Tag Archives: squad

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…

Strike Bromance Crucial To Club Future

All good teams are built on building blocks.

Reliable, rock-hard slabs that you can build on top of. Partnerships that very rarely let you down, players that you can rely on to do their job.

Every good team has had them, and they allow you to worry about other matters, concentrate on the next area of concern.

After last season, it would appear that we have a scarcity of these building blocks in our squad right now. At one time or another last season, all areas of our team had moments that led to our downfall. That isn’t to say that our entire team were atrocious, but in terms of dependability. We couldn’t take many of them to the bank.

Aside from our strike force.

The bromance between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette flourished on the pitch amidst our turbulence, and their combined tally of 35 goals was the third best in the Premiership last season – only behind Liverpool’s Mane and Salah’s haul of 44 goals and City’s Aguero and Sterling’s 38.

That means that despite our finishing position of 5th, we had the third most dangerous attack. Just imagine where we would have been without them?

It also means that in the face of the constant adulation, tottenham’s pair of Kane and Son banged in six goals less than our pair.

So in the face of transfer speculation about our pair of hotshots, this stat highlights how desperately we need to keep hold of our duo.

Auba and Laca.jpg

 

We are aiming to build on last season, which saw us fall agonisingly short of a top four spot – a top four spot that was in our grasp until we fumbled the keys in our hands and dropped them through the sewer grate instead of opening the door to the Champions League.

Our midfield is missing key parts, with only Torreira and Guendouzi being players we can see as mainstays for the coming campaigns.

Our defence is falling apart, with only Sokratis and Rob Holding as long-lasting, reliable parts, with perhaps Calum Chambers rising to the fore. Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal have been fantastic servants to the club but their age is against them, with Shkodran Mustafi showing that he is far from the answer we have been looking for.

We need a new left-back. We need a winger.

So in order to make these additions, the last thing we need to do is sell the players that are the standard we need, with the consistency we crave.

Of course, the fees involved in any transfer for both Lacazette and Aubameyang would be lucrative. Even in the face of some of our most recent transfer mistakes (letting Rambo go for free when Eden Hazard goes for more than £100m with one year left to go on his contract?) we could expect £50m plus for each of them.

It would swell our so-called warchest, it would give us the opportunity to reconstruct our defence, maybe even a decent prospect in midfield to help out Torreira and Guendouzi.

We would be going into next season far weaker than we are now though.

We would also be confirmed as a selling club. It would see us selling players at their peak again, a breeding ground for talent so the big fish can sweep them up.

Aubameyang and Lacazette must stay if we are to go one step further next season. After falling so agonisingly short of making last season a success – a top four spot and a Europa League win was a mere two wins away and would have been a categorical success – our prolific strikeforce is mandatory in order to go that half-step further.

Invest our money in our defence, defenders that can act on Emery’s instructions. A midfielder that can diligently track runners and convert defence to attack efficiently. A wideman with white paint on his boots that can whizz in a decent cross – just imagine our pair of strikers feeding from a player that has a decent delivery!

Our immediate future given our target of self-sufficiency hinges on Aubameyang and Lacazette sporting our fancy new kits next season, hopefully helped by some players that aim for their level of efficiency and optimisation.

 

Dipping Into Deep Pockets – Spend Some Money!

Time for a game of ‘Spot the Difference.’

Farhad Moshiri.

David Sullivan and David Gold

The Srivaddhanaprabha family.

Stan Kroenke.

 

Any ideas?

They’re all owners of Premier League clubs.

They all enjoy an incredible bank balance.

The difference you’re looking for is that the first three have all invested plenty of their readies into their respective clubs – aside from Stan Kroenke.

In fact, Kroenke has actually taken money out of the club, as payment for consultancy fees.

The result of this lack of spending in comparison to Leicester City, Everton and West Ham is that instead of progressing with our supposed gameplan to haul Arsenal back into the big time, we could instead be battling it out with the above three teams to keep our Europa League status.

Never mind the Champions League for now. With Liverpool and Manchester City going from strength to strength, Manchester United and Chelsea not afraid to spend in the transfer window and Tottenham enjoying lucrative new incomes, Arsenal, now more than ever, have to break free from the restrictive budgets that are shackling our growth, and recognise the shifting landscape.

