Written by hahostolze on Monday, 23 July 2012 09:35
After the beautifully poignant story by our own Mean Lean a few days ago, time has come for me to have my own little lamentation. You see, I think we are doing something very harsh, as Arsenal fans, by labelling a bunch of our players the ‘deadwood’ that we need to move on. To me, many of these players either deserve another chance or are perfectly decent players, although some should be held accountable for bad performances , especially when compared to their salary. In the very recent past, we all respected and appreciated pretty much every player, even the squad players whose quality was dubious, were supported by the fans. Recently we had players like Eboue who were not good enough, but we still loved him, and most fans did not call for him to be sold. What is different about this current batch of unwanted players? Why are we suddenly so determined to get rid of players who we consider (not always fairly) to be of a lower quality. Perhaps it is a financial thing, or we think we should be challenging with Barcelona and Man City, both of whom have well-paid squad players who aren’t good enough to play on a regular basis. Well, I might come back to that later, but first I am gonna go through that list of deadwood and look at what went wrong, and why perhaps these players, with a few exceptions, deserve another chance.
Firstly Andrei Arshavin. To label a player of his calibre deadwood is very unfair, although also very understandable. At over 90k per week he is the best paid player at the club, but his effort hardly ever seems to be of a player with that salary. However, he is one of the biggest names at the club, commercially very viable, especially in the Russian and Easten European markets, and he still gives a kind of sparkle to the club’s prestige. We won’t see him bust a gut, sadly, like that amazing run he did to score his fourth at Anfield, but as an experienced, well liked (with RvP out of the picture, that is) and very intelligent part of the squad, I bet many of our youngsters can learn a lot from him. Indeed, I always get the feeling players like Wilshere love playing with Arshavin, because he does understand their genius. Perhaps his effort and his wages are too far apart for Wenger, the board and especially the fans to wanna keep him around. Me on the other hand, if he can just work a little harder, he can do what Benayoun did last season. And I know how much Benayoun had an effect on some of our younger players. But then again, an offer of over 6 or 7 million pound... Not gonna say no to that. With his own allegiances to Zenit and his desire to finish his career there, a move back home seems a likely outcome. An Arsenal career that, ironically, never quite reached it’s zenith.
Then we get to the one player, out of all of them, that I desperately wanna keep. I wrote about him a while ago and I think that with RvP out of the equation, and the Boss satisfied with Giroud and Podolski, Bendtner is an essential part of the team. PL experience, and indeed CL experience, do count, and he has performed, to my mind, adequately in both competitions. In terms of his wages, he is not paid too much (similar to Giroud, I believe) and a modern big club needs multiple proven strikers. Bendtner is maturing ever so slowly, and indeed from what I hear in Denmark he was a very strong pillar for their recent Euro squad. He is still young enough to improve and physically very much up to the task, and with his confidence issues (or lack thereof) a man who will do great when he gets a run of form (like he showed two seasons ago). Then again, like with Arshavin, selling him and getting a good amount of money might be worth it, but personally, I much prefer Bendtner over Park and over the current Chamakh too. If Chamakh can rekindle the form of late 2010... He might be who we need.
Coming on to that same Chamakh, I am very sad with what happened to him. When we signed him, we signed proven class. We signed a player who worked very well with a playmaker behind him (like we had at the time in Na$ri and Cesc) and whilst not exactly a clinical finisher, he was a great foil for the smaller, creative players and had a wonderful connections with Wilshere in particular, although I have no real explanation for that. He scored more goals than we expected of him in the first half of the 2010-2011 season, but he was placed in a very tough place when RvP got fit again. RvP started most matches after that, and that basically meant Chamakh was assigned a spot on the bench. Chamakh, whilst a very intelligent and politically active person, was always a highly emotional player who really needed to feel loved and given the confidence of the manager, to perform. His connections with Yoann Gourcuff proved just that: he felt comfortable, he had familiarity, he knew what to do, and did it well. Rumours of a supposed romantic link between the two are unfounded as of yet, although it does seem Chamakh is very good at making bromances (he is very good friends with Belhanda and Taarabt, amongst others, both playmakers too). If we get some form of psychological help for Marouane Chamakh, or get him the confidence he needs in whatever way, he can be as good as in 2010. Last year he looked a shadow of his former self. When we signed Giroud, everyone said Giroud was a complete package compared to Chamakh. I think those people are fooling themselves. Giroud is better at finishing and has a good long shot but Chamakh was his equal, when on form, in pretty much everything else. Again, selling Chamakh for a good amount, will be a perfectly fine financial move, and will be good business for the club that signs him, provided that they use him the right way. I will always remember the Chamakh of 2010 as an excellent player, really excellent, who was overshadowed by an RvP whose form was the best of anyone on the entire island. Anyone would pale compared to that. Chamakh deserves another chance.
