Tag Archives: return

Missing Personnel – Do We Finally Have Squad Depth?

Our summer transfer activity rightfully created a buzz for this season.

After having our optimism dampened by continuous articles surrounding our meagre budget, the players captured by the club – with some help by our impressive backroom team – were enough to lift the spirits and the hope around our fanbase.

Not easy to do after the way last season ended.

The season has now been underway for a fair amount of time, and results have been decent, but not mindblowing, but it’s easy to forget that we are still operating at less than full capacity.

None of our rivals have our problem. The majority of their key players are in the team and slowly wearing away their ring rust. Us? We’ve missed an entire defence.

The backline is conspicuously our weak link. Our midfield can adapt with the personnel to combat different threats, and our frontline is amongst the most potent in the league.

Our four (or five dependant on the approach taken by Unai Emery) has been in dire need of reinforcements and is operating without definite first choice personnel.

With Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney all absent through injury, we have no doubt been hampered – and who else could claim otherwise? Even the likes of Man City would find room for at least Hector Bellerin. Pep is well known for his love of a roving wing-back – and Bellerin certainly fits that bill.

Holding and Bellerin

The players who have come in to fill the void have done admirably. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has shown he is a worthy member of our squad who has plenty in his locker. The combination of Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac have both played at left-back but with Monreal now at Real Socidead, it leaves the attacking Kolasinac as our only recognised left-sided player – meaning Tierney’s return can’t come soon enough.

Then there is our centre-back predicament. Our club captain Koscielny has now left the club, we have future prospect William Saliba back at St Etienne and we couldn’t manage to sell Shkodran Mustafi for love nor money.

It has left us with the granite-tough Sokratis, the returning from loan Chambers and new boy David Luiz.

This isn’t the worst talent pool we have had to pick from in recent years, but when you recall how Holding was performing before his long-term injury struck him down – and how quickly he had adapted to Emery’s tactical changes – it shows that not only will he most likely find himself straight back in the team when he finds his feet – but how badly we miss him.

Could other teams cope with missing three of their first choice defenders?

Could Liverpool manage without Virgil Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold?

What about City and Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Zinchenko?

One at a time, maybe two at most, but all three?

We have been unable to push forward with our plans at the speed we should be. Unai Emery must be commended with coping without this talented trio and keeping us competitive and at the fighting end. It would be easy to stumble and drop points like it was going out of fashion, but it is noticeable that we have not needed to point at our missing players. We’ve simply got on with things and earned results when we’ve needed to.

Of course, our attack has bailed us out at times, but isn’t it testament to our squad depth that we are where we are, without three of our first choice defenders?

For the first time in countless seasons, we now have the substance in our squad pool to contend with the numerous injuries that befall an Arsenal squad. We now have ample cover and players who are malleable enough to mould themselves how Emery requires them.

It will take a few months until we see the best of Holding, Bellerin and Tierney. When they are fit though, we have a first eleven to challenge for honours.

I mean, just look at how well we’ve done without them…

The Best of Koscielny

Laurent Koscielny’s injury suffered during our Europa League Semi-Final not only ended his season, but his World Cup dream.

He had to watch from the sidelines as his compatriots enjoyed the perfect World Cup, lifting the famous trophy to be crowned World Champions.

All while Koscielny was nursing himself nearer to a return to the pitch.

It must have been pretty difficult to overcome the knowledge that if it weren’t for his achilles injury, the defender would have gotten his hands on the World Cup. It is a thought that is perfectly designed to torment for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

Koscielny stuck gamely to his task and now we have our club captain back and available for selection – but is his Arsenal career now merely passing the torch to his students?

Koscielny has been a fine defender for us. His arrival in 2011 was pretty unheralded, despite the relatively high transfer fee. We saw a rough but adept defender, who resembled Kolo Toure in style, but with a shorter temper.

