Should Szczesny be replaced?

April 23, 2013

It’s widely expected that Arsenal will sign a new goalkeeper during the summer transfer window. There is little doubt that we need a reliable, experienced and talented ‘keeper, something that has been sadly lacking since the departure of David Seaman in 2003. I mean no disrespect to Jens Lehman but his erratic behaviour and volatile temperament, which led to him being nicknamed Mad Jens, indicates to me his unreliability.

Of our present crop Szczesny is probably the best but Arsene Wenger seems to have spotted a flaw in his temperament hence his recent relegation to the bench. Fabianski is a reasonable ‘keeper but is not up to the standard required by a club playing near the top of the Premiership and in, hopefully again next season, the Champions League. Neither is Mannone.

We have been “linked” with several ‘keepers over the recent past, although it has to be said that the “linkage” has been mostly speculation on the part of tabloid sports writers desperate for some copy.

Two names have, however, appeared with some regularity, Stokes City’s Bosnian international Asmir Begovic and, rather surprisingly, Barcelona’s Spanish international Victor Valdes. One other high profile ‘keeper recently added to the list is Real Madrid’s Iker Cassillas.

Should any of the three be signed then I would expect at least one of our present ‘keepers to depart.

Without knowing how Wenger really sees his ‘keepers it is difficult to know just what he is looking for in terms of a replacement, if he feels that one of them will “make it” in the near future then a short term option may be considered. If, however, that is not the case then a younger player will be the requirement.

It would seem from newspaper gossip that Begovic is the favourite at the moment, at 25 years old he should be approaching his peak, at Stoke City since 2010, he has played 87 times, so has plenty of Premiership as well as international experience having played 20 times for Bosnia Herzegovina.

In the been there, done that, got the T-shirt category both Cassillas and Valdes would be terrific signings but as both are 31 years old they do not represent long term solutions and Wenger’s well known reluctance to give contracts of more than one year to players in that age group means that either could only be seen as stop gaps.

My personal preference would be for Wenger to take the long term view and sign Begovic, but either of the other two would more than adequately fill the gap up to the end of our manager’s present contract.

Begovic, Cassillas or Valdes? What do you think?

Written by Norfolk Gooner


Some Fighting Spirit Returns

November 7, 2012

Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud, Podolski. subs: Shea, Santos, Djourou, Jenkinson, Coquelin, Arshavin, Chamakh.

The line-up was greeted warmly with Koscielny in for Santos who was too busy putting bsr’s shirt on Ebay and Theo playing right side instead of the injured, flying winger Rambo. On paper both changes made the team stronger and it would need to be at its most resistant at an intimidating Veltins Arena. Talk of Micky finding a Schalke fan website to translate from was interrupted when his search inadvertently led to a different type of German sport site.

The game kicked off and the first minute immediately saw Schalke in behind the left back position. Luckily the cross went deep and Alan Smith started to whine already. Soon after, Vermaelen made a good tackle and started to regain some of his shattered confidence. Arsenal had a small period of possession ending in Theo overplaying, resulting in a Schalke break and the defence looked vulnerable.

On 9 minutes Podolski lost the ball in midfield, another quick break ended in an Affelay shot well saved by Mannone at the near post. Two minutes later Theo lost the ball again in midfield and another shaky episode ended with a Schalke header just over the bar from the resulting corner.

Schalke were pressing high up and the midfield refusing to take the ball from the back four resulted in a few hoofs forward from keeper and full backs. On 15’, Vermaelen was skinned again but Farfan ran the ball out of play. A super Jack dribble then saw Arsenal win two corners on the trot. The first nearly allowed Jack to sneak in at the near post in a training ground move.

Eighteen minutes in and a poor defensive header from Schalke fell to Giroud who stumbled a little but Theo following up tapped the ball home. 1-0 and a confidence boost for the yellows.

With Arsenal’s confidence now growing, a super ball from Santi allowed Podolski to cross but it flew over Theo’s head in the centre.

