F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5… meh

That’s it folks, deadline day has passed and Arsene Wenger has stayed true to his word and is standing pat with the team he has. I already know that this is a minority opinion among Arsenal fans but I am ok with this squad the way it currently stacks up and in fact, I’d go a step further and say that Wenger’s had this planned all along.

First off, the criticism from all quarters is that Arsenal failed to replace two key players this season: Adebayor and Toure. On paper this seems a valid criticism since both players left in the summer but I think that the paper view is distorted. Look at the difference between the Adebayor who was offside 40 times last season and the Adebayor who’s current form has him scoring three goals in three games. If you ask me, apart from that one brilliant Champions League goal, Adebayor was lost to us early last year. That means that Arsenal’s purchase of Arshavin was actually in order to cover for the lack of goals from Adebayor. Moreover, when Adebayor was at his best he worked hard and was a disruptive force with his creativity and runs up front. Arshavin is not as direct a replacement since he’s not a big target man but what he lacks in the center forward department he clearly make up for in his unpredictability and his pure goalscoring ability. So while the two players are vastly different, it seems to me that Wenger brought Arshavin in to make up for Adebayor’s absence and in the 6 months that followed he played Bendtner as much as possible to groom him for Adebayor’s job as target man.

Similarly with Toure, Arsene knew that Toure wanted to leave when the latter turned in his transfer request in January. Somehow, Wenger convinced Toure to stay until the end of the season and then immediately set about finding his replacement. Sure, it’s only 3 games into this season but so far Vermaelen looks to be more of an upgrade than a straight replacement for Toure.

Moreover, Wenger had to have taken a look at the fixures list and seen that the single most crucial part of the season coincided with the Africa Cup of Nations. With Adebayor, Toure and Song as key starters who would be gone in January, when they were most needed, then in that case bringing in Arshavin and Vermaelen looks even more important.

All this is to say that the press’ constant hand-wringing over Arsenal “failing to replace Adebayor and Toure” is disingenuous at best. As far as I’m concerned Arsene Wenger did better than replace those two positions.

That leaves just the one spot that Arsenal fans have been worried over since Patrick Vieira took his big shoes to Juventus 5 years ago; holding midfield.

I’ve had more than a few regular readers disappear from the blog over my position on this, which is strange because I think I’m pretty mainstream. Basically, I would have welcomed a player like Felipe Melo with the same open arms and wild eyed opTIMism that I’ve adopted for the rest of the squad this season. A guy like that would really push Song and Denilson for their starting spot and add real quality to this team. I think Wenger did try to sign him, in the same way that he tried to sign Alonso last year; by putting in what he felt was a solid bid and no more.  The problem is that after Felipe Melo there weren’t a whole lot of options for Wenger. Notice I didn’t say “for us” but rather “for Wenger.” Like it or love it, this is his squad and he has very strict rules about what kinds of players he’ll bring in and what price he’s willing to pay for them. So while you and I can point to Veloso or Cana or hell 50 defensive midfielders, Wenger has no doubt passed the rule over them and for some reason found them wanting. He’s not a stupid man, he obviously has the money, and he admitted that holding mid and center back were places he was looking to fill, so something else stopped him from taking one of the many players that a lot of us would have embraced.

We’re going to have to leave it at that. There’s an avoirdupois assload of things that could happen from here until the end of the season, some of which could be repercussions from his reluctance to fill that spot, but that’s all speculation and second guessing. What we know for a fact is that he did not fill the spot. Alex Song and Denilson are the lone two out-and-out holding mids on this team now. When Song goes to the aforementioned ACN, Wenger’s going to have to shuffle, Denilson and Cesc, or Denilson and Nasri, or Denilson and Diaby, etc. Since we’re only playing three midfield players we have (as I like to say) A LOT of options but one option we don’t have is some new guy coming in. This is a done deal folks, Alex Song is our Lorik Cana.

