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As we approach our first quarter final, time to review the first third of the season

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By Ibrahima Fode NDIAYE

After one third of the season gone, lessons can be learned and remarks can be made.

The biggest lesson is injuries can wreck any team’s form. Indeed we have seen a Chelsea team that looked unbeatable with the A team, going through a relegation form without the centre back pairing and a couple of missing midfielders.

The first signal came when a depleted Newcastle United got the best of the west London outfit in their Stamford Bridge Stadium in the league cup. The pundits didn’t dwell on it as usual, but it was alarming that a Chelsea side with Terry, Obi Mikel, Anelka, Malouda, Benayoun, Saloum Kalou, Sturridge etc could concede 4 goals to Newcastle at home.

And later when they lost Alex and Terry at the back as well as Lampard and Essien in the middle they don’t seem strong anymore. The sad thing is instead of coming out and saying the Chelsea squad is thin and not good enough outside the first 15 players, pundits are talking about Wilkins and Abrahamovich and potatoes and eggs.

And while Manchester United haven’t lost yet a game of football, they have thrown up leads of two goals in injury times, they too got caught up with two goal leads.  Their away form is poor – and although they came good in the last game against Blackburn, there is still a lot to prove.

When injuries piled up relatively on Barcelona, they lost at home to Hercules, drew twice in the champions league and had a drastic home form in the liga. And during that period they almost only lost Xavi Hernandez.

In Italy, Inter Milan with injuries from Cambiasso, Maicon, Julio Cesar et al looked at times like a pub team while Bayern are paying a heavy price without his star players in the Bundesliga.

So this means the injuries Arsenal have been suffering down the years, would have the same if not worse effects on any given top team. The truth is, it’s always ok to slip up here and there during these parts of the season but in the final third if you are not more competitive than the rest, you can’t win a major trophy.

Last year we lost key players during that part. I hear Americans use the phrase “money time” in their sports, and I think that’s the right term. We have been decimated in the money time by injuries. I remember 2007-08, when we lost Bakary Sagna and Rosicky two of the most important players during the title push which resulted in us losing the title and to Liverpool in the CL. Last year we lost Gallas, Vermaelen, Cesc, Song, Ramsey, Van Persie, Walcott, Arshavin etc in that crucial part of the season so we lost to Barcelona in the CL and the EPL title.

I believe knowing the impact of injuries in a squad Wenger has been working hard to fight luck by building a squad that could face the severest of injury pile up. At the start of the season Vermaelen and Koscielny were being built to be the starting CB and Squilacci and Djourou have helped enormously and have looked better or equal to any CB pairing out there.

Song is quite another CB with Nordveit also coming through. For the full backs we have two very good ones at each  position with Gibbs pushing Clichy so strongly you would think with a bit of luck the French could see himself on the bench and Eboue being the truly best cover of a right back in world football.

Also although he is still out at the moment, Vermaelen is accustomed to playing left back so is Djourou to right back. In the middle we have so many players we could field an entire side of central midfielders : Cesc, Song, Diaby, Denilson, Wilshere, Ramsey, Frimpong, Eastmond, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin etc.

We are not lacking in forward positions either with Van Persie, Chamakh, Vela, Bendtner, Walcott, JET, Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky all having played one of the three forward positions. That’s a hell of a squad by any standard. No wonder the boss calls it his best ever.

Another lesson being learned by everybody is the need to rush towards youth. Sir FWord has stressed it’s the way forward so did the Italian Loti from West London, hell even Malouda is on it. Unluckily for all of them they are joining the master who is way ahead of them in youth project and young squads.

The finance is getting tight on every club bar the aristocratic cats of Espana and the Light blue of the Arabic desert but with the UEFA financial regulation even these two clubs may find it hard to keep on spending large transfer fees and large wages.  So all the big bad “sugar daddy” boys are trying to build a self sustainable plan. No need to remind everyone here the financial problems of Liverpool, or the Manchester-Glazers finances or even Barcelona not being able to pay player wages.

Ibrahima Fode NDIAYE

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Want to argue against Wenger and his philosophy? Then you must read this first, or your comment may not be published

18 comments to As we approach our first quarter final, time to review the first third of the season

  • walter

    Another great article Ibrahima. I love it and if you let me I just would like to add a little thing.

    I remember Wenger saying a couple of weeks ago: this is my strongest squad ever and then losing the next two games. And the AAA went mad and said : he has lost it, now we are sure. And the media and pundits laughed about it.

