Son of a Gun!

Musings on Arsenal Football Club by a Singaporean Gooner (Gooner since 1988)

Rightbacks for the season ahead July 20, 2009

Filed under: Aaron Ramsey,Bacary Sagna,Defence,Emmanuel Eboue — Son of a Gunner @ 10:58 pm

First, some Arsenal snippets as always:

Emmanuel Adebayor has finally signed for Manchester City. The funniest thing I noticed is, there is absolutely no mention of the transfer at Arsenal’s official website. Every source confirming his transfer is outside of Arsenal. In the past, no matter how acrimonious the departure of a player, Arsenal’s official website has always posted an article confirming the departure as well as the usual “Arsenal wishes to thank [insert player’s name] for his services to the club and wishes him all the best in future”. Flamini, Hleb and of course the most infamous of them all, Moneybag Cole, have all had the same treatment. But NOT Adebayor. That explains it all.

UPDATE: Arsenal finally confirmed the transfer on the official website. Well, thank you for a memorable 2007/2008. Now go ruin Manchester City to confirm your legency.

I have a Gooner friend who is upset with his departure but I want to assure every Gooner that we have already seen the best of Adebayor in Arsenal colours. No matter how long he stays at Arsenal, he will never be able to repeat the same majestic performance of 2007/2008. His heart has already left Arsenal and Arsenal will survive without him. If we have survived Henry’s departure we will certainly survive his.

ok, on to the main topic of the day: Our options for Rightback for the season ahead. Let us look at the options one by one.

Bacary Sagna – When Wenger signed Sagna 2 seasons ago, it was a typical Wenger signing. The media linked several players to Arsenal in that transfer window and no one thought the best fullback in France was about to join Arsenal. He then followed suit with Eduardo da Silva in the same window, frustrating the media further.

Sagna was caught wearing the Arsenal number 3 jersey just one day prior to him being officially unveiled as Arsenal’s new fullback. He came with a solid background having been voted the best rightback in Ligue 1 for 2 consecutive seasons and has the highest number of assists (mostly from crosses for overlapping) for a defender in the top flight of France’s league. He was only 24.

However, it was a surprise signing as at that time we already had Emmanuel Eboue, who was the best rightback in Europe just a year prior in 2006 when he was part of the famous back-four who holds the record for most number of consecutive clean sheets in Champions League football (10), and reaching the final against Barcelona. Yes, it did seem a long time ago isn’t it?

We all wondered where Sagna would fit in with Eboue already established in the side. But with Ljungberg gone, Wenger moved Eboue up to the wing and fitted Sagna on the rightback position. He also claimed Sagna can play anywhere in the back four and even in midfield. Although in my memory he only ever appeared as a centre-back in an emergency (League Cup game if my memory serves me right). The rest of the time he was rightback and in his first season, he became the best rightback in the Premier League. That is incredible as he was the best in Ligue 1 one season, and then he was the best in the Premier League in the very next. He has adapted incredibly well and has proved himself to be another brilliant Wenger signing.

Last season he did not hit the same heights he reached in his first season but it was not his fault as the whole squad was suffering from lack-of-form. Also, it didn’t help that his defensive partners in the centre andon the left were almost consistently changing due to form, injuries and suspension. Sagna was the only ever-present except for a few injuries himself here and there. At times, it felt like he was trying to hold the entire defence together by himself on the right. However, despite this I feel Sagna was the most consistent Arsenal defender last season. Yes, his crossing left much to be desired but his main job is to defend, and he has done well in that department for the most part. I have no doubt he will continue to be very steady on the right for us.

Emmanuel Eboue – Although he was now officially listed as a midfielder for Arsenal, as stated above, he started as rightback for us. At the time when he joined, we had Lauren who had the unenviable task of replacing the legendary Lee Dixon at rightback. Like the opposite of Eboue, Lauren started as a right midfielder before he was converted to rightback for Arsenal. For a while, he did alright and was part of a very strong defence in the class of the Invincibles. Although he was really not that great in my opinion. He did a job, but he was made to look great in the Invincible side thanks to his defensive colleagues.