One last position that causes a lot of consternation is the center back position but again Wenger feels like he has options there already. We’ve kept Senderos and once Djourou gets fit we have another player we can put in there. Song and Silvestre (in that order) are both, erm, centery-backery kind of players and can fill out the team sheet if needed. Again, obviously, I would have been happy to see a signing here but as with the holding midfield spot Wenger had a look and decided that there were no goldilocks signings to be had. Hangeland, for example, looked like shite against Chelsea and at £14m (or whatever Fulham “didn’t” want to sell the player for) was never going to be a good signing as a back up to Vermaelen. Subotic, the other oft linked player, was quoted at £20m which is a princely sum for a player of his modest abilities.

So what do we have? Well, we have a solid team from front to back, we also have a new look formation that I think exploits our talents better than the stodgy 4-5-1 that we used last season , and we have a team that has subtracted two unhappy elements and added in two guys who are ready to be rebels for the cause.  As my regular reader knows, I’m fucking excited for this season. With our experience, our youthful vigor, our desire to prove ourselves, and Wenger’s preparation I think we are one of the strongest teams in the EPL and will be pushing Chelsea for title honors on many fronts this year.

That is, if we can avoid more retroactive punishments from UEFA.

See you tomorrow, when I report that Wayne Rooney has received a lifetime ban for massive cuntitude.


      1. @Bongo, True but when he is called on he must deliver. The defence will keep him safe for 89 minutes but atleast 1 minute every game he maybe called on and he must deleiver.

        Look at the Celtic game. He allowed a stupid consultation goal in the second leg that he should have saved. Almunia is average goal keeper on a good team. simply put.

        1. @villa, Perhaps Mooney’s just a slow season starter? He’s had a run of bad games to be sure, not much to do in any of them and hasn’t delivered when called upon. Still, I thought he was hugely impressive during the latter half of the last season.

          1. @Shobo, Almunia is a average GK on a good team. His performance towards the end of last season was good but not against top teams.

            He was crap in the FA Cup finals allowing a weak goal at his near post.

            He was crap against Chelsea in the league 4-1 at home remember?

            He was crap against ManU second leg at home when it mattered most (he did keep us in the game in the first leg, but thats not good enough. The great ones deliver when it matters most).

  1. I’m perfectly happy with the squad we have aswell, we’re well covered in the defensive positions until january. Senderos didn’t go anywhere and while most fans don’t rate him that highly, I think he could pick up his game this season, it must be a big blow that no club wants you badly enough to sign you.
    I’d say he’ll play his ass off if given an opportunity to. Which with our injury record seems like he will.

    We have two capable DM’s at the moment, Song is better than Denilson but without Song we wouldn’t be in trouble. We have plenty of cover in all positions, I hear a lot of people saying we need more but I disagree, this is a world cup year no-one wants to be a bench warmer this year and we are only a month or two at most from having our entire squad available again.

    1. @Bongo, Really hope you’re right about Senderos Bongo, I want him to do well but I’m not sure he has the grit.

      He looks like a confidence player, and I bet his confidence is dented pretty heavily at the moment. Still, I’d play him ahead of Gerry.

  2. almunia may not have had much to do this season, but what he has he’s made a mess of… its bafflin’ why its taken arsenal fans this long to realise he’s an average keeper at best, and just about makes it into the top ten keepers in the premier league… those better include, Reina, Given, Cech, Van der sar, Friedel, Jaaskelainen, Schwarzer, even Rob Green is better than almunia

      1. @Tim, I am a very optimistic gunner and have defended eboue, bendtner, denilson and song for the last year or so but the only player in the squad i cannot say is good enough to do the role they have this year is Almunia. There have been games in each of the last 3 years he has fucked up and i always have that fear. While I don’t agree with all of the names listed there are a lot of them better.

