Tuesday 24 March 2009

Flash Diaby and chums

Seeing as I'm off work at the moment I thought I'd use my time productively to produce a colourful image containing some of our favourite football heroes, I can hear 'don't give up the day job' echoing around cyberspace already. It's a good effort for a three year old anyway.

The international break is now upon us, so we can be guaranteed some rather substandard football, the typical chorus of praise for anyone with a criminal conviction in the England football team and maybe Blatter or Platini inventing some new rules to try to scupper the English game. I can't be bothered with international football, so I thought why not take stock and reassess the squad as it stands.

In terms of goalkeepers I think we have a top notch number 1 in Almunia and an excellent understudy in Fabianski. If Gallas stays then with him, Kolo and Djourou we have three solid centre backs, while Clichy and Sagna are both top full backs, and Gibbs has shown some promise as back up. Personally I don't think any major surgery is required at the back, arguably our midfield has been at fault on more occasions than the defence by not helping out and shielding our back four.

The midfield is the area of great interest for me. Offensively we now have the options to dismantle any defence known to man, in Walcott, Nasri, Arshavin, Fabregas we have top attacking talent, while the likes of Eboue, Vela, Wilshere and Merida provide a varied mixture of back up.

Defensively we have a bit of a problem. Song is our only 'defensive' midfielder, while Diaby is possibly the only other midfielder who can defend. Song has performed admirably in recent weeks and if he continues in this vein, he may prove his doubters wrong, however even if he does this can we have a squad which contains just one truly defensive player? Diaby seems to have developed in his recent run of games, if he can become mroe consistent then he can be a great all round driving force in the centre of the park. Denilson has also developed well over the season, a neat and tidy ball player with discipline, but is he really anything more than a poor man's Cesc? Ramsey has potential but is again more in the Cesc mould. Overall I just don't think we have the right balance in this area. The likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong may start pushing for places sooner rather than later, do not forget.

Up top we have an abundance of riches again. RVP has stayed fit, if Adebayor puts the effort in then he is a great asset, Bendtner has come on leaps and bounds, while Eduardo has the Midas touch. Young Carlos Vela is hardly a bad fifth choice forward, while there are other young talents waiting to come through.

If everyone is fit then most of the team picks itself, there are a few areas of contention, for example which of our three centre backs are the best partnership? which two strikers are the best pairing? The hardest area to call though appears to be the centre of midfield, picking two players here to give us enough solidity but also enough attacking craft is not easy. Denilson-Cesc would not work for me, not enough defensively and too similar to each other. Song on current form with Cesc would have to be as good as any, though if Diaby can play like he did against West Ham every week one could certainly see him partnering Cesc effectively in the future.

One thing that is clear is that the current competition for places is a very good thing. Realistically however there is no way in the world that we will be able to hold onto all these fantastic talents, some very hard choices will have to be made in the next couple of years. I find it hard to imagine that barring any major injuries we could keep Cesc, Diaby, Denilson, Song, Ramsey and Coquelin all happy in the same squad. To play devil's advocate, what would you say if 50 million was offered for Cesc in the summer?


Obsinho said...

£50m for Cesc is all well and good, but I don't really know who we'd spend it on.

I had thought that selling Diaby and Ade would free up a useful amount of cash, but then really it just turns into Champ Manager. The only midfielder I would sign is Gerrard. Other names will get bandied around (Toure [if he does sign then the world will end and matter will vortex into the very dot at the end of his signature on his contract], Veloso, Ireland, Fellaini (?)) but other than being new signings, I'm not sure we'd be much better off with them.

New signings are fun (Arshavin has undoubtedly had a huge impact, but he does appear to be the Messiah) and I am sure Liverpool and CHelsea are going to spank a few hundred million on overpriced Euro-talent, but once again this season we probably would have won something if it hadn't been for a poor run when we had most of our "best" players fit. Add 6 points (or even just 4)from thos awful 0-0 draws and we're right in it.

I think this may be the summer to hoard some cash, and watch some big names go bust.

1979gooner said...

You are right. It's bloody hard to know who you'd buy if there was money available. There really are not many players out there better than what we have already who are actually available for transfer.

