New Season Countdown Continues/More Conversations With Dante

I couldn’t stand the sight of Clown No. 1 raising the Emirates Cup. I’m glad we won but the ceremony had an air of cheapness about it though. It felt like I was watching also-rans from a beauty contest bonding on a night of commiseration. The sad outing was led of course by the homeliest of them all, the unwelcomed poodle walker.

When I see that clown and his understudy, I think of the car bumper stickers that say ‘MY OTHER CAR IS A PORSCHE’. It wouldn’t be so bad if we had a world class No. 1 and those two clowns were just getting some air time to keep their voices fresh. My frustration mounts as we get closer to Liverpool away.

El Cunto asked why that guy is still at Arsenal. I wonder that everyday. Everyday!

He reminded me that my earliest disapproval of the clown didn’t come after failing to hold a lead with only 38 minutes remaining in the Champions League Final. I said he wasn’t good enough and had to go as far back as February 2005, after Man United went to Highbury and embarrassed us 4-2. In Barcelona, he could have made himself an Arsenal legend. He could have shown that being down a man doesn’t mean you have to lose the game. He could have shown some serious spine. He failed miserably.

Two near post goals does not make people remember you for anything but failure. Well, except those who argued with me that he was good enough for Arsenal and that we could win the league with him. And then there were those who said that the goals were not as bad as I was making them out to be. One prominent and very, very successful blogger argued that the goals were not scored at the near post.

That’s when I knew I’d better be more picky about whom I discuss matches with.

The season following the CL disaster, Clown No. 1 and Swiss Miss conspired to lose another final. Two in two seasons! I doubt many people have placed the level of blame on this guy that he deserves for stunting the growth and bashing the confidence of the young players. I state with no hesitation that had we won either or both of those finals – especially the League Cup Final vs. Chelsea because the kids got us there and many featured in the final – the level of belief and resulting thirst for more success could have made all the difference. Instead, we have a group still struggling for identity, a group short on focus and confidence, just like the most fraudulent of goalkeepers to ever wear the Arsenal top. As El Cunto so correctly pointed out, if your spine is weak, so is the rest of your team. We’ve had that motherfucker at our club for too long.

I seethe when I write anything beyond a few sentences about him. I better move on to another topic. Arsene, PLEASE do something.

I caught up with Dante earlier this week. I could sense the excitement and eagerness in waiting for the new season to start. I could also sense a bit more bite this time from the man who always looks cool but can spew venom with the best (or worst) of ‘em. By mid November, I expect him to be fully lathered and spitting fire.

Dante: We are 11 days away from the start of the season and I cannot wait! One trophy down four more to go (League, UCL, Milk Cup, FA Cup)!

Agent 86: [Thinking; I used to be just as optimistic in past seasons. I want the new season as much as anybody but not with that set of keepers we have right now.]

Yeah, man! It’ll be a very interesting season.

Dante: This is how I saw the Emirates Cup:

Wilshere and Fimpong are BEASTS!!! I know I have said it before but they both keep on impressing me. Yes, Wilshere made a mistake when he was obstructed by Fortune but it came to nothing.

Agent 86: I’m glad you brought up Wilshere. El Cunto has tagged Wilshere as a showboat. I don’t see it. The kid has poise and focus way beyond his years. Our colleague (he who shall remain nameless) at 1886 made a good point, ‘what Wilshere did was not uncommon for a young player in the early stages of his career and certainly Arsenal players [young and old] have been criticized for not hoofing the ball and trying to play their way out of danger’.

I’m not worried about Wilshere being a showboat at all. I’d need to see more than just a questionable example of what might not even be showboating before indicting him.

Dante: [With almost uncontrolled enthusiasm] But that VOLLEY!!!!! And the kid has an attitude. Love it!!! We need attitude in the squad.

Agent 86: We used to have attitude. We used to have swagger. You can’t quantify them but they make a big difference. Imagine what teams felt like when they saw Henry and Pires with Bergkamp standing not far away. We need to get that back. We have a few players who can get us there but only time will tell. I have to say I really like what I see in Frimpong. I know he’s still a pup but…

Dante: Frimpong does not let anyone have time on the ball. He doesn’t dribble much but hey, if he loses the ball he will get it back!