More clubs than ever can break the bank and land a superstar, and with West Ham signing Pablo Fornals, this is another piece of evidence to support the warning.

For just £24m, the Hammers have a Spanish international that has years ahead of him. Fornals has been a target of ours for some time, and to see him ship off to East London sticks in the craw a tad.

They also reportedly have another +£20m target in their sights from Celta Vigo, and are also after one of our other targets, Alexis Claude-Maurice from Lorient. Let’s say both of our bids are accepted – can we honestly say that we will offer more money than the Hammers?

So we will rely on our allure – the third biggest club in England, a host of domestic trophies and an attractive brand of football with a global fanbase.

Is that enough for the modern day footballer? Will it be enough to continue to snare the top talent? When they are well aware they can earn far more elsewhere – where the expectation will be lower? So they can enjoy the adulation for performing well within themselves?

How long can we continue to trade off the back of our reputation? Are we in danger of becoming a former glory – one that slumbers in the comfort of midtable as our owner cashes in and our rivals enjoy the spoils?

Kroenke 2

 

That may be an overreaction after our last season saw us miss out narrowly on both a lucrative Champions League spot and a European trophy, but you can’t deny that you’re alarmed when you see teams that don’t share our illustrious history or potential, spending shameful amounts of money that we can only dream of.

The self-sustaining model that Vinai Venkatesham and Raul Sanllehi are keen for us to follow keeps us on the straight and narrow and crucially – without any dependency on our owner who could give two shiny pennies whether we win trophies or not. As long as our cash udders are ripe and producing the goods, he’ll be more than happy for the status quo to continue.

Which means we stay in limbo – not quite good enough for the Champions League, but with teams all around closing the gap.

Financial Fair Play made a mockery of our frugal approach a while back, and it will continue to ignore those teams that are spending well beyond their means – which means we will not be rewarded for our mindful approach when it comes to our balance.

We were told that whatever profit we make can be reinvested into our team. Fair enough, but with us needing a big step up from our current position in order to catch up to the rest, that requires more than what we are making right now. We need to go wild in the aisles and buy the players that makes this squad Emery’s men – rather than the majority being leftovers from the Wenger era.

We don’t want Kroenke dipping in his pockets endlessly, but we do want a fighting chance to regain our standing – and we need a bit of help for that to happen.

 

 

Newcastle Vs Arsenal PL Preview

Our Premier League match at Newcastle has sunk under the radar after our Europa League exploits in midweek.

Our focus has been on our European adventure, as this represents our only chance – however slim – of redeeming our season.

We squeaked through against CSKA in Moscow on Thursday after an almighty scare, and we played our strongest side in our trip to Russia. Now we have tired legs and the knowledge that if we try that same tactic again, Newcastle will get the better of us.

Newcastle Vs Arsenal Preview

We sat back and were content to soak up pressure, only stretching our attacking muscles when it was absolutely mandatory. This is a familiar approach, which normally sees us concede first and then chase the game. Rafa Benitez will be aware of this, and his players will be primed from the off to go at us.

We need to play our strongest side again, and that means a reprieve for some and a deserved stay in the team for others. Mohamed Elneny had a stormer on Thursday and gives our midfield some balance, and with Granit Xhaka recovering from flu, the Egyptian should start again.

Danny Welbeck has been on fire of late, and starting out wide seems to suit the England man, with only Mo Salah outscoring him in the last five games. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan out for another two weeks or so, Welbeck is the option we need to fill the gap and increase our scoring threat.

Jack Wilshere has hit a patch of awful form, and his last two games weren’t pretty. The midfielder will most likely get another chance to shine though, with Xhaka most likely out for this game. Our defence should stay the same, although there is a chance for Calum Chambers to come into the backline for Laurent Koscielny, who often can’t fight off his chronic tendonitis when playing two games in a week.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will come back into the side after being cup-tied, and Alexandre Lacazette will most likely sit on the bench, unless Wenger goes full throttle and names both in the side, which he has inferred of late.

Newcastle have won their last three games to pull away from the relegation zone and sit comfortably in midtable. They’ve won convincingly too, and with Shelvey hitting some form, they’ve got an enigma that can turn a game if left unchecked.

