Date: 13th April 2009 at 10:01pm
Written by:

A lot has been debated over the past period on whether we need or don’t need new players and I’d like to chip in with an opinion of my own.

I want to structure this text by positions on the field as part of a standard 4-4-2 formation which does not infer that Arsenal will be sticking to that formation, it rather represents a framework for analysis.

I will also use the other 3 clubs at the top of the table as point of reference and the resources they have at their disposal.


What we have:

1. Manuel Almunia – I believe that many will agree that Almunia has surprised on the big stage. He’s been growing in stature and confidence and mistakes this season have been far and few between. He’s been a very steady presence between the sticks and I can’t remember that he played a stinker the whole season apart from the home derby with the lot from the lane and wasn’t nearly as bad as the defence and midfield in that game. In fact, the responsibility for the conceded goals lies at the doorstep of our defenders and their lack of concentration, communication and in certain cases common sense. Almunia has been very solid and I see him as our no. 1 next season, too.

21. Lukasz Fabianski – an interesting feat for Lukasz is that this year he played in all competitions: CC, FA Cup, CL and now the EPL. Again, apart from the occasional flap at a cross (something he really needs to work on) and learning when not to rush with distribution Lukasz has been a very positive inclusion whenever he featured. But hey, even Mad Jens flapped at crosses now and then. Fabianski managed to pull of some amazing saves in the CC, and showed no nerves when on the big stage against Villareal. If he’s continues to develop and stays injury-free he can push Almunia all the way for the no. 1 spot.

24. Vito Mannone – From what I have seen from him (that includes his appearances for the reserves this and last season), Vito’s been nothing to get excited about. In fact our two youngsters James Shea and Wojciech Szczesny have made a better impression than him. The only thing that Vito has on these two lads is years of more experience practicing with the 1st team.

What the others have:

Chelsea: Cech, Hilario

ManUtd: Van Der Sar, Foster, Kuczak

Liverpool: Reina, Cavaleri, Gulaszi

Verdict: Apart from ManU who have a couple of good goalies (I rate Foster highly) the rest have one established no. 1 and a no.2 that can hope for an appearance every 5th Saturday every month. Arsenal have two goalies which can push each other for the no.1 spot ion the coming seasons although currently Almunia holds an advantage over the young Pole. Unless one of our keepers suffers a serious injury or submits a transfer request the door is shut in this department for at least another season. I have read some rumors about a couple of French goalies being linked to us (PSG goalie and Frey) but that’s hardly a surprise.


What we have:

3. Bacary Sagna – I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time talking about Bac. He’s an automatic pick when he’s fit just like his colleague who plays on the opposite side of the Arsenal defence. He has firmly established himself at the back for France, too. This season he has failed to emulate the fantastic form from his debut year, but that goes for almost everyone in the squad. His crossing needs work, other than that, he’s one of the best there are.

27. Emmanuel Eboue- this is not the last place I’ll write about him. Wenger is a strong believer of versatility and adaptability so most of the Arsenal players are not just capable of playing in different positions but performing to a high standard. Prior to Bac’s arrival, Eboue was being lauded as one of the best RBs in the league. Since then, he’s been moved further to the front and his presence on the right flank has been, let’s say turbulent. However, he’s more than able to fill in for Bacary when needed although I can’t recall the last time I saw him play there.

There are no other recognized RBs in the first team squad but I’m going to mention those who have been and who could step in if the situation calls for such a measure:

Kolo Toure, Johan Djourou, Alexandre Song, and even William Gallas. No youngsters have stood out in this position.

What the others have:

Chelsea: Bosingwa, Mancienne, Belletti, Ferreira, Ivanovic, even Essien played there (quite good, too)

ManUtd: Neville, Brown, Rafael, O’Shea, Fletcher?

Liverpool: Arbeloa, Carragher, Degen, Mascherano

Verdict: with Bac and Eboue as 1st and 2nd choice RB we match anyone at this position. It is being mooted that Eboue is to be offered a new deal while Bac has the proverbial ‘long term contract’. Again, no ins and outs here as well, although I am sure there would be a lot of Gooners volunteering to drive Eboue personally to a new club should an offer ever arrive and be accepted by AFC.


What we have:

22. Gael Clichy – see Bacary Sagna. Another automatic pick and another whose crossing is atrocious at times. Gael has had his mental lapses this season (again), Bernard Mendy immediately springs to mind, but since Man City away the whole defence has looked nothing short of excellent.

40. Kieran Gibbs – with some of his peers plying the trade on loan Gibbs has been the solitary beneficiary anytime Gael has been absent from the 1st team. Same as Fabianski, Kieran has appeared in all competitions this season. He’s been good on most occasions; however teams will always try to exploit an inexperienced defender wherever he plays. Over the weekend Valencia showed him what he can expect in the EPL week in week out, but from the interviews he’s been giving on ATVO, KG40 is quite aware of the fallacies of his game and how hard he has to work to improve them and stay in the first team.

With Armand Traore on loan at Pompey, Pedro Botehlo becoming eligible for a Spanish passport next season and doing a Vela, and the versatility of both Gallas, Silvestre and the RBs, competition for this position will be fierce, especially with Armand and Kieran. Throw in the mix young Jay Thomas and suddenly we have a crowd

What the others have:

Chelsea: Cashley. No other LB comes to mind, maybe Beletti could fill in, but they do seem to have a problem on the left side.

ManUtd: Evra, O’Shea, Neville, the Brazilian brothers perhaps

Liverpool: Dossena, Aurelio, Insua, Agger

Verdict: Scousers have the upper hand at the moment but with our loanees back with some 1st team experience I think we’re looking at a solid left back, left wing axis of the Arsenal engine. No ins and outs here for me either, and there aren’t many out there who are better than Clichy.

Next time: midfield.

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