    1. @jack, I’ll give you Petr Cech cira 2006, and Van der Sar circa 2004, and maybe even Friedel; but Schwarzer, Rob Green?? Are you serious? I mean, I’m not saying he’s anywhere near Casillas or Bufon, but still.

  3. Why does every damn blog say we failed to replace Toure? what is Vermaelen then? a 2nd keeper? a midfielder? I dont get it… he is even wearing Toure’s shirt ffs.

  4. Not really surprised we haven’t had any last minute purchases, and honestly I’m not too worried. I don’t think you need to rationalise as much as you have though, on the evidence so far it seems we have a team capable of challenging for the title.

    That said, I’m actually a little surprised we haven’t signed a center back. I know we have Djourou, Sendy and Gerry, but I worry about the latter two. Hopefully, like Son of Denil and Song, they can both automagically come good.

    I just woke up.

    1. @Shobo, You forgot that Song is a CB and often slots in there, when Gallas and vermaelen make forward runs. I hope training with Vermaelen, Senderos can learn a thing a two, he has the ability but has not always had the commitment to the tackle.

      1. @Bongo, Yeah, Song’s a center back, but if I’m honest I’ve never truly felt comfortable with him in that role, I think he’s just a little too careless and gives away needless free kicks just outside the 19.

        True words about Sendy though, i really hope he looks to emulate Vermaelen, or even looks at Gallas and how he’s turned his fortunes around 180 degrees.

  5. there is something going on at arsenal that nobody will publicly admit to.that is the board have told wenger to hold on to as much of the clubs money as possible until we have serviced the debt on the stadium, just as long as we qualify for cl which is looking less likely every year

      1. @Tim, Wenger really is terrible – I mean selling 2 disruptive players for 40 million and getting 2 better players for 20-25. He is trying to ruin our club

  6. Almunia hasn’t had a brilliant start to the season but it hasn’t been as bad as some would make you believe. The penalty was a stupid mistake to make but that goal against celtic was something special and in truth would likely have beaten most keepers.

    Almunia isn’t the best keeper we’ve ever had but finding the next Seaman isn’t an easy task, if you happen to know who it is then please contact wenger as I’m sure it will be appreciated.

    Almunia offers a reliable keeper who, usually, does the basics well and is one of the better keepers in the league at acting as a sweeper, something that Wenger seems to cherish with the high defensive line that arsenal play.

    1. @nepotism, the problem with Almunia is that he is not intelligent,and he is indecisive,it was so obvious from previous games that the ref is pro utd and because of eduardos’ penalty,that he would need little reason to award them a penalty,so the clever thing to do is not come rushing out,and committing needless challenges on anybody inside the box, because rooney will go down and the ref will give a penalty,which is exactely what happened….you mentioned his sweeping ability,but was he in goal against livepool at the emirates when they punted a ball forward and allowed robbie keane to run onto and lash it in from the edge of the box,he went backwards and allowed the ball to travel way too far,and even bounce,when all he had to do was attack it,and clear it.

      1. @RichieGooner, I disagree. Almunia’s not intelligent? Indecisive? The Manu penalty was very out of sorts, Almunia is usually pretty level-headed and for the most part his decision making during open play is really good.

        Fabianski worries me a but, he has talent but its so raw right now. Mannone, well he looks a beast but the less said about his keeping so far the better. Wojchech Schezny (sp?) actually looks pretty decent. I was impressed with his performance in pre-season.

        1. @Shobo: I completely agree with your analysis of Almunia. We all see whatever we want to see about a player. I remember when almost everyone shouted that Denilson & Song were rubbish. Look at them now. As well as being a goalkeeper, he is also having to play a sweeper role. How many of those supposedly better goalkepers can combine a dual role? It takes a certain amount of intelligence to do that. And before you say “who asked him to?”; I’ll say his manager; that’s who. Cut him some slack; it is too early in the season to start judging.

