Son of a Gun!

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

Leftbacks for the season ahead July 25, 2009

Ok, Arsenal snippets/updates:

It seems that Fiorentina hasn’t given up on getting Emmanuel Eboue, we first knew of their interest when they asked for Eboue to be included in the now-dead Melo deal. I know right at the end of last season, the general consensus is to let Eboue go. But right now, with no impending arrivals, I’m not sure it is that good an idea to sell Eboue. He is after all an excellent utility player to have in the squad.

Former Gunners are speaking recently, with Adebayour blaming everyone but himself for his departure from Arsenal to Manchester City. This is really one deluded man who loves contradicting himself. He made it sound as if he is so noble to leave to give us some much needed funds and blames the fans for getting on his back instead of Fabregas when the two cases are so astonishingly different. Our captain never hesitates to nip any transfer rumours about him in the bud. Unlike him who gives different opinions to everyone who bothers to listen. And one day after saying he joined City for footballing reasons, he said no sane one will refuse higher pay in any industry. Enough said.

Some other pathetic former player whose real name will never be properly appear in my blog has said ‘with a grin’ he hoped City will push Arsenal out of the top four. Whether or not it was friendly banter or a challenge, it really shouldn’t bother any Gooners. It is pathetic enough to have to make such statements to get noticed instead for perormances on the pitch. And thank goodness he left so that better leftbacks like Clichy and Gibbs can strive. Statements like this really made his claims of being an Arsenal fan look really fraudulent. He has really burnt his bridges with Arsenal in general.

The only exception is Thierry Henry, who is a real legend and a true gentleman. He wanted Arsenal to keep Fabregas and thinks we can win the league when everyone is putting a death knell to our trophy-winning chances. What a big difference to that of Hleb, who urged Cesc to ‘return home’ to Barcelona. That is why players like Henry and Pires will always be welcome at Arsenal, unlike certain former players.

Right, now to our main topic of the day: Our leftback for the season ahead, our options are:

Gael Clichy – He joined Arsenal as an 18 year-old from AS Cannes. He had already appeared for AS Cannes 15 times in the lower leagues of France and had a reputation as a speedy leftback who likes getting in front of his opponents in nipping the ball, a trait that has remained in his game today.

Clichy made one of his earliest appearances in an Arsenal shirt actually playing on the left wing position, just in front of the Cashley one at leftback. At the time, it would seem a long time before Clichy can claim the leftback position as his own at Arsenal.

Clichy’s first chance at getting a sustained run in the first team was 3 years later when the Cashley one broke his metatarsal in season 2005/2006 but unfortunately he suffered an identical injury not long after, meaning his chance was prematurely ended. Flamini was pushed to leftback due to lack of personnel and he became part of the famous back 4 with the Champions League record of 10 consecutive clean-sheets. We will never know whether he would have been as successful if he had not been injured then, but it don’t matter now. It was during this injury that my all-time favorite player Dennis Bergkamp told Clichy to work hard and stick it out the tough times and he will eventually succeed. Wise words which stuck in Clichy’s detrmined mind.

At the end of that season, the Cashley one left for Chelski and Clichy was given an excellent opportunity to make the leftback position his own. Although his injury sustained in the previous season means he can only begin his season 2 months into the new campaign, Wenger placed his trust in him in not signing any of the leftbacks that were available in the market, and that the media were happily linking to us throughout that summer. When he returned, he started apprehensively but ended the season strongly and having successfully made the leftback position his own. The following season, he was the best leftback in he league with Sagna sharing the same honour on the opposite flank. In a season which we led the table for 3 quarters of the time, Clichy was also voted as the second best Arsenal player of the season. He was massively consistent and proved to be a much better performer than the now much less glamorous Cashley one.

Despite his consistency and numerous strengths, it is also obvious Clichy has his weaknesses. He seem to make certain glaring mistakes once in a while and his mistakes seem to have a pattern of them happening in the dying minutes of a game. But he is already the Premier League’s finest at the age of 23 (by the way, Clichy turns 24 tomorrow! Happy birthday Gael!), and he has a long future at Arsenal. I believe he can only get better and I hope he is able to focus more than the 90 minutes of a game, including the injury time.

Kieran Gibbs – Gibbs joined Arsenal’s academy side from Wimbledon at the tender age of 15 as an attacking left midfielder. 2 seasons ago, he started in the pre-season friendly against Internazionale Milan at the Emirates Cup and was hugely impressive.

At the start of last season, Wenger began experimenting Gibbs at leftback and it out to be another shrewd Wenger decision. Although initially, Gibbs has a lot of trouble curbing his attacking instincts and was caught out of position a few times, he learnt quickly. His pace helped when he is exposed positionally. At the beginning, I didn’t know why Wenger wanted to convert him into a leftback because I thought I saw a very good lft winger in Gibbs but as always, Wenger knows best.