Cazorla was then booked for handball before he delivered the best Arsenal pass of the game to Wilshere. It looked perfect for a top corner, left-footed curler but instead Jack fed the ball wide to Podolski who seemed to trip, then regain his feet which threw the Schalke defence off guard allowing the cross to come in and Giroud to power the ball home unmarked. 2-0 to the good guys.

Sagna made a great covering challenge after Podolski lost the ball in midfield, followed by Walcott doing the same. Schalke looked dangerous when Arsenal lost the ball in those middle areas all game and so it was to prove. On 33’ Giroud went down clutching the back of his leg. A kick rather than a hamstring tear brought relief all round for the Gooner faithful. A superb Wilshere dribble winning a corner was followed by more shakiness from our captain looking anything but comfortable at left back. Luckily Farfan blasted over the bar.

Alan Smith seemed to be willing Schalke to get one back before half-time as did the commentator plus the whole team back in the studio. Fuchs was booked for a foul on Walcott and Giroud unfortunately directed his header straight at the keeper from Cazorla’s free-kick.

Some good Arsenal possession and strong hold-up play from Giroud had Alan Smith sounding more and more gutted but into the second minute of first half injury time, he got his wish. Cazorla slipped over and two passes (the second from Holtby, a gem) put Huntelaar through and a clinical left foot finish was the last kick of the first forty five. 2-1 and the ugly sisters in the Sky studio would now have a feast of criticism with which to sate their anti-Arsenal appetite. The mute button it was for me.

The second half began and Arsenal had a fine chance to restore their 2 goal margin but Giroud connected with his right shin from a Podolski cross. A poor defensive header from the BFG wasn’t punished before Giroud and Walcott found themselves in an identical position (centre forward) from a Podolski pass. Huntelaar, who always scores every chance he’s ever presented with (according to the commentary team), then missed a one on one with Don Vito making a fine block. The Dutch striker looked marginally offside.

The pressure was starting to build and Arteta made a couple of crucial interceptions in his defensive third. Arsenal still look like a team with no talkers present. Somebody needs to gee the others up when the team comes under pressure. A fine piece of defensive work from Podolski saw the ball end up with Theo being fouled and everyone could pause for breath at last.

On 59’ Jack started to look leggy and when Theo raced clear, Jack produced a tired looking pass which was easily cut out.  The referee then produced a bizarre decision to deny Podolski of a chance to score a third and crucial goal for Arsenal. A Schalke defender went down in the area with a leg injury, the referee didn’t stop the game immediately but only when Podolski was about to shoot. It wasn’t a head injury so Podolski’s frustration was understandable.

The next few minutes saw a Holtby shot, Mannone out to deny Huntelaar and an Affelay shot into Mannone’s midriff. The equaliser looked like it was coming, Vermaelen got sucked into the middle leaving Farfan clear at the far post. His shot was deflected in by Vermaelen as it flew past Mannone. 2-2 with over 20 still to go and I couldn’t bear the commentary anymore, so off it went. Smith had what he wanted.

(As an aside, my brother applied for an Arsenal credit card to receive a 1989 away shirt signed by Alan Smith. He was tempted to ask for one that hadn’t been signed. What is it with ex-Arsenal players queueing up to take a pop at the club. I suppose as we’re the most talked about team in the country it’s an easy way to make a few bob.)

The BFG slipped and Schalke were nearly in again. However the response from the yellows was positive after Schalke’s equaliser. A couple of corners for the away side followed. Wilshere laying the ball back to Cazorla who blazed over and Theo hitting the post when offside, showed some signs of a revival of heart from the Gunners.

81’ and Mannone held on well from a fierce drive with a Schalke player waiting to pounce. Another quick break saw Huntelaar fire over the bar again confounding the goal every chance theory. Vermaelen made a great saving tackle in the 85th minute leading to some cold sponge treatment. Good tackles from Tommy and the BFG preceded a fine punch from Mannone. Could we hang on?