  7. Fantastic article. exactly my opinion. although reagrding almunia, not world class. he put pressure on diaby to deal with a ball that almunia should have claimed, a keeper that challenges almunia please. we got the best out of him with lehmann breathing down his neck. i think david james would have done this, although he wouldnt leave in a world cup year.

    1. @Ahmed, Don’t see how anyone could blame Mooney for Diaby’s goal. He couldn’t have come for that because to do so his starting position would have to be further up, which would have left the goal pretty open for Giggs to bang one in (see Foster’s blunder from Van Persie’s free kick moments earlier).

  8. ive always thought that we will not win anything with Almunia in goal,he is average at the most,and he hardly ever makes defining saves,and always makes mistakes,he is a decent shot stopper though, but we need a world class international goalie,it is said that a quality Gk will save a team 18 points per season…..

  9. New signings or not, as fans of the club, most of us love the players we have in the squad and wish them well, save maybe Silvestre. However, I hold no illusions about our winning the league this year. As the game against ManU demonstrated, we still have some growing up to do. Championship teams usually find a way to win or tie these games. It is something that we haven’t quite mastered. One of the football writers(don’t rememember whom) pointed out that Arsenal, more than any of the title challengers, are prone to losing or tying games in which they utterly dominate the opposition, and that will be the difference this year as always. I can’t say that I wholly disagree. In truth, I’ll be happy with an FA cup trophy, a good CL run and second or third spot in the league.

  10. Anyone else think that Senderos did well in pre-season when he was played as a DM? I thought he was actually quite good, I hope he gets a run of games in the Carling cup in that position. I’d really rather have him on the bench in place of Silvestre.

    1. @Bongo, You know I’d love to see Sendy as a DM, maybe in some “easy” games. Like the second leg agains AZ Alcazar, after we’ve pounded them nicely in the first leg and there’s no pressure.

      1. @Shobo, I’d rather see djourou in the DM position and Senderos being the back up defender.
        Remember Gallas contract runs out end of this season. We need someone to fill his shoes if he decides to leave end of this season. And Senderos would do just fine!!

  11. Your boy Cascarino is trying to improve his ‘unbiased’ cred by beating up Ferguson for his “timid” lineup at home vs Arsenal. That’s because Ferguson ‘knows’ we’re the better team that ‘lost’ 2-1 but were not beaten. Roy and his Man U buds won’t be laughing so hardy when they finish 5th. Mark my words.

    UEFA, what a joke. They can actually reduce the Drogba ban for one of the most publicly humiliating breakdowns seen on world wide TV or never even consider the Messi head butt. A bunch of authoritarian goons IMO.

  12. Cuntitude…….I have never heard it, but it sums up so many people. Good job Tim!

    Your thoughts on Arshavin’s attitude? You think he is unhappy? Pissed that he has to have been playing hurt? or (like the people from the episode of the Simpsons when Lisa has to go through Little Russia part of Springfield)they look and sound angry when really they are happy?

    1. @TXGun, Arshavin’s attitude… hard to judge really. He seems to be a matter of fact guy, so if he was unhappy I figure he’d say it. He just seems to be struggling to fit into the new formation, to be fair none of our strikers have really settled in yet.

    2. @TXGun, Totally agree with you. The midfield has adapted beautifully. i think they will click, maybe its just where they need to find their right position in the front 3.

  13. Have you guys noticed how Thomas “ninja” Vermalean
    creeps behind defenders just before set pieces or corners. A definate upgrade from economy class Toure.

  14. been a shit week for us but with all the talk good and bad feel it in me bones gonna win something this season get behind team gooners thats all they need………..

  15. All players can have a drop in form. Almunia was close to being our player of the year last season. He’s good enough – most of the ‘world-class’ keepers play behind rock solid defences.
    Anxieties about Song’s absence may not be realised as I believe Cameroon are unlikely to qualify. Also Gibbs could probably do a good job in midfield; it’s where he played before he was turned into a leftback.

