We're all just looking for a few, good, hard men

A hard good man is to find!

It’s a bit odd. To hear Arsene Wenger tell it, Arsenal are looking for a hard man, and yet having been linked to nearly every hard man on the planet, he’s instead chosen not to buy. Still he tells everyone that’s who he’s looking for, either a center back, or a defensive midfielder, or if we’re to be real honest a centerbackdefensivemidfielderwhocanalsogoforwardandplayingoal.

This elusive player can’t be too tall nor too short. He can’t drink or smoke but he also needs to know when to lighten up and let his hair down. He need to be able to play the ball to feet and also play the long pass over the top. He should be in constant motion and yet always in the right spot at the right time. He must be cheap but also world class. He can’t be too young nor too old. And he should be able to take people out of a game while simultaneously being a good sport about it. On and on and on…

Arsene Wenger, as always, is looking for the Goldilocks Signing.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t look for perfection, but I am saying that he shouldn’t let perfection stop him from expanding squad depth. We’re in a pretty precarious position as far as Center Back/Defensive Midfielder is concerned. That position is currently occupied by only one man, Alex Song, and from here forward will be called “The Alex Song Position.”

I like Denilson, he’s a good player, smart with the ball, knows when to go forward and when to stay back, can play either in the center or on the right and hell, I’d even let him take Cesc’s spot as an attacking mid who can put in a tackle up front when needed. But when Gallas went out to have his contacts put back in and Arsene moved Denilson to center back on Saturday that’s when it dawned on me that Denilson, for all his good qualities, is not really a defensive midfielder. I almost hate to say it but it’s true, he’s just not got the size for it.

If Denilson isn’t a center back, then the fact that Wenger slotted Diaby in as defensive mid proves that Diaby isn’t really even a box-to-box player, but more of a deep lying striker or something.

I’m being serious.

Diaby has the physique to occupy the Alex Song position but he doesn’t have the mentality for it and I have to wonder if he ever will. He just doesn’t strike me as a cold, hard, killer like Thomas Vermaelen does.

I’m not taking anything away from Denilson or Diaby. I love them, they’re just not really holding midfield players.

So, if the current guys won’t do, then who will sit in for Song while he’s away for the Africa Cup of Nations? And who can fill in at center back for the days when William Gallas needs a break from scoring goals? It’s the question of this season and one that even Wenger has addressed publicly.

In some sense, I think that Wenger’s being disingenuous when he says:

I’ve spoken to 10 managers and all 10 are looking for centre-backs or defensive midfielders. It looks like the offensive players are the most-paid but at the end of the day, in the modern day, all the managers I speak to ask me the same thing.

‘Do you know a player somewhere?’

It’s almost as if he’s saying “look, everyone wants one of those guys, don’t be surprised if we don’t get one!” But wouldn’t that be like saying “I’ve spoken to 10 managers and they all want to win the Champions League, they all ask me ‘do you know how?’ HA HA NO ONE WINS THAT THING!!!”

Besides, it’s not true, Wenger’s had ample opportunity to sign a defensive midfielder and he’s passed on them one at a time, waiting for that damned Goldilocks Signing. Lorik Cana, for example, he’s currently plying his trade as Sunderland and by all accounts (he’s got 1 yellow in 3 games and yellow cards are his measuring stick, RIGHT?) he’s doing a hell of a job. He’s not perfect, he might ruffle a few feathers in the dressing room and on the pitch, but he’s the kind of guy that I could see in the Alex Song position.

Neven Subotic is another guy who isn’t perfect, in fact he seems to be a bit of a loose cannon: he got into an elbowing contest with Arsenal’s former headcase Jens Lehmann on Saturday. By all accounts Subotic won the battle and if that isn’t just the kind of guy that Arsenal supporters would love to have at the team I don’t know what is. Doubtless Wenger’s run the rule over Subotic and come up with “yeah, but he can’t play defensive midfield, so…” and turned back to his search for the perfect player.

It’s a hell of a risk on his part to be so picky. I’m not suggesting that he just buy anyone, someone like van der Vaart would be a bit of a useless signing in my book. Especially with reports of Rosicky practicing with the team on Monday (all the way at the bottom) and possibly taking over for Cesc on Wednesday. But cover for defense is not a useless signing and rather than wait for the perfect guy to come along, he should open the checkbook and sign a decent player. Steven Taylor is decried by many as not really good enough for Arsenal, but if there’s any coach in the world who could take a 23 year old hard man like Taylor and instill a bit of class in him, it’s Arsene Wenger.

Like I said, there’s more risk in not signing someone than there is  signing someone who isn’t perfect, like Taylor. Not just on the pitch or in the locker room either. Cesc has already called for a signing, Arshavin is calling for a signing and I don’t know a single fan who wouldn’t welcome a signing. Even someone like Blaise Matuidi would be welcomed, I think.