The substitutions to waste some injury time came on 90 minutes, Coquelin for Cazorla and Santos for Podolski. Barnetta came on for Schalke wearing a superb version of the kind of moustache that Big Al adores. The final minute of the four gave Arsenal a great chance to sneak the three points and put us back in charge of the group, but Theo hit the goalkeeper’s legs when he, perhaps, should have gone round him. It was the last kick of the game.

Most Arsenal fans would have taken a point before the game started but with Olympiacos beating Montpelier, it’s still wide open. We now look as though we’ll need to get some sort of result in Greece. Still we could still finish top of the group, too, so all to play for.

Ratings:

Mannone – Made some excellent saves and couldn’t really be faulted for either of the goals. My MOTM ……8

Mertesacker – Lost his footing and bearings a few times but produced some great interceptions and tackles……8

Vermaelen – Didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence at left back, but grew into the game. I wonder how Andre would have coped with Farfan?…….7

Sagna – Some great tackles but sometimes a little sloppy which is unusual for Bacary. Still he has been out for a long spell and is regaining full match sharpness….7

Koscielny – Kos looked a little nervous as well after a spell on the bench and is still finding his feet at Champions League level……7

Arteta – Not Mikel’s best game for the Gunners. He looks a little tired to me…….7

Wilshere – Jack gets me up off my feet and is starting to show signs of blossoming partnership with Santi. Now gets a restorative break from the League…..8

Cazorla – Santi will appreciate sharing some of the creative load with Jack. Unfortunate to slip for the first Schalke goal…….7

Podolski – Lukas worked extremely hard again and his assist for Giroud’s goal was superb. He was really unlucky to be pulled back by the ref when about to unleash a howitzer in the 2nd half…..8

Giroud – A great header for the second after stumbling during the build up to the first. Worked hard but we still don’t seem to be playing to his strengths  …..7

Walcott – Theo was lively throughout. Still makes the wrong decision when he doesn’t get his head up, but judging by his voice in his post-match interview, he’s been pretty poorly, so all credit to him ….8

Subs

Santos – 90′

Coquelin – 90′

Written by chas

True to his word, MickyDidIt89 tracked down a Schalke site and has translated their report of the game for us to read. Google translation has come up with some amusing phrasing which we think adds to the flavour of the report …. you must read this with a German accent in your head (or you will be shot 🙂 )

Copied from “schalkefan.de”:

A roller coaster of emotions.  Only the joyful astonishment that S04 apparently seamlessly to connect to the power of London and Arsenal on Matchday of the Champions League group stage recorded directly and violently.Then the bare horror after the incredibly stupid mistake Neustätdters novel, the Walcott the 0:1 on a silver platter with a bow on it served. Then the first signs of resignation because Podolski the fresh substitute for the injured Uchida Hoeger kidding and unchallenged can beat a cross for Giroud, who even slightly non drängter than the face may even stand on six-yard box. Finally, the frustration, as Schalke is always associated with high balls at Arsenal’s strong central defense. And then again the hope as Huntelaar hits with the half time whistle out of the blue to 1:2.  The irrepressible desire – not only on the field, even in the stands – the guests after half-time to pour it 2-2 and eventually the boundless joy, as it will finally Farfán. Schalke gegen Arsenal hatte alles! Schalke against Arsenal had everything! It was war over long periods is a great game. 

Was it a heroic-fought point?  Was it a victory verschenkter?  Or was it in the end lucky to Unnerstall in the last scene of the game his foot to some degree turns, stop the ball on the back of the net?  I think it was a little bit of everything. Schalke hatte seine Chancen. Schalke had his chances. Schalke got down well.  But Schalke made again the glaring errors that pervade the season like a royal blue thread.  Neustaedter that should never try in life, play from the halfway line to the back of the head with a back pass, he will know himself.  That neither Giroud Podolski yet we may be free to act, word has spread now to Hoeger, Matip and Höwedes.  Two errors, two serious errors even that had a hair that the result of a good performance on its head. 

Because it was a good performance. Rarely seen berennen one Schalke team so unleashes the gates of a strong opponent, as one saw yesterday after the halftime break.  The balance was not enforced, he was rushed through by brute force.  So vehemently Schalke went to work, that after the 2:2 lacked strength for further exploits and you eventually – quite rightly by the way – was happy with the 2-2.