The first goal against AC Milan impressed me for a few reasons;
1. Gibbs shielded the ball extremely well while having a player draped over him then to send Arshavin off to the races, this was very good to see from the 20 year old left back.
2. Arshavin; what can I say? What a run! I don’t know what was better, watching that run and final ball to Chamakh or rewinding back to where Gattuso looks like he has been thrown out of a speeding Ferrari. PAAAAAHHH BOSS!!
3. Chamakh’s finish; well taken! He did the right thing and looked calm in front of goal.

Agent 86: [My turn to emote.] YES! Gibbs showed tenacity. Arshavin showed strength. Chamakh showed a good finisher’s cool. It was the first really telling highlight of the (pre) season for me. It was all there – industry, strength, and skill.

Dante: Issues I had with the games against both Celtic and Milan; in both games, we looked tired after about the 75th minute.

Agent 86: To be expected! They’ve been training really hard and some guys played in both Milan and Celtic matches back to back.

Dante: When Frimpong went off in the second half of the Milan game we lost our possession edge, similar to the way we do when Song is unable to play. Theo cannot cross to save his life! He is dangerous but anyone with that much speed is dangerous with or without the ball. Only positive I can take is that he must have got the same treatment about defending Arshavin did because I saw him next to the right back a few times when the ball was in our half.

Agent 86: On current evidence, I’m convinced Theo is not good enough. I don’t know if he’ll ever get there. He plays like a really good athlete who took up the game later than the other kids. He’s got some ability but like it or not, Chris Waddle made a good point about the football brain.

Some Blame Wenger for bad coaching where Theo is concerned. I don’t. I just feel he is what he is. Wenger coached Alex Song. He coached Robin. He coached Cesc. They haven’t turned out too badly. Theo does track back though. I’ve seen him do it regularly.

Dante: For Celtic’s second goal I have two different gripes. Djourou is not ready yet. I have faith he will be later on, but not to start the season with. I know Koscielny will partner The Verminator but no one else has been bought so I shudder to think of Djourou being thrown in early on in the season.

Agent 86: On Djourou; I refer you to what El Cunto posted Monday.

Dante: This passive and active offside **** has to stop. There was a Celtic player off side, being played offside by the whole back line. The ball was played into his general area he ran for it becoming active in the play then stopped, turned around and walked back. Flag never went up another Celtic player ran on and then poor marking after that did us in. What’s the point of playing offside when the passive player can pretend to go for the ball and stop, essentially dummying the defense????

The silly way to fix this is to make all passive offside players signal this by having to stop and re-tie their shoe lace on one shoe before joining the play. The easy way is to take this whole passive verbiage out!

My thoughts on Cesc are as follows:
I’m sick and tired of this!!

Agent 86: I have been for some time. I am disturbed by Barcelona’s latest that Wenger was ready to sign for them in 2001. Yeah, right! They’ve sunk to the depths of _pur_ with this almost signed bullshit.

Chat later, Agent 86

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Why is Almunia still at Arsenal?

A sad sight yesterday was watching Manuel Almunia lift the Emirates Cup for Arsenal. Sad because another season beckons with this back-up keeper starting as Arsenal’s number one.

To win anything, a team needs a strong spine. The goalkeeper is the starting point of that spine. If you have an average goalkeeper, you’re defence will not be filled with confidence. A back four that lacks confidence will leak goals.

With Fabianski as Arsenal’s number two, away games to Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers will turn into a crossing fest, leaving Arsenal with no points because they have goalkeepers who can’t punch or catch a cross.

Fabianski is the worst goalkeeper in the Premiership. Almunia is not far behind. With less than two weeks away until Arsenal travel to Liverpool for the season opener, there is no sign of any goalkeeper being signed by Wenger.

That’s disturbing.

Mark Schwarzer says he wants to play for Arsenal – well so do I and millions of other Gooners. The fact is Mark, you’re not good enough. You’re no better than what Arsenal already have. And at 38 you’re the “cougar” of goalies.

A lot of Gooners are more concerned about Cesc Fabregas joining Barcelona than a world class goalkeeper joining Arsenal. When I mention Almunia being Arsenal’s number one, they shrug their shoulders and say: “He’ll do.”

Having a goalkeeper who last season cost Arsenal 18 points, will not do. In fact, both Fabianski and Almunia need to be sold or loaned out.

Neither one belongs at Arsenal.