Then there is our wretched away form in the Premier League – only three wins away from The Emirates all campaign – and this must change quickly. We are pretty much out of the running for the top four, but there is a distinct chance to finish above Chelsea, and also avoid our lowest ever finish under Wenger.

A sixth place finish and no Europa League would be quite clearly our worst season, so there is still much to play for. Our squad need to rotate and play at the maximum, and if we do that then we can perhaps scrape some honour from this campaign.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Chambers, Monreal, Elneny, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Welbeck, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Who is the best backup in the business?

There are many credentials required in order to be classed as a true contender in football.

The majority of heavyweights who slug it out on the European stage normally have a wealthy benefactor, a half-decent pedigree and a squad peppered with talent.

It is the squad though, that perhaps best underlines the strength of a club. When an outfit hopes to fight on all fronts, they must rely on their lesser lights in order to remain relatively unscathed.

When Manchester United won the treble, they had four strikers who would have graced the majority of Europe’s top teams. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were a lethal combo, and Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provided a steady stream of goals.

When we won the Double in 2002, we had Thierry Henry – the greatest player in Europe -, the genius of Dennis Bergkamp, the efficiency of Sylvain Wiltord and the unpredictability of Nwankwo Kanu to fall back on.

These teams could boast such a huge array of striking talent to keep teams guessing and on the back foot, and this all happened nearly two decades ago.

They do provide a good yardstick though.

Do clubs now have the same depth that their more illustrious past brethren had?

United have Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford as their two preferred attacking options. Now the sole striker formation is far more conventional than it was back in 1999 and 2002, it places less emphasis on needing four strikers. United still need backup though, and in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they seem well armed on that front.

Our team is far weaker than during our golden generation. Now we have an adept and skilled Alexandre Lacazette, with a soon departing Alexis able to slot in to the forward line when the need arises. Our backup is Olivier Giroud, and the Frenchman has gone from ridicule to lavish praise during his Arsenal career.

I think it’s safe to say that we all appreciate how good Olivier is, and what a sterling job he’s done since finding a starting spot hard to maintain.

Who has the best backup though? Does Ibrahimovic have the edge now as well as having the far bigger trophy cabinet? Or does Olivier win it by a nose thanks to his lesser years?

This season has seen Olivier Giroud become the most prolific substitute for Arsenal, and he has bagged four goals thus far, compared to Zlatan’s none. It is worth mentioning that Giroud has played 276 more minutes than his Swedish opponent.

It is last season though, that is telling.

Zlatan played double the amount of minutes than Giroud did, as he was United’s main man last season before Lukaku came onto the scene. Yet Zlatan only bagged five more goals than Giroud did, scoring 17 to 12. He also only grabbed two more assists than the Frenchman.

Giroud was also more efficient in front of goal, with 59 percent shot accuracy compared to Zlatan’s 55 percent, and a superior aerial duel success rate.

So, it seems clear that despite a lack of minutes, Giroud can hold his head high and claim that he is indeed worthy of a start. Will that be elsewhere rather than at The Emirates though?

His situation is different to Zlatan’s. The tall Swede is in his twilight years and even though he hasn’t lost his effectiveness thanks to an excellent level of fitness, he realises his time at a top club may be on the wane. Zlatan could still do a fantastic job at most clubs.

Ibrahimovic has had one of the most glittering careers. League titles in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. His goalscoring record even at United is in keeping with his record elsewhere – 28 goals in 46 apps. Follow www.betfy.co.uk/ for more.

Giroud has never been as effective in front of goal as Ibrahimovic, but in terms of being an effective team player, then he’s every bit as valuable as the one that refers to himself in the third person.

West Ham Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

A London derby has a habit of destroying form books and league superiority. No matter where the opponent is in the table, the geographical closeness negates it and the atmosphere levels the playing field.


West Ham are coming off the back of a fantastic 1-0 win over Chelsea at the London Stadium. They were resolute at the back, industrious in the middle and effective up top. They have another home game, and the fans will be bang up for it.


Arsenal, on the other hand, scraped a somewhat fortunate 1-1 draw at St Mary’s, as our awful away record continued.


Southampton may have seen fewer of the ball, but the best chances fell to the feet of Charlie Austin, Ward-Prowse, Redmond and Boufal. We looked ponderous, with precious little movement in between the lines. We were the Arsenal that stutters and costs us points. We’ve seen this incarnation of our side many times, but it never gets any easier to deal with.


