Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne is a recovering alcoholic and the captain of Manchester City – Arsenal’s opponents on Saturday. Originally a right-back, Dunne now plays at center-back for both City and Ireland.

Dunne lacks pace, which was exposed by Arsenal when they thrashed City 5-1 at Maine Road in February 2003. However, he has compensated for this by having fantastic vision and timing. After that disastrous game the Irishman was switched to center back.

Micah Richards said last season that Dunne is one of the best players he has played with.

“I’ve played with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand and Dunne is right up there with them,” Richards told The Guardian.

His style of play has been compared to that of ex-Manchester United, Aston Villa and Irish center-back Paul McGrath. They both have the ability to be in the right place at the right time – and they both have the ability to drink a lot of alcohol.

In September, 2002, Dunne turned up to training drunk, which resulted in him being fined two weeks wages and suspended. His behavior was deemed so serious that an emergency meeting was held involving Dunne, the then City manager Kevin Keegan, the board of directors, and the Professional Footballers Association chief Gordon Taylor. City considered terminating Dunne’s contract but instead offered him support. The Irishman had already been disciplined by City for binge drinking and was ordered to move from Liverpool to Manchester.

Dunne started his Premiership career with Everton, making his debut aged 17, but was released by current Rangers boss Walter Smith after similar problems.

The PFA (Professional Footballers Association) and City agreed a counseling and fitness regime with Dunne. It ended Dunne’s days of drinking. Dunne has not looked back. He was voted City’s Player of the Year for four years running 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2006, Dunne was appointed City captain and on July 4, 2008, he signed a new four year contract.

Dunne is an underrated player. He is a victim of his past, where he was deemed talented, but an overweight, alcoholic. He is just as good as Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher (both players share the record for most own goals scored in the Premiership). However, Dunne has not received the recognition he probably deserves because he’s never played for a top four team.

That may change.

City now have money. But Arsenal are deemed to be the club that stands in City’s way of Champions League football.

That’s because Arsenal don’t have the financial muscle of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. Arsenal have never paid over 20 million pounds for a player.

Kroenke or Usmanov may change that. Or is that wishful thinking on my part.

Will Dunne stand in Arsenal’s way on Saturday? I hope that’s wishful thinking on City’s part.

After all we owe them for our last Premiership defeat – 3-0 November 22, 2008 – the week that Gallas was stripped of the captaincy.

Strange then that Arsenal’s new captain makes his return on Saturday. His first competitive match of 2009.

It’s a different Arsenal you will be seeing compared to the one last November – and that’s not wishful thinking.

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