Other pieces of deadwood should also leave – Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott in other words.

Walcott hasn’t changed. He’s fast but has no end product. Someone said that he got two assists yesterday. His first assist was a shot that was so crap that it turned into a cross – if Vela didn’t have great instincts then Gooners would have been moaning about how shit Walcott is instead of celebrating a goal.

It’s been four and a half years since Walcott joined Arsenal and the man still can’t cross. He also has no moves to get past a player – other than speed – and his shots are off target most of the time.

Ryan Smith for Kansas City Wizards is just as good as Theo Walcott.

Johan Djourou is fast becoming Arsenal’s Titus Bramble. He’s been at Arsenal since 2002. Yet in eight years, he’s only played 46 times. True, he’s been on loan to Birmingham City and was injured for all of last season. So fans are willing to give him time. I, however, think that it’s time to sell him. The man will become a liability.

Wenger says that he’s looking for two more signings.

Let’s hope that a goalkeeper is one of them.

Keep It Arsenal

El Cunto

El Cunto the Promoter and the Debut of Conversations With Dante

The Informer has not retired. I sense that he’s not far away, refining his methods, bullying his sauces to get it right, wiping that dried yolk off his handsome face. Trust me. He’ll be back bigger, better, stronger.

Meanwhile, his alter-ego El Cunto is trying his hand at promoting. I began training Monday night for the NYC North London Derby. The herniated discs, pinched nerve, and tendonitis will not stop me playing in this match. If I have any semblance of fitness, I will suit up. It’s that important. Even if I play just ten minutes, I’ll be happy.

We’ll see if I can find enough straps and braces to make a difference. Youth is wasted on the young. Xbox playing, phone text addicted, Facebook junkie little cunts!

The little voice inside my head is saying to forget about playing and go on living relatively pain free. It’s probably right but if this match does happen and is anything like the last time I joined El Cunto for a game, it will be memorable. Two years ago, he organized a 5-a-side that I played in. The temperature was hotter than I’ve ever experienced on a pitch, seriously. Definitely not football weather! To make matters worse, the opposition had three subs for the two 20-minute halves. We had no subs. Nevertheless, despite being down something like 8-2 at Half Time it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my entire life.

El Cunto was nutmegged by some ponytail wearing cnut in the First Half. I could hear the 1886 man, “Oh, It’s like that!?!?” He was not pleased. A Half Time chat, some rehydrating, and a nice breather helped us refocus. El Cunto ran the show. I got stuck in on the ponytail wearing forward – his threat died like a candle blown in the wind but I have to give it to him, he was a decent player.

We pressed on and equalized. El Cunto was on fire. They capitulated. We wound up winning 15-10.

If this NYC North London Derby does happen, put your money on him to shine. And the Bermuda boys are eager to play so it should be fun if nothing else. Me on the other hand, well, just make sure EMTs are on call nearby.

Dante and I chatted the other day. He, like most Arsenal fans these days, has much to say about the current squad. Here are a few samplings from the conversation:

Agent 86: What has stood out for you so far this pre-season?

Dante: Arshavin gets it, after being blasted by an 18 y/o midfielder (Wilshere) for not getting back and doing his part I have seen a slight change in him.

Agent 86: I expect to see serious changes this season where he’s concerned. He owes us. He can be our Messi. I really believe he can be as good as any player in the game today if he puts his mind to it. I suppose it’s about motivation with him. I can’t hide how disappointed I’ve been. I thought we signed a legitimate world star, a football genius.

Dante: Against SK Sturm Graz I watched him point and speak to players about where to be when defending rather than trudging back on the wing head down. This ever so slight change if continued throughout the season could help to ease pressure on the back four.

Agent 86: I agree. There are times when all a defender needs is that little bit extra from a forward or a midfielder to get into a position that changes the opposition’s point of attack and kills a threat. It can be that added effort that gets us a result. Think back to Denilson’s jog back as Rooney and Nani broke away at The Emirates last season.

Switching gears, I‘ve noticed that Frimpong has gotten some very good reviews so far.

Dante: Wilshere/Frimpong instill fear! Not only to opposing pre-season teams but to my delight, in our own players. Our experienced midfielders know Jack is coming, Frimpong is coming, and if it hadn’t been for [insert any number of expletives that equal Northern troglodyte masking as a footballer in a candy-striped top], Ramsey would have arrived! Knowing that these Young Guns could replace you like for like in a game helps to remove complacency from the equation.