  16. Where are we gonna find a decent cb or dm who is willing to be second string behind song or tommy v or gallas? Senderos on his day is a man mountain and djourou had a good season last year. I reckon we will get somebody in january to replace song and compete with denilson in the dm position. We do need to start playing wilshere more though, especially ahead of eboue in the right forward position. Gutted we didn’t sign a powerful quick striker to play as the head of our attack…

  17. It’s the same baseless optimism of last few seasons…

    We are fans so I guess being unreasonable is ok… but for our ears only: NO, WEDON’T HAVE A SOLID TEAM!

    We have 95% of a WONDERFUL TEAM, but we have Diaby, we have Denilson… and when Song part to African Cup, or if he suffers an injury…?????

    When we go against real teams on Champions, Carling or FA Cups… bye bye, because “ohh was just a moment, a lack of concentration…”, “We just feel panic for a second…” from who? Fabianski? Denilson? Almunia? Diaby? Gibbs? You choose… same s***t all over again.

    I’m afraid Wenger wants to cover him self on glory winning something with a bunch of kids… is his fame what only matters here.

  18. IMO,
    Arshavin was brought in to replace the loss of Hleb; not for Ade.
    Song is Flamini’s replacement.
    Denilson is not EPL caliber holding midfielder; just a sometimes reliable temp.
    Vermaelen is upgrade for Toure at CB.

    Almunia is just average. The header given up against Pompey, goals scored where he fails to cover the near post, and constantly using poor judgement for coming out on balls; poor decisions for his distributions……these are attributes of a player that has regular mental lapses!

    We need great performances this season from Senderos, Diaby, and Djourou.
    Go Gunners!

  19. millions we may have, but if there’s nothing to buy, hold on to your millions.

    There’s been a lot of overpriced average players on the market, Arsene isn’t going to waste money buying them or insulting the existing team by bringing in tat. He’s done oustanding business this year, and bought wisely. He’s sold trouble and bought in, special, and complimentary talent. This is the mark of a manager who sees a much bigger picture than the rest of us.

    I think in the end he will turn the Dudu incident to his own advantage. He appears to look at situations, sometimes, not as set-backs, but opportunities.

    We also have to remember, that by increasing the squad, particularly with high priced players, he is contributing to a substantially higher wage bill, which has to be found not once, but every week of the year.

    I also believe he is not liked in certain circles because he is so clever, and constantly retains the moral high ground. It is a rarity to hear any scandal linked to Le Boss or the team, which shows an underlying morality that he maintains and instills in his team.

    Another reason why he and the team are not favoured by the press is that very reason, there are no sleazy stories to feast on. Nic with his trousers down at a nightclub, oh come-on!

    I think there will be an element of ‘us against the world’, and it may be no bad thing. If that team steps out on the pitch, and says every time, ‘we are going to play you off the park’ then not only will they have the skill, but they will have the spirit.


    1. “Viva los gooners”, I will love to believe in that, BUT… how this magic moment didnt work last Saturday at Manchester?

      Why or how we will change so much from Diaby or Almunia, Denilson or Fabianski, saying “We are going to play our selves off the park”???

        1. Ohh come on Tom, Diaby own goal was made by Dean?

          I have to go 6 season back to remember a single game against Manure that was not aginst 11 man + ref.
          Manure alway count with referees, not just against us but basically ALWAYS!

          Stupid own golas and even more stupid penalties do not help our cause. We could have WON it even when Dean on Red.

  20. I like your point of view on the holding midfielder.

    I suspect that Arsene will deploy Nasri in that role when he comes back in October.

  21. Not happy, Tim. You say Vermaelen and the Owl were the replacements for Toure and Ade, but last year’s squad was thin anyway. We don’t have the depth in squad that is needed to challenge for the title, and we haven’t had it for years. This year’s been depressing. There’s 40 million in the bank, and this IS the make-or-break season for Wenger’s 3rd Generation. I’m gutted we didn’t buy anyone other than Vermaelen.

