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Does Arsenal have good players or great players? Is the current Arsenal squad good enough?

Does Arsenal have good players or great players? Is the current Arsenal squad good enough?

By Zuruvi

 

Arsenal is a great club. Arsene Wenger has proven over the years that he is a great manager. Arsenal has two or three great players. Arsenal however has too many average players. Arsenal also has a number of players on its books that really shouldn’t be at a great club like Arsenal because their skill level doesn’t match Arsenal’s status. Is this controversial? I hope not. It’s not meant to be.

As many followers of Untold Arsenal may already know, I love Arsenal, I am a Wenger-In and I am one of those Arsenal fans on this Forum who believe that Arsenal needs to buy better players. The two main reasons why I think we need better players are:

  • In order to better compete with the bigger teams in Europe and to avoid being humiliated by teams like Bayern Munich (10-2 aggregate score-line). Normally, a team that is beaten 10-2 has proven to be of a significantly inferior level to the team that has provided the walloping. Arsenal Football Club is certainly not significantly inferior to Bayern Munich Football Club. The Bayern Manager (Ancelotti) is not significantly better than Arsene Wenger. Bayern might be a better team/club but we as the Arsenal should be able to stand our ground in matches against them.
  • In order to compete better in the Premier League. Finishing 10 points below Leicester when all other big teams have had collapsed is good but not good enough for my expectations of Arsenal. Finishing some 20 points behind Chelsea this year is certainly not good enough for most Arsenal fans. Wenger said our target as a club was to win the Premier League. If that was our lofty target then we really had a miserable season. I am writing this article before the FA Cup Final because I know that after that Final we will have exaggerated opinions of our season. If we lose, the Wenger-Outs will go into overdrive, and if we win the Wenger-Ins will paper over the cracks and pretend that this season was good. It certainly wasn’t a good season.

This year the focus of the blame has been on Arsene Wenger. There are some Arsenal fans that believe Arsene Wenger is the reason why Arsenal is not progressing. I beg to differ. I think if Arsene Wenger is given the opportunity to buy the better players that other clubs are buying we will certainly win the big matches, and we certainly will be contenders for the league title again.

It hurts me so much when I look at the little Tots team and realise that not many (probably not even three!!!) players from our current First Team eleven can squeeze into the Spuds’ starting line-up. Guys, I am talking about the Spuds team and not even our legendary Invincibles team.

I repeat and I repeat and I repeat … the problem we have at Arsenal is not Arsene Wenger. We are failing to compete for the title because we have too many average players, a few good players and not enough great players.

Have Arsenal gone forwards or backwards in terms of the quality of players we have. Let’s look at the players that Arsenal had in our last season at Highbury and compare with the players who are in our current first eleven.

When we had our final season (2005-06) at Highbury, the Arsenal squad of players were:

Players with the most appearances in 2005-06 Players with the most appearances in 2016-17
   
1.    Jens Lehman 1.    Petr Cech
2.    Ashley Cole 2.    Gabriel
3.    Robert Pires 3.    Laurent Koscielny
4.    Fredrik Ljungberg 4.    Alexis Sanchez
5.    Reyes 5.    Aaron Ramsey
6.    Dennis Bergkamp 6.    Lucas Perez
7.    Van Persie 7.    Mesut Ozil
8.    Alex Hleb 8.    Olivier Giroud
9.    Lauren 9.    Theo Walcott
10. Thierry Henry 10. Alex Iwobi
11. Cesc Fabregas 11. Nacho Monreal
12. Flamini 12. Shkodran Mustafi
13. Gilberto 13. Hector Bellerin
14. Sol Campbell 14. Danny Wellbeck
15. Adebayour 15. Granit Xhaka
16. Eboue 16. Francis Coquelin
17. Kolo Toure 17. Mohammed Elneny

 

From the above squads, the comparative teams for 2005 and 2017 are as follows:

2005:

  • Goalie: Lehman.
  • Defenders: Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Lauren.
  • Midfielders: Robert Pires, Ljungberg, Gilberto, Fabregas
  • Strikers: Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp
  • Subs: Van Persie, Reyes, Adebayour, Flamini, Hleb and Eboue.