On this game between Schalke and Arsenal, I will certainly think back often. No matter how they go crazy and suddenly exciting preliminary group remains to be stated that the Blues were able to confirm its strong performance from the “first leg”.  It was not a one two weeks ago at the Emirates Stadium.  In the form of yesterday I’m at Schalke and the other Champions League history not worry.


Mannone Is Becoming The Man

October 12, 2012

Have you ever gone looking for one thing and found something else instead?

You know, like when you’re trying to find a screwdriver in the back of the drawer (to fix that shelf and keep your wife from nagging) but instead you come across some old Arsenal match day programmes.

One thing leads to another and before you know it the wonky shelf is forgotten and you’re lost in the delights of Terry Neill’s “Manager’s Notebook” for the game against Sunderland in 1981.

Well, that happened to me yesterday in relation to our current stand-in goalkeeper, Don Vito Corleone Di Tortellini Degli Mannone.

After watching our away win at West Ham (hah! we shoved THOSE bubble where the sun don’t shine) I was left with the feeling that the West Ham players had gone out of their way to harm Don Vito.

I became convinced this must have been a deliberate ploy by Fat Sam to try and intimidate a young and relatively inexperienced ‘keeper.

The most heinous incident was when the Hammers’ winger Ricardo Vas Deferens deliberately trailed his boot into Mannone’s face while ostensibly jumping over him.

It should have been a red card for Vas Oline but the hopelessly inept Phil Dowd missed it (just like he missed the penalty on Aaron Ramsey). Fortunately fate had other ideas and evened up the score by causing the Portuguese to break his collarbone on landing.

I had also noticed some other moments in which the Don received some rough treatment.

I am a busy man, with a job to do, three kids to provide for and a wife to defuse and render harmless (still working on it), so when faced with such idle speculation about the malevolent motives of the Walrus I took the only responsible course of action: I dropped everything and watched the entire match again on Arsenal Player.

To my surprise, I had to admit that there was not a deliberate campaign to rough up our young Italian. He took a whack in the face from Carroll’s shoulder when clearing a high ball in the 32nd minute.

He had Kevin Nolan (anangram: An Evil Nonk) all over him at a corner and was whacked by Winston Reid in the same incident. But really there was nothing untoward. If anything, I was struck by how honestly and fairly Andy Carroll competed for the high balls throughout the game. His eyes were always on the ball and when his arms were raised it was always for elevation and with none of the elbow-stabbing movement for which certain other players are notorious (yes Kevin Davies – I’m looking at you).

I had had a vague idea of writing a Post headlined “Did Fat Sam Send His Players Out To Harm Mannone”, but the facts – on second viewing – did not support the thesis.

However, what I did find during this second viewing – like a 1980s match day programme at the back of a drawer – was a really, really strong performance from Il Custodiante. Better than I had appreciated on first viewing.

Mannone had one dodgy moment in the entire match – coming for the ball in the 66th minute but being beaten in the air by Carroll whose header, thankfully, looped wide.

And even in that case there is an argument that he would not have had to come if either of our central defenders had thought to mark the big Geordie in the penalty area.

But aside from that he looked composed and confident all game long. He made a couple of smart saves (including one low down to his left with the game still finely balanced at 1-2). And his kicking was outstanding. Even when he was given the ball under pressure, he managed to clear it such a long way into the Hammers’ half that we could all breath a sigh of relief.

I also spotted him organising defenders and talking to team mates to tell them where to stand at corners and so on.

It’s too early to say whether Don Vito could turn out to be our Number One ‘keeper. I have read many comments suggesting he is not as commanding or imposing as Wojcech Szczesny.

But on the weekend’s evidence his shot stopping is very good, his kicking is excellent and his decision making was as good as the Pole’s has been.

I feel his horror moment in the Champions League against Olympiakos last season (when he amusingly leapfrogged a goal-bound ball that he could easily have caught) has tarnished his reputation in the eyes of many Arsenal fans.

