Date: 16th February 2007 at 8:19pm
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Cast your minds back some 17 months.

Arséne had just rubber-stamped the passing of an era at Arsenal.

The colossus that was Patrick Vieira, (known as Paddy, or PV4 to Gooners, and ‘Daddy’ to all midfielders in the premiership, bar The warhorse that was Roy Keane…) was transferred to Juventus for some £13m. And in return we signed one Alex Hleb, but he was a winger.

The British sports media, and British football, was astounded.

Reaction from the press went along the lines of ‘they’ve just sold their entire midfield’, ‘arsenal have got no-one to replace him’, ‘what, so is he gonna rely on Fabregas??? hahaha…’, ‘no-one in that midfield can tackle now’ and ‘Gilberto’s not up to it…’

Many a Gooner agreed. I didn’t, i have unerring faith in Le Boss (verging on the foolish), but remember the posts of those who did agree with that sentiment.

And the rest of the premiership obviously did too.

Teams came at us in a way we’d not seen before. All of a sudden we were being bullied, and harried, up and down the country. ‘Arsenal have no-one to stick up for them’ the press cried. And at some grounds, it certainly appeared that way.

Along the way, some Gooners began to lose the faith a little. ‘Wenger’s lost the plot, what the eff’s he doing???’.

Cesc played consistently, and whilst all Gooners knew that the lad had a talent on which no ceiling could be placed, he was not able to carry the team all on his own.


Gilberto was called into question. Accused of not being able to tackle, unable to lead the midfield, that he looked lost. Winter approached. A dismal affair at Goodison park resulting in a loss, typified our away performances. limp, and whimpering. But two things came out of that game. the first was the performance of Kerrea Gilbert, the young right back currently on loan at Cardiff, who performed so fearlessly and looked like he;’d played in the first team since time began (but this about the midfield, so sorry Kerrea, you’re sitting the rest of this article out…). The second was the first time i can really remember seeing the fire in the belly of Cesc Fabregas. The kid takes losing very badly, i thought. 2 rare bright spots in a truly dismal performance.

The transfer window had opened up by this time, and before it had closed, we had recruited the services of one Vassiriki Abou Diaby, a young french midfielder unbeknown to the vast majority of Britain, save for the few thousand who saw him turn in a MOTM performance in an U21 match for France away to England. Reports likened him to one Patrick Vieira.

The week after the Everton defeat, we went out of the FA cup at Bolton, surrendering 1-0, but not without a fight. Ivan Campo would testify to that, suffering a broken foot courtesy of a strong challenge from Diaby.

Hleb, the new boy, had been out for a while after only a few weeks into the season with an injury, and when he returned from it, he took time to play his way back into the team.

February duly arrived, and with it, the resurgence of the champions league, and our date with real Madrid, which if I’m honest, i was terrified about. I feared our season, delicately poised like a foal taking it’s first steps, was about to stumble and fall.

You all know what happened. A team transformed. The team took Madrid apart, Zizou looking bemused at his inability to get near the ball, Hleb working like a demon, Freddie displaying the qualities of a warrior, and at the heart of it all, the little guy with the big footballing brain and stardust in his boots, Cesc Fabregas, orchestrating all the moves. The performance that ignited our season, and saved it.

I need tell you no more, we all know how the story unfolds, and indeed ends, in may 2006. Diaby’s career potentially ended in an horrific injury, a dislocated fracture of the ankle, at Sunderland, which would sideline the young midfielder for nine whole months, and deny him the chance to play in the champions league final. We all hoped he would come back as the same player. Relief and Glory, tears of goodbye, glorious failure so close to the prize, and and that failure being washed away with a simple signature on a piece of paper.

And then Le Bob left.

Arsene made possibly one of the most astute purchases of any transfer window when he astoundingly picked up the mercurial midfielder, Tomas Rosicky, the little Mozart, for a reported mind-bogglingly low £6.8m, at the very start of the window. In retrospect an incredibly smart move, as the Czech went on to have a very good tournament – whilst his team stuttered somewhat, Tomas gave everyone a glimpse of what he was capable of with two stunning drives in the world cup. His value after those goals alone would surely have skyrocketed (albeit his fee was set into his contract, but there would certainly have been a much more frenetic chase for his signature…).

Fast forward to the beginning of this season.

Last night of the transfer window. Cole goes, we get Gallas. Brilliant, we flush away a turd, and replace it with a sweet smelling rose. Reyes departed for Madrid, and the beast thundered into England, with a reputation for power, and a delightful line of mandolin playing.

Oh, and we signed some young fella from Brazil called Denilson. ‘You heard of him?’ ‘Nah, Christ knows mate, but I guess Wenger does.’ The season got underway, and nobody saw much of him.

As the season began to unfold, so did the play of the team, and it looked good.

Rosicky, quickly giving glimpses of his skill, his quick brain, and surprisingly for one so slight, his resilience in taking a tackle and his readiness for making, and winning one.

Hleb began to start up his own school of close control, and suggesting himself to be the Fred Astaire of football. He can be infuriating at times, but when he gets it right he is nothing short of mesmeric.