Laurent-Koscielny.jpg

Koscielny always had a tendency to jump into tackles, giving away needless set-plays thanks to his penchant for going to ground. It took years to coach out of him, but for the last five seasons, Koscielny, has been amongst the greatest defenders to grace the Premier League.

His reading of the game benefitted from partnering the sage Per Mertesacker. His aerial ability has always been strong, and his strength belies his streamlined physique. Koscielny’s greatest asset though?

His undying loyalty.

The Frenchman stayed with us through the miasma of struggles we have endured. In the seven years he has been with us, approaching eight, Kos has seen many stars depart for greener pastures, he has seen seasons crumble into the abyss, he has been humbled by the odd thrashing.

Yet, much like how we herald the fact that the likes of Rosicky stayed during times of distress and precious little success, Kos too did the same thing. He stayed because he loves the club, and we adore him too.

This is why we must keep Kos in amongst the squad. He has much to teach the likes of Medley, Holding, Chambers and others pushing through. He can show them what it means to put on the jersey, he can show them about recovering from a mistake, or when a partner leaves a path open.

Kos can pass on his learnings from seasons of under-par partners, from under-strength squads. He may have lost the peak abilities he once had, but he still has enough to see he is one of our stronger defenders, and is well worthy of a place.

We may have seen the best of Koscielny, but no one wants to see him go just yet. He deserves every bit of our respect.

Jens Lehmann Comes Back To Arsenal

After such an unparalleled achievement as ‘The Invincible Season,’ the raft of documentaries, reading material and general content surrounding the exploits of the unbeaten Arsenal team of 2003/04, it means we have been treated to all angles of the gold-trophy winning campaign.

The majority of the men who made it possible have given their views and anecdotes on what occurred during that halcyon time, and watching them all speak about their teammates and the incidents which transpired on the pitch is still fascinating.

What gives these teams who achieve the impossible, an edge over their opponents? Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry et al have given their musings on the special blend of ingredients in the squad, and there was one common strand which was highlighted by many of these heroes.

It was the fiery, bubbling rapport which often erupted in vigorous, no-holds-barred training sessions. Every player gave their all and never held back, such was the winning mentality running deep within them all.

There was one man though, that perhaps was the embodiment of this competitive habit. 

Jens Lehmann was talked about with a wry smile by many of the players as one who would never back down, and often being the spark which would ignite some heated moments. 

Ray Parlour mentioned Lehmann’s disgust for any who attempted to lob him, and the many times in which players would attempt to do the very thing which would manifest Jen’s rage. It was Lehmann’s pride and his search for excellence which would not allow any such slights against his name. 

 The German  – aptly nicknamed ‘Mad’ by fans – already had a reputation for his exploits with opponents on the pitch, but these soundbites from his fellow Invincibles showed that no matter if it was a crunch game against Manchester United or 5 vs 5 on the pitches at London Colney – he would take every goal personally.

So, the news that Mad Jens is back at Arsenal in a First Team Coach capacity is something we should all be pleased with.

There have been many quarters who have talked of Arsene Wenger’s iron grip behind the scenes, and his need for absolute sway when decisions are made. With Lehmann being given such a prominent role in Wenger’s team, this could well mean that Wenger will have far more discussions about tactics and such than he has ever had before. 

Not only this, but with Wenger personally inviting him into the fold, does this mean that the Frenchman is finally acknowledging the need for a shakeup at ground level?

Lehmann on the training pitch will be exactly the same as Lehmann with his gloves on. He will not allow any quarter to be given by the players, nor will he expect anything other than the squad seeking to improve, rather than plateau.

The German is an excellent addition, and any former heroes should have an open invite to work with the club. Respect is earned, and the players will be aware of Lehmann’s achievements. This commands each and every man to listen that little bit more, to really soak in Lehmann’s advice. With Wenger recruiting Lehmann, it gives each training session that little bit more gravitas.

Not that any man should be taking any session lightly. If any of them were skating by, then that is surely a thing of the past. 

Who would want to cross Mad Jens Lehmann?