Now, even when he has a good game, they say things like “he doesn’t really convince” and “you always feel he’s going to make at least one gaffe every game.” I know: I have done it myself.

He just doesn’t get cut the same sort of slack that Szczesny does – even though Wojcech has also had his share of moments more suited to “Funniest Home Videos” than to “Match of the Day.”

Maybe it’s time to start watching Vito’s performances without prejudice and give our Italian rapscallion a fair crack of the whip.

His loan spell at Hull City was deemed a great success by the Tigers’ fans and it may just be that Mannone is growing into the job of being Arsenal’s goalkeeper. With Szczesny rumoured to be out for several weeks yet, the Don will at least get the chance to show us if he is up to the task.

All we need to do is support him.

RockyLives


Get A Grip Gooners

October 2, 2012

I know it’s normal after a loss for a lot of supporters to go super negative. I’m not immune to that feeling, my weekend was ruined like all of you. Maybe it’s my nature, but I have learned to eventually look at the bright side. I was also cheered slightly to see United lose. Yes, happy for Spurs, because I consider ManU our competition this season, not Tottenham.

The negativity I’m referring to is less of a problem with the regulars on this site, who are pretty fair and reasonable. We all know there are many so – called “supporters” attacking our guys even under better circumstances. There are a few things I would like to point out.

Even though we didn’t have our best performance on Saturday, if you watched the match, you saw that we were in it the whole time. We must give credit to Chelsea for showing up at our place and playing at a high level. It’s not simply a case of us underperforming against a weaker opposition. They worked hard and it showed. But we did throw it away. If not for mistakes on set pieces, we might have deserved a win, or at least a draw. But like Cint Eastwood says in Unforgiven “deserves got nothin to do with it”.

Everyone complaining about Arsene’s CB choices is making me crazy. We have three great center backs. The best first three compared to any team in the league. Our fourth and fifth choices are ok also. Every time we concede a goal, we have to hear the geniuses tell us why the wrong man was left out. Mertesacker has been a rock, but he can and must rest occasionally. I think he started six or seven matches already. For years we have complained about lack of depth and rotation causing fatigue to our starters, and late season weakness, whereas United and City have been fresher at the end. Also, again, I’m a huge Merts fan, even before he joined us.

But I’m not willing to write off Vermaelen and Koscielny as weak players, as some have been doing all of a sudden. Koscielny, is a super active defender, the type that will inevitably cause an own goal more than less dynamic players. MOTM many times last season. Remember his performance two years ago against Messi? How many players can do that? It wasn’t luck, it was skill. For the record, Torres’ goal on Saturday was a great effort showing talent, he deseves the credit. Shouldn’t we be more concerned that Luiz was completely unmarked on that play. And Vermaelen has been having his best season so far in defense, though, his fouls around our box hurt us recently.

I’m sorry guys, I just don’t think it’s right to be complaining that Vermaelen is Captain at this moment. We complained when Cesc and RvP were named Captain as our Marquis players. Even though we knew they probably weren’t the right guys to lead. So, after Fabregas and Nasri left us, and our disastrous start last season, and all the shaken confidence, Tommy V was the first to stand up and extend with us, also citing loyalty after a long injury. He’s a fighter with the right attitude, and he’s shown better discipline by not getting caught forward as much this season. My only worry has been that he would resist rotation as captain, I hope that won’t be a problem. And what will be the answer when Mertesacker eventually makes a mistake, you know people will find a reason he shouldn’t have started, maybe that he needed rest. It’s laughable.

In defense of the defense, Have we still not been scored against in open play? (That including matches vs City, Chelsea and Liverpool) If that’s right, then I don’t think we should be criticizing or looking for player changes, we need to figure out what is wrong organizationally with set pieces. When I defended Szczesny a couple weeks ago, after his mistake against Southhampton ( some were complaining that he got the start over Mannone after that one – – you know who you are ) I pointed out that Chezz has been much better at taking charge on set pieces in the past year. You know, all the pointing and yelling before the ball comes in, maybe that actually makes a real difference, if its the correct pointing and yelling. By the way, to all Chezzers critics, watch the replay of his mistake, you will see him cringe in pain when he comes down on his ankle and drops the ball. He was man enough not to take to twitter to point it out in his own defense.