    But I my memory is still a bit correct I remember a couple of seasons ago that Wenger said: “Yes, I think we can go a whole season unbeaten”. And then to lose his next game. And the media laughed at him. What did that crazy Frenchman knew about football.

    For those who laughed or got angry with Wenger after what he said I would only suggest to wait a bit longer before losing it. I really do believe that this squad is the strongest he has had. For the moment we are rotating each game 7 players without really affecting our game that much. The only thing that is missing is that maybe they just need that one year more experience in some situations to really dominate things. There always will be some setbacks as the players are still human beings.

    But it is on his way, it will come.

  • Dark Prince

    I think your analysis on our defence was not right. Trully our attackin options are good but we lack quality in depth when it comes to defence. Eboue is error prone and i’m worried why we dont hav a young right back in our squad?? Clichy too is error prone at times. I’d really prefer Gibbs startin ahead of him. Only Vermaelen looks good enough in our defence. Koscielny has yet to prove and Squillaci is about average. To say that Squillaci and djourou pairing is as good as any other in epl is completly wrong. Djourou still needs a couple of years to show his true potential.

  • Paul C.

    Um, I am not so sure about this one. It is entitled “time to review the first third of the season” and yet there is not a single review of the first third of the season in the entire piece. This whole piece is really just things that have been discussed by all of us many, many times and doesnt really add anything new to the discussion.

    Apart from the usual “injuries are bad” I dont really see what this article is trying to say. What is the point of the article? What is the central assertion that is trying to be proved? Is it about injuries, or movement toward youth, or finances?

    There are general mistakes as well, such as discussing Chelsea at the start where it states that the first signs of Chelsea’s thin squad were seen against Newcastle in the League Cup, but then states how that Chelsea side contained a lot of their top players. So was it a sign of Chelsea’s thin squad, or simply a bad night for Chelsea? And then talking about our failed 07/08 Championship bid Rosicky and Sagna are mentioned as key absentees, but RvP and Eduardo (the 2 key absentees in my opinion) are not.

    Sorry, but this really isnt up to the normally high standards of Untold Arsenal, both in terms of writing ability and also in the strength of the argument.

  • critic

    why does dark prince keeps moaning about our defense???

    we have good replacement for tv5 and koscielny in the form of jd and squillaci. how many more do u want??? a team of central defenders??? u haven’t seen partnership between tv and kozzer yet and that’s down to injury to vermaelen. PPl team up against clichy and eboue doesn’t play regularly. Clichy does make some blunders but who doesn’t? have u seen patrice evra??? have u seen cole’s contribuition to city’s and sunderland’s goal???or do u just see highlights of arsenal??? and what makes u think JD needs another year???? he might come good in the next game and start hitting top form maybe be from next week. r u in coaching staff of arsenal???

    I think ur missing the point mate : “u defend like a team and attack like a team”. Arsenal r guilty of not defending as a team.

    @bexxy(from previous articles)
    how many central defenders charity have??? terry, alex and for ivanovic we can say he is half central defender which usually plays in right back position. So all in all they have two and a half central defenders.

    how many utd have?? vidic,ferdinand, brown(who?),evans, smalling(youngster). that makes it 4 as brown usually defend utd at the bench and used only when there’s a brawl on the pitch.

    from above i think u can assume(in ur world) that terry, alex, ivanovic are some what world class. Ferdinand(old as old trafford), vidic(truly) are proven and can be assumed world class.

    Arsenal have 1(in ur world) and that too is injured. Rest, as u say, don’t make u orgasm or r not good enough. But still we r just 2(two) points behind leaders and r in 3rd, level on pts with champions(ur wordings, i call them charity). we have conceded 17 with utd conceding 16.

    If u want numbers we had numbers last season, we had 5 central defenders : verma, gallas, fishhead(sorry can’t remember his name),sanderos, JD. But clearly we didn’t have depth. This season we have but injuries have taken away our proven defender. We have done remarkably well without him plus given the fact kozzer have missed few games due to red cards. If u don’t consider it deeper enuff then i suggest u to play fifa on ur playstation/Xbox and buy as many defender as u want and guess what they won’t get injured easily.

  • critic

    @paul c.
    don’t be too critical, u cud be ruining one’s writing career. Maybe he wanted to make us think on many things through just one article. I think heading of article is wrong, article is good otherwise.
    One has to admit our minds went through various things even though he didn’t write it. Gr8 thing in it’s own way.