Eboue joined in 2005 when I thought Arsenal might go for Marco Né instead. I have seen both players on trial for Arsenal’s pre-season at the start of 2004/2005 and I was extremely impressed with Né. He was industrious, energetic, pacy and strong in the tackle. I thought he would be perfect in replacing Lauren. Instead, Wenger signed the other rightback on trial, Eboue. Eboue was very much a similar player but I thought Né was the better player. However, Eboue came in and he was in the reserves for more than a season. I seriously thought Wenger might have signed the wrong Ivorian. Then, in 2005/2006 season, Lauren got injured and Eboue came in, and he became part of that record-breaking back four in the Champions League. You can say, the rest is history. But no. Because things changed quickly.

Soon, he was getting attention for the wrong reasons. Diving, gamesmanship, unsporting. All vices that Gooners frown upon. It got worse when he was converted to the right wing after Sagna’s arrival. Being pushed forward, he has outstanding dribbling skills but an extremely poor balance. And no end product. For all the fanciful stuff he did, he didn’t put in enough assists. In fact the number of assists he had was very similar to when he was a rightback. People begin to wonder if he is a right winger or a rightback.

However, having him on the right instead of Walcott gives us more defensive stability as he has more stamina than Walcott and is more defensive-minded. People forgot he was once a very good rightback. When Sagna was injured or suspended, Eboue came in and did a decent job but was nowhere near to how he performed in his initial years at Arsenal. But people forget quickly that having not played in a position for too long, he need to re-adapt.

All in all, Eboue is a frustrating player due to some undesirable traits, especially at a club like Arsenal. We do not condone unsporting behavior especially from our own players. But one cannot doubt he does possess exceptional ball skills and he is an excellent utility man to have. He has played in centre-midfield, left-back, left wing and even centreback for Arsenal. I thought he was excellent in leftback after replacing Gibbs against Manchester United last season.

Kolo Toure – Toure as everyone knows him now, is a top defender. But when he first arrived, he was a midfielder and played on the wings. Soon after he was moved to rightback. He was only tested as a centreback at the beginning of the Invincible season alongside Sol Campbell when we needed a new defensive partner for Campbell as Keown were in his last year for Arsenal. It proved to be one of the best moves Wenger has made and Toure quickly became one of the best centrebacks in the Premier League.

Although he is now a specialised centreback, he is still being played as a rightback when Sagna and Eboue were both unavailable. Although he is not as effective on the right as he is in the centre, he can still do a decent job. Indeed, he is still better than a lot of other rightbacks in the Premier League.

Aaron Ramsey – The immensely talented Welsh, who has reently signed a new long term deal with Arsenal, is the ultimate utility man when he was still in Cardiff. He has played in every position, even as a goalkeeper! And although he is now a recognised midfielder, it is worth noting he was a very competent rightback for a period of time. He can do a job there and who knows what that might lead to? He is strong, tactically sound and is positionally disciplined.

Kerrea Gilbert – The 22 year-old was a very promising rightback in his early days. I remember clearly his cross for Thierry Henry to head in the winner against Wigan at the only match I’ve watched at Highbury. It was inch perfect, it has to be as we all know Henry’s heading ‘prowess’, and even Henry praised him afterwards for being an exciting young talent.

After all that hype, his career went downhill with disciplinary problems and he spent loan spells first to the Championship and then to League One. I have a feeling his association with the club will son come to an end as Wenger never keeps players with disciplinary problems. Remember Jermaine Pennant? Well, I think it is a waste as he was really a promising talent who believed too much in his own hype and thus stop developing.

Will he stay to fight for a place? He is only 4 year younger than Sagna. I think not.

Gavin Hoyte – The younger sibling of Justin Hoyte is being dubbed as the better all-round player and is more athletic. His natural position is centreback but he can also play on the right.

