by Tony Attwood
It has become fashionable to knock Arsenal in general terms – with occasional reference to the fact that the club is not making progress. We’re not buying the right players. Wenger won’t spend. Every player who goes to Chelsea, Man C, Man U, Tottenham, and God help us even Liverpool! is one that we should have got. Besides, how can we be behind Leicester without being useless?
But I want to argue the opposite – that the progress in terms of the personnel in the team has been remarkable – and it is only now that we can see it.
Of course, the development is not remarkable enough and not fast enough, because we haven’t won a trophy this season, and winning the League is now not only unlikely but also dependent on other clubs who we are behind. But more of that in another article.
For now I would like to put forward the view that we are seeing a remarkable revolution in Arsenal’s playing staff. Just consider the last year or so…
Cech: Much criticism of the fact that Arsenal didn’t sign any outfield players last summer combined with high level publicity by the likes of J Terry that he would give Arsenal 10 extra points.
But both positions were misleading. Terry was doing his usual put down of the rest of the Arsenal squad, suggesting our defence was crap – and many joined in knocking Ospina for one mistake in a Champs League game. But I would contend that as a back up keeper he is superb – I have no worries when he plays. And Cech has indeed been a good purchase. Find me a keeper who never made a mistake in a high profile game, and I’ll show you a tape that was edited. No keeper is immune.
Chambers: I don’t buy into the stagnating theory – he’s a full back and a centre back, a very handly combination to have. And he’s still only 21. We’ve hardly seen him – he’ll be released when the boss is ready (just like Iwobi).
Bellerin: Watching him this season has been a joy – not least because each time I do I recall comments around August 2015 (when he was still not yet 21) about the numerous weak spots in Bellerin’s play, and how relying on players like Bellerin showed how useless Wenger was (because he wouldn’t buy and because …). Remember his early appearances – the “never win things with kids” taunts? Had Mr Wenger not waited, not given him chances, not allowed him to learn from his mistake… we would not have such a sensational full back as we now have. Barcelona, I’m told, are offering £20m.
Coquelin: If you are a regular reader you’ll know how I love to boast about spotting Coquelin early. But the fact remains he came from being unnoticed on the bench and then on loan to being aged 24 the defensive midfielder that over half the teams in the Premier League are looking to find. His recovery from his time out has been slow, but it is getting there, and he is now the extraordinary player that I always hoped he would be.
Elneny: I thought he was very good in Barcelona, but he’s just getting better each game – and making the fee we paid for him look ludicrous. I really believe this guy is going to be the heart beat of the team for the next few years. And he’s still only 23. You’ll be noticing an age theme by now. I’m sure you are getting it – Wenger is building a YOUNG team that will grow together.
Welbeck: Groans when we signed him, out for such a long time, but now showing what we have been missing. Again, look at the age. Danny is 25, and still to reach his prime. Now think of all those tales about buying a new centre forward to replace him. OK, if one of the greatest centre forwards in the world came along, maybe, but otherwise…
Campbell: Took forever to get into the team because of passport problems, and not being used regularly but still a great young player and a valuable addition. If he continues to improve he could end up within a year as a regular. And the age? 23.
Iwobi: What is there left to say? We heard that Mr Wenger didn’t want him to go on loan but wanted to nurture his talents by keeping him at the club. We saw cameo roles. We waited, and wow suddenly we have a brilliant, brilliant young player. Our only problem is that we’ll keep losing him for the mid-season African Cup, which could itself mean injuries, but still I’d sooner have him than not. He’s 19.
Now that is a list of eight players – 73% of the team. All of whom I’d count as recently emerging or recently purchased. All of whom I think are of high value to the club. All of whom I’d say have shown us what they can do across the last two years.
All of whom except Cech are young – and even in that position our backup keeper is 27 – a mere child in goalkeeping terms.
And that list is created without any reference to the high cost superstars – Alexis and Ozil. Add them in and that makes 10.