But for Wenger I’m sure he’s got excuses on board for why we won’t move for someone like Matuidi; he’s not tall enough, he’s not old enough, the bed was too soft, this porridge is too hot…

Meanwhile the transfer window is closing and Wenger’s possibly taking the biggest chance of this season, searching for that Goldilocks Signing. We will see, I have maintained that Lescott to City, which looks imminent, is the linchpin for a bunch of defensive moves among City, Everton, and Arsenal. This next week could be flurry of activity or it could see Wenger making excuses for why so-and-so just wasn’t quite good enough.

I’m hoping for the former.


  1. Good blog today (but I always say that…) and exactly the topic that I was pondering…

    Solid performance and result for us yesterday….Predictable defensive wobbles with Song and the starting FBs rested. Meanwhile our group of young Midfielders (Denilson, Diaby, Ramsey and Merida, I thought) continue to impress, at least offensively.

    Now we move into a new phase where, frankly, three consecutive draws would be perfectly acceptable results. I realize that saying that isn’t really OK from a fan’s perspective (we always want more, more, more), but it’s true if you’re looking at the long term.

    But onto the real question….will AW move in the final week of the transfer window? You’ve identified the key issue–If Song is our version of Ya-Ya Toure (DM and backup center back) don’t we need a second version of the same? And you may be right that it’ll all happen this week with the outlandish money Everton is getting for Lescott. (Shouldn’t his value have dropped after he was party to our 6 goals on opening day?) Frankly I’d rather see us keep Senderos and bring in a Matuidi or someone else who reads the game well (does he?). The problem with anybody new or seen as a lower quality player (say less than 10 million pound transfer) is how the referees react on tight plays. As much of a revelation as TV5 has been we’re still going to see the “experienced” strikers diving and getting calls in the box against him just because he’s a newbie. Song is building his reputation and thus his value and while it’s extremely popular to malign Gerry, the fact that he has experience as a big team CB makes the refs (if not the fans) think that maybe he’s not really that bad. Any new signing that would be happy on the bench wouldn’t be very reassuring if and when we had to call upon him.

    Good news about Rosicky, however. I was thinking that with him and Theo injured and Arshavin, Bendtner and Dudu looking a bit out of place on the wings the natural (AW) signing would be a no-name speedy winger type from one of the continental leagues (Balazs Dzsudzsak?). It Should be a very interesting week and I would hope that we do our business before our minds our clouded with whatever happens at Old Trafford.

  2. Mate, Denilson does not have the physique, is what you say. Then you refer to Vermaelen… But he is the same length as Vermaelen… And has clearly worked on his strength… Not a great argument, to be honest.

    1. @haho, Vermaelen outweighs Denilson by at least 15 pounds, can out jump Denilson by at least 6″, reads the defensive game very well, and is strong in the tackle.

      Remember how Denilson tried to put in a strong tackle yesterday and was left in the dust?


  3. Hell will freeze over before the FA punishes Man City for being publicly tapping up Lescott when they’ve had 2, now 3 bids out for the player. I mean it’s not like Sparky met w/ Lescott in a hotel dining room before formally making a bid.

    Watching Chelsea slice Fulham’s CB’s w/ 2 textbook goals from Drogba and Anelka. Very droll. To his ‘credit’, Hangeland was so far behind on Anelka’s goal that the LB should get the ‘blame’ for not covering up w/ Hughes.

    Tim, I know Wenger’s nickname is Le professeur but that doesn’t mean he should be Professor Higgins to Steven (Liza Dolittle) Taylor.

    I’m believe that Subotic can have a similar impact like Vermaelen and he can take FKs. He can’t play DM though. For that we need to get a ‘Michael Essien’ or ‘Marquez’ type. That player exist but he won’t have big time experience or else even we would have heard of him.

    Will be curious to see a Wenger response to Arshavin’s public comments. I bet none comes out.

  4. I’m not sure why a defensive midfielder NEEDS to have size because Claude Makalele certainly wasn’t a giant. It really comes down to two things, either you use brawn or brain. The big guys push their weight around, that’s a given but there’s quite a few smaller CMs, even Carrick who use positioning to read the game and be where they’re supposed to be to cut out opposition play. I’m not going to get carried away just yet about the team though I will revel in the moment. However, when we face a Man Utd or Chelsea, then we’ll see what Denilson is truly made of and whether he can be a smart player.

    If we get Van Der Vaart cheap I’m all for it. I’ve been a fan of his since Ajax and with Rosicky constantly injured – and this is a regular occurrence since Dortmund days – depth is welcome. I think we all agree that we need another top draw attack dog defender like Vermaelen. Djourou and Silvestre are not aggressive and don’t attack the ball like Vermaelen does. It’s almost a proven fact that a muscle and a brain is required to keep a proper defense and Gallas and Vermaelen compliment each other well but where’s the competition or the cover in case of injuries?