Most importantly, he has given a nightmare performance in the terrible and forgettable 0-3 defeat to Manchester City. He was so terrible he had to give way to Ramsey after 60 minutes. Will he recover from that performance? I sincerely hope so as I hope he has a better future at Arsenal than his brother, but I think he might not be given the chance again. He joined Watford a month after that match for the rest of the season and he has since returned to the squad. It is worth noting he wasn’t part of that impressive double-winning academy side.

Overall – We have a world-class rightback in Sagna and a very decent back-up in the form of Eboue, if he stays. Even if we are without these two we still have Toure who can do a job for the short term. Our options are aplenty in this department and with Sagna being a fit player who rarely gets injured, we should not worry about this department.

The next article: Our leftbacks!


Should Emmanuel Eboue be exchanged for Felipe Melo? July 6, 2009

Filed under: Aaron Ramsey,Emmanuel Eboue,Jack Wilshere,Kieran Gibbs,Midfield,Transfer Rumours — Son of a Gunner @ 10:39 am

First, the Arsenal bite-sized news over the weekend:

Kieran Gibbs has become the latest Arsenal British kid to sign a new long-term contract. It does seem like Arsenal never had a problem with left-back, from when Nigel Winterburn (can I just add here that I had the honour of watching him score the equaliser against Liverpool at the Singapore National Stadium in the Caltex Cup all those years ago? Man, what a brilliant lob) retired, we had the likes of Silvinho, then Moneybag Cole, then we have the superb Clichy (who is better than moneybag in my humble opinion) and now we have Gibbs. Nelson Vivas was an unfortunate exception.

A lot have been made of how un-British Arsenal is these past few seasons but nothing has been said about how Arsenal is turning that around, especially with Ramsey (Welsh), Wilshere (English) and now Gibbs (English) signing long-term deals and these are 3 of the best young talents in Britain. Ramsey is a full international and there is no saying that Wilshere and Gibbs won’t be in the years to come. Looks like the Arsenal nay-sayers have to come up with something new. Ha!

Back to Kieran Gibbs, I just want to comment that he must be the find of the season for Arsenal. I first saw him against Internazionale in the Emirates Cup 2 years ago as a left midfielder and I thought he was exceptional against the current Italian champions. But never did I think that he would eventually be converted into a left-back, and with such great results – another Arsene vision. He was fantastic in Clichy’s absence and he only ever made one dreadful mistake against Manchester United which I think can happen to anyone. He also stopped a lot of certain goals on the line from corners. And he is only 19.

The main story over the weekend is Fiorentina’s official statement:
“The director [Corvino] points out that Arsenal FC are the only club that has come close to [Felipe Melo’s] release clause.

“Fiorentina, in turn, has proposed that the clubs reduce the amount of this clause by entering into negotiations the right back Eboue.”

This is the clearest indication that Arsenal is indeed trying to get Felipe Melo but in true Arsenal style, we never release any statement until a deal is struck. Previous rumours have linked Senderos in the exchange package to Fiorentina but the above official statement shows they are interested in Eboue instead.

This article by Football FanCast guest columnist Jimmy Gannon said there is divided opinion on Eboue among Gooners but the truth is there are more who wants to see him leave than not.

And I have to disagree with Gannon that Eboue is a player of grit and graft simply because if you have watched enough Arsenal games you will know that Eboue is technically very adept, but frustrate us not with his lack of skills (which isn’t true), but with his nonchalent attitute and playing style. He dives, and he doesn’t make an attempt to win the balls he lost and only protests to the referee. This kind of attitute won’t do. I can see why Wenger likes him. He is pacy and powerful with tons of skill in both feet, that is why he is wanted by other clubs. But, and i mean BUT, his attitute just isn’t spot on. As for jeering him, I will completely disagree with that as no matter what we have to stand behind one of our own as long as he is on the field. But one cannot disagree that maybe it’s time for us to see him go.

So if Fiorentina wants Eboue to make up the deal, I think we should go ahead with it. Although it remains to be seen if Arsene Wenger is willing to let Eboue go. He is a wonderful utility man to have but we have Ramsey who is equally versatile but much younger and with a better attitute.

The main man Felipe Melo has been silent so far until he revealed over the weekend:
“I can say that only God knows what my future holds if the club decides to sell me elsewhere.”