Agent 86: Well put! Wenger recently mentioned how you can’t be a top flight footballer without the expectation of having to compete for your place. That as much as anything needs to be addressed. We should have players who’ve experienced competition for places long enough by now. In the recent past, we haven’t had that ‘fear of losing your place’ factor playing in our favor. In fact, it’s time to just stop the general excuse that we are not experienced enough. Even our youngest squad players have gone out on loan and know what’s required of them.

Dante: All the pundits keep on harping on experience, all experience is (these are my [Dante’s] own words not quoted from anyone) is “knowing what you are up against and not fearing it”. Some players in our squad should take a lesson from Mr. Wilshere and Mr. Frimpong.

The conversation moved along swimmingly but we returned to ‘Arshavin the Salesman’:

Dante: I think the thing that will make Arshavin into an unstoppable machine is something simple, A FRIEND!!

At that point, I wandered away in thought. Wow! Could this be the key to sparking our Ruskii genii into action? The idea intrigued me.

Dante: He needs another Russian who is not a female or a pig – as we all know he hates them. He knows Clown 1 is on his way out. Everyone on the squad knows this. That’s why he has never featured*. Arshavin is about himself but when he sees that he can help himself and help the team he is in hence; “I have spoken with Arshavin about Arsenal and London life. He has only had good things to say about the club and the city. He said some very nice things about me going on to be the best goalkeeper in the world – and that he would like me to reach that goal at Arsenal with him.”

Agent 86: I hear you! And if the woman doubles as a pig, keep her from him at any cost. Seriously speaking though, I know that at least one of my colleagues at 1886 has expressed less than positive thoughts on signing Akinfeev but I’m willing to pay for his first 20 minutes’ wages if we sign him. I’d pay the entire first week but with economy and all…

[Clearly not moved by my pathetic attempts at humour] Dante: I watched some of the MLS vs. “The Giants of Europe” such as Man City, _pur_, and Manure. _pur_ will always look bad even if they win 100-0. Thierry did the business again against them on his debut. City looked pathetic and didn’t win a game the whole tour, and United lost to 10-man Kansas City. Now everyone will say, “Oh it’s just pre-season and the stars were not playing.”

Berbatov, Gibson, Giggs, Scholes, Fabio, Rafael, Nani, Welbeck, Macheda, Diouf, Evans, if you know who these players are then SHUT UP!!! STOP CRYING!!!

Agent 86: Cheers Dante! We’ll catch up with you real soon. I’ll work on the jokes if I have time after training for the derby. I promise. Buy the rest of the boys in Bermuda a round for me.

Finally, I found this bit by Arsene interesting:

“Djourou has a small hamstring problem but it is not bad. He should be available for the weekend. Rosicky had a small, small alert. He was supposed to play in the first half but he could have played. I didn’t want to take the gamble, it is only a little problem on his groin and I decided to replace him.”

It reminded me of when a very cynical Gooner (a guy we all at 1886 have butted heads with) once said that Wenger rushes players back from injury. He has far, far fewer sauces than The Informer (who at least can be entertaining) yet was convinced that Wenger was his own players’ worst enemy in that he will make them play while not 100% fit.

I wondered if there has ever been any truth to that when I read the quote above, which clearly shows that Arsene will err on the side of caution.

Chat later!

* Clown No. 1 started the match against SC Neusiedl 1919. Hopefully, it will be his last start in our uniform.

Breezy Austria

– What can we really tell from these pre-season fixtures against lightweight Austrian opposition? This isn’t to slight our opposition or our approach to pre-season. I’d argue that the matches are good for building stamina levels, but the training is what is actually most important.

– Tonight we faced Neusiedl 1919 and never got out of second gear. What did we learn today?

– Carlos Vela really loves to score chipped goals. In fact, I’d argue that 75% of his goals for Arsenal have been off chips.

– Johan Djourou went off injured in the first half. He was not limping badly, so it might have been precautionary. He spent all of last year recovering from an injury. Sol Campbell is heavily rumored to be signing with Newcastle. That leaves us with three regular CB’s (four if you count Alex Song, which I’d rather not). We need to sign defenders. People may be happy to be rid of Gallas, but I’d kill to have him back on the squad. With van Persie given the No. 10 jersey, that’s not going to happen.