Gilberto took on the role of captain, and responded magnificently. In Titi’s absence, Gibber’s raised his game, encourages his young charges, protecting the defence, keeping heads up, and scoring goals we never knew he had in him.

Fabregas was, well, absolutely Fabregas. Bossing pretty much most games he dictated the ebb and flow of Arsenal’s games, at just 19 years of age, showing himself to be the consummate midfield master, and regularly popping up with tackles and coming out with the ball. we await the first goal of the season, but the assists have continued to flow like a alcy’s weak bladder.

Gooners were also given their first glimpses of Denilson, in the Carling cup. At Liverpool, he showed exactly what Wenger meant when Le Boss described him as a cross between Rosicky and Gilberto. But he neglected to mention ‘with a sprinkling of Fabregas thrown in for good measure too’. Against the spuds, in the semi final of the CC, he showed the same incredible composure of Cesc, with the trademark silky feet of a Brazilian, harnessed to an alarmingly good footballing brain, and a mean tackle to boot. Only 18. He bossed Didier Zokora at Highbury, and he did the same again last night at Bolton, when in the first half Denilson looked every inch a future world class star of the beautiful game. And this writer’s betting is that it will not be that long before he assumes full membership of that club.

Abou Diaby made his long awaited return too, and whilst he looked a bit rusty against the spuds at Highbury, he seems to have quickly found his feet and the pace of the premiership, showing that graceful touch rarely seen in such a big man since, and the tenacity in the tackle of, well, one Patrick Vieira. Of course, he would tell you he is not vieira, and neither does he wish to be. He is Abou Diaby. And how right he is. But to be compared to such a great player is only a backhanded compliment.

So one year five months on, where do we find ourselves? Well, it seems that out of nowhere, we suddenly have possibly the most complete and strongest midfield of the premiership.

Skillful, tenacious, and resilient to the last, they, along with the rest of the team, have discovered that ‘never say die’ attitude, and they refuse to believe they are beaten. And save for a couple of them, they are very young. I’ve not mentioned all of the midfield, so apologies to who i haven’t covered, but i wanted to deal with the main characters. Having said this, i shall now give mention to the Flamster, who i like greatly. He will never find a place in the hearts of every Gooners heart, but he is an honest pro works tirelessly, and gets important goals too. Freddie too, after his goal at the Reebok last night, well done that man, a few more til season’s end will do nicely, thank you sir. And there are more to come through. frightening thought.

Article submitted by Wingston75

Articles submitted by Vital Arsenal members are based on the opinion of the member and not necessarily the view’s of the network itself.


18 Replies to “What A Difference A Year Makes”

  • Even to get to where we are right now, it’s been well worth the wait. It would be nice to see them pick up some silverwear soon, and I’m certain that this side is bound for glory, but even if not, to watch this team play week in week out and to see the development of the lads has been an absolute treat! Excellent article by the way!

  • wingston mate, excellent article, before reading the last para, i was a little infuriated with you as to how you haven’t given the Flamster a mention, and i’m glad you mentioned him. the guy will never get the credit he deserves. and i really think he can go on and become a very important member of the team and not just a squad player. dun forget he’s very young too and with age on his side, he along with cesc, diaby and denilson are the future of our midfield..

  • I agree with you guys regarding the Flamster. It was only a little while ago that some Gooners were moaning about Ade and Alialialialialiadiere. Flam’ll soon show em, don’t worry!

  • thank you lasayer. It gives me great pride to know that you don’t like it. I consider it a badge of honour. »»Arsene Knows««

  • luckys_10, did i refer to our new home as highbury again? you wouldnt believe how many times i’ve done that this season, i guess old habits die hard 🙂 And yeah, i agree wholeheartedly with you about flamini, whenever he’s stepped into the breach, he’s always given his all. I would have liked to go into more detail about the flamster, but after checking the length of that piece, i didnt want to start dividing it into chapters 🙂 Funny really, there was so much more that could have been said, but you gotta draw the line under it somewhere… »»Arsene Knows««

  • Wingston, saw this one on the forums and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Our midfield looks to be only a Ribery away from being unstoppable (although sometimes we look like we are already there). Our forward line is terrific and Bendtner has yet to come back. Our defence is one of the best in the EPL and by far the youngest (as is the whole team). 1 great and 1 very solid Gk. We went from a team which had limited depth to a team with 22 -24 players who can immediately fill in for each other and do more than just ‘a job’ for the team. The orchestra. The maestro. The conductor. yes, AW knows.

