When Arsenal hosted Tottenham on the 29th of October it was a tale of two seasons. For Spurs, theirs was a season of high expectations, quickly followed by failure and derision that had culminated in the firing of Juande Ramos and appointment of Harry Redknapp. For Arsenal, despite a couple of blips against Fulham and Hull, hopes were still very high for the senior team and the world was delighting over the exploits of Wenger’s youth team. It took just 90 minutes for Tottenham to expose Arsenal’s frailties in the game that shook Arsenal’s 2008/2009 season.
It started about as bad as a game could. David Bentley, a failure of Arsenal’s academy and constant press loudmouth scored the goal of his lifetime. I mean that in the most derisive sense possible because it wasn’t as much a great goal as it was an utter failure on the part of Arsenal’s defense. From the failed clearance to the fact that Almunia was caught out in no-man’s land Arsenal failed completely. To his rat-faced credit, Bentley did strike the ball well but had any component of the Arsenal team had their head in the game it would have been a wasted shot. Unfortunately Arsenal losing their heads has since become a familiar theme.
But the worst part, the part that stings the most is the knowledge that no lead is safe in the hands of this Arsenal team and Spurs amazing comeback proved that to the world. Up 4-2 and seemingly cruising, Arsene hauled off Walcott, van Persie, and Nasri and put on Eboue, Diaby, and Song — you know, to shore up the defense.
Within one minute of the final sub Tottenham scored twice and shredded the once great Arsenal defense. Of course, the final scoreline is not all the fault of the three subs but it’s no coincidence that those three players are singled out for the most fan derision. It seems like those three are most likely to be on the pitch when some once in a lifetime defensive frailty is exposed.
Letting Tottenham back from a 4-2 lead and exposing our supposed defensive players for the quality they truly are would be a huge enough pivot point of the season yet this game had one more surprise in store for us. Several weeks later, in what is easily the biggest fallout from this game, William ‘Cappy’ Gallas decided to let the whole world know, via the French press, that there was a huge dressing room bust up at half time of that game. Gallas threw in some stuff about disrespectful players and people who think they’ve already arrived when they haven’t done as much as his Greatness, and how when he was a kid he had to kick the ball up hill, in the snow, both ways. Oh yeah, and they should all GET OFF HIS LAWN!
Wenger was left with no choice but to strip Gallas of his captaincy. Cesc was the obvious choice and was quickly appointed. Yet, the problem is that despite a brief upturn there still seems to be some unrest at the club over who leads the team and how they do it. Now with Cesc out for four months with an injury the leadership gap at the club is more glaring than ever.
Defensive woes, a leadership gap, and Diaby, Eboue, and Song exposed for their lack of polish. It didn’t all happen at once, but I can think of no better game that highlights those three stories of 2008 than the 4-4 draw against Tottenham.
Reports have hotted up around supposed Arsenal transfer targets Shay Given and Andrei Arshavin. This morning the Telegraph (who are fairly reliable — for an English newspaper) is reporting that Arsenal have offered £8m for the Newcastle #1. He supposedly wants £60,000 a week in salary but I don’t think that would be too much given Arsenal’s bizarre salary structure. Rumor has it that Spuds and Citeh are also interested in Given, Spuds because their world class keeper is on his way back to PSV and Citeh because everyone on the planet is linked to Citeh.
Meanwhile, multiple sources are reporting that Wenger is “mulling over” a bid for Arshavin. I’d rather he mulled a bid for someone like reported Real Madrid target Antonio Valencia from Wigan. The price tag has to be better and we don’t have to do business with those unseemly racists at Gazprom.
Bad news for the people who wanted Arsene to call up Arteta from Everton, it seems like they are reluctant to let their best players leave for some reason. We all knew that was going to happen, really. Everton would be fools to let Arteta go and unless Arsenal did something like unsettle the player and force their hand (which supposedly we don’t do) I can’t see Arteta joining us for less than something like £20m. More?
Worse though is that that article indicates Mark Hughes is in the market for pretty much the exact same players that Arsenal are in the market for: Premiership tested players. This means that Arsenal are likely to end up in a bidding war with Citeh over at least one if not more than one player.
This is strongly reminiscent of when Abramovich stormed in to the league and basically just waited for Arsenal to make a bid and doubled it. Remember that year? I do, it was a nightmare.
Part 3 of the year in review tomorrow and I’m sure there will be more transfer rumors. See you then.