Nasri? Auba? Theo? Vote for Arsenal’s Team of the Decade Part 6: Wide Attackers

February 10, 2020

Sticking to the 4-3-3 system we’ve adopted for the sake of clarity and simplicity, today it’s time to vote for two wide attackers to form part of our front three.

There are plenty of juicy options to choose from, so have fun…

And remember, you can still vote for the other positions in the first five Posts in this series (links available in the ‘Recent Posts’ sidebar below). Tomorrow we’ll vote for the last unfilled role – that of central striker. The results will not be revealed until the full team has been assembled.

Today’s selections:

Samir Nasri

A fractious figure and not loved by the faithful after he decamped to Man City, but Nasri could be a devastating attacker when he put his mind to it. In the first two seasons of this decade, before he left us, he bagged 20 goals from 75 starts.

Theo Walcott

Theo seemed to frustrate a section of the supporter base for long periods, but his stats stack up pretty well. In his final season at Arsenal he scored 19 times from just 28 starts and eight substitute appearances. He scored some memorable goals against the noisy neighbours.

Andrey Arshavin

There was a dreadful spell when Wenger played the diminutive AA as our sole central striker. Needless to say he had a tough time. But cutting in from the left (particularly) or the right he could be lethal. There is always a sense of promise unfulfilled about Arshavin, but how about the 4-4 draw at Anfield where little Andrey scored all four of our goals?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Wanted to play in central midfield but was generally played wide. He could be excellent but was a little inconsistent and his goal tally could have been better. But he’ll soon have a league champion’s medal at Liverpool.

Gervinho

Gerv the Swerve – strange player. He had plenty of skill but seemed to go to pieces in front of goal and would do anything he could to avoid shooting. However, maybe we just never got the best out of him: he had a significantly better strike rate at Lille before he joined us and also at Roma after he left us.

Lukas Podolski

A real fan favourite (not least because of how bonkers he was), Lukas’s left foot was rocket powered. He never earned the full confidence of Arsene and consequently was in and out of the team. Scored some crackers.

Serge Gnabry

I know he’s highly unlikely to make our team of the decade, but his later exploits at Munich suggest we should have made a bigger effort to hang onto him.

Joel Campbell

The Costa Rican had only limited opportunities at Arsenal but was much appreciated by the fans when he did play. Showed a surprisingly good eye for a defence splitting pass from time to time.

Alex Iwobi

A powerful runner with an occasional eye for goal, but perhaps Alex’s overall awareness was somewhat lacking. Most fans were happy when we got £40m out of Everton for him.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Arrived as a makeweight in the deal that saw Alexis Sanchez go to Man Utd. Had a few good moments early on but seldom imposed himself on games.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

An outstanding addition to the squad. Arsene was bizarrely reluctant to use him as a regular starter at first, but he eventually established himself as the most reliable scorer in the squad. In the final season of the last decade (2018-19) he netted 31 times in 42 starts in all competitions.

RockyLives


Cesc? Santi? Ramsey? Ozil? Vote for Arsenal’s Team of the Decade Part 5: Midfielders

February 10, 2020

Hopefully in yesterday’s Post you selected your defensive/holding midfielder as we continue to build our readers’ Team of the Decade (2010-2019). Today we move onto the two remaining midfield positions.

If you missed the previous instalments, you can still vote by following the links in the ‘Recent Posts’ sidebar below.

We’re going for a 4-3-3 formation (if you feel that this does not allow you to pick the players you would like to, you can explain your point in comments), but today you need to select TWO midfielders from the list below.

You’ve already picked your midfield anchor… which two players are best suited to working with him to give our team the best chance of midfield dominance?

This is going to be tough…

Abou Diaby

A gifted player whose career was more or less ruined by one nasty tackle from meathead Sunderland player Dan Smith. On one of his many attempts to restart his career I remember him completely bossing the game at Anfield.  If only he could have stayed fit.

Cesc Fabregas

What can I say. The anointed Son of God. Why Arsene Wenger didn’t take him back when he left Barcelona remains a mystery to me.

Tomas Rosicky

Don’t you just salivate thinking about some of the great players we’ve had? Tomas was another player unlucky with injuries, but so good on his day. A class act.

Aaron Ramsey

The Welsh wizard overcame a horrendous injury committed by another “not that kind of player” English thug and emerged as one of the best central MFs in the EPL. His assets included box to box effort and a real eye for goal.

Jack Wilshere

The curse of injuries seems to be the theme of this selection. Probably would be England captain by now if he hadn’t been slowed down by repeatedly getting crocked, often from malicious fouls inflicted by opponents. But I’ll never forget him running the midfield against Barcelona as a mere 19-year-old.

Yossi Benayoun

A one-season loanee, but he made a lot of friends in N5 with his willingness and commitment (and his four goals).

Santi Cazorla

We were blessed during this decade, weren’t we? What a superb little player. He left us with two FA Cup winners’ medals under his belt. His control on the ball and ability to dribble out of tight spaces was a cornerstone of our midfield game.

Mesut Ozil

A genius, without doubt. There have always been questions about his body language (unfair) and commitment. But on his day he can see the game better than just about anyone and may be the best passer of a ball we’ve had since Dennis Bergkamp.

Matteo Guendouzi

Played 33 games in the final season of the decade, which was his debut season. A great prospect. It’s probably too early in his Arsenal career for him to be selected in this vote, but when we come to vote for the team of 2020-2029, who knows? His name could be high on the list…

RockyLives

 


Arteta? Song? Torreira? Vote for Arsenal’s Team of the Decade Part 4: Defensive/Holding Midfielder

February 9, 2020

Today we move onto one of the pivotal midfield positions as we look to build what AA readers consider to be our Team of the Decade (2010-2019).

If you missed the previous instalments, shame on you! But don’t despair, you can still vote by following the links in the sidebar below.

The final team, as selected by you, the most discerning supporters in Arsenaldom, will be revealed only when all the votes are in and tallied.

We’re going for a 4-3-3 formation (if you don’t like that approach, feel free to have a moan in comments). Today you have the chance to select one player to be the most defensively minded player in that midfield three. In the next Post you’ll be asked to fill in the other two MF positions.

Denilson

We thought he was going to be the next Gilberto but it never happened. Even so he was a regular presence in our midfield for a few years.

Alex Song

Sometimes it was a sweet song, sometimes an out-of-tune one, but Alex gave us good service over several seasons and had some great moments.

Mikel Arteta

Arrived at a tricky time and exuded pure class for his entire spell at Arsenal. Good to have him back as the boss.

Francis Coquelin

A good workhorse of a holding midfielder who maybe never lived up to his potential with us.

Matthieu Flamini

Did a decent job during his second spell at the club. Tidy and competitive.

Mohammed Elneny

Arrived as back up for the holding MF role and got a fair few outings. Mo was a good passer who seldom lost possession but perhaps could have been a bit more dynamic.

Granit Xhaka

The decade we’re looking at precedes his controversies so you should put those out of your mind. He has been one of our most regular starters since his arrival.

Lucas Torreira

When the Terrier joined us we breathed a sigh of relief, because we so clearly needed a combative DM. He quickly became a fan favourite although being played out of position by Unai Emery did him no favours.

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