Now, we’ve got another away game, against a team buoyed by recent results. We need a performance, and now.


The festive fixture list is cramming games in every three days, so squad rotation will be key. This game comes three days after the Saints draw, and three days before we face struggling Newcastle at The Emirates. We need to keep pace and be ready to punce when our rivals drop points, rather than dropping them ourselves.


So, Giroud’s late leveller saved us from the ignominy of defeat at St Mary’s, and the Frenchman may be ideally suited to West Ham. The Hammers have some big boys in defence, and the presence of Giroud could keep them busy enough for our runners to slip in. Danny Welbeck is another option so we can keep Lacazette fresh.


Jack Wilshere also appeared as a substitute in the draw with Southampton to good effect, and he will be hopeful of a start, either in this game or certainly against Newcastle in the weekend. Much will depend on whether Ramsey is fit after he was limping against Saints in the weekend.

Shkodran Mustafi is still doubtful, so Mertesacker, Chambers and Holding will all be in with a shout for the next few games, as fatigue and injuries bite.


West Ham haven’t won at home against us since 2007. They have one other win since that time, a 2-0 win at The Emirates in 2015. 


Aside from those two occasions, it has been a goal fest for Arsenal.


I’d feel confident predicting an Arsenal win, but I’ve no idea what Gunners side will show up. We seem unable to string more than two victories together with regularity, and that is exactly what we need. It is our away record that is severely hampering us however.


Two wins on the road in the league is concerning. The 5-2 win over Everton was great, and the 1-0 win at Turf Moor was heartening, but we too often look brittle or we choose the wrong approach to the game. Our home attack is full of verve, and West Ham, if faced with the same, would struggle to keep us at bay.


So, we may make some changes, but it is not the lineup that concerns us too much. It is the style we showed in our draw with Southampton, our loss to Watford, to Stoke, to Liverpool. We need to eradicate this version of us if we are to keep pace with the Top4.


Predicted lineup – Cech, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Bellerin, Wilshere, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.


Predicted sccoreline – 3-1 to The Arsenal.

Gilles Grimandi – The Lifeguard

Squad depth has not just been an issue for clubs in the last decade, although there is much more need for it now thanks to some crazy scheduling. The Premier League era has placed demands on teams with European competition and domestic cups meaning that managers have a heavier reliance on those who would primarily be warming the bench.

It is these players that seasons hinge on. They are the last-gasp rolls of the dice that Gaffers are forced to do when backed into a corner. Sometimes it is a late substitution to soak up pressure and defend a precious narrow lead. Other occasions mean a start in a big game, replacing a stalwart in the side and hoping the proverbial bandage holds up.

In the briliant 1997/98 season, the influx of French players had started to meld perfectly with the English core, and the Double was achieved. The names of Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Bergkamp, Adams, Dixon and Seaman were among the brightest lights, but the name of curly-haired Gaul Gilles Grimandi is not one of the first that comes to the forefront of memory.

Primarily a defender, but used in midfield and full-back, Grimandi made 33 appearances in League and Cup, Filling in whenever plays succumbed to injury or – in the case of our more hotheaded players – more often suspension, Grimandi was an oft-utilised asset. 

On first appearance, Gilles was a limited player who struggled to keep up with the pace of the Premiership. That would be fair to a degree, as speed was never one of the Frenchman’s chief attributes. What he lacked in rapidity however, he more than made up in elbow grease and aggression. Sometimes, the lid to his temper would not be screwed down tightly enough – Diego Simeone’s face can attest to this – but there was never a moment on the pitch when Grimandi did not stretch every sinew, give every inch of effort he had.

Us fans love a player who gives his all. You may be in the shade of some of your more illustrious and gifted teammates, but if you show us how much you want to win, we will invariably back you. It helps he also got sent off against our neighbours too….

In his time at Arsenal, he won two Double’s. He may never have held down a regular spot, and he only scored a meagre amount of goals, but without the sweat and thunder that Grimandi brought to the table, two of our most glittering of campaign’s could have been far different.

The player known for his curly locks was a good egg off the field – in direct contrast to his angry persona in an Arsenal shirt – and he helped new signings acclimatise themselves to London and the club. Now a scout with the club, Gilles can look back on his Arsenal career with pride. 