If Palacios goes for 15 million then Song is worth 30 million. Bentley for more than Arshavin, these kind of fees are more than a joke.

I guess it's partly because the Premiership is now the strongest league, when it wasn't it was easy enough to go abroad and bring in some decent players for relatively low cost who would improve your squad, now this is much harder to do.

I just get the feeling that our squad is going to have to be trimmed a bit in the next couple of years.

Ted said...

I 100% think we need to try and keep the whole squad together this summer. For the first time in years, we will actually have some strength in depth next season. Even now, we still have Cesc, Ade, Theo and Rosicky all injured. We simply cannot afford to trim the squad this summer.

Obsinho said...

We can trim, but we need to actually replace anyone we sell, including fringe players.

Also, any replacements eed to be clear improvements. I don't want to sell Diaby to sign Kalou, or sell Ade to sign AN Other burly African striker playing in Ligue 1.

There will be a lot of movements elsewhere this summer. Some out of necessity to generate cash for clubs, some out of idiocy by teams like Spurs and Liverpool who have got into the habit of squad churn and now can't break it. I'd happily see none at the Emirates, as long as there weren't players moving elsehwere that would be improvements at prices I would pay. That does not mean if Liverpool sign David Villa for £40m I'd be annoyed at Arsene, but if Ireland joins Chelsea for £7m I may be.

I think the boundaries there are suitably hazy.....

1979gooner said...


interesting to hear Wenger's frankness on the first half v Toon

Ted said...

I take the point about selling if we first have a better replacement, but I see very little room in this squad. The two positions that people will bleat about in the summer are CM and CB. I think its incredibly difficult to point to any player and say they are definitely better than our current players. CM is particularly difficult, but we have an excellent crop in Denilson / Song / Diaby / Ramsey and only one of them needs to come through to play alongside Cesc. That said, one of the very few players I would say "yes, sign them at any price" is Mascherano.

Its also interesting that most of the names mentioned above are attacking midfielders - we have so many of those already!

1979gooner said...

Agree Ted.

I am amazed that people go on and on about Alonso, the guy just passes it easy and sideways, we have players who can do that already!

Mascherano is the key man in their midfield, a true midfield c*nt, something every team needs.

Obsinho said...

There aren't many midfield terriers around anymore. Wipes tear from eye, then remembers that's why people like RObbie Savage had a carrier in the first place.

Not sure we need a water carrier like Mascherano. he suits liverpool as his neutral style means Gerrard does everything, but equally they also use Kuyt as a defender and play some hideous football at times. No single player in our team has/should have a clear directive to do one thing. They need to be more complete players.

This maybe where frustartion on the terraces comes from - we label SOng as a defender then moan when he's not. We want Diaby to sit deep then complain when he doesn't.

Equally, Cesc will need to develop his play in our on half, something he has stated regularly, and something he is aware of if he is going to push Xavi and Iniesta out of his spot for Spain.

So we need to sign "complete" midfielders who can play box-to-box and stop and score goals. In my mind Mashcerano does the former alone. Which is why I think he is unsuited.

Anonymous said...

keep the team together.

pick up Barry if the price is right.

or whatever younger, stronger, faster version there is that has actually played a bit somewhere.

if Cesc is sold for an insane amount, get someone proven in their mid 20s to replace him. name brand.


Ted said...

Interesting comments, but not sure I agree. There is a large number of absolutely top level midfielders whose main job was to provide a defensive screen. In the good old days it was called the "sweeper" role, but they did not actually play behind the back 4, they usually played in front of it.

In fact, I cannot think of a single top team, and I mean all time greats, that did not have a holding man in midfield. Brazil almost always play with 2. Think Desailly for Milan, Deschamps for Juve, Campo or Makalele for Real, Keane for ManUre, Guardiola for Barca etc

Even at Arsenal, Wenger always liked to play a defensive man alongside Vieira - Petit, Van Bronkhorst, Grimandi, Edu, Gilberto all fit into that mould. Edu was probably the most attacking of the lot, but my god did he make a lot of tackles in that Invincibles team.

I think Mascherano is in that mould.

Obsinho said...

Good argument Ted, but the problem is the use of the past tense in your post.