Gibbs’ chance came early last season when Clichy was injured for a period of time and when eveyone thought it would be Silvestre who will get the nod ahead of the much inexperienced Gibbs, all Gooners breathed a sigh of relief when Wenger chose Gibbs ahead of the slow-moving multiple-Premier League winner.

Everyone would remember his ghastly slip against Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final second-leg, but does anyone remember how he coped against World Player of the Year Cristian Ronaldo, who we now know cost 80 million pounds, in the first-leg? He was exceptional and composed during Ronaldo’s famous runs into the box. Indeed, he saved at least three (from my memory) certain goals on the line with his head, guarding from corners, in the sequence of games he played. And he was only 19.

His future is certainly great. One can only hope he gets over that massive mistake and improve from here.

Armand Traore – He joined Arsenal from Monaco in 2006 as a 16 year-old and quickly established himself in the academy league. He is a tall, pacy and robust leftback and many were already touting him to be the natural successor to Clichy in future.

He rised to prominence in season 2006/2007 when he played and started most of the League Cup games in which Arsenal reached th final but lost 1-2 to Chelsea. He was caught out on a number of occasions in the final but that is understandable being a young player against a well-oiled experienced team. In the following season, Traore was described by Wenger as ‘becoming a man in football’ and is fast-improving. He was converted to a left midfielder in his few games for Arsenal in that season.

Last season, he was loaned out to Portsmouth where he was prominent as a left winger and scored a very good goal against Sunderland. Despite his relative success at Portsmouth as a left winger, and Portsmouth desire to keep him, Traore returned to Arsenal hoping to break into the first team.

Now with valuable Premier League experience, Traore is better equipped than 3 years ago when he was so cruelly exposed defensively against Chelsea. But will he play at leftback again? My own feel is that he will be deployed as a left-sided utility man and will mostly play higher up as a midfielder but can do a job to cover Clichy and Gibbs if need be. Whatever the case, I hope he stays because I feel he is good enough to succeed at Arsenal.

Mikael Silvestre – It is clear from his performances last season that his best is certainly past, and was spent at Manchester United. He was also famous for wanting to play as a centreback and ran into a few spats with Sir Slex for being unwilling to play on the left.

During his prime, Silvestre was definitely a very solid defender and is a very good leftback although if he were to play this position for Arsenal, he will not be effective at all as we play a very fluid sytem with very mobile and pacy fullbacks. Silvestre is neither mobile nor pacy. I hope he leaves because he does not add any value to the team. An experience doesn’t help past a certain stage, and Silvestre is certainly past that.

William Gallas – Gallas for leftback? Yes, it is worth noting that Gallas was a very effective leftback for Chelsea. In fact, he was extremely versatile for Chelsea, playing across the back 4 at various stages. But it was well documented that his refusal and unhappiness in playing in a fullback position was the root of his fallout with the Chelsea management.

However, when he first joined Arsenal, Gallas was played as a leftback most of the time in his first few games for Arsenal as we were without a recognised leftback during that time until Flamini was moved into that position (see above). I thought he was excellent as a leftback and can certainly do a more than decent job there. With his first team prospects as a centreback now limited due to Vermaelen’s arrival and Djourou’s rise, it is definitely worth considering using him in other positions, especially in a position in which he is not entirely unfamiliar to.

Luke Ayling – An academy player, Ayling is an extremely versatile player who can play anywhere in midfield and defence. He is both-footed, has excellent technique and is uncompromising in his tackle. He is one for the future and his position is still not yet fixed. I don’t think he is read for the first team though.

Pedro Botelho – The exciting Brazilian is still not eligible to play for Arsenal as he has still to receive a Spanish passport having spent the last two seasons on loan to Spanish sides. According to Young Guns, Pedro has joined Celta Vigo on loan for the season ahead. I have seen him in clips and he is very pacy ad technically gifted. However, there are doubts as to his defensive ability. We’ll know more when he appears for Celta Vigo next season.

Overall – We have a world-class leftback who will turn only 24 tomorrow, and we have one of the most exciting young talents in England as a backup. Also, our ‘backup’ already has Champions League and Premier League experience. In addition to the two, we have other players who can fill in as an emergency and even Eboue can play there (which he did quite well against Manchester United in the Champions League). There is definitely no need to improve on this department. One interesting thing to ponder is, with Gibbs being only 4 years younger than Clichy, will he be satisfied enough to be Clichy’s understudy for most of his career? He may be patient now, but for how long? I’m just happy to know we have both of their services, for now.

The next position for discussion: the midfielders!

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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.