Gilles got us out of some perilous situations. He rescued us on more than one occasion – scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace springs to mind – but it was more his tackling and will to win that made him the lifeguard of our squad. 

He was a player who fully optimised his talents. He was a player who did that and gave unwavering service to our club. For that, he deserves the utmost respect.

Arsenal’s Closed Window

We thought that this time would be different.

Even though we had seen it all before.

A fantastic start to business, which put us in a prime position to finally close the gap on the regular challengers for the title. 

Then, the inevitable lull in proceedings, which then led to the demise of hope.

In the previous few seasons, we had gone out early and purchased players in June/July. Not just any players, but of the ilk to push us forward. 

This season’s incarnation of the annual false dawn was Alexandre Lacazette. On a singular basis, the Frenchman is a fantastic addition to the squad and his talents will benefit our team undoubtedly. 

One purchase does not make a team though, only a very glittery band-aid. 

Sead Kolasinac was another player who joined, but the lack of monetary fanfare in the form of a blockbuster transfer fee resulted in less hype surrounding the bulky Bosnian. His skills though, are of the highest order, and I think we have all seen from his pre-season and early Premier League displays, that Kolasinac is an absolute bargain.

A defensive addition, allied with the striking purchase we all craved. Sounds like a recipe for success, no?

The stormclouds on the horizon in the last few years refused to dissipate though, and it all stemmed from the inadequacies in our team which have cost us dearly. 

If we are all able to spot it, how can Arsene Wenger repeatedly refuse to remedy the situation?

The faith he shows his players can mean an extra 10-15% torque from their engines. Players want to do their utmost for someone who has their back, and Wenger always backs his men. The trouble is, the arm round the shoulder can also be constricting and problematic. 

Some get too comfortable, some refuse to push the envelope for progress. We now have a squad that has a capacity for wonderful things, but they rarely find any consistency, they also just as rarely struggle to hit the heights they – and we – know they are capable of.

So, the transfer window enables Wenger to finally rid us of this blight, to use his extensive knowledge of the European game to acquire players that are a perfect fit for the apertures we have in our squad.

Virgil Van Dijk, Jean-Michel Seri, Julian Draxler. Just three names that could replace players that wanted to leave this summer, and not just replace them, but better them. 

Van Dijk is sought after by Chelsea, Liverpool, pretty much the whole Premier League hierarchy. The clamour for his signature is evidence enough that the Dutchman is of the required standard. With Shkodran Mustafi angling for a move in nearly plain sight, why did we not move for Southampton’s star man?

Not only this, but with Gabriel sold to Valencia in the same window, this left us with an injury-prone Koscielny, a retiring Mertesacker, an inexperienced Holding and Calum Chambers, where the jury is out. 

Of course, the transfer fee would have been gargantuan, but Mustafi would have brought in at least half of the transfer fee, so the price cannot be baulked at. 

Then there is Julian Draxler. The German started well at PSG, but the wheels fell off and he is now out of favour in Paris. The fact he was offered to Borussia Dortmund underlines Draxler’s availability. With Alexis practically being photographed shaking hands with Sheikh Mubarak, the left side of our attack was open. 

Why didn’t we go for Draxler?

The fee for Alexis would have been pretty close to that of Draxler. This was a no-brainer. Of course, Lemar was our chosen man, but the fact he too slipped through our fingers typifies our transfer policy in the last decade or so.

Our central midfield is an itch that Wenger doesn’t seem to be able to scratch. When bereft of Santi Cazorla, the mixture of defensive duties and attacking instincts is usually the blade that slips under the ribcage of our title credentials. 

Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny have all played alongside each other in various combinations, but none seem to stick. Coquelin has the passion, but zero technical ability. Xhaka is a fantastic long-range passer and for making connections, but he is lazy in his defensive tasks. Aaron Ramsey is a fine attacker, but needs a player to sit back when he roves forward. Elneny is a solid 7/10 player, but is simply squad-filler.

Wenger has been sitting in this ticking time-bomb for seasons, and a mixture of belief in his men and apparent beligerence has led to us all suffering the results on the pitch.