The current team in 2017 is generally as follows but changes dependant on the formation used 4:3:3 or 3:5:2, etc.:

  • Goalie: Petr Cech
  • Defenders: Monreal, Koscielney, Mustafi, Bellerin
  • Midfielders: Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Xhaka, Ramsey
  • Attackers: Giroud, Alexis Sanchez
  • Subs: Elneny, Coquelin, Iwobi, Theo, Perez, Welbeck

How many of the above Highbury players would fit into our current First Eleven? (Maybe 9, 10 or 11 players of the Highbury team will easily walk into the current First Eleven?).

We left Highbury in 2006 but have the quality of our players improved since we left Highbury? (If your answer in “NO” then you have to agree with me that our current players are generally average or maybe good but not great).

  • Why don’t we have the better players?
  • Is it because Wenger doesn’t want great players?
  • Or is it because we have a wage-structure which handicaps Wenger meaning that he no longer can bring the best players to Arsenal?

Wenger has consistently said that whilst the stadium was being built we had to sell our best players and that was the reason why we couldn’t compete for the title. I believe Wenger. We sold our best players and kept the average players.

I have always been advocating in the last two or three years for Arsenal to use the cheque-book to redress the talent-shortfall that we have in the squad. Some genuine Arsenal fans here on Untold have a different view to mine. They regard anyone who wants Arsenal to buy quality players to be some form of “traitor” who has been influenced by the media or pundits.

As for me, I really hate pundits and the media because of their bias against Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. I am not influenced by the media. I am influenced by what I saw when Wenger first arrived at Arsenal. I am influenced by the skills of Robert Pires, the skills of Dennis Berkamp, the class of Thierry Henry, the clinical finishing of Anelka, the brilliant midfield play of Patrick Vieira and the desire to see Arsenal return to its greatness that was once present under Arsene Wenger.

Even though I don’t like the media, I definitely won’t disagree with the media when they say something that I already deduced and believe in. I believe Arsenal should use the cheque book to get top quality players whether or not the media says so.

Do you remember the list of players in the Highbury squad … ALL of them were talented players BOUGHT by Arsenal. Yes, the supremely talented players were indeed bought (by Arsenal). We used to buy the best talent in the world and develop them into even better players. Today we buy Yaya Sanogo and Carl Jenkinson and keep them for many years. Recently we kept Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Almunia for 6, 7 or 8 years. Players like Bendtner and Jenkinson should NEVER be near an Arsenal squad. If we buy them by mistake, we certainly should NOT be renewing their contracts on two or three occasions.

In conclusion, I think the current Arsenal squad of players is good but not good enough to get us to the very top of the league and to compete well in the Champions League. The team does not have enough goal-scorers. We need a clinical striker in the squad. We need a better midfield that can dominate the big games. We need a better defence.

The solution is to buy this talent from elsewhere. If Wenger is given the money and our wage structure is loosened we can attract better players. We have tried to groom Theo for 10 years and it hasn’t really achieved the results we wanted. We tried to groom Nicklas Bendtner for 8 or so years but it didn’t work. We tried to groom Carl Jenkinson for 6 or so years but it doesn’t seem to be working.

What is apparent is that when we recruit top quality talent it doesn’t take long for Arsenal to turn them into superstars. Nikolas Anelka was a top, top talent. Anelka arrived as a teenager (about 18 years old) and it didn’t take him 6 months to break into the First Team. Fabregas arrived as a 16 year-old, it didn’t take him 12 months to break into the First Team. Quality rises to the top. Bendtner was not quality so he never really delivered despite our best efforts to support him.

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33 comments to Does Arsenal have good players or great players? Is the current Arsenal squad good enough?

  • nicky

    Zuruvi,
    you write a valuable post which is historically correct and sums up precisely where Arsenal FC is today. The trouble is it will be read mainly by Untold readers who do not need to be reminded of the correctness of all you say.
    What should happen is that the doom and gloom merchants and perennial moaners on other sites on Gooner News should also read your post. They might learn something. 😉

  • You are concluding that the reason we had a bad season was not because of Mr wenger but by the majority of the players being below average.
    Now let me ask…who’s job is it to see to it that we have above average players?
    Who’s job is it to pinpoint the players he wants in the team?
    Was it not Mr wenger that said and i quote “we can solve our problems of getting new players internally…and not by buying”?
    If he thinks that players like Ramsey,walcott,iwobi(as much i would like him to play as my kinsman) etc are good enough to win us the EpL and it backfires, he should be held responsible for our failures!