He speaks about how happy he is in Fiorentina but he has not ruled out a move should his club decide to sell him. I won’t be surprised if this deal works out but again I think it will drag despite Fiorentina’s interest in Eboue as both clubs will now try to work out and agree on how much Eboue is worth so as to activate Melo’s exisiting release clause and that will take time. Hopefully not longer than a fortnight as pre-season begins real soon.

If Melo does indeed join Arsenal, then I will say we are more ready than last season to challenge. Let’s hope we tie up the deals fast!


Who is Marouane Chamakh? July 3, 2009

Filed under: Aaron Ramsey,Arsene Wenger,Jack Wilshere,Transfer Rumours,William Gallas — Son of a Gunner @ 4:44 pm

Good day everyone.

First let us get through some Arsenal snippets today.

Ramsey spoke of how delighted he is to have signed a contract extension and I’ve already mentioned that it is good news for the club. And now, our hugely impressive Jack Wilshere has also followed suit.

I remember telling my buddy Marcus, a Liverpool fan, to watch out for him when he came on against VfB Stutggart in last season’s pre-season friendly. Within minutes, he scored a sweet left-footed shot against Lehmann. Wilshere is the kind of talent that is only seen once in a long time. I have high hopes for him and he might be the biggest international star to be produced by Arsenal since our last left-footed great – Liam Brady.

William Gallas mentioned that he is ‘relaxed’ and looking forward to next season with Arsenal. Arseblog mentioned about Gallas’ uncertain future being that of a double edged sword, he could play really well next season to put himself in the shopping window but Wenger do no possess a good record of giving playing time to players who are in their last year of contract, and I totally agree. For those who keep bashing Gallas, I have to again remind everyone that he is a top defender on his day and he was finally giving his best form just before his latest injury last season. I hope he will stay but I won’t be surprised if he don’t especially if another defender coming in becomes fact.

Linking to this, Naldo – the 26-year-old, 6-foot-5 Brazilian who plays for German club Werder Bremen – has been linked with Arsenal with Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf saying “We expect to move him for somewhere in the region of €10 million, and English side Arsenal is as of now the most likely destination.”

Let’s see, Naldo is 26, relatively unknown to fans outside of Germany and has a huge frame. All characteristics that is necessary for Arsenal. Will we get him? I believe whether he joins Arsenal will hinge on whether one or two of Gallas, Philippe Senderos and Koko Toure will leave. If 2 of them goes, I’m pretty sure one more will come in, and I won’t be surprised if it is Naldo. I don’t know much about him at all, but if Wenger thinks he’s good enough then he must be.

Marouane Chamakh - Arsenal's next signing?

Marouane Chamakh - Arsenal's next signing?

Now moving on to today’s main topic – Marouane Chamakh. I have briefly mentioned about him and how I think he might really be joining Arsenal. But his joining will also hinge on whether one of our strikers is leaving, and in this case it is Adebayor. Wenger confirms this.

Marouane Chamakh is a 25-year-old Moroccan international who plays for Bordeaux in France. He is lanky (1.88m) and his physique is similar to that of Robin van Persie. He is pacy, with great technique and dares to run at defenders at pace.

“Wow!” I hear you say, but I haven’t finished. There is a problem. While his strengths are certainly very suited to the Arsenal system, he is unfortunately not a prolific goalscorer. In fact, he is a pretty poor finisher and that is probably why he has not shot to the same kind of cult status as Karim Benzema – who Wenger admitted he was interested in but had signed for Real Madrid instead, in any case Arsenal will never match their offer – whose finishing is much more polished.

My feel is Adebayor is going to go and Marouane Chamakh will come in but this one will drag probably even until after pre-season has well and truly started. Wenger’s refusal to publicly admit Adebayor is certain to go and that Chamakh is certainly to arrive in his place are all part of transfer fees’ negotiating tactics.

