, but he was in goal for our 2005 FA Cup win (not in the decade in question of course) and became a much valued member of the Watford team after leaving us. I’ll never forget his best ever performance for us when he made a string of almost impossible saves in the 2-2 draw with Barcelona at the Emirates in 2010 (when Barcelona were at their very best).

Lukas Fabianski

Signed when we had a fad for Poles in Goals, Fabianski was in our 2014 FA Cup winning side and has had a solid career in the EPL since departing N5.

Vito Mannone

Looking like a heavy from Goodfellas, Vito got limited first team opportunities and is clearly a long shot for the team of the decade. But he had a few good performances before moving on to Sunderland and then Reading.

Wojciech Szczesny

Our Pole No 2 came to us as a youngster with good footballing genes (his dad was a professional goalie who was capped for Poland). Many of us thought the eccentric Wojciech would be our starting goalkeeper for a decade or more, but doubts crept in about his form and his attitude (getting caught smoking in the showers was not his finest moment). He has established himself as a valued stopper at Juventus so perhaps we should have persevered with him for longer.

David Ospina

He never established himself as an out-and-out starter, but was played by Arsene Wenger as our “cup ‘keeper.” The Colombian was between the sticks for two FA Cup wins and for a League Cup final defeat. Not a bad haul.

Petr Cech

Arguably the best goalie in the league during his Chelsea career, Cech came to us in 2015. He may not have reached the peaks that he did in West London, but he was a reliable custodian during his time with us.

Bernd Leno

Our second German ‘keeper (after the brilliantly bonkers Jens Lehmann) joined from Bayer Leverkusen in 2018 and is our clear first choice as we head into a new decade.

RockyLives


How balanced is our team at the moment (not including long term injuries)?

February 5, 2020

These are the currently available and soon to be available players that Arteta can choose from.

For each position, he has at least two options except maybe for the 10 role (although Willock could play there). He also has some versatile players available like Saka, Martinelli, Auba, Xhaka that can play in multiple positions.

In defense, he has now 5 fit options to choose from for CB and at RB and LB, he can also pick from 5 players.

Arteta has a squad of 23 players available, which is thought to be a good number for a first team squad. He has options in all positions and can probably shape his team easily in a 4231, 4321, 442, 433, 343 and 352 given the available players.

Now the question is – do you find the team balanced in terms of quality and/or quantity? Explain your position 🙂

GK: Leno, Martinez

RB: Bellerin, AMN

CB: Luiz, Sok, Holding, Mustati, Mari

LB: Kola, Saka, Soares

DM: Torreirra, Xhaka

CM: Douzi, Willock

AM: Ozil

RW: Pepe, Nelson

LW: Auba, Martinelli

ST: Lacazette, Nketiah

RC78


Freddie Lungborg, the Cabbie, and the schoolmaster who snapped

February 3, 2020

In the long footballing break now ahead of us it might be interesting for AA regulars and visitors to share memorable stories from their Arsenal supporting lives.

This tale dates back to the 2001/02 season. At the time I was a season ticket holder in the Upper East Stand at Highbury.

By dint of hard work, good luck and pulling in favours a group of seven of us had managed over the years to get adjacent seats in the same row (near the back, about half way between the centre circle and the Clock End goal).

From this vantage point we had enjoyed many ups and downs, but the glories of the 1997/98 season – when we clinched our second league and cup double – were still fairly fresh in our memories and the mood was generally positive.

Naturally, as season ticket holders, you get to know the regulars who sit nearby. They were an entertaining cast of characters, most memorable among them probably being the man we called Celeb. He was the living personification of the dissolute ‘Gary Bloke’ from the Celeb strip cartoon by the brilliant illustrator Alex.

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Gary Bloke wears dark glasses whatever the time of day or night and always looks like he’s just come from a star-studded all-nighter.

 

It was always amusing to watch Celeb arrive late for every game, long blonde hair brushed back, impenetrable shades in place, wearing garish suit and shiny winkle-pickers and responding to greetings with a grimace that said “still hung over, hope the singing’s not too loud today.”

The camaraderie was always good in our neck of the Arsenal wood… except for one person.

Every story needs not just heroes, it needs villains as well. And our villain was a supporter in his 50s who sat a few rows in front of us.

Throughout every game he would regale the crowd at length with his opinions about the players, the manager and the direction of the club. That’s fair enough, except for three things: one, his opinions were rubbish: always negative, however well we were doing; two, they were always delivered at the volume of an RAF jet fighter breaking the sound barrier; and three, their tone was always of the “you muppets don’t know what you’re talking about, let me put you right…” variety. We called him Cabbie because he reminded us of those know-all London taxi operators who rant at you from the moment you step in their cab until the moment you get out 10 minutes later and 30 quid worse off. (That’s probably a bit unfair on most cab drivers. Sorry chaps).

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Most of us reacted to Cabbie’s constant barrage of ill-informed, arrogant negativity with a roll of the eyes or muttered complaints to one another. But one of our group, Rickie, really began to hate it.