  • Knobby

    Although the 2005 squad is stronger on paper, the Bergkamp of 2005 was nowhere near the player of five to ten years previous, Pires, Gilberto, ljungberg and perhaps Henry were starting to wind down too.

  • James

    Most supporters are not quite as old as me I guess so I remember managers past and glory comes in waves. Ask Liverpool fans or Tottenham fans they were big in the 80’s and 90’s went dead for a bit now they are back. To a more dramatic level clubs like Leeds, that I will remind you only a few years ago were prem title contenders and in the knock out stages of the champions league then had a drematic fall from grace but one day they will fight for the prem again in years to come. The point is the glory days people talk about at the back end of the highbury was just the last batch of glory days, I remember the batch before that under George graham and there were batches before that and there will be batches in the future that is just football but the wave will never be in our favor unless one we back our manager and our team through the good and the bad. then may be the tide will turn. The truth is there is a lot of luck involved in getting the best players in the world. Did anyone seriously think anelka would have smashed it in his first season in England or bergkamp was a good buy after his first few games or Henry for that matter both had a very poor first few games.. or on the flip side millions Man U spent on pogba and he his no where near world class for me. Like I said luck and waves one day we will have the next superstar but you have to remember players of the zidan or Henry or Reinaldo quality come along may be once every 10 years at best. If I’m honest I don’t think there are many current players in the world that could have got in to wengers invincibles team.

  • Gunz

    This site was built because of the lack of a level playing field in games involving Arsenal. How can you make comparisons when Arsenal players (post “game 49”) have to work so much harder than other teams in the league, to even get a result. Different times, different environments how possible is it make a comparison. Sort out the MSM and PGMOL anti Arsenal bias, then we can make comparisons.

  • WalterBroeckx

    The PGMO players are not up to it that is a fact. I will only become critical the day that it evens out. Since we have been doing reviews it never even came close to being even out at the end of the season. I think we can say that on average some 10 points were lost due to wrong referee decisions.

  • Ant

    Wenger, is the one who say at the start of every season, all we need is two players.

  • insideright

    How a player reacts to being brought to a new country to play in a new team is one of the great gambles. Wenger got it right (in terms of return on investment) better than anyone else in his early years but he didn’t have to contend with financial doping at other clubs or the need to pay off the mortgage. Faced with those two disadvantages in his latter ten years he has performed way beyond any reasonable expectation.
    Referees willing to let less talented teams kick us off the park (just read interviews with the Neville brothers if you need confirmation) just added another layer of difficulty.
    Give the man another contract now and stop criticising Kroenke for doing exactly what he said he’d do which is to let the club continue to be run on the same principles that it has always been.

  • nicky

    @Chidi C.,
    You may be right but I feel the manager takes the blame too often.
    When the players take the field, the manager loses much of the control he had in the dressing room.
    Moods, worries, marital problems, they all take their toll.
    The club’s Board has to find a scapegoat and the manager is always the obvious target. 😉

  • Sammy The Snake

    Like I’ve said before, the blame can not be put on a single source. All the elements of AFC have come short, including the owner, the board, the manager, the players and even the fans.
    It’s too simplistic to put all or non of the responsibility on Wenger.

  • Menace

    The asp reckons that there is blame to be laid. Sorry to disappoint but there is no blame for a sloped pitch. If the pitches were not sloped Arsenal would be up there amongst the best.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    WALTER, I think your estimate of 10 points a season is seriously short of the mark. I have 17 points this year up to game 30 which was dwarfed by the 31 I had last year when we really should have won the League.

    Zuruvi, I agree that we don’t need to buy average players, we should concentrate on buying in only players that are demonstrably better than those we have. I don’t agree on your assessment of the Spurs squad, they only look as good as they are because, for some reason, the PGMO won’t punish their fouls, dives and cheating. They have a free pass every game and make maximum use of it. From memory it is well over a season since they had anyone sent off and they also benefit from a massive positive score on penalties.