    1. @Connolly’s agency, I disagree about us being thin, I think Arsenal have depth and super quality at nearly every position:

      Strikers: van Persie, Eduardo, Arshavin, Bendtner, Walcott
      Attacking Midfielders: Rosicky, Arshavin, Walcott, Nasri, Cesc, Diaby
      Defensive Midfielders: Cesc, Song, Denilson, Diaby, Djourou
      Full Backs: Clichy, Sagna, Eboue, Traore, Gibbs
      Center Half: Gallas, Vermaelen, Djourou, Song, Senderos, and Gerry

      I didn’t even include Luke and Rambo who are top quality players but who are not going to be really relied on this year like the others.

      Last year’s squad was thin because we were missing Cesc, Adebayor, Eduardo and Rosicky for large portions (or all) of the year. Plus we were playing with inexperienced players in midfield in Song and Denilson. Those two have a whole year under their belts and even you have to admit that they look much improved so far this season.

      So yes, we were thin, and getting two like a new signings back, plus having a year of experience in midfield has made us stronger. Much stronger!

  22. Tim, great post, again.Nice to have a gunner with the ‘this-is-me-in-your-face’ attitude, for once!So Wenger didnt buy. Does this mean we are going on relegation and everything will fall apart?Never!I have one advice for those unhappy with the lack of signing:LIVE WITH IT or LEAVE with it! (Pun intended)
    Now we have to brace up for the Fletcher treatment from the rest of the EPL teams now that SAF has shown them how to rough up Arsenal’s beautiful play.I see some red cards against teams like Stoke, Bolton, Birmingham and Hull this term cos they wont have the OT ‘Ref’s cover’ Fletcher had! But seriously Tim, we need to start learning to cope with the physicality of the EPL rather than complaining about it all the time.Time to see some steel in there like we saw Denilson put in against Celtic-never seen him stand up to anyone no matter how much he was brutalised-more that from him ad the rest of the team please. When they know we wont take it they WILL be careful before they put in the tackle!Trust me, it works!

  23. We’re definitely a bit thin, especially when Song goes to the African nations, but not for lack of effort, I think. First Melo, who was wanted by Juve, and Fiorentina weren’t going to say no – be a bit like saying no to the Mafia. Then I think we tried for Van der Vaart, who is staying at Real, according to a Dutch journalist because his wife has fallen ill (cancer?) and having chemo in Madrid – understandable they don’t want a move at this time.

    I also think we could do with a striker. Pity Bordeaux were demanding stupid money for a player who’ll be free next summer. But what can we do? Nothing.

    One consolation: our players have taste. Senderos turned down Hull – talk about ignominious! And Traore refused to go on loan to Legbreakers Hall, Croats a Speciality.

  24. Tim, keep up your good work. Perhaphs one day Arsenal will become lucky to engander true fan-ship through the good works of people like you.

    Arsenal so called fans or supporters sometimes amaze me. What is the meaning of a FAN? It is short for Fanatic, which means “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal”. Supporter? Oh it simply means “a person or thing that supports” or more aptly “an adherent, follower, backer, or advocate”. Ehn! Which of these do most Arsenal so called fans fall into? Surely you cannot be burying your team before it’s death and call yourself a fan, can you? Sad, Most Arsenal fans are too CRITICAL than is good for the club. Man U is very vulnerable, but doesn’t anyone notice it on Saturday? Not on your life. The fans helped the referee to get away with ‘cheating’ the Arsenal. Could Arsenal fans do that? I doubt it. They will probably be too busy criticising their own team to such extent that initiative will be handed over to the opposition. Sad.

    1. @LRV, Excellent point, it was the crowd atmosphere that really contributed to the turning of events against the Mancs. You see it all the time in college sports as well, horrendous calls being made because the home team has “momentum” and even the strongest minded ref has a hard time saying no to the jedi mind tricks of 60,000 screaming fans on top of him.

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