– Which naturally leads to Koscielny. He is what every Arsenal blogger has pointed out; he has a slight build. But we can’t really tell anything in these games. We’re not facing class opposition, he doesn’t have much to worry about, any lapses could be due to sheer boredom (even if that’s unprofessional). Point blank, we’re not to learn enough about Koscielny until we see him in the Premier League.

– Wilshere and Emmanuel-Thomas continue to impress. Wilshere’s deft touch is a sign of true skill. Emmanuel-Thomas is a battering ram up front and is an alternative to both Bendtner and Chamakh. Emmanuel Frimpong is also making a case that he’s moved up in the queue past Craig Eastmond. Frimpong’s assured defensive shield duty was noticeable, he snapped into tackles and chased until he won the ball back.

– Manuel Almunia finally started in goal. Vito Mannone saved a tame penalty.

– Nasri is pulling all of the strings in midfield right now, but Cesc is taking a holiday in Spain hearing sweet nothings from his best friend Gerard Pique.

– The Emirates Cup is very soon, we’ll learn more then.

Reviewing the Defence

Manuel Almunia – I remember vividly after we had gone up 1-0 against Chelsea two years ago. Bacary Sagna had just scored his first goal for us off a corner. Then, a frequent visitor to the pub I go to said these words, “I feel safe with Almunia.” I’ve never felt safe with Manuel. Ever. At the start of the second half of the Barcelona first leg, he looked like he was going to vomit. Why did he look that way? He had just pulled off a string of saves and the score was incredibly 0-0. Well, soon after, he proved exactly what he is, a shot-stopper and nothing more. He looked the same way before the Roma penalty shootout from last year. Almunia didn’t save any penalties, they just missed. It would be foolish to suggest that Jens was flawless as the Arsenal No. 1, but at least he had the demeanor of a No. 1. Almunia was a project, one with very little hype or potential. Imagine if Amaury Bischoff ended up a member of our first choice XI and that’s essentially what Almunia is. A nightmare, and one that must be terminated soon.

Lukasz Fabianski – It is easy to call him a clown. That is easily justifiable. You might call him a bargain basement keeper as well, but here’s where I disagree a bit. I’ve documented before that Wenger thinks highly of Fabianski. He’s committed enough errors for Wenger to wave goodbye to him, but something tells me that’s not going to happen. The summer we signed Fabianski, we were linked to many keepers and Wenger chose him. He was signed for 3 million euros and a friendly match to be arranged later. At this point, if he turned it around, it would be amongst the most incredible turnarounds in Wenger’s history. I don’t want to see it even attempted next year. If we had a decent goalkeeper, and I stress the word “decent”, we would have won the Premier League. Unfortunately, that is on Arsene nearly as much as it is on Almunia and Fabianski.

Vito Mannone – He delivered a brilliant performance against Fulham and then showed his years in the subsequent performances. He’s raw. He signed a long-term extension, but he doesn’t impress me much. I give him credit for having the hunger, but he’s the most un-Italian goalkeeper I’ve seen. I’ve yet to make a definitive judgment on him.

Bacary Sagna – He’s steady. He’s never tipped as the man of the match. He’s rarely burned by players. He’s an adequate player who hasn’t reached the heights of his first year with us. I thought he might have been our player of the year that first season, but for whatever reason, he’s failed to find that form.

Emmanuel Eboue – Once a figure of hate, now he’s a lovable fixture. Let’s not mistake what he is though, he’s a useful squad player. He can be used to solidify a defense or as a blunt, direct weapon. On his day, he’s very effective at attacking teams with his forward momentum. When he’s left to think about what he should do with the ball though, he struggles. He’s a good guy to have around because the players love being around this guy. He’s a joy. Not essential to the team, but very useful.

Gael Clichy – I think he may be sold over the summer. Arsenal have three left backs waiting in the wings. He’s coming back from a back injury, and those types of injuries never really heal properly. When he came back, he was torched so often that Martin O’Neill called him a joke. Slowly though, he’s steadied out and he has been one of our best performers in the last month (which is not really much of a compliment). I can remember at least a handful of goals where he was the direct contributor to. I used to love this guy, but he no longer looks likely to eclipse Ashley Cole as a player. If we could get 10 million euros for him, that would be a good price.