  • Sb

    So Wenger is blameless yet he buys the players, picks the team, coaches them, pays them, prepares them for the matches, motivates them etc. If he’s not to be blamed, then what exactly does he do?
    Our team is so bad right? I guess they’re worse than the Leicester team that won last year, last year Chelsea was 4th, this year they win the league 18points ahead, yet Wenger is blameless. So why does he earn 9mil a year?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Andrew, Spurs last red card in the league was 9/5/15, watching them, I find that staggering.
    Interesting article, I think we have some excellent players, but our very best has been injured since last Oct, Kos, and now Wenger have admitted the squad have been unsettled over Wengers future, the manager also refers to the mysterious December incident.
    And then, the lack of a level playing field…..but as the club refuse to do anything about that, what can we do?
    We have had injuries, bad luck, so’me pretty terrible performances, week after week when we lost and all out rivals won, yet we still had a healthy points total, and still a cup final, if an injury hit one.
    If there are weaknesses in the squad, I expect those, and other things to be looked at and dealt with in the summer, including a rather decent , and pretty tough left sided,defender heading our way…net mike Riley has some Xhaka treatment reserved for him.
    With, or without Wenger, expect a big summer

  • Chris

    There is one element this posting forgets. The rule about ‘english’ players.
    Considering the beating our players are taking all year long, we find our team depleted.
    Yet if all we do is get expensive ‘star’ players – most of which are not considered english, we^ll have a ‘short staffed’ team
    What do we do then ?
    And I do not understand what I perceive as a passivity when considering what the ref reviews show is a total bias. I cannot believe that there are no avenues Arsenal can thread to make it’s voice heard and start pressuring the league.

    I mean the owner could have the best legal team in the world if he were to go for a fight….

    Yet I do agree we need a few more players on the level of Ozil and Alexis, because only 2 of them is not enough. They cannot be the ‘engine’ in every game, have the team rely again and again on their talent and energy, which apart from Alexis is not infinite.

    At some point, the strategy to have a team that is good enough and earns money is in contradiction with a team that is built to win.
    Then again, do we want instability…. ?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Do not think Ozil and Sanchez are our best, or most important players

  • omgarsenal

    Nice effort Zurivi BUT you have oversimplified the multifaceted and very complex issue of where we are at now and where we were in 2005. It is apples and oranges. Heere are the crucial factors that make a fair comparison almost impossible:

    1)Chelsea and City were minnows back then, United and AFC were the big fish in the little EPL pond. Today there are 4 clubs who can outspend, outbid and outperform Arsenal in almost every transfer competition: Chelsea, City, United and Liverpool and soon there may be more.

    2)12 years ago, Wenger and Arsenal were playing on a level pitch when it came to officiating. That dramatically changed in 2005 when Riley, cowtowing to SAF, buggered AFC in the 50th game and from then on, after his appointment as PIGMOB head porker officials began to turn the screws on AFC. We have more than enough proof of this for those who care to read the research.

    3)I agree 100% that we had to make do with who we could afford during the 5 years of the stadium build. That began to change when we bought Ozil,Alexis and Sanchez. with a combined spend of over 100m sterling, we were starting to catch up to the big spenders.

    4)Arsenal has always had a policy of strong youth development AND affordable transfers into the club since 2005. Not all of the youth potential has been realized but The Ox, Walcott, Bellerin, Szcezsny, Ramsey, Wilshere,coquelin et.al, we have developed some real talent (albeit some of them underperforming).

    5)We transferred in some very promising or already proven veterans like: Cech (best keeper we’ve had in 12 years), Xhaka, Mustafi, Per, Koscielny (best CB we’ve had in 12 years), Giroud, Wellbeck, etc.

    6)Comparing us to the Spuds is doing us a great injustice. WE have been in the top 4 since 17 years, THEY have been in our shadow since 1970….no comparison….one good season does not make them worthy to tie our shoelaces. My conviction is that they’ll have a very difficult year at Wembley.

    7)I don’t believe that we are that far off from regaining a trophy or two and a year in the Europa League might help rebuild our confidence. We could use another 24 goal scorer like Sanchez and a midfielder like Griezmann BUT what team is going to offer them up on the market and how can we compete with a team that can pay ANY price demanded? Isn’t so simple is it!