    Speaking of cover, Song and Denilson also have no real cover so if/when Song goes to the ACN then the 4-3-3 selection is going to look thin and I’m not sure who is playing beside Denilson and behind Cesc. Eboue will be gone as well and that leaves Diaby, who I cannot see covering Cesc like Song does.

    1. Nasri and Rosicky will cover for Denilson, in fact, Nasri was probably first choice creative CM before the injury…

      Ramsey is more comative than you think and so is Nasri. Djourou is a DM (in my eyes, still) and if no cover is needed for Vermaelen and Gallas he can play there. Gibbs can as well… And against the minor teams someone like Frimpong or Coquelin could seriously step up and play, I am not kidding.

  5. FYI Tim, it’s looking possible that Song’s team Cameroon aren’t going to qualify, they currently lie bottom of their group table and if they stay that way, they could be out.

    So as much as I like to see our players do well for their country this time, I’m hoping Cameroon crash out.

  6. Sergio Busquets. Just starting to make a name at Barcelona. Contract up next year. Don’t know if he can play CB or even DM but he’s a mid field ‘player’ who can tick a lot of Arsenal’s boxes.

    1. @ctpa, Still inexperienced. He’s actually not as good as you think, the rest of the Barca team makes him look that way. Yaya is miles above Busquets.

      1. @WC, We can’t have Yaya because he doesn’t want us. Yaya would also cost more than 15m, my spending limmit for the club 🙂

        My personal favorite though who actually does have experience (26yo), can play defense, can attack, weighing in at 185 and stands at 6’1″, in the blue corner: Koffi Romaric of Sevilla.

  7. 25 min into Inter-Bari. Inter now w/ Lucio and some guy named Eto’o against newly promoted Bari. Pretty pitiful right now. Inter is primarily attacking down the (R) w/ Maicon doing his Dani Alves impression. Inter main problem and ‘age’ old problem is trying to rely on Stankovic, Vieira and Muntari to provide attacking nous through the middle. Not happening.

    Vieira gives away a FK on the edge of the box and picks up a yellow for his effor.

  8. Arsene once said Djourou is a DM type of player. He just need games. Senerdous would be CB if any of them got injured.

  9. Good blog today(i don’t always say that and no offence, can’t always agree). Clearly the team leadership knows we need something and by all accounts there is some cash available, however we won’t spend until celtic is put to bed, the problem with that is what happens to our targets in the meantime.

    Song, Denilson, Diaby, Ramsey, Cesc, Nasri, Eboue all have the same problem, not good enough defensively in the sense that it doesn’t come naturally for them, it’s not their true medium. Even song, the most disposed to defense at times seems to look upon his duties like a child being told to do the dishes after supper, yes he’s improved and I’d be overjoyed to be proved wrong but I’d agree more competition in that area would help(not the least because of mid-season ACN). Now, that’s not to say they aren’t good enough, they are, but there is something missing in the team with respect to winning the league and yeah I think it’s leadership and more toughness in midfield, I have to say I’m not that keen on a youngish captain either, but Wenger has his reasons and I’m ok with that basically.

    As for our formation 433(which is more like a 4213), it appears to be working ok for now, but i’m not sure isolated wingers and striker will always work for us but willing to see how it goes.

    Van der Vaart looks to be heading to chels(deco aint’ what he used be) or pool where he could also be an important player. Though i rate him very highly and he would add a touch of class to any midfield we have too many players in his position already.

    It’s normally a waste of time speculating which players will come to us, but a worrysome trend is that we seem to be getting better at losing top players than attracting them(melo had little interest in joining us it turned out). In order for us to raise our profile a bit and move beyond our ‘young team with potential’ reputation I do think bringing in some quality names in db and dm would do us a world of good for so many reasons. I think Chamakh would be good for us especially in 443 but a 5 mil bid seemed to just end that one on the spot. If chels land van der vaart, they could be more than a handful this season. This isn’t a season for us to be complacent in any quarter, wenger should bring in and release some tension. If he does, and I think it’s more than likely he’ll bring in one more, I believe we can finish second in the league.

  10. I thought Subotic said he wasn’t interested in a move to Asenal? Also, it’s JUST like Jens to get in a fight with someone four feet taller than him.

  11. The stars just maybe in alignment for Arsenal against Man U on Sat.
    Jonny Evans has a chronic ankle injury that needs surgery but he’s being nursed through games w/ injections. He once again left the game on Sat. w/ a limp.

    Ferdinand has a thigh muscle tear and is definiteley sitting in the stands on Sat.

    That leaves Sebian hard man Vidic just back from injury but apparently got into a tiff w/ Rolladega and may face a “violent conduct” charge which could mean a 3 game ban. Fingers crossed 🙂

  12. Tim, we do have a strong backup for Song.

    It’s Vermaelen.