Kieran Gibbs – Some are unsure of his ability to be our starting left-back. I need to see more, but when he was on the pitch this year, he seemed to neutralize the opposition’s right wing quite frequently. He’s a better crosser of the ball than Clichy. He has mental strength, seeing how the United Champions League fixture could have severely damaged his career. I like this kid.

Armand Traore – I admire his professionalism, but that doesn’t seem to translate to the football pitch. We can deal with errors, as long as we see real improvement and an attempt to get better. He has speed, a strong left foot, and not much else at this point. He’s flimsy and unless he watches some defensive tapes, he’s not going to make it with Arsenal. He could be sold to a French club and turn into the D-grade version of Marcelo.

Mikael Silvestre – I’m sure he’s a positive influence in that locker room. But that is as far as it goes. Every time he scores a goal, something disastrous seems to happen (look at the Tottenham 4-4 draw last year and the Wigan match this year). He needs a string of games to approach anything near his best form, and he doesn’t get that, so when he does play, he’s often exposed. The fact that every back pass he makes is lightly weighted frightens me. This was a gamble that truly did not pay off. He’s gone.

Sol Campbell – I was not a big fan of Sol Campbell after he walked out of our club. He has restored his legacy at Arsenal, but let’s be clear, he cannot be anything more than a 4th choice defender for this club. His mountain frame and surprisingly fast pace helps him out, but near the end of his run this term, I saw the chinks in his armor. One of these days, one of his last ditch tackles is going to result in a red card and a penalty. That’s a sign that a defender is desperate. He’ll be an awesome influence on our squad, and as a 4th choice defender, he’ll be of more value than Silvestre was.

Thomas Vermaelen – Tony Adams was wrong. Vermaelen was in every pundit’s team of the season list. Along with his defensive prowess, he chipped in with some beautiful goals. He’s angry when we concede. He’s professional when a ref approaches him. This is what you get when you pay 10 million euros for a player. This is what you get when you buy a defender who was the captain for Ajax at a young age. This is what you get when you scout a player for two years. Vermaelen could be a future captain for Arsenal.

Johan Djourou – An incomplete grade. It was revealed recently that Wenger told him that he let Kolo go so that Djourou could play. It’s been written that Djourou was a player who was supposed to be kept secret from the entire world, that’s how much Wenger rates him. He has the physical tools (not necessarily the strength), but it’s yet to be seen if Wenger’s faith is justified. He looks like he’ll get an opportunity though. One can only hope he’s not like his Swiss compatriot, Swiss Tony. Senderos looked the part, but he lacked the heart and the intelligence to be an elite defender.

William Gallas – It looks like he’ll no longer be an Arsenal player. That’s a shame because he produced some of his best form this year. At this point though, he is also an injury prone player (the same can easily be said of Robin van Persie though). He does not have any special attachment to Arsenal, and that’s not meant to sound like an insult. I mean this in the best possible way, William Gallas is a professional footballer. That may make it sound like I’m calling him a mercenary, but that’s not what he is. He truly did care about winning more than anything else. For those that suggest he didn’t play because he didn’t want to mess up a potential contract, look no further than the Barcelona first leg. He crocked himself because he wanted to play on the grand stage so badly. His loss was as big a reason in our failure as anybody else. I will miss him, but the team may not miss him. Nasri revealed today that five players at Arsenal don’t talk to Gallas. He didn’t mean to suggest that they hate him, it’s just a generational difference. Whether they know it or not, Gallas was one of the finest defenders to suit up for Arsenal during Wenger’s regime. It’s too bad that too often injuries and petty squabbles came to define much of his spell. I hope he recovers in time to make the World Cup squad and play well for France. I wish him well.

Post Season View – Arsenal F.C. 2009-10 Pt. 2

Some have asked if Arsene Wenger is a miracle worker or just a stubborn fool. Considering his ability to reap financial rewards from top four finishes and to manage CL qualification year after year, he might be the former because he spends so little in the transfer market. Considering his general unwillingness to invest in proven players – in a proper goalkeeper in particular – he might be guilty of the latter. It depends on your perspective.