So, I’m not sure if Mannone is to blame, maybe the Captain should be taking charge, or some other combination of problems, including coaching, but whatever it may be, we need to figure it out as a team. Because over all, our defense has still been excellent, and our midfield also. The front is still a work in progress, but I’m hopeful. It’s very easy to be critical when things go wrong, I know that I do it too, but the last thing I try to do is attack our own guys. We need to stay positive and encourage our team. It’s a long season, and we have some very good players returning soon. Much to look forward to.

Written by johnnie – jnyc


Where does Szczesny stand?

September 21, 2012

I have to say, I have been astounded by some of the recent criticism of our keeper, and not just on the usual self-hating Arsenal blogs. It’s funny how after a short injury, and one poor showing, fans not only jump on one of our guys, but re-write his past history as well.

It’s important to let you all know, I actually have appreciated Mannone for a while now, and think he might have a real future. Maybe a great number 2 for us, or who knows, possibly more. Alot of people wrote him off last year because of one big error. But in pre-season matches, 3 matches this season, and a few that I watched this summer from a couple seasons ago, He appears pretty solid to me. His record on loan is quite good also.

Back to Szczesny. First off, believe me when I tell you that 80% of the comments I’ve read on the blogs this week forgot that he actually gave us the first clean sheet against Sunderland, giving Mannone credit for three, and complaining (after the fact) that Chezzer got the start against Southhampton. But more importantly, talking about his arrogance and attitude. For me, give me a keeper with arrogance (confidence), taking charge on set pieces. With no sign of fear or doubt in his eyes. You know what I’m talking about. Almunia had that look of doubt, even though he tried to hide it. When I see that look, I lose confidence, as I’m sure the teammates do. I believe oppnents also sense it.

Another thing everyone was talking about was Szcsesny’s distribution. Horrible this past Saturday, the worst I’ve seen from him – yes, but everyone is now saying that it’s been a huge weakness in his game. Why don’t I remember anyone mentioning this last season ? Because, although he could be better at this, he’s actually not been bad, and still very young for this level. Good enough for it not to be brought up by the fans who think of him as the number 1 since he took over. Also, something like distribution is certainly not going to be overlooked by Le Professor, more important to our game than most teams.

And someone wisely pointed out here the other day something I thought about his mistake against Southhampton, allowing the goal. That is – I believe he has had a rib injury, which when you go arms stretched out high, leaves sore ribs very exposed to contact, and might have been part of the reason for the mistake. Even if not, it was just one goal in a match where we could afford it. I don’t want to be negative, but in the Liverpool match, Mannone let a header drop right in front of goal, and we were lucky it didn’t cause a problem, as well as not collecting another one higher.

I think everyone, like me, was so disappointed not to get the clean sheets record, that they simply took it out on our Pole. I’m not saying he’s untouchable as number 1, and I love competition, if only to keep the back-up sharp. But, to me, it would take more bad performance before I lose confidence in him. I couldn’t care less about what happened for the Polish team, or what he tweets. For the record- I was rolling on the floor laughing when he tweeted at Ramsey about his golf outfit.. a hilarious joke between friends, slightly irreverent, maybe just better off the internet. But sense of humour is part of team chemistry. If he starts acting like Alex Song, then I will worry.

Lastly, let’s not forget that he played the final few matches last season with a shoulder injury, and the whole season with a very undisciplined defense. Even though many of us suspected that the talent was there in our defenders. We also went through long stretches with players out of position because of four fullback injuries. And again, while so many of us complained about allowing 49 goals last season, only on minor occasions did we have complaints about the goalkeeping. With a number like that, most fans would be calling for the keepers head, yet most transfer window dreamers were only hoping for a strong backup, to keep Szczesny on his toes.