  • Dark Prince

    @critic- you seem from the ignorant part of the fans who think nothing’s wrong with Arsenal. Infact, you might even believe that nothings wrong with Arsenal over last 5-6yrs. Its this ignorance which has cost us the titles.

    Also cant believe that u r sayin that we hav an excellent defence. Jus go to your nearest arsenal supporter and ask him/her – why haven’t we won a single trophy since last 6 yrs?? Not only them but any Arsenal supporter will say that our team is weak in defence. Plus the players become complacent after a few good wins.

    Also coming to the defence, Koscielny has not yet proven that he’s top class. He has played probably only 60% of d matches till now. TV5 is d only saviour in defence but he hasn’t played since last week of August. And if you are sayin to me that Squillaci and Djourou combo is as good as Rio and Vidic combo or Terry and Alex combo, then u probably dont know a thing about defence.

    And finally, to speak about our full backs, Clichy is error prone, its a fact. Or maybe you haven’t been watchin Arsenal’s matches. I admit that even Ashley Cole or even Van Der Sar can make mistakes. But they dont make it every alternate games. I still remember how Clichy cost us the Shakhtar game. And he made a mistake to give Aston Villa a lifeline few days back. Also its also known all over the world that neither of Sagna or Clichy can deliver crosses consistently like Evra or Ashley or Lahm or Alves or Maicon or Ramos.

    Infact any of the above full backs hav scored more goals than both Clichy and Sagna combined.

  • A Casual Observer

    @Dark Prince – Anecdotal evidence is good enough for me!

    You should write an article detailing which players are crap because everyone says so… use statistics too – like the kitty-kat adverts 8/10 gooners think we have a shit defence… etc.

    I’d read it not critisise at all.

    😉

  • Homer

    “…they too got caught up with two goal leads.”

    LOL. Well done!

  • Billy the Dog

    Um, might I just add that we have now got into the semi-finals? And I think I am right in saying that we have now been in more semi-finals of this cup, than any other team in the history of the universe.

    Not bad eh?

  • RedGooner

    Villa will equal us Billy I think if they qualify tomorrow BUT yes you are correct as Villa havent played yet 🙂

  • Bexxy

    @ critic

    There is room for improvement in goal and defence. Do far this week you have used words good and fine to describe some of the squad. Satisfied with that if you are happy with recent achievements. I’d rather improve the squad and get back amongst the trophies

  • Bexxy

    I remember many fans being upset at the prospect of a certain David Seaman coming in to replace the much loved Lukic. Now Lukic was better than “fine” but we improved the squad. That’s the way it should be.

  • Dark Prince

    Have to agree with Bexxy. We can only move forward. We have to improve as much as we can. And the 1st improvement should be in defence.

  • Ronnie Brown

    I think our defensive is good, just personally I’d like to see Koz & Djoure start, said this previously and they looked strong yesterday too, Koz is strong on the ground, and good in the air, Djoure is great in the air and good on the ground, they could compliment eachother very well,think they could be fantastic, especially with an inform Song in the middle, and either Wilshere, Diaby or Rosisky in the middle (someone who has some kind of defensive presence also, whether in physicality or pressing or etc). I’m not convinced with Squillaci yet, but am open to be, but I don’t think he’s as aggressive as Koz on the ground and not as good as Djoure in the air, if there was defensivly a weak link currently I’d say it was him even though these things can change, maybe he just isn’t in form right now and has more to offer or is adapting, but for now he wouldn’t be a starter for me.

  • Bexxy

    I think it is a brave (note, not foolish) decision not to make signings in January. It’s not an easy time to do it. We have missed that boat with that one. Fingers crossed that it’s a smoke screen.

  • Ronnie Brown

    Personally I don’t feel the need to make signings, we already have a very large squad where good players are going to miss out frequently, the right selection is an important issue though, I think the squad is good.

  • Ronnie on the issue of signings, remember that although we have some spare places in the “25” a number of our players will hit 21 during the rest of this season and so next season will be counted in the “25”. That would mean that any new purchases will almost certainly mean sales.

    Worse, we have other young players pushing for a place all the time. Even 5 Live last night in the radio commentary admitted to knowing about JET. And then there’s Benik Afobe.

  • echelle piscine

    Thanks for this page. I’ve read it in the metro with my phone and found it very interesting.