These players WERE essential to way the game WAS playED. My view formed from a two-second snap-thought is that there aren't many/any of these players around at the moment in top teams.

Wenger has played for a while without one, and maybe other managers are catching up with it. APart from benitez who plays the ugliest football of any manager of a team in the top 4 of any european division. Effective as hell at the moment - but a real eye-sore and a literal pain in the neck.

So, I stand by the fact that Mascherano is a relic of a bygone era, albeit an excellenetly preserved one, who happens to play for a myopic luddite, and maybe isn't what we need at the Arse.

Ted said...

Even in Spain, the least physical league in first class football, most teams still have at least one holding midfielder - Diarra at Real, Senna at Vilareal etc. Remember that Senna is also almost the first name on Spain's team sheet.

The premierleague is also littered with holding midfielders, there are just not many good ones around.

Andersen at Manure (I remain unsure what exactly Carrick and Hargreaves are)
Mikel/Essien at Chelsea.
Sidwell/Petrov at Villa
Pienaar/Van de Meyde at Everton

This are not cultured ball players. They are tough, rugged bastards who break down the opposition, win it back, and give it to their teams ball players. Mascherano is the best of the lot. But I would take Essien as well.

Obsinho said...

You're wrong. They are players who are strong defensively, but they are also far more than Decshamps, Makelele, Guardiola were in terms of the scope of their game.

Essien is not a defensive midfielder - he has played every position on the pitch and is lethal in and around the box. Lassana Diarra (and Mohmadou) are both rubbish purely becasue they are "defensive" - they're too limited in their technical approach to the game.

Anderson is an all action player - similar in style to Keane/Vieira but not really any better than Denilson or Diaby in terms of consistency.

I think Carrick may be the epitome of the new midfielder that Wenger and fergie are looking for - good engine, great vision, good reading & understanding of the game.

Senna is the last remnant of the "defensive" player in La Liga - and his most notable contributions come in the form of his goals.

I think the classification of these players just isn't as defined as it has been. And this is most apparent at Arsenal where Wenger has long been signing players of faultless technique who can play in 4 or 5 positions. Arshavin, Nasri, RvP, Denilson, Diaby, Cesc, (Eboue!!), Vela, Bendtner. As of yet he has not found his Carrick, but I think it is this he is looking for, not a bulldozer.

Ted said...

well i want a fecking bulldozer. not a pussy jamie rednapp wannabe.

1979gooner said...

Great stuff lads,

I am going to wade in here and give you my pieces of eight.

Mascherano is a great all round player, great defensively, also a great passes, also capable of beating a man and carcking in a thirty yarder, top all round player, it's very unfair to just label him a defensive player.

Some of the generalising about past masters is tricky. For example Deschamps was a hard working terrier with little ball playing ability relatively speaking, he may not have been up to the modern game in that you need to be more all round these days. Guardiola was a great all rounder, brilliant passer but weaker defensively but in Spain the game is played very differently. Makelele was actually a very good all round footballer as well as being excellent defensively, as was Keane.

Diarra is just shit, he's not a defensive holding player as he has no discipline and cannot defend, he's quite cute on the ball but that's about it.

A lot of these 'defensive' players of current time and of the past are actually just good all round midfielders who can attack and defend, I don't think there was ever a time when every team needed a defensive clogger to patrol in front of the back four, maybe the game is faster and more athletic now and this means that these all round midfielders have to be even more athletic than before, but that's about it for me.

The other players mentioned such as Anderson (good all round player who can get his foot in), Carrick (all rounder who is happier with ball than defending), Essien (all round action man), Vieira (all rounder, never a purely defensive player in my eyes).

I really don't think Carrick is anything like what we're looking for. He is a cultured ball player with discipline, but he isn't a great tackler or defender, while he doesn't add tempo or pace to the way his team plays.

What is obvious to me is that you cannot play a whole midfield of ball players who do not like to get stuck in, you need players in your midfield who run up and down and up and down and up and down and enjoying getting involved and stuck in.

For that reason there is no way in the world that a combination of Cesc and Denilson could ever work in the Premiership.

Song and Diaby are the only players who have (albeit erratically) shown that they have the attributes neccessary for getting stuck into the opposition.