Regardless of your (or my) opinion of Arsene, it’s quite clear that we have players at Arsenal who have not cut it. As my colleague has pointed out, transfers will be greatly affected by the UEFA squad requirements that go into effect next term. Nonetheless, if we are to finally win something, a frank and candid statement must be made about current personnel.

Last summer, I detailed what I wanted from certain players this past season. I felt that those particular players owed us. Below are those requirements. Let’s see who has met them. Let’s see who has paid their debt.

Summer 2009: Cesc – Be the player you’ve shown you can be.
2009-10 season: Jackpot! Enter the new Mr. Arsenal.

Gael Clichy – Stop the mental lapses.
It wasn’t until the final few matches of the season that our LB began to show signs of the player we once knew.

Johan Djourou – Make Kolo, Gallas, and Vermaelen fight it out.
You weren’t even ready. The swelling in your knee was far more serious than first thought.

Vassiriki Abou Diaby – Dominate the center of the park.
Improved but still prone to frustrating performances, leaving questions about his true ability.

Theo Walcott – Justify the fee please. Decision making must improve.
I’m still waiting. I am not convinced that we’ve invested wisely in this kid. Christopher Eagles outplayed Theo at Turf Moor. WTF!

Nicklas Bendtner – Finish your chances. Make me forget about Luis Fabiano.
Not as prolific as I would like but certainly did his share when he was fit.

Bacary Sagna – Be the best RB in the EPL again.
Not back to the standards of his first season but certainly better than his second.

Denilson – Add more goals and assists to your nice stats.
The stats weren’t going to save him this season. He has regressed, despite a few shining moments and some fine long range goals.

The first choice keeper – Be unbeatable.
Begone.

Robin van Persie – World Player of the Year.
Injured again. Robin has not played an injury free season as a first choice player at Arsenal.

The expectations were high in many cases but we must strive for excellence if we are to win trophies. I have lost faith in some players. Others still have not done enough. I need to see Alex Song-type leaps and improvement next season from the team as a whole.

The Invincibles are watching. Make them proud. Make Arsene proud.

Keep the Faith

Now What?

The transfer window has closed. We have not bought any new players. Many fans are disappointed. Many fans feel let down. Many fans have lost faith, again.

I have been told more than once that I am a Wenger apologist. I have been told that I fail to see the folly in the man’s ways. I have been told to take off my “Arsenal tainted specs”.

Such is the effect of my adulation for our great manager that it grates the nerves of foe, neutral, and fan alike.

The reality is that my reverence for Arsene Wenger is not a deterrent to logical, fair judgment. I was a shite player, but I’ve played with and against some very good players. I watched, listened, and learned from them so I do have a modicum football knowledge. My football education hasn’t been Ivy League but I humbly say that I can at least hold a discussion about the game.

That Arsene has chosen not to or maybe he was just unable to sign new players does not lessen my belief in this group. It certainly doesn’t suddenly make me a non-believer. Wenger has said repeatedly that he trusts his players. He has stated that he believes they can win. Can they? Is Eboue good enough to wear the Arsenal shirt? Is Manuel Almunia trustworthy? Are Denilson, Alex Song, and Abou Diaby good enough to match Gerrard or Lampard and Co.?

These are the questions on the minds of non-believers.

Wenger has also said that ‘in this job’ you cannot let yourself believe that you are what you hear from outside sources. You must believe in yourself and what you can achieve. But of course you have to be good enough. That is what really matters.

If you put my head in a guillotine and asked me whether or not we’re good enough to win the league as presently constituted, I’d say yes. I am convinced that we have enough goals in us to win. In midfield and in the offensive third, we can match or outplay any team in England. What I am not convinced of is if our central defence has enough depth – Johan Djourou is quietly as sick note as almost any other Arsenal player. I would prefer another full year of development for him with a top level CB brought in to solidify depth in that area.

What I am not convinced of is if Manuel Almunia can win us games when it really matters.

I am not saying this to win points with The Negatives, but Arsene is guilty of neglecting defence in general. I understand that his philosophy is closer to ‘you score 3 and we’ll score four’ than it is to the George Graham model, but I would love to see a world class keeper behind no nonsense world class defenders.

To win the league, we’ll have to do it scoring goals as opposed to defending them. That’s probably how Wenger really wants it.

Note: As already stated, Almunia did attempt to communicate with Diaby on Giggs’s cross Saturday.

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