Theo's goal, Wenger's transfers, Flamini's pain.

Another one-nil Arsenal win, a draw by Chelsea, and Man U’s 2-0 win means that Arsenal finish 2008 in third place; 2 points behind Chelsea and 4 points behind winners Manchester United.

Interestingly, Man U finished the season with a mere 87 points which means that Wenger’s New Year’s prediction that Arsenal needed 90 points to win the title was pretty damn close. At the time, he compared this season’s team to the Invincibles saying that “We had 44 points before Everton, which is one point less than in the unbeaten season when we had 45. So that tells you a lot about the quality of the team.” Upon reflection, he’s been banging this “this team is as good as the invincibles” drum all season and I never really noticed it. You almost have to wonder if that’s how he kept the team’s spirits high all season.

Speaking about his transfer targets he beat that Invincibles drum again:

It doesn’t look like we have no team and we have to build a team. We were unbeaten at home and that is only the second time in the history of the club. We have done that with young players who will be better next season.

What’s fascinating about this whole dialog for me is that if you were to repeat those lines with your casual EPL fan (especially here in America) you’d get derisive laughter. But that’s how close Arsenal were this season and how misinformed your average EPL fan (especially here in America) really is. I had a “Wolves Supporter” tell me today that next year Arsenal need a 20 point lead in order to win the title. Yes, and Arsenal should go out and pick up Henri Camara to do it, right?

Regardless, the season was, in fact, very close. Had the club rescued just a few points that they dropped against lesser quality teams (yes, Birmingham are lesser quality, you saw they made the drop today, right?) Arsenal would have finished exactly where Wenger predicted, 90 points and champions.

But they didn’t rescue those points and they didn’t win the title. They did play beautifully, and they do have a great team in the offing, so now it is time to look forward to next season and what Professor Wenger has in store for the supporters.

Today’s match was a preview of next season of sorts, wasn’t it? Too bad I couldn’t watch it but the match reports said that Theo started and scored the only goal. Good for him, I expect to see him a regular starter next year. Meanwhile, budding French winger Traore and young English winger Mark Randall came on in the second half. Evidently, Randall had a goal disallowed. Not bad for his (Randall) first ever EPL appearance! I can’t wait to see what he does next year in the League Cup.

As for signings, you have no doubt seen by now that Wenger has a “couple” of players targeted: most likely, a tough central defender and a replacement for Flamini in midfield. He’s also saying that he’s willing to pony up the cash for someone with experience in the Premiership. I don’t know how important that will be: Sagna didn’t have any Premiership experience and was voted best Right Back in the league. I do know that buying a Premiership player is a good political move; I hear a lot of fans calling for Micah Richards and signing him would make a lot of people happy. I don’t want to get into speculation about specific players but if I were (ha!) I would suggest that fans not set their hopes on Richards because with his size and ability he plays more like Gallas than like a Ferdinand (which is what Arsenal really need).

If I were to speculate? I’d say Xavi Alonso is coming to Arsenal; he’s Spanish (Wenger likes pairs and Cesc is the lone Spaniard), he’s a tremendously dependable passer, and he’s fallen out of favor at Liverpool. But see, that’s just me speculating, I don’t claim an “inside source” who can tell me, literally moments before the rest of the press, that Arsenal have signed XYZ. I’m just a blogger, like all the other bloggers, no matter how much they claim special access and still get 98% of their predictions wrong. So, why don’t we wait for the dot com to release the news instead of claiming special knowledge, and making crazy predictions like “XAVI TO ARSENAL!!!” eh?

And that leads me to my final blurb: Flamini has spoken out about the “pain” he felt because Arsenal failed to secure the title and how that influenced his decision not to stay. So, he went to AC Milan, who are clearly overflowing with trophies this season. In fact, van Persie, Arsene Wenger, and I all rate Arsenal’s chance at winning silverware higher than Milan’s: van Persie thinks it’ll be 100%. Way to end the season on a high note Robin, now stay healthy and maybe you can be a significant part of that 100%.

So, the season ends and like the fans, some of the players are bitter, some are hurt, and some of us are hopeful.

Where are you?


  1. It’s the Man U fan again. Thought I’d check out your take on recent rumblings around the Emirates, so I logged on and was a little surprised.

    You mention Xavi Alonso as a possible signing, pure speculation, I understand, but you seem to have missed the rather more pressing rumours.

    What do Arsenal need most? Well, you got the Rio bit right, that would do wonders for you, but also you need your own Torres, Van Nistelrooy or Drogba. A specific someone: He’s World Class, he’s the second part of the Spanish pairing that Wenger wants: he’s David Villa.

    He has actually expressed interest in playing Premier League football as well as saying that he likes Arsenal more than Chelsea. He has confirmed that the Valencia bosses have agreed to let him move elsewhere this summer if he likes…

    I know Wenger likes to draw a line in the sand when it comes to spending big money, but if there was ever a time when rules had to be bent…

  2. Hey Max, thanks for stopping back in.

    Arsenal aren’t buying a striker. Adebayor, Eduardo, van Persie, Bendtner, and Theo are all they need up front.

    Besides, the scoring end of the house was fine this season, Arsenal’s most important dropped points came from a leading position (Man U, Chelsea, Birmingham, etc.)

    If they need more goals, they need them coming from the midfield position. Which means that I could see Wenger trying to slot Villa in the wing, could he do the job there? I don’t know. I do know that Arsenal’s history of slotting central players in wing spots has been pretty dreadful.

    If he gets a wing player, I hope he gets a real wing player. Someone who can put in a good cross and add width to the team, rather than someone who’s first inclination is to dribble into the middle (Hleb, Villa, et al.)

    Congrats on the title and you better watch your back, because we’re coming… UP THE ARSE!