Rickie was not averse to a bit of in-game shouting himself, and as a Head of Year in an all boys school he could bellow with the best: “Winterburn, put that cigarette out. See me after school… Adams, ADAMS! What are you doing with Morrow? Put him down! No not like that…”

But Rickie was a respectable and well-mannered fellow and his shouted offerings were of the encouraging, supportive kind, with only a very rare rocket for a bit of bad play from the boys in red and white.

As the weeks went by in the 2001/2 season, Cabbie developed a particular disliking for Freddie Ljungberg. It was the season when Ljungberg became Red Fred and had a brilliant song all of his own: “We love you Freddie, because you’ve got red hair…” Arsenal fans really did love him… except for Cabbie.

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Cabbie would harangue Freddie all game long. Worse, he was incapable of pronouncing Freddie’s surname, so we were treated to lots of “Lungborg, you’re bloody rubbish… Lungborg, go back to Sweden… Lungborg, my 12 year old daughter’s better than you…”

Attentive readers will know that 2001/02 is the year when we went on to win a second league and cup double under Arsene Wenger, with a certain red-headed Swede firing the goals that helped us clinch the title in the league run-in.

 

It must have been just around the start of that run-in when Rickie finally flipped. Perhaps he’d had a tough time with the lower fifth that week or perhaps he just couldn’t bear to hear the word “Lungborg” blasted at maximum decibels one more time, but when Cabbie began another stream of invective aimed at Freddie, Rickie jumped to his feet.

Directing himself at Cabbie he yelled at full schoolteacher-wrangling-an-unruly-class volume: “WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP. JUST FOR ONCE KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT OR IF YOU HAVE TO OPEN IT, HOW ABOUT SAYING SOMETHING POSITIVE?

“WE’RE ALL ABSOLUTELY SICK OF YOUR ENDLESS COMPLAINING. JUST GIVE IT A REST. AND BY THE WAY, IT’S LJUNGBERG, NOT LUNGBORG, YOU F—–G MORON.”

For a few seconds there was a stunned silence. Then a large slice of the Upper East stand burst into applause for Rickie.

Cabbie’s face went puce, he spluttered and frothed but no words came out. He sat back down and uttered nary a squeak for the rest of the game. Or indeed for any game thereafter.

Looking back many years on, I sometimes feel the tiniest bit sorry for Cabbie.  After all, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and if you can’t shout at a football match then when can you?

But his relentless tide of stupidity and negativity was getting out of hand and needed to be called out. The only surprise was that it was refined Rickie who was the one to do it.

Not a big story. Just an everyday tale of the terraces, but one that for some reason has stuck fondly in my memory.

RockyLives


Post match thoughts ………………

February 3, 2020

Well, that didn’t go well did it ……..but there were some positives, we created some clear cut chances and kept a clean sheet.

Here’s a small report from RC78

Just saw the game now (delayed 😦 ) and I think that it’s just down to Laca and Auba appalling misses in the first half that we did not win this game.

I am a big fan of both so I would not drop them even if Laca’s form is becoming a worry. I would, however, not hesitate to drop Ozil to make place for Martinelli and Pepe. I think Ozil is a wonderful player but he has not been able to make things happen for us despite all his talent and good intentions.

Guendouzi had a good game overall but can indeed simplify his game. Mustafi had a decent game too but I thought that Luiz kindda went missing in the second half.

Leno needs to improve both in the air and in his distribution.

As some of you have mentioned, we would have lost this game with Emery in charge but would we have won it if Mourinho or Ancellotti had come instead of Arteta?

Arteta is bringing more shape and intensity to our team but the results are still not there. If Tottenham finishes in the top 4, I don’t know what I will do…but for sure, I will be annoyed for a long time.

So I will look at the glass half-full based on the fact that we did not concede a goal, that we had a good first 20 mins and that we did create some clear cut chances. Also, Torreira played a bit so let us continue to be positive and let us hope that victories will bless our team soon.

COYG!

And some Player Ratings from RockyLives

Leno 6….. Distribution could be better.

Bellerin 6….. Should have passed instead of shooting late on.

Luiz 6 ….. Not as dominant as he has been.

Mustafi 7 ….. Mystifyingly solid.

Xhaka 7 ….. Did well until switched to LB and did OK after.

Guendouzi 5 ….. Dwelt on the ball too long and seemed less focused than his last outing.

Ozil 4 ….. Needs to bring more.

Aubameyang 5 ….. Got into some good goal scoring positions but we need him to finish.

Martinelli 6 ….. Plenty of effort but not able to impact the game as much as we’d have liked.

Lacazette 5 ….. Still struggling.

SUBS

Torreira 7 ….. Did fine.

Willock 6 ….. An improvement on Ozil.

Nketieh N/A ….. Not long enough to make a difference.

Arteta 6 ….. Clean sheet but his team selection can be questioned.


Arsenal’s top four charge starts today

February 2, 2020

Drink deep my friends. Drain every last drop from the flagon of footbally goodness because after today we have to wait a whole two weeks for another game.

And while a fortnight’s break may be good for our team, giving bruised muscles and creaking joints a chance to heal, allowing our January arrivals to assimilate and providing Mikel Arteta with breathing space to work with his players, for us fans it’s going to be a sun-parched desert.

On the plus side, today’s match is really important.