Will I welcome Marouane Chamakh? Yes, he is well suited to Arsenal’s free-flowing football but he will need to improve on his finishing, and fast, to win fans over. There is a lot of talk about his exceptional heading ability and yes he has scored a number of headers BUT I am not entirely convinced because the goalkeepers and defenders in the French Ligue 1 is of a different (or should I say sub-standard) breed to that of the Premier League.


Cana Lorik be the answer? July 2, 2009

Filed under: Aaron Ramsey,Arsenal rejects,Arsene Wenger,Philippe Senderos,Transfer Rumours — Son of a Gunner @ 10:07 am

Again before we move on to the topic proper, let us first run through quite a bit of Arsenal news that surfaced yesterday (except for the horrible 3rd white kit that I’ve already reported on yesterday).

First, Arsene Wenger explained why he decided to stay at Arsenal instead of opting to manage a galatico-led Real Madrid team.  To be honest, I’ve never doubted Wenger’s commitment to the club and I really cannot see him willing to give up the amount of control he enjoys at Arsenal for a top-management led club like Madrid.

Next we have the infamous Amaury Bischoff, undoubtedly Wenger’s most mysterious signing (and by this I mean taking even Silvestre’s signing into consideration), has revealed the reason why he didn’t sign a contract extension with Arsenal. Seriously, if he were any good, I might have felt upset that this was how he treated us for us taking him in when he was injured and was a huge gamble. The key words being “any good”. I’ve watched him in the reserve games and he was quite simply crap. I’m not even sure he will get into my Sunday team. Seriously, Amuary, don’t bother demanding regular first team football. Not at Arsenal, not at anywhere else too.

Philippe Senderos, whom I recommended to be recalled in my earlier posts, is apparently being wooed by Hertha Berlin and Aston Villa according to ‘reports’ that doesn’t have any quotes from unnamed sources. Does that make it any more realistic? I think not, but I do think Senderos’ future with Arsenal is really over.

To better news, our young Welsh star Aaron Ramsey has signed a new contract. Ramsey is 18, has a great built and a great engine and although he has only seemingly shined against lesser opposition, I have no doubt he has a bright future in the game so this has got to be great news for us. Although of course, once he becomes good we’ll be looking at “Spanish club looking to prise unhappy Arsenal star away” headlines.

Finally, the topic of the day. Since news broke of Felipe Melo signing a new contract at Fiorentina, there are at least 4 other Arsenal blogs and 2 news sites reporting that Arsenal is back in the frame for Lorik Cana. Can it be real?

I’ve mentioned in my earlier post that Lorik Cana is a beast of a midfielder. He has a determined ball-winning mentality and basically gives everything in a challenge. He takes the word ‘battle’ quite literally. However, before you you-tubers think he is the answer to our midfield problems, I need to raise the following points.

I have seen him in action for Albania, and for Marseille in matches. And I think that is a better avenue to judge a player’s ability than an edited video. Case in point is I remember I once saw a very impressive video of Alessandro Pistone, the former Newcastle defender and look at how that one turned out.

Lorik has some weaknesses that had to be ironed out before he should join Arsenal. His postional sense isn’t the best I’ve seen. True, it seemed like he still wins a lot of balls in midfield anyway but that is more due to his huge engine in running all over the place much like a young Steven Gerrard. If he is to play the same way in the Premier League, I fear he will not have as much impact.

Secondly, he is not technically gifted. To look at whether a player has proper technique, you just need to see how he strike a ball with his foot when he passes and when he shoots. He doesn’t pass very well and that may be a disruption to Arsenal’s flowing style of football.

One good thing he does have other than winning the ball (and most of the time the men with it), is his ability to hold onto the ball. But if you are expecting him to be a player that can launch instant counter attacks once he wins the ball then you’re wrong.

Can he fit in at Arsenal? I say we hold our horses even if we do get him in. A player must fit the club and at this point in time, I can’t see it happening. Will he improve when he join Arsenal? At 25, he still has time so I can’t rule that out. But to expect him to have an instant impact would be too much.

Certainly, I won’t mind him joining Arsenal but I’m not into the hype in him now as with a lot of people at present.

What is your feel?