Then we have the South Korean enigma. To this day his signing remains a mystery. Whenever I had seen Park before his Arsenal move, I thought he was a decent striker, especially for someone from Asian descent. However I had no particular desire to see him don the Arsenal jersey. When we signed him, it was in bizarre circumstances. Apparently he fled his hotel to meet our representatives or something. Some say we signed him to screw with Lille for the way they handled our Gervinho and Hazard bids. I don’t know. When we saw him in action... Opinions differed. Myself, being the optimist, I thought he was quite good. His goal vs Bolton was excellent and generally he seemed a decent player. Yet for some reason that was all we saw of him. I really do not know what his problem was. Maybe he failed to settle. Maybe we realised he was far from good enough. Maybe.... Well, anything is possible. (insert Korean dog eating joke here) On FM2012 he is a good player, he came with a good reputation, and against Bolton and in other CC matches he was decent. So where it went wrong is a mystery. I would have liked to have seen more of him when we kept seeing Chamakh, devoid of confidence, coming on as a substitute, but that was not to be. With the way he has recently gone missing (quite literally) and managed to alienate his own country and turn them against him, there is really no way he can stay at the club unless he shows this summer he has the quality. Having a Korean player is amazing for the commercial potential but the way he has managed to make his countrymen pis*ed at him only shows we shouldn’t count on his name to sell shirts in Seoul. Any kind of bid should be accepted, and questions should remain over why on earth we signed him in the first place.
I’d like to make a little comment on Carlos Vela too. He has left the club for about 3m and a 50% sell on fee and the club have a 4m buy back clause. Whilst that is a bloody good deal from an Arsenal point of view, I would have loved to have seen him stay. He scored my favourite goal in about the last five years with that chip over Kirkland vs Wigan, he was amazingly clinical and fast, and provided us with fantastic youtube footage of nutmegging Sergio Ramos when playing for Osasuna. What Vela never managed was to make that step that for instance Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott have made: from a central striker to a wide attacker. Vela would have been wonderful as a wide forward in our 4-3-3, yet for some reason it never worked. I genuinely am at loss as to why: after all, he was fast (one of the fastest at the club), he was tricky, he could cut in from the right onto his deadly left foot or swing in a cross from the left side... Yet he never really adapted to it. Wenger didn’t try too hard either, in my opinion, and Vela always seemed a bit lazy, a bit fat, and just not willing to get stuck in. Sadly that just happens sometimes with talent from the Latin countries, and with the deal we just made, we got a good amount of money and chance of future income. But I am always gonna be sad he failed at Arsenal, he could have been amazing.
Another Latin player with a serious work ethic problem is Denilson. Back in 2008 he was close to being my favourite Arsenal player. He was such an exciting talent, Brazil U-20 captain, amazing passer of the ball, good shot, great stamina. During the 2008-2009 season he was excellent at times, controlling matches and showing a great talent at ball retention. But people didn’t like that most of his passes are sideways. They don’t seem to mind that the same goes for Arteta or Xabi Alonso. Matches that were won on the midfield, like vs Roma in the CL, were won by Denilson (for the most part). What the problem was, that in a 4-4-2, he was not defensive enough, not strong enough and too lazy to be a DM. In the 4-3-3 he was not effective and what you need in a 4-3-3 is a player willing to work hard. Denilson became a luxury player, the sort who, when the opposition counters, ambles back to the defense slowly, and too late. His tackling wasn’t very good either, and that made his position even more difficult. Arteta has a similar role in the current side but is a better creator, better passer, better tackler and harder worker. It’s a no-brainer. Yet I will always feel sad that Denilson didn’t make it at Arsenal, for during that period, especially the second half of 2008, he really was excellent. I once wrote a Dutch article on him calling him ‘the most underrated player in England’ and at that time, he really was. He achieved Gilberto Silva levels of invisible work and neat distribution, but didn’t have anywhere near the work ethic or energy. For the wages he pulls... We should be happy he is no longer part of the club. But it could have been different.
Sebastien Squillaci is the saddest of the recent Arsenal signings. You see, Squillaci is a class defender. During his time at Sevilla, Lyon and Monaco he was an excellent defender with good ball skills, a good tackle and excellent positioning. He was never the fastest defender and always had a more physically adept partner next to him (say, Cris, at Lyon) but when Arsenal signed him, he was already on the decline in terms of pace and power. Squillaci was, to many, the signing we needed: an experienced defender who would help sure up the backline. Sadly, much like the signing of Silverste, it was clear Squillaci had not been scouted much before his desperate signing. He was not the player of before, and he never fit our system of playing a high line. If we played a deeper line, like most clubs, he would have adapted much better. If the PL was slower, he would have adapted better. Like Silvestre, this was a signing that was only good on paper, and I felt sorry for Squillaci, who is above all a very intelligent, well-liked and influential player in the dressing room. He was not the problem: he was a good player but a bad fit for the club. His wages of around 60k mean his position is untenable, but again, at lower wages, he would be a great influence on younger players and a perfectly decent 5th or 6th choice. We will undoubtedly say goodbye to Seb this summer. Shame.
