The world’s gone wrong: Let’s blame everyone. Reviewing the catastrophe

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The World’s Gone Wrong

By Walter Broeckx

Many fans are blaming everybody and everyone for the two defeats in the last two games.

A lot of them pretend they even knew it would happen before it all came to pass.  In reply I normally ask them to give me the numbers of the next draw of the Euro Millions lottery – if possible sent to me via private mail.

But it really is strange to see that the same team that run riot in the opening months of the league and played opponents off the field, as with the 1-6 win at Everton, suddenly now unable to bring a 2-0 advantage home.

But is this the same team?

I’ll move on to this in an instant. But I think it is fair to say that every manager in the game is putting his strongest team out in the first game of the season.

No matter if you are Wenger, Ferguson or Brown, you just take your 11 best players to form the team for the first game. Only if you have injuries picked up in the summer or left over from the season before do you change that.

But in fact when we played our first game we had no real troubles apart from Nasri being out with the broken leg he picked up in the training camp in Austria.

So Wenger went for this team

Sagna Galles Vermaelen Clichy
Song Denilson Cesc
Bendtner Van Persie Arshavin

This is according to the manager the best team he could pick and I think this is not far of the truth. And yesterday of this team was left:

Sagna X X Clichy
Bendtner X X

Seven players out.  And not just seven – seven of our best players out. Our complete midfield out, half of our defence out and 2/3 of our attack out.  And worse we had even lost some the most obvious reserves who could replace these players, such as Ramsey.

If you would look at a team as a human body it would mean that we only would have two legs and one arm.  No left arm, no head, and nothing that keeps the whole thing together: the body. If that would be what was left of your body, you would be a client to be buried swiftly and with style.

I can hear some people think : we are The Arsenal, we are a top team we should cope with those situations. So the question is, would every other top team handle this situation ?

Let us pretend that MIOU who should start with

Neville Ferdinand Vidic Evra (and they were left with Neville X X Evra) Carrick Fletcher Scholes (X X X)
Valencia Rooney Berbatov ( Valencia X X)

Or lets take Chelsea who start with

Ivanovic Terry Carvalho Cole (Ivanovic X X Cole)
Lampard Essien Mikel  ( X X X)
Anelka Drogba Malouda (Anelka X X)

Does anyone dare to say that Chelsea and MIOU would be stronger if they would have been in that position? If they had to fill in the gap with seven first team players out and not just seven but seven of the best players out, would they be able to cope with such a situation?

For those who say : “yes they would”; I would like to suggest to give me the names that would fill the gap without any loss of quality. You can use the comment section.

I think they also would struggle because as I said before it is much easier to get a replacement for a player, than it is to get a good replacement for a player like Cesc, Van Persie, Drogba, Lampard, Rooney, Ferdinand, ….

Some will say: “you see told you so we just had to buy.” Yes we could have bought a player in the same category as Cesc. Let’s see… we could have gone for Xavi or Iniesta or Kaka. Yeah they would come any second to sit on our bench and wait for Cesc breaking a leg.

Or we could have replaced Van Persie with… Messi or Ibrahimovic or why not Ronaldo.

Once again would they come and be on the bench just waiting for some injury to happen?

I think even the most buy, buy, buy fan would agree that it is rather unlikely for any of these players to come to the Arsenal because we simply can not afford them for the moment.

That’s nothing to be ashamed of, it is just a fact. We can not afford those players for the moment and they will not leave their team.  Why would they? World class players just don’t come to a team to sit on the bench. But to replace the world class players we have like Cesc, Van Persie, Gallas, Arshavin with other world class players is a thing that no team really can do.

Wenger does not use the injuries as an excuse, I hear some people thinking. I agree, but I am not Wenger and I can speak more free than he can. It is Wenger’s task to built a team and not to destroy a team. It is his task to give players confidence and you don’t give confidence to players when you say: well in fact I don’t want to play him but Cesc is out so we just have to do with him but he’s only second choice. This would undermine the players confidence and would do much harm to the players and the team.

So my conclusion is that no team could cope with so many injuries to such senior players, right at the crucial time of the season. The only thing that is so hurting is that even with all those players out during this season and for the moment, we still could have been challenging right till the last day of the season.