It's very hard to find these amazing all rounders as you are asking for a player who is:

with great stamina
good passer
good in air
good tackler
has discipline
reads the game well

Given the pace of the English game not many people are up to this job.

Finally anyone who says we need Alonso for this job is a fucking idiot.

Obsinho said...

I think we need Alonso.

1979gooner said...

Lee Cattermole...

Ted said...

aren't we deluding ourselves? If the last 10 years is anything to go by then:
1. Wenger won't spend big money this summer
2. If we have to sell someone, he won't have a replacement lined up.

p.s. I honestly think Song / Denilson / Diaby are up to the job.

1979gooner said...

That's what I'm conluding after this airing of views.

The only players who would improve our sqaud such as Mascherano would not be available.

The progress made by Song, Denilson and Diaby has been considerable; they are all young and if they can continue to develop then we would not do better to bring in some overpriced mediocrity from elsewhere.

Obsinho said...

Exactly 1979 - thing is we will spend the summer reading papers claiming we're going to spend £70m on David Villa and Marcos Senna, and feel disappointed when we don't. Even though we have agreed we don't need them.

Caught the Victoria Derbyashire interview with Phil Brown last night - why they haven't come out and said they're not going to pursue it further I don't know. He clearly just lost it after the game and made some moronic statements he is now too embarassed to withdraw.

1979gooner said...

Derbyshire is one lamo hack as well, the fake empathy and concern makes me want to vomit up my breakfast.

Anonymous said...

Some really good banter boys.

The Mascherano debate is interesting because he was not always guaranteed a game in the last few seasons when Rafa was playing 4-4-2 with Stevie G in the middle. That probably says more about Rafa's idiocy in paying £18m for a player to keep the bench warm while persisting with shite like Lucas. But I agree with Ted and 1979, Mascherano is invaluable for the Scousers in the big matches. He's a little runt, but an effective runt at that. Reminds me a lot of Rick Brown - you'd rather have him in your team than against you, if only so you have two legs left at the end of the game.

But 1979 is right, the only players that would add to Arsenal's midfield (Mascherano, Yaya, Senna etc) are out of Arsene's self-imposed budget. So you either stick with what you've got or hope he unearths another PV4 over the summer. The alternative defensive midfielders are laughable: think Huddlestone, Diop, Parker, Neville, Greening, Boateng, Barton, Brown, Butt, Cattermole, Muamba and Etuhu.


Ted said...

chatter is a gooner, chatter is a gooner,
la, la, laaaah

1979gooner said...

Bloody hell, he's breaking cover to speak to the masses!

Good chat though (especially as he agrees with me).

Can I also second you on the fact that Lucas is crap.

Anonymous said...


I'll get me coat....

Suck my cock said...

Whenever Cesc has played this season it has seemed like we are weak defensively in the middle of the park. Whilst undoubtedly he is talented defensively he is found wanting compared to practically every other midfield player in our squad.

I would be sad to see Cesc go but at heart he is a Catalonian and I feel somehow that premiership football isn't suited for him. fullfill his dreams of playing for Barca. It would also make sense to let go of Cesc because of the disruptive influence over his transfer speculations every summer.

The number one player we must keep hold of tho is Diaby and our best midfield pairing is Diaby and Denilson with Song as added protection for the back four when needed.

Diaby and Denilson seem to have developed a good partnership where when one attacks then the other defends. I prefer to see them as creative central midfielders but with the crucial element being that both are very good at defending.

This is my preferred formation:

....Van Persie.........Arshavin...

Bendtner will be a big player next season to prove all you doubters wrong. I predict he scores 20+ goals next season if not by the end of this season. Have faith in the lad coz I reckon he will be better than Bergkamp.

Ade seems to have lost his hunger and thinks he has made it. What I cannot understand is that if we the fans and supporters can blatantly see that he has become a lazy piece of shit then why can't Wenger with all his infinate wisdom. A lot of scrutiny I feel will be placed on Ade from now until the end of the season. If he works his arse off for the whole game and every game he plays then he will win back our support. His game is all about power and energy. We all know how he runs around the pitch haraasing the opposition. Well, we need to see that coz if not then we must get rid off before his lazy attitude rots the rest.