  3. Thanks for the congrats, you’re the first Gunner I know to be mature enough to do so.

    I understand you have an array of forward men, but seriously: Adebayor? During the whole Flamini rumour phase, he came out to reiterate that he wouldn’t be leaving, and I almost felt sorry for him, because it had about the same effect as Crouch saying he would stay at Liverpool or Eikrem swearing allegiance to Man U. That is to say that ‘Bayo’ is not an integral part of Arsenal and 2007-08 is likely to be the most prolific season in his career. He did very well churning out those goals, but often he was just the extra man needed to put them in. He didn’t create them from nothing like Henry, Tevez or Torres can. You put any striker in the Premier League (bar Heskey) on the end of those and they’ll score them too.

    Van Persie, obviously, is different. He has genuine ability and focus. If he can shake injury problems then maybe you’re onto something. Bendnter and Eduardo are the others you mentioned, but I would hardly rely on them to dish out the goals as their talents tend to lie in constructing the play rather than executing the finish.

    You make a good point about defending leads, though. It is true that the big difference this season was dropping early leads to late pressure, but this is usually more to do with the maturity of the team rather than its make up. It’s something we are lucky in, because Alex Ferguson seems to be the world’s leading expert in getting players to mature. Just look at Wayne Rooney after a few seasons. Granted, he’s still a fiery, passionate individual, but it’s focused passion. It was the same with Roy Keane, and when it didn’t work, he got rid of them; a luxury I know not every manager can afford.

    As for an alternate role for Villa… I don’t know. He’s a proper forward, it seems inefficient and clumsy to play him out of position to acommodate Adebayor and Bendtner. I would be looking to offload ‘Bayo’ to a smaller club.

    Also, you mention M. Richards as possibly unsuitable for the Arsenal back line. If you were looking, hypothetically, at any three possible centre backs to step in, who would they be?

  4. Yes, seriously, Adebayor. He absolutely does create goals from nothing. No, he’s not a dribbler ala Ronaldo, but he creates in the air and his presence in front of defenses is terrifying. No one in the league likes defending him and near as I can tell the only one who could effectively stop him was Wenger, when he played a 4-5-1 after an exhaustive run of games.

    Eduardo is a very, very special talent. His goal scoring record indicates that and so do some of the incredible goals he scored in this his first, abbreviated, season in the Premier League.

    I think it’s funny when you point out Rooney’s “maturity” if anything his career is on the slide — which happens when you are displaced by someone who has the season that Ronaldo had. Why, if Rooney is so mature, why then is SAF saying he’s going to buy a striker (Berbatov)? Because Rooney hasn’t and never will mature. He’s at least as big of a petulant baby as Eboue. Just two matches ago he was remonstrating the referee non-stop; I wondered aloud how much longer he was going to get away with calling the ref names and waving his hands — to the ref’s face. He kept going until Fergie subbed him — maturity, ha!

    As for defenders, I’m going to leave that up to Wenger to suss out: no doubt he’ll uncover another gem like Sagna.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by, I always like to hear dissenting opinions, sometimes I’ll get too narrow in my focus and you always wake me up. Thanks.

  5. I have a feeling that Alonso will be heading for the Liverpool exit, but not to the Gunners, probably Spain I’d say.

    Arsenal should not be too harshly criticised for this season’s performance. For one thing, a lot of people wrote them off early on, or even before the season started, yet they were excellent for most of the season.

    They have had to endure a serious injury list all season, and at crucial times. this is where I would be looking if I were in charge – reduce the number of injury-prone players, so you can get some sort of consistency in your squad.

    I still tink that Arsenal need to spend this season – An out and out striker (then get rid of Bendtner as I think he is poor tbh), a good out and out winger (Adebayor would appreciate the odd decent cross in a season), and one more good defender. You also need a world class keeper, and use Almunia to help him out.

    Time to spend a few quid, there must be money in the pot by now.

    We (Liverpool), Utd (congrats to them for another excellent season and another title) and Chelski will be spending money – so Arsenal should try to keep up. It is also imortant to show the good players that are already there that you mean business next season.

    Wenger is a master, in a class of his own, at finding players. He should be able to come up with a few at a decent price.

    Interesting times ahead 🙂

  6. Oh, I’m not saying Rooney is the exemplary sportsman, far from it, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate directly with maturity. Putting pressure on referees is a strategy used by every team in the league, most succesfully by United and Chelsea. I also think it’s a little near-sighted to claim that his career is on the slide. Rooney is not a major goalscorer and the way United play is not set up to give him as many chances as Ronaldo, but I still view him as at least as important to our squad as Cristiano, if not more so. We can win games without Ronaldo, but we always seem to be lacking when Rooney is sidelined. So long as he knows that many of his strengths lie in his intangible qualities, then I can’t see him getting frustrated and wanting change.

    The reason we would be looking for a Berbatov or similar (I hate him, but I have to admit he is very good) is because our goal-machine is a winger, and even though United are known for being able to score from every position, the seasons when we have had a prolific striker (i.e. Van Nistelrooy or Solskjaer) banging in 25+ goals are the ones we have looked most dangerous. I don’t think this really means Rooney isn’t doing his job, more that Saha is getting older. I think any acquisition of a new First Team striker will be complimented by a drop in games for Tevez, or a change in position, possibly shared with Anderson in the gap that is due to be left by Scholes in the future.

    It’s true that no one likes defending Adebayor, but I’m still sceptical about whether he has a future at the top of the top. He just doesn’t seem to have the extra dimensions that Drogba etc do. And now that you mention Eboue… I really hope he goes. No one likes him, not even Arsenal fans O.o You stop playing him and we’ll slap Nani around a bit. He annoys us too 😛

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