    8)IF we had not been deprived of some of our best players from injuries over the last 12 years, would we have achieved even more? Without a doubt imho but that is water under the bridge….had we had Santi this season, maybe we’d have earned 3-6 more points but then maybe not. It is so simple to pretend that the reasons are apparent for our disappointing season but they aren’t.

    This team can be great, but there are many factors that interfere, and the least of these are the manager, the owner, the Board, the trainers and medical staff, etc. The supporters who boo their own team, bring negative banners to the stadium and constantly whine about whatever their entitled asses want, hurt us far more than just the media and the aaa carping and negativity. As Wenger said the atmosphere at times was toxic and those who promoted this BS should be ashamed….they aren’t fir to be real Gooners.

  • para

    Fact is, Arsenal rested on it’s laurels (for what ever reason) and did not improve as a whole, as others, others who we topped in skill and style improved their teams.

    My personal thoughts are that the training and coaching has become ineffective, as oppositions analysed and saw through Arsenal, there was no where else to go for Arsenal, as they had no fallback.

    This was a grave mistake by Arsenal, and that alone has us where we are, note, not in terrible positions, but bad enough to make fans wonder, whats the next step?

    I think AW has lost some interest in football, after all it’s been a long time, and if he is anything like other “normal” people, this surely is the case.
    e.g. I (yes i am normal 🙂 ) am completely bored with computers(once my job for over 30 years) and although the skill is still there, the motivation has long gone.

    So Arsenal really misses AW’s partner D Dein, and my question is:
    Why does Arsenal not do what it takes to bring the other half of their success back?

  • Pat

    Arsene Wenger has said the squad should stay 90 per cent the same, and add a couple of players – but top quality.

    He is the one who sees them day in and day out and I trust his judgment.

    Let’s hope the people who spend the money at Arsenal agree with his point about getting a couple of top quality players.

    Apart from that, Walter assesses our points lost as a result of the refereeing as 10, Andrew assesses it at 17. While fans have now started drawing attention to poor refereeing during matches, I still think most do not factor in the enormous difference the referee bias makes to our results.

    Until that happens, our team will not get a fair reception from a lot of fans. And this will mean that the danger of negativity from the fans, and of this affecting the players, continues.

  • Sb last year Chelsea came in 10th. No one that I can recall has said that Wenger is blameless. I really do wonder where you get some of this stuff from.

  • Ant, that must be why he bought Xhaka, Mustafi, Holding and Perez. By the way, can you prove that he has said at the start of every season all we need is two players.

  • Yellow Canary

    Decent post. There are many factors involved but you’ve certainly nailed a primary one.

    @Andrew Crenshaw, where do you get these simplistic points totals? 31 pts last year! Are you serious? That means we’d have over 100 pts in total, something never done before. It’s nonsense and I think you know it subconsciously. All this is based on a specious science which I’ve tried to explain to you before. You claim we would have won games if for example we’d have justly been awarded a penalty in the first 15 minutes. I think this happened against Pool last season. We’d have won 1-0, calmly dismissing the next 75 minutes of the game. How can you predict what’ll happen in the next hour and a bit?

    Look at it this way. When we played Everton we lost Koscielny in the fist 20 minutes. Now if you were applying your “science” to Everton, as if you were an Everton fan, and let’s say the ref didn’t send Kos off you’d have made a point for Everton not losing because after all very few teams win with ten men. Yet we did. Can you see how utterly shambolic your logic is?

    Just because a decision is detrimental to us it still doesn’t ensure we’ll win the game, even if we get don’t get a penalty when we should. And of course there is the chance the penalty will be saved. I’d love to explain this to you over a pint down the pub seeing as you can’t grasp it.

  • Yellow Canary

    @OMG Arsenal. how do you know we were on a level playing field before 2005? We might have had bias in our favour. You don’t know, simple as. As there are no ref reports for every team in the league you can’t prove we’ve had it worse than anyone else, you like to perceive it that way because it’s easier than the grim reality.

    Whatever our stance on refs I think we all agree we need video technology and have done for decades.

    Liverpool can outspend us. Really? I don’t think so. They may attract better players because they’re in the CL and Klopp, I’m afraid, is a more exciting prospect than Wenger at this point in time so they have an advantage.