    What are the qualities Arsenal need for the holding midfielder?
    Excellent reader of the game – good anticipation. (Flamini’s strengths)
    Strong in the air.
    Effective at breaking up the play/strong tackler;
    Technical and tactical skills to initiate a counter attack.

    Maybe some of you see shortcomings in his game that would restrict this option, so far, I can’t.

    1. @arsesession, Totally agree about this as an option….except that it means playing someone else (of presumably lower quality–Djourou/Sendy/Gerry) behind him.

      The problem of searching for a solution (to the back-up DM/CB we’re all hoping for) in the transfer market is that the fans want instant high quality to trot onto the pitch if someone gets injured or goes to the ACN. Perhaps ManCity or Real Madrid or Chelsea can keep players like this on the bench. A player like that isn’t cheap and shouldn’t want to come if he can’t get 1st team football.

      A final thought is that January is maybe even a better time to find a disgruntled defender if we feel we’re still lacking

      1. @17highburyterrace, totally agree about current backups at CB – there is a lack of experience in Djourou and Sylvestre’s future is in his past.

        From Djourou’s past performance, imo, he has technical & tactical level for Arsenal; like Song, he needs regular playing time to build his confidence; he is still a youngster!

        Optimally, we need strong players that can be versatile in more than one position. A Vermaelen at CB & back up holding midfielder PLUS Song holding midfielder & backup CB give Arsenal options. We definitely need another experienced CB – as Gallas is already approaching 31 or 32. With 4 CB’s, there can be good rotation to keep everyone fresh.

        We have money in hand – it would be to the Arsenal advantage to bring in the player NOW, where he is not rushed and can acquire teammate understanding vs. January thru March has many key league and Cup matches.

  13. Eto’o-Ibrahimovic. Who looks to be ahead in this deal and that would be Barcelona. Ibra is a nice piece added to the puzzle that revolves around Messi. Eto’o can’t carry Inter without a decent midfield passing. Frankly, Inter looked like cow dung today and got a ‘gift’ PK to tie their game w/ a newly promoted team.

    Nice to see Altidore looking lively even if it is w/ Hull.

    I once again would implore Wenger to sit Fabregas on Wed. even if he can play.

  14. why the hell is every1 still worrying about the transfers!!!!!! our first 2 games of the season we have scored 10 GOALS!!! and still people criticise the team! what more do you want from the players? fair enough every1 was worried in pre-season because we werent sure how well we would do this season without more players. but wengers side are stepping up their game this year and have impressed so far, when we start losing games that is the time to worry!! but not when we r hammering teams into the ground or going through them like they r nothing. some arsenal fans make me sick!! theres no pleasing some people

  15. We already have at least 5 players out through injury and we have only played 3 games so far. The squad is one player less than last year which was already considered too small and cost us games last season. I cannot believe Wenger will not buy before the deadline especially if Sendorous is sold. Our record with long term injuries is worse than all the other top teams and they all have larger squads. Where has the money for Toure/Adebayor gone? With Song missing yesterday – there was not one Arsenal player on the field who could tackle on saturday. If Wenger does nothing this week – you can forget about winning the CL and PL.

    1. @gunner90, @ gooner

      gunner90 summarizes clearly why we are concerned about transfers

      I know you haven’t forgotten the second half to the 07/08 season.

  16. Gooner,
    Arsene Wenger has said that he’s still considering transfers, so why shouldn’t we? As mentioned, we’re already being hampered by injuries and we’re simply focused on filling in for Song when he’s away for the African Nations Cup. As for Arsenal fans, I, too, have been surprised at how spoilt the lot seems, but if you really want to call out the whiners, I suggest hitting up Le Grove long before you come here and point fingers. People here for the most part have been very thoughtful and reasoned in their commentary, while also being extremely supportive and faithful in the club. We’re all thrilled to pieces about how the season’s going, but the season’s like a novel with it’s ups and downs, and we’re all thinking prudently about how to ultimately prepare the squad for the inevitable challenges and pitfalls. Again, Wenger knows this, Arshavin knows this, Fabregas knows this. And I think they’re adhering to something the Wolf in Pulp Fiction reminded: “Ok, gentlemen, let’s not start sucking our own d*&$s just yet.”. Go you Gunners!

  17. There is nothing wrong with wanting your club to buy, however, Arsenal fans must closely study the Liverpool situation before making such demands. For quite a few seasons, the Scousers demanded and got more buys to ‘Strenghten’. Look where it got them? 0 (ZERO) league title since they won their last one in 1987/88. We deposed them in 1988/89 and they have not been able to win a league glass cup in 20 YEARs. Now they are insolvevent.

    Arsenal fans must learn from this. The dot.com puts up the current Equifax Credit Rating and Arsenal top with 98%. Liverpool comes in at just 26%; that’s how bad their rating is.

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