Last season for our opening league game of the season against West Bromwich Wobbleyou we played…
Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy
Walcott (Toure), Eboue, Denilson, Nasri
Adebayor, Bendtner (Van Persie)
From that line up we have now lost Toure, Adebayor and Nasri (for the moment), Theo (just announced as I write this – bad back).
We have gained
Cesc (late returning from summer matches)
Arshavin (not yet signed)
Vermalen (not yet signed)
Song (in the sense that at this stage a year ago he was not fully in contention for a place)
Wilshere (ditto, although he was an unused sub a year ago)
Ramsey (ditto, although he was an unused sub a year ago)
Vela (ditto, again an unused sub, but this year may not be ok having played for Mexico on wednesday)
Gibbs (yet to appear in first team a year ago)
Silvestre (not yet signed)
So we have gained 11 and lost four
Now that is contentious I know – especially in the case of Song, Vela, Wilshere, Ramsey, Vela, Gibbs, Silvestre. Most were at the club a year ago, but I really don’t think we could say that they were serious contenders for starting places.
(I am going to pause here – if you are reading this on Team Talk it has been nicked from Untold Arsenal).
But one year on I believe several of them are to be considered serious new signings. Indeed we could also include Traore.
But let us compromise a bit here. Three are out, either having gone or having a broken leg. In for certain, and without dispute must be
Four out, one of whom (Toure) came on as a sub and really didn’t have his best of seasons. Replaced by five very good players. And “very good” is an understatement for at least three if not four if not five of them.
Going on, four out, five excellent players in, plus behind them, in case of injury or change or format, five more who were not up to speed last season.
I call that progress.
But now, let’s think on a little further. The “four out” figure is unchangeable, and the five in is unchallengable. But think on this.
Denilson was playing last season, but I would nominate him as having gained hugely in experience. It is one thing to have a brilliant 27 year old who is not going to be any better, but I would argue that Denilson August 09 is a significantly better player than Denilson August 08. We know from the discussion yesterday that many disagree – I am just giving you my view here. I think we have a Denilson upgrade.
Vela, I am not going to count this game because of Mexico. But anyone who saw the Portsmouth away performance last season will know just how far he came last year. When he is not flying the globe he is going to be something else.
Wilshere, I would put in the incoming player list. There was no chance of him playing against WBA – he was in the squad for the experience of mixing with the big chaps, nothing more. But anyone who was at the Ems cup, or who saw it on TV will know this kid is something plus something plus something. In fact we knew it last year and the year before, but now he is ready. He is the real thing. Not for every game of course, not starting very often. But against a tired defence…
Ramsey, I am going to include as well. He was great last season when forced to play in the prelim round of the Champs League. Then he almost vanished. Now he seems to have achieved a lot more.
Gibbs I won’t include because he is so unlikely to play (Clichy being fit and rested after his injury).
So my list of players who are either newly available or so much improved as to be the equivalent is now…
The A List
The additional list
Of course you can argue with much of this – by which I mean that even most of the doomsday crowd won’t argue against most of the A list, but they can argue about the additional list. But – and this is the key point – even if the A list was all we had, we would be out with 4 players and in with 5 brilliant, for the game against WBA. And what a five that is.
If you want to be a bit more generous you add in one or more of Wilshere, Ramsey and Denilson.
I think we have come one hell of a long way since this opening game one year ago.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009