  • did anyone read the update on Henri Lansbury on they were short a player in first team practice so wenger called him over from the youths and he slotted in no problem with no coaching needed as they play the same way throughout arsenal – so many positives to take from the way wenger is running this team – i cant imagine life after wenger…

  • Good article, but as you all know by now I cannot stand Flamini (no point getting into that again though, because I will never change my mind about him & neither will his supporters). Our midfield though will be unbelievable strong next season if Diaby can stay fit & Denilson getting more games the rest of this season. The wings may be a little weak still, I suppose a lot depends on how walcott develops. Hleb & rosicky are superb but obviously cannot play all the games so walcott has got to step up. I cannot see a real future for ljungberg as he is injury prone & misses too many games as a result. I don’t know why anyone knocks Adebayor, I have always thought that guy was a great player. He will never be a great goalscorer (although he will get his fair share) but the amount of work & link up play he does, aswell as his aerial ability means he is a massive bonus to the team. The defence is getting better but I am not personally sure about senderos. Toure, Gallas & Djourou are an awesome backline, but senderos doesn’t ever appear to be at their standard. I still hope wenger signs baptista & my own choice for the left wing would be babel, who I really rate. Ribery is a hit & miss player & also he doesn’t offer the height that we sometimes need, whereas babel does.

  • i’s funny AG, some players really polarise opinions in people. Like george dubya – some people think he’s an idiot, others think he’s a moron! But yeah, Sgt. Flaminicertainly does that – i’ll not try and change your mind, as i’d be told where to go 🙂 Agree wholeheartedly about Ade – he is such a handful for defences, with the sheer weight of effort he puts in, and i can actually see him getting a pretty darn decent goal return this season, he seems to be striking increasing fear into defences, that can in turn lead to a reticence to get too close to him, giving him more space, et al. As his game continues to come on, so will his goals to games ration, i think. And with rvp quite clearly ready to be a 20 goals a season man, it looks rosy. As for Senderos, he’s a different breed to the other guys, with djourou and gallas having boundless composure on the ball, and toure having his pace to fall back on should he need to rectify a situation, philippe’s strength is his reading of a game and leadership qualities. All the defenders are making the odd mistake, kolo and djourou have made one per game in recent weeks,it just seems that Senderos’ seem to always result in a chance on goal, which is unfortunate for the fella. He did fantastically well in europ for us last year in the run to the CL, and he never hides. As has been mentioned in recent weeks, at the same stage of his career, tony adams made the odd mistake here and there. But as Arsene said, by the time he was 30, he made none at all. Like the rest of the team, Philippe’s gonna make the odd booboo, we’ve all got to be patient enough with him to play his way through that period, there’s a sterling defender waiting to come out of it. »»Arsene Knows««

  • Very very well writen article, Wingston. I know a lot of gooners who were bemoaning the departure of viera, bobby and edu, and were questioning the boss. in fact, there were a few people who were doing just that even a few months back. This midfield combination looks….. complete is the right word for it. We have players with different styles and all of them fit right into arsenal. Denilson for me looks extremely exciting, he evokes the same response cesc did a couple of seasons ago, when he burst onto the scene. The way Denilson bossed the midfield vs bolton was such good fun to watch. diaby has looked ok so far, but he has just come back from injury and whats important, he has shown a lot of promise. Song is out on loan, poor kid doesnt get a mention here, but given time, i have faith that arsene has seen something in that kid that we will all find out.

  • Great article. It sums up what we all knew whilst others (Spuds) were telling us we were in decline. They get confused when it comes to rebuilding theyve been trying to build houses from the roof downwards for 46 years they had one good season which Reading our now matching and suddenly we were in decline. Arsene earned the trust of the fans, the majority repaid him with patience and the team now looks ready to deliver now we just need to finish of the rebuilding with some serious silverware!

  • i agree wingston. senderos has looked the least assured of the defenders but patience is the key, as it was the key to adebayor, and will certainly be the key to Ali as well. Persoanlly, i think Flamini is a great addition to the squad, he is so committed, and I became a huge fan of his when we didnt even feel cashley’s absence last season. He brings in a good work rate during games. of course, arsene should refrain from using him at right wing :). He might not start games now, but given time,
    i dont see why he cannot start his fair share of games with Diaby, Denilson, cesc and flamini rotating midfield duties 5-6 yrs down the line.

  • I hold my hands up here, prits, i did indeed neglect to mention Alexandre Song – not because i don’t rate the guy, I haven’t seen enough of him to pass judgement), i just clean forgot. The poor guy, the main impression he’s made this season was being booed by his own fans at craven cottage. I hope he blossoms, though for it to be at arsenal will be a tall task, given the quality of the competition he must compete with. »»Arsene Knows««

  • First off, great article, Wingston75. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 🙂 Secondly, it’s kind of weird for me to read AG’s comments sometimes, because it’s so uncannily similar to my own opinions. I actually have similar feelings toward Flamini as well. Mind you, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that despite it all, he’s a player that we can count on. How many times has he stepped up when we had injuries left and right (still do actually)? Still not sure about guaranteeing him a starting position, but as prits mentioned, I’m sure he’ll get his chances with the players all being rotated. Denilson is awesome. I have to admit though that his performance against Bolton wasn’t as exciting as his other matches, but I was thoroughly impressed during extra time when he, alone, held the midfield after Hleb and Rosicky were substituted. Diaby, admittedly, did not have a great game against Bolton imo, but I really liked his CC performances and I just know he’s only bound to improve. And honestly, this sentence of yours, —Cole goes, we get Gallas. Brilliant, we flush away a turd, and replace it with a sweet smelling rose.— I’m still holding my sides. xD

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