You might remember last summer. Everyone from the guys who write football blogs in their garden sheds to the journalists with the national daily papers said the same thing: in 2007/8 Arsenal will sink without trace.
In fact, to be precise the prediction was that Arsenal will drift down to mid-table and Tottenham will end up 4th.
You would have thought that with Arsenal having narrowed the gap between themselves and the top to something between four and seven points (depending on the outcomes on the final day) such commentators might pause for a moment or two.
After all those people were made to look like total nutters last year.
But no, they are off again, saying that the rigid pay structure, the desire to score to perfect goal, the lack of flexibility in dealing with players, and all that usual stuff, will again mean Arsenal will fail.
So here’s why they are wrong.
Arsenal played much of the first part of this season with a team that was in total about 14 years younger than Man U’s, and about 19 years younger than Chelsea’s. Then a number of their main players were injured, and Arsenal brought in even younger players, which made the team on occasion little beyond a bunch of teenagers. Game after game was played with five or six of the first team obvious starters missing.
Van Persie, the Eduardo went missing up front. Rosicky and Hleb both were out for spells, Sagna has been injured, we lost three players to Africa – right through to the final – and so the list goes on.
Now people can argue that other clubs had injuries too – of course they did – but what was unique was that we had such a young team, and the few older more experienced players were the ones who dropped out for Africa and through injury. If you team was young at the start, by January it was another 14 years younger!!!
It is unlikely that we will have such a terrible run of injuries to senior players again – but if we do, those coming up behind will be one year older, and a hell of a lot more experienced, because of the duty they have had this year.
In addition we will have at least two major new players, plus a whole string of players coming through. The series we are running on this web site of Arsenal’s new players shows this is the most exciting it has ever been. So far we’ve touched on a player who has been playing for Mexico and in the top league in Spain, a player who was player of the year in League One, and a player who is already getting space on the first team bench. Maybe not obvious first team choices, but players who will come into the league cup team while others press forward.
And the series on next year’s stars has only just started!
So my point is that a strong squad will get stronger – and that’s why Arsenal will be at the very top next season. Meanwhile, Man U are in dire financial trouble, Chelsea’s squad is old and needs refurbishing, and Liverpool are so removed from reality that they consider a year in which they do worse than the previous season in league and cup as “progress”.
If you still don’t believe, then consider Sagna and Flamini one year ago and ask
a) did you know who Sagna was, and how good he was. Remember he was the player of the year in his position this year.
b) what did you think of Flamini one year ago, when he was thinking of leaving.
c) Now spot the next Sagna (who could be playing anywhere at the moment) and the next Flamini (who is in the squad but not doing much).
Then finally remember – we had four players in the Team of the Year – and none of them was Flamini – nor even Hleb.
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