Archive for April 2nd, 2007

A dose of realism

231 comments April 2nd, 2007

We are all very upset about the defeat to Liverpool. We are all very upset about what can only be described as a mediocre season, in which the highlight has been the performances of our young Guns, particularly in the Carling Cup. Stirring victories against the likes of Man U and Liverpool have been constantly undermined by dropping points against some of the leagues weaker sides.

It’s therefore no surprise that there have been calls for changes, primarily on the playing staff, but even for new management. Well, first things first: at the very least Arsene will see out his contract here, and if all’s well in about eight months time, he will probably sign another one. He’s going nowhere fast.

As for his staff, arseblogger made a very good point yesterday about the influence of Martin Keown on the Champions League record-breaking side. Perhaps it would be worth seeing if we can coax the monkey-faced genius out of retirement to work his magic on the back four once more. It’s clear defensive organisation is not Arsene’s strong-point, and his description of Saturday’s antics as “horrendous” might be a sign that he’d be open to a helping hand.

But what won’t happen is a “squad clear-out”. In fact, I’ll go so far as to predict this early on that Aleksandr Hleb will definitely be here next season, and Freddie Ljungberg might well be too. Arsene won’t make the mistake he made this year in letting Lauren and Pires go – even if a player is no longer an automatic first choice, they’re still valuable. The underperforming Emmanuel Eboue will still be around, and so will Tomas Rosicky (however tempting an offer might come in).

Arsene believes in many of these players. Some of them to a fault. But whether it’s right or wrong I don’t believe he’ll ditch them after a year. He’s a ruthless man: ruthless enough to sell Vieira, and ruthless enough to drop Henry; but I feel he believes in what he’s creating at Arsenal. It just so happens that I… well, I sort of don’t. I think the youth are fantastic and that we play fabulous football. But I know that what we don’t have is experience, grit, and a direct approach. And if you want to win trophies, I think it’s those last three things that make the difference.

For Arsene, this summer is about balance.  In recent years, we’ve brought too little in and lost a huge amount of experience.  See this summer: yes, we got Rosicky, Gallas, and Baptista, but we lost Pires, Bergkamp, Campbell, Cole, and Reyes.  The summer before it was Vieira, Edu, and missed out on Shaun Wright-Phillips, Baptista, and Robinho.  Do you remember who we got that summer? Hleb and Song.

The same mistakes cannot be made this Summer.  Anyone who does leave (I’m looking at you, Baptista and Aliadiere… and probably unfortunately Lehmann) must be replaced with a quality footballer who is ready to step into the side immediately.  No more 16-year old Togonians with a huge briefcase full of potential, so we can sit around for four years and wait for Arsene to find the combination.

I’d imagine the aforementioned trio will go, and a suitable offer for Mathieu Flamini might see the Frenchman allowed to pursue first-team football elsewhere.  So we’ll be needing a keeper, and probably a striker.  My faith in Niklas Bendtner has followed the same path as my faith in Father Christmas.  Sky high, until one particularly unfortunate incident, and then absolutely nil (the “unfortunate incident” was seeing Bendtner actually play.  Oh, and seeing Santa’s beard fall off to reveal my Dad).

And then there must be a winger.  When you look at our squad, we don’t have one single traditional winger.  Reyes won’t be coming back, so a signing is vital.  Franck Ribery is one option, but another could be Porto’s exciting show-pony Ricardo Quaresma – a player whose goal record is superior to ole Scarface.

To be honest, that’s the minimum.  But like I said, there’s no point yelling “Hleb must be sold”, “Henry out”, or “Let Gallas die”.  It won’t happen.  And the reason is as simple as that we’ve made those mistakes before.

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