In my ‘glass half full’ world this is the day we begin our push to end the season in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

It’s a tall order, but I believe we have a half decent chance of doing it. If we win today we will have 33 points and will climb to ninth in the table. Totteringham are playing Manchester City today and if City win we’ll be just a point behind the N17 knuckle-draggers. And we’ll be two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wobbly Man United.

More dauntingly, we’ll be eight points adrift of fourth place, currently occupied by Chelsea, on 41 points.

But do we really think Chelsea are consistent and reliable enough not to drop plenty of points between now and season’s end? If it hadn’t been for Bernt Leno’s howler when we played them at the Emirates they would now be on 38 points and we would be on 33 with a game in hand (today’s game).

So it’s all to play for, but it needs to start NOW.

The uptick in performances since Arteta arrived has been obvious and very promising, but we need to start converting more of those good showings from unlucky draws to deserved wins.

This season we have drawn more games than any other team in the EPL (12). It’s not so much “one nil to the Arsenal” as “one point to the Arsenal” these days.

Mind you, something should give today as our hosts, Burnley, have the fewest draws (3) of any team apart from Liverpool who have only one, and Man City who also have three.

A trip to Turf Moor is not the easiest place to start our winning run, but I believe we have the ability, the determination and the confidence to do it.

Burnley are coming into this one off the back of two impressive league wins: they beat Leicester 2-1 at home on January 19th and Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford three days later. However, they followed up those victories with a 1-2 home defeat at the hands of Norwich in the FA Cup.

Nevertheless their confidence will be fairly high and Sean Dyche always gets plenty of effort from his players.

Scoring goals has been an issue for the Clarets, and they won’t be helped today by the likely absence of Ashley Barnes through injury. He’s their second top scorer with six, but their number one striker – the New Zealander Chris Wood – is a threat, with 10 goals to his name.

So what line-up will Arteta send out today?

We have Aubameyang and Luiz back from suspension and all the long-term injured are still out, so I predict a starting eleven like this:

Leno

Bellerin – Sokratis – Luiz – Saka

Torreira – Xhaka

Willock

Pepe – Lacazette – Aubameyang

I don’t see Ozil starting – his form has been too patchy and he sometimes struggles in tough games away from home. Willock has done enough in recent outings to get the nod ahead of him. Lacazette is on a lousy scoring run but his work rate is not in question and I suspect him to start in his usual position.

Tempting though it would be to pick Martinelli, I suspect he will be held back as an impact sub.

That team is good enough to win today providing we can avoid the sort of individual blunders that have blighted our season so far and provided we don’t get yet another shafting from that evil emperor of football technology, Daft VARdar.

A win for the good guys.

Up the Mighty Arse!

RockyLives

 

 

 


Arsenal’s January transfer business: Your verdict (Poll)

February 1, 2020

The window is shut, the chilly draft of transfer anxiety has been extinguished and we at Arsenal have two shiny new toys to play with.

Well, when I say ‘shiny’ and ‘new’, let’s just say that we’ve salvaged a couple of tatty old playthings from the cardboard box in the bottom of the wardrobe.

Now the question is: what effect will the loan signings of Pablo Mari from Flamengo and Cedric Soares from Southampton have on the rest of our season?

You’ll get your chance to have a say in the Polls below.

Cedric For me the signings were an emphatic response to two things: first, the continued fragility of our defence which still looks shaky despite the obvious improvements under Mikel Arteta; second, the spate of defensive injuries that has blighted our season.

Neither player seems of the quality to transform our team, but both should add strength in depth and a layer of solidity to our back line.

Of the two, the centre half Mari might turn out to be the more promising. Some bloggers on AA have likened his style to that of Per Mertesacker. If he can be half as good as the BFG he’ll be worth having. And we have an option to buy him in the summer if he impresses sufficiently.

Soares, a right back, is a Portuguese international and has plenty of experience in the Premier League. You imagine he’s there as cover for Hector Bellerin, although that does raise a question about Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s future. AMN has done pretty well as a stand-in fullback – will he now get his chance in midfield? Or will Soares push him down the pecking order?

pmBefore you vote, there is one way of judging our new arrivals that cannot be overlooked. I refer, of course, to the AA Anagramometer. Regular readers will know that this author believes that intrinsic truths about players can be discovered by making anagrams of their names (the way some people claim to tell the future in the tea leaves in the bottom of a cup or in the lines on the palm of your hand).

Pablo Mari is encouraging. A quick scramble of the letters of his name gives us this message: “PAL, I RAMBO.” Fair enough pal, if you’re Rambo you should be able to toughen up our defence, perhaps with some hidden booby traps and the occasional hand held surface to air missile. Anagramometer Verdict: 73% POSITIVE.

Cedric Soares, however, could go either way. On the one hand “CED IS A SCORER” is encouraging (even though he has only netted once this season so far) and “RAISED SOCCER” might indicate that our boy was brought up on football from his earliest days or that he has lifted the level of football wherever he has played. But “O, SCARED (CRIES)” hints at a timidity of character that’s not what you want in a defender. Anagramometer Verdict: 48% POSITIVE.

And so to the Polls:

RockyLives