We need a midfield destroyer. We need that same destroyer to be able to offload the ball further than three yards without losing it. 

Why didn’t this get seen to? 

Instead of pushing our team on in this window, we have made a profit. Just what the team needs, a healthier bank balance. 

For the first time, we are in September as I write this and I have zero confidence in our team doing anything this season. Treading water with the occasional splash, but until the problems are seen to, we are hindered.

Our squad is strong in terms of numbers, but even the most optimistic of us could see what was needed in this window.

And yet again, we have a window closed on us whilst our faces are pressed on the glass, dribbling over the wares we were promised but are well out of our reach.

Wenger is responsible for this error, and it could cost us dearly as slipping down the ranks means a less desirable place to play for transfer targets. 

The players we have, need to repay what Wenger has given them. Hopefully, that will be enough. It has to be. 

Trimming The Fat of the Squad

Published on Goonersphere.​

If there is one thing us Gooners have learned over the past few seasons, is that squad depth is paramount in launching – and maintaining – a push for silverware.

Every campaign in recent memory has seen a period of consistent results which has seen us primed for a push at glory, and yet the wheels have come off time and again when the gruelling amount of games starts to snap at our heels.


Injuries to Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, and a raft of defenders has repeatedly vanquished our dreams, as our side has been forced to field back up players who have failed to match the level of excellence we require.


It places a focus on those very fringe players, and it shows that every single signing that is made is just as important as the marquee transfers which capture our imagination. It is a cause for optimism when we sign players of the ilk of Alexandre Lacazette, but it is just as mandatory having a man like Danny Welbeck waiting in the wings to cover any injuries or tactical changes.


Some players, if bad luck strikes, are irreplaceable and will leave a chasm in the team regardless of who slots in to replace them, but with an able and adequate understudy, we can breathe a little easier every time an opposing player clatters into our star men.


We endured the years when our squad was so shallow that even the first eleven was below par, but now we can look upon our squad and have the luxury to say that our fringe men could get into the majority of PL teams.


There are weaknesses in our pool though, and with our numbers fit to bursting and in need of some thinning if we are to strengthen again, which players need to be mercilessly culled in order for progress to be made?


Our players who can operate at wing-back are of particular importance, seeing as our recent switch to three at the back has placed more importance on these transitional players. Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal continue to play huge parts in the team, and new boy Sead Kolasinac looks to be a shrewd signing. We have a few though, that have their heads on the block.


Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers all seem to be set for a role on the periphery this coming season, but are they actually good enough to slot in when they are inevitably called upon?


Debuchy seems the most likely to be discarded, with the Frenchman having been a ghost in the team since his unlucky debut season. Carl Jenkinson, whilst a fan favourite is dispensable. 


Kieran Gibbs has done an admirable job of coming into the team whenever called upon, so what of Calum Chambers?


His age and his recent loan spell at Boro should be reasons enough to keep him, but what if Chambers wants more? His recent exploits with the England Under 21 side mean his stock is high, and his progress could be halted if he is used as a utility player. His chances in his favoured position of centre-back look pretty slim, so it is down to 

Chambers himself if he should want to go.

We have promising youngsters coming through in the form of Krystian Bielik, Ainslie MAitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Rob Holding. Shouldn’t these promising youngsters be given the chance to play those 10-12 games in a season when injuries mount?


We cry out for driftwood to be chopped, but nearly every player has good reasons to keep them. The only reason we should sell any of them – Debuchy aside – is if we can acquire better. If we can, then there is one other question.


Will these prospective new signings be happy with a bit-part role?


Let us be honest, the majority of our side is nailed down, and whilst rotation has a place in modern football,  a constantly shifting eleven does not promote consistency. We need to have players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud champing at the bit, waiting for their positional rivals to slip. This is the motivation that our players need to pull elite performances out of the bag.







Do Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin put enough pressure on Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the park? Whilst they may have their uses, are they first team material? If not, then how difficult will it be to find a player willing to be the equivalent of a new goldfish – sitting and waiting in a bag whilst they become acclimatised?


We all cry out for signings, but with so many different facets to consider, whilst we all wait for David Ornstein to give us a morsel of info, we need to look at the bigger picture. Signings are much harder than they look and we all forget this from time to time.


The chopping block is in place and the axe has been sharpened – but who should go?

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?