 

Thomas Vermaelen signs June 20, 2009

Good day everyone, I have been blogging about Arsenal on my personal blog since 2005 and since that period of time has seen the emergence of several Arsenal blogs, the personal favorite of mine being Arseblog followed closely by Gunnerblog and Goodplaya and A Cultured Left Foot. Unfortunately, outside of these 4 prominent ones I’m afraid there are many insensititve and poorly written blogs. As I have been blogging about Arsenal anyway, I’ve decided the time has come for me to consolidate all my Arsenal postings in one place instead of on my personal blog.

So on to the first post here.

Thomas Vermaelen has officially signed for Arsenal today.

For many of us Gooners who were crying out for a defensive signing, be it in central defence or in central midfield, this has got to be good news. For all the talk about Brede Hangeland or Sébastien Bassong being the targets, Arsenal went on to sign a player completely out of the media’s attention, which is typical Wenger (See Eduardo). If he turn out to have the same kind of impact as Eduardo did, then I’d be pleased.

All the talk about Arsenal needing height in the centre of defence is very much subjective. Personally, I think there i some truth in it but this tend to be overrated. Let’s put things in perspective: The season before the recently concluded one – our first choice central defensive pairing were Gallas and Toure, and the first choice defensive midfielder was Flamini. All 3 of whom are hardly giants in a league as tough as the Premier League.

But that didn’t stop Arsenal from being a genuine title contender for most of that season, until that game at Birmingham.

What I’m trying to say is, the concerns most Gooners have about Vermaelen’s height is overstated and should for now be left ignored. Let the Belgian show us what he can do defensively. There are world class defenders who are challenged vertically but has superb leap, much like Fabio Cannovaro. I have not noticed Vermaelen that much but I do know he can head the ball well, so let us continue our trust in Wenger on this one.

The biggest question now is, who is best to partner Vermaelen for next season? Let us take a look at the contenders:

William Gallas – For all the criticism leveled on the France international, let us not forget on his day he is a very good defender. Many have said that he is half the defender the used to be when he was at Chelsea. But personally I feel that he should never have been made captain and that has got to be one of Wenger’s few mistakes. Although this is a statement made in hindsight, as when we were leading the table, who were saying it was the wrong choice? It is people’s habit of saying ‘I told you so’ when things go wrong. I feel Gallas still have a lot of offer as his performances after the captaincy was stripped off him was the best he had in an Arsenal shirt. He has the experience too, something which we often complain we lack, so why sell him? But my concern is whether his heart is still with the club.

Kolo Toure – He is one of my all-time favorite players. He always wears his heart on his sleeve and works his socks off for the team. One can never doubt his commitment whenever he plays, even when he is having an off-day he never stop running, never stop trying. Therefore, to hear of his possible move to Manchester City is saddening. However, since his return from the last ACN and after contracting malaria, his pace (which is a big part of his defensive game) is no longer the same. This has affected his consistency against faster, world-class attackers. Will he regain his pace and consistency? At 28, time seem to be on his side but I have a bad feeling we have already seen the best of Toure. I sincerely hope he will prove me wrong.

Johan Djourou – Tall, strong, fast, technically sound. What more do you need of a defender? Experience and consistency of course. This will come with time, and playing opportunities which I feeel should be granted to him, given the current situation. His loan at Birmingham has in fact set him back as he was playing in central midfield for a technically poor side, thus he was quite apparently still adjusting to the pace of Arsenal’s passing when he returned last season. However, there is no doubt in my mind that he will become a top class defender one day. Will that day be sometime next season?

Philippe Senderos – Despite the harsh criticism leveled on him by Gooners all around the world, I actually think he has the qualities to be a top class defender. Most of the criticism began after he was out-muscled and outplayed by Didier Drogba. But tell me honestly, how many defenders in the world can keep Drogba quiet? For all his exprience in top flight football, Senderos is still only 23. Do anyone remember John Terry at 23? He was obviously talented but is prone to mistakes every game. Ditto Rio Ferdinand at 23. Look at the two of them now, best defenders in the Premier League, perhaps in Europe or the world. I say we take Senderos back, and give him another chance and be patient. He will blossom given the time and opportunity and I’d be gutted if I see him succeed elsewhere. The problem is I fear his opportunity is gone the moment Wenger released him on loan to Milan.

Mikael Silverstre – Multiple-title winning defender. That is the best I can say about him, but everyone can see his best years were at Manchester United. His inability to play at the top flight is made so obvious by Torres in that thrilling 4-4 draw last season it’s embarassing. He is not good enough for Arsenal, end of.

After listing the above, who would be your personal choice?

For me, it has to be Djourou followed by Gallas to partner Vermaelen. Toure can be our multi-functional defensive cover, if he stays.

Our next signing (hopefully there will be another one at least) should be a tough tackling, no-nonsense ball-winner. Again height should not be an issue. With that, we should be ready for next season.

In my next post, I will talk about this position, and the targets mentioned by the creative world media so far, as well as my personal choice.

Till then, sons of a Gun!