  • Menace

    omgarsenal – prior to 2005 there were cheating PGMOL officials. Wiley, Bennet & Riley were the ones that were the worst. I’m not a stats man but I’m sure if one goes back to matches that these crows officiated, one will find evidence. In those years I felt alone in picking out cheating & some racism from the officials. Generally, your assessment is in line with my thinking.

  • Menace

    Yellow Canary – Let us leave the past aside just to satisfy your argument. Let us only look at the coming FA Cup Final. Now we (most of us old geesers) on Untold believe that Anthony Taylor will tilt the field in Chavs favour. Please watch the game with some focus on when, what & where fouls are called & the effect of those not called, like pulls, pushes, shirt tugs, kicks to the heels, tackles from behind etc. Then as best as you can, report back with your views which will be unbiased (your own after all).

    We already have forecast wrongly in your view that we will probably win despite the tilt, cheating & diving (not to mention possible eye gouging by Costa).

  • Sb

    @tony, I’m responding to the article. Please point me to that sentence in the article that blames Wenger, and what it blames him for

  • Jammy J

    Yellow Canary “They may attract better players because Klopp, I’m afraid, is a more exciting prospect than Wenger” According to who? What player has said anything like that?

  • Quite right SB. It was you who said, “So Wenger is blameless”. I took that to be sarcastic, as in meaning, “of course he is to blame.” Apologies if I misunderstood you.

  • Ajay

    I personally thought this team had all the players necessary to win the league if not the champions league. But our tactical planning was poor and you can say non existent. And that cost us the season.

  • Sb

    And tnx, Chelsea was 10th, that was a mistake. This season they win the league 18points clear of arsenal. If Wenger should share in the blame please point me towards that article on untold that says this and indeed says why Wenger should share in the blame

  • Swapneel

    Have to agree here.
    But if it’s Arsenal who is screwed again and again with no one acknowledging the same, it’s Arsenal who has to raise their voices

  • Polo

    @ Zuruvi, a good read and I can sense your passion for AFC. Although, I do agree that Arsenal should buy top class players and I am sure the club wants to as well, however in my opinion there are many factors that inhibit getting these top class players for the following reasons:
    1. Limited number of top class players available, and the ones that are available usually get taken by the mega clubs such as Real Madrid, Barca, Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSG, Manchester Clubs. They prefer these clubs due to either status or money or both.
    2. Not many top class players want to play in EPL due to the physicality and match demand of the league. If we look at the EPL there are not many top class players. I think they don’t want to risk long term injuries or career ending injuries.
    3. Weather, if you are a top class player which would you choose, play in warm and sunny Spain or wet and cold England?
    4. Family and cultural consideration.

    This season the midfield and defense underperformed in my opinion due to three new additions, Xhaka, Mustafi, and Holdings. I believe once these players adapt to the league and have better understanding with their team mates, the defensive side will be good. I think next season Xhaka will be the key man for the team.

    I don’t think AW will get a striker, I think he will get a right back and left back and a defensive midfielder. My prediction, is that Alexis and Ozil will sign a contract extension because AW will stay. I can’t see Alexis leaving because he’s a type of player who wants to play every match and every minute, and I think only Arsenal under AW could assure him of this. Although Alexis is a great player but he tend to lose the ball a lot and then try to recover, I’m not convince he wil be given such leniency at other big clubs especially when there are other top class players in the squad.

  • ob1977

    I do like an article like this, it allows us all to indulge a little and see where we think our squad is going wrong and play a bit of champ manager in our heads…

    I do have to disagree and take a bit of an issue with the content though…

    You go down the route of the “none of our players would get in the spurs team route” and then pit out most played 11 against the 05 Arsenal team…

    So instead I will say this”

    Lloris over Cech.
    Bellerin over Walker.
    CB 2 or 3 of possibly Vertongen, Kos, and spurs other one.
    Maybe Rose (good WB but FB?) over Monreal.
    Xhaka over Dier.
    Santi over Dembele.
    Sanchez over Whoever plays LW for spurs.
    Ozil over Alli.
    Ericksen (spurs best) over any of our RW.
    Kane (although teach him how to pass) over Giroud.

    And as for 04 team, well we all may as well pack up and go home I everyone is always going to get compared to an invincible team.

    No team in the PL is comprised of WC players from top to bottom, we are no different…
    Hell even our unbeaten team wasn’t…

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