Finally we have some keepers who everyone seems to think are poo. Well, for some, or the most, part, that is true. Fabianski and Mannone are both excellent shotstoppers with a knack for making big mistakes. Both are very much confidence players who have played amazing games for Arsenal (Fabianski vs Wigan in CC, vs Partizan in CL, Mannone vs Fulham in PL) yet followed those up with horrendous mistakes. Both seem dissatisfied with a live as a no.2 at Arsenal, which is a shame, because especially Fabianski, but to a lesser extent also Mannone, would be very good no.2’s. Who else in the PL would have that level as their backup goalkeeper? I would keep Fabianski, he is good friends with Szczesny and will keep our no.1 on his toes without wanting to play too much, I presume. However, should they both want to go, I think they both can. With Martinez we have a very talented backup and we are probably in the market for a cheap, experienced backup. Who knows what will happen, but it is a shame neither Fabianski or Mannone managed to live up to their potential, especially Fabianski, who on his day is a frighteningly good shot stopper.
People have a few misconceptions about this deadwood. They call for people like Lansbury and Diaby to be put on that list. Shame. Lansbury was once a talent of the level Eden Hazard (indeed, he outshone him at the U-17 World Cup) and to just discard him like that is not fair, nor is it good business. He deserves a chance this season in the first team, his wages aren’t big and he is very versatile. If after a season he turns out not to be good enough, then sell him (or, I think, his contract runs out soon). But he was a youth product, there is no loss.
The inclusion of Diaby really makes me pis*ed, however. Diaby is a loyal servant. He has been injured all this time yet no-one at our club works harder on his fitness. All his injuries stem back from that one tackle back in 2006, and subsequent tackles like that monstrosity by Essien in 2010 (I think it was). In his prime, Abou Diaby is amazing, maybe the best midfielder we have. He is our Yaya Toure. Pace, power, stamina. Dribbling, passing, through balls, finishing, long shots. Tackling, tracking back, covering, positioning. He has it all. In 2009, when fit for a few months, he was amazing. Since then he has fleeted in and out of fitness but whenever he came back he was impressive. He is such an important player to this club’s future and most fans want him gone. Imagine him striding up and down our midfield, tackling, passing and shooting. His technique is amongst the best at the club and he can do almost anything. What people forget is that this club, especially with the current management, are risk assessors. If they hear from the training staff and physios that Diaby is not gonna be fit again, they will not keep him around. But Wenger knows that Diaby is a player who still has amazing potential. Laurent Blanc wanted to build his entire France team around him. He calls him ‘our only box to box midfielder since Patrick Vieira’. Keeping him is worth the risk. The lack of understanding fans are showing, is perplexing.
And that is it. The way we complain about these players. Those who do not show enough effort, yes, deserve some of our scorn. But the majority of our players work hard, on and off the pitch. Not every player can be Jack Wilshere or Robin van Persie. Some are better than others, but in an entire squad that makes sense. We are not an oil rich club, yet we act like it makes perfect sense to sell all this deadwood and buy loads of better replacements. This is not Football Manager and we are not insanely rich. Back in the day we had awful players at times, like the infamous Gus Caesar, who still spent seven years at the club. Where has the fans loyalty gone? Are we so fickle that we just want to switch over players who represent the club at a whim? Well, that is perhaps the reason so many people are now fans or MCFC or Chelsea... Because it is easy to support a team where everything is shiny and new. But that is not reality. Like Mean Lean wrote in his article on falling out of love with football, to me, the way we complain about these players is not what football is all about. Yes, players who don’t show any desire, like Denilson and Arshavin, should be let go. But if they can change, we should keep them. If players lack confidence, but we know they can perform, we should give them a chance. What are we, Chelsea? We don’t fire our manager every five months, why would we sell players that don’t perform without giving them second chances? Not only will we get smaller amounts of money for players we sell without giving them a second chance, we are left with holes in the squad. If we really sell Bendtner, Park, Vela and Chamakh, who can argue we have enough strikers? Yet people seem to want a weaker squad with less options just to see the deadwood leave. It is madness.
Amongst the names people mentioned to me, when I asked what they considered to be deadwood, were Ramsey, Jenkinson, Djourou and Frimpong. If we start considering players like those to be deadwood, then I think the people that mention them need to have their head checked for some dead brain matter. Seriously, us fans are such fickle people. Any club has players that don’t quite reach the level of the best. Yet that is what building a team is about. We can’t have only superstars, especially at Arsenal, where the money is tight. I hope we keep a few of the players that most consider deadwood, and have them play. Freezing out talented but unconfident players is only detrimental to the club. Maybe, I will admit, I am being a bit kind on some of these players, but I am an optimist. I call it like I see. So, tell me, in the comments, who do you think the deadwood are, who should go, and why?
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