How quickly public opinion changes.

johnnie (jnyc)


2010 Arsenal Embarrassed ……. what went wrong in 2005? – written by RockyLives

September 27, 2010

Last night I typed “Arsenal+Embarrassed” into Google, limiting the search to the previous 24 hours. The number of hits was 31,500, which just about says it all.

I don’t want to join the stampede of condemnation that followed Saturday’s result and I do not subscribe to the theory that our season is over before it’s begun, but I’ll admit to being spooked.

It would be great to put it down to a bad day at the office (the sort of bad day where you realise too late that you forgot to put your trousers on before leaving home), but the flaws we displayed had the whiff of déjà vu all over them. And that’s not the name of a new perfume from Victoria Beckham.

Familiar failings were on display, but when did they become familiar? At what point did the Rolls Royce Arsenal of Doubles, trophies and unbeaten seasons give way to today’s version: a flashy Lamborghini with a dodgy carburetor?

Looking back through recent history a lot, to me, hinges on the group of players who arrived in 2005.

In the year from January 2005 to January 2006 the following players came into our club:

Emmanuel Eboue

Nicklas Bendtner

Armand Traore

Alex Hleb

Abou Diaby

Emmanuel Adebayor

Alex Song

Theo Walcott

Vito Mannone

Mart Poom

We have had good and bad players before and since but there is a certain malaise that seems to affect the 2005 intake and I would love to know the reason.

Leaving aside Mannone and Poom, who are bit-part players, the others, to a greater or lesser degree, share certain failings that have frustrated the supporters and affected results:  lack of focus, lack of awareness, inability to concentrate, bad decision-making and what might be summed up as a lack of pure class.

The likes of Diaby, Walcott, Song, Hleb and Adebayor have looked like world beaters one game and panel beaters the next.

Of the bunch you would have to say that Adebayor was the most successful because he had one good season, and that Theo should be cut some slack because of his age and because he is now (hopefully) beginning to show signs of turning into the finished article.

But the rest – particularly Diaby, Eboue, Traore and Song – have shown a maddening lack of consistency. They can be amazing one minute (Diaby away at Villa anyone?) but on their bad days they seem to lack effort and a sufficient degree of football intelligence.

In fact, with their repeated inability to pick the right option they don’t feel like Wenger players at all. Arsene has always loved players who read the game intuitively – think Vieira, Petit, Pires, Fabregas, Ljungberg and others too numerous to mention.

Of the 2005 batch even Bendtner (whose work rate and effort is beyond reproach) is hampered by what can only be described as a certain lack of class, evident in his poor touch and poor decision-making.

For what it’s worth, I think that in 2005 Arsene took his eye off the ball when it came to transfers.  The sheer scale of the job involved in moving to the Grove must have been all-consuming (it has been reported many times that Arsene pored over every little detail of the new stadium). Added to this was the knowledge that money would be tight for several years to come. Somewhere in all this I believe he did not give the job his usual focus and ended up signing players he would not have signed today.

Of course that could be 100% wrong. Maybe the 2005 intake have struggled because they arrived at the transition point from a great team to a merely good one and could not cope with the expectation and pressure.

Or maybe, joining a team that had so recently been Invincible, they thought success would come automatically to them without having to sweat every drop of blood to achieve it. To use an in-vogue word, maybe they just felt entitled. Up-and-coming players previously at the club, like Cesc and RvP, had had the chance to live and play alongside the Invincibles and, one assumes, to imbibe a sense of what it takes to be the best.

Whatever the reason, our midfield against West Brom had three of the boys of ’05 in it and the failings that have become the trademark of that group of players were evident.  Many of our worst performances of the last few years have led to members of this group being castigated by fans.

Of the outfield players who arrived in 2005, Eboue, Bendtner, Diaby, Song and Walcott are still with us and Traore is out on loan. Who knows, they may end up being instrumental in bringing us silverware, but I’m not banking on it. I‘m putting my faith in the ones who have come after: Wilshere, Ramsey, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin, Rosicky, Vela and the rest.

RockyLives