As for my 11th…
Koscielny is hardly new, and he’s not a youngster, but he is new to the role of captain and seems to have instantly taken to the position. I imagine a lot of anti-Wengerians now believe that we bought him as a star, but that was far from the case. His career has blossomed late – but it blossomed with us because of the scouting talents of Arsenal and because of foresight. Just read his own tale about how he moved from the bench of a second division French team to Arsenal.
What I am trying to say in my usual meandering manner is that most of the players cited in this article have emerged into the team in the last couple of years – and most are young, and yet people go on and on and on and on and on and on and (ooops sorry went into a word warp there) on, about the need to refresh the team, have a big summer transfer window, etc.
Maybe some brilliant instant stars will come along – but if they don’t and the groans and moans start up again, I’d remember that list above, and then also consider:
- Santi Cazorla
- Jack Wilshere
- Aaron Ramsey
- Nacho Monreal
Sadly it seems there are many around who take the view that if a player is not a) new and b) expensive then the club is not making any progress. And looking at the list of four players above remember the fuss made with Santi Cazorla and Monreal came from Málaga because a) it had an accent and we don’t like accents in England and b) because we got them on the cheap. Typical Wenger – just buys cheap.
But football life doesn’t work like that. Price means nothing. Mohamed Elneny could go down in history as the steal of not just this season but of several seasons. £5million? FC Basel must be wondering how they never came to realise what they owned. I’d say he’s already worth £15m not least because of the shortage of players in that position. If he carries on like this it could be double that by next season.
Playing in front of the defence he can not only clear up most of the oncoming traffic before it reaches the back four, he can also score, and already has this season’s record for playing the most passes in one match by a single player: 121.
Even the staggering Gilberto Silva, (who we also got for next to nothing) whose trademark was to get the ball and pass it five yards, was generally short of that number. And Elneny allows Coquelin to do his daredevil runs forward, as well as encouraging him to cut down on the daredevil tackles.
Coquelin-Elneny is a typical Wengerian masterpiece. The world is short of the more defensive midfielders – everyone was totting up the millions we needed to spend if we could persuade anyone to play for a team that gets such negative publicity – and for just £5m we’ve got two incredible players in that position, aged 23 and 24. And all the while we have been nurturing Iwobi. It is sad that because of the rampant fanaticism of the anti-Wengerian press and their camp followers that neither Mr Wenger nor the players will get the praise they deserve as a unit, but at least Untold can help adjust that imbalance just a little.
I know this team has had problems and taken its time to get together, but I think in years to come we will look back at this moment as the start of another golden era. This really is a remarkable, young, vibrant team that is going to grow into something very special.
I’m going to continue to publish on this site the transfer ramblings that Sir Hardly hoovers up, but I really doubt we are going to see more than one or two of these players – at most – in the summer.
- Arsenal – Watford : 4-0 the match report as late as the bus…
- ABN AMRO Future Cup Report and FA Cup Semi-Final preview
- Football and the Panama Papers; you’ll never guess who’s in the mire (actually you will)
- The cabbage writers, the battle with the corruption of sports news and support from Barack Obama
Danny Karbassiyoon’s book “The Arsenal Yankee” with a foreword by Arsene Wenger is now published. You can buy the book…
- On line here for £14.95, plus delivery
- Or by phone on 01536 399 011 using a credit card.
- Or by Pay Pal to Jane@hamilton-house.com Don’t forget to enter the title of the book and your delivery address on the Pay Pal site, and calculate the full amount including delivery, see below.
- Or by post to Hamilton House Mailings Ltd., Earlstrees Ct., Earlstrees Rd., Corby, Northants NN17 4HH with a cheque.
The book is also available on Kindle.
From the anniversary files. The full list for each day is published on the home page.
5 April 2003: The longest unbeaten away sequence in league football of 27 games begins with an own goal by Kolo Toure in the match against Aston Villa, balanced by a goal at the right end by Ljungburg.
5 April 2006: The match nominated as “Bergkamp Day”. Bergkamp himself was a sub. The score was Arsenal 3 WBA 1. Helb got the first, Bergkamp set up Pirès for the second and the third was scored by… Dennis Bergkamp on 89 minutes.