So our beloved Freddie has signed for West Ham. To be honest this is a bit of surprise as the Boss said after last week’s friendly that he was "90% certain to stay", and after Freddie (or rather, his agent) came out and stated that he would "never play for another English club, out of respect for the Arsenal fans." In all honesty, I personally don’t begrudge him a move to a Premiership club – unfortunately he is not the player he once was, and he is not moving to a direct rival. However, with what was said by both Arsene and Freddie’s agent, it smells like Freddie has been moved out to make space for an incoming winger…why else would Wenger eulogise about his qualities, only to let him go a few days later? I think as far as a new signing goes, watch this space…
I for one will miss Freddie, he had certain qualities that no-one else did: a fiery streak, a bit of mouth, some fighting spirit, and of course a poacher’s instinct. The sale of Thierry Henry saw Gooners worldwide gushing with their favourite memories of the mercurial Frenchman, and I aim to do the same for Freddie.
He almost single-handedly dragged us to the title, scoring 6 goals in 5 games towards the back-end of the season and of course sealing the FA Cup with a fine solo strike. An often overlooked fact is that during this purple patch, he opened the scoring in four consecutive games, two of them (against Ipswich and his new club, West Ham) being fairly late deadlock-breakers in a tense and nervous Highbury, with the other two coming against rivals Spurs and Bolton. This also highlights his ability to score in the big games. At a time where Henry was being accused of going missing when the going got tough, Freddie always fronted up. He scored in two consecutive FA Cup Finals, the first player to do so in yonks. His first goal for the club on his debut was against Man Utd, and so was his second a year later. He grabbed the crucial second goal in the 2002 Double season away victory at Anfield, a ground where we hadn’t won for ages. His big match exploits are not limited to domestic games either, netting a brace during the visit of Lazio in 2000-2001 and of course finishing off a bit of Bergkamp magic against Juve the following season.
More than most, he suffered from the departure of Dennis, who had such an uncanny ability to find his runs. Injuries have played their part too, and even though he was a valuable member of the Invincibles, he never quite recaptured his form of 2002. Who knows, maybe his loss of hair made his powers wane too, a la Samson. Nonetheless, isn’t it great that his last hurrah came away to bogey team Bolton in the Cup? Kinda fitting I think.
It’s a shame he’s gone to West Ham, a club who have had our number over the last couple of seasons. I was looking forward to giving them a right tonking this season as a measure of revenge, hopefully Freddie won’t stop us doing so although Sod’s Law says he will. Still, at least we won’t have to suffer seeing him celebrating with a certain Edward Sheringham…
Even still, I’d like to thank Freddie and wish him all the best for the future. He has a habit of scoring in big games, and I would love to see him continue to do the business against the likes of Spurs, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool (but not us!)
Update: having just seen his press conference, his comments on why he left Arsenal are bound to be interpreted in one way – having seen Thierry leave, Freddie lost belief in the team. His comment about not the club bringing in great players since the move to the Emirates sounds very Vieira-esque. Now I am certain he was pushed through the exit door, this shows more than ever how ruthless Wenger is: anyone who does not share his vision can expect to be shipped out. Unless I’m mistaken, the 2002 Double team has now completely been disbanded. The evolution continues.