Elsewhere in our retrospective section….

The Origins of Corruption. How the football league has been corrupt since its very first season.

An analysis of statistics. A look back to the Tiny Totts game

Ten minutes of insanityA retrospective on the Wigan game



Full index at

And you can read all about my book at

63 Replies to “The world’s gone wrong: Let’s blame everyone. Reviewing the catastrophe”

  1. Walter, great analysis!
    When you put it like that I think that its not too hard to see why those of us who retain trust in lord Wenger remain positive about this team. I’d add to your analysis the point too that at the start of the season Bendtner was viewed by most of us very much as a fringe player, not an immediate first choice, so the fact that he’s emerged as someone capable of leading the line at the tough end of the season is also a big plus!
    I’ve not commented on any article for a while, but have just read through the reams of comments since the Wigan debacle, and just want to point out once more that the only thing thats caused this (media hyped) furore about Arsenals “failure” at the tail end of this season is an over inflated sense of expectation and poor perspective!
    I read on one of the comments someone (cant remember who, sorry) say that he thinks we should win the league about once every 4 or 5 years. Before Wenger came we’d won the league just 10 times, and 5 of those came in the golden era of the 30’s. Since Wenger came we have won it 3 times and never finished outside the top 4. We have been to 2 European finals (only 1 less than in our entire history up to that point). We have won 2 league and cup doubles, and finished a season unbeaten in the league. Without crunching the numbers properly I’d suggest that on average under Wenger we’re doing “better than average”, and I for one do not wish to throw that away in a blind panic. History will provide the perspective to see whether these last few years without a trophy represent nothing more than a time of preparation for a new challenge or a time of catastrophic destruction and doom. (And I know which my money is on!)

  2. Great analysis, Walter! Yes, our first team would’ve beaten Tottenham and Wigan! But instead of blaming injuries, why don’t we wonder WHY we went into a season without cover at centre-back and defensive midfield?

  3. Let’s look at it from the William Gallas POV:

    1. William Gallas has NEVER completed a full season with us
    2. William Gallas ALWAYS gets soft-tissue injuries that rule him out for months
    3. William Gallas was rushed back for the Barcelona game, and re-injured his hamstring
    4. William Gallas is out for the rest of the season.

    Now, why was William Gallas rushed back into the team? Because our back-up centre back is Sol Campbell, who at 35, cannot front up for more than 1 game a week. And our second back-up is Mikael Silvestre, who is a liability. If we had had a match-fit, experienced centre-back as back up, we wouldn’t have needed to rush Gallas into the team, and he would’ve been fit for Tottenham and Wigan, and we would’ve had a better chance of winning those games.

    So at the start of the season, when Djourou was out for the season, Vermaelen was new, Silvestre was crap, and Senderos was looking to leave, why didn’t we sign another centre-back? In the January transfer window, when Djourou was out for the season, Silvestre was crap, Senderos was out on loan, and Campbell was old and unfit, why didn’t we sign someone, just in case Vermaelen and Gallas were both out injured?

  4. Let’s look at it from the van Persie POV:

    1. van Persie is a gun
    2. van Persie is injury-prone
    3. van Persie has never completed a full season with Arsenal
    4. van Persie’s understudies this year were Bendtner, who is 22 and still finding himself, and Eduardo, who can’t play as a lone-striker in a 4-3-3.

    First ten games, we were flying. van Persie was assisting, then van Persie was scoring, and Arsenal were rocking. Then van Persie gets hit by a bad tackle, and is out for the season. His injury is misdiagnosed, treatment is botched, and he’s wasted a month before he’s given the surgery he requires.

    Into the breach, steps Bendy. Bendy tries, does alright, gets injured. Up steps Arshavin, who tries, does alright, gets jaded and pissed off. Eduardo doesn’t even step off the bench. We stumble along in 3rd, dropping points at crucial moments because we don’t have the skill of a van Persie at the top of the 4-3-3. But because of the weakness of our opponents, we hang onto 3rd. But you could say that if we had a fit van Persie throughout the season, we would be in the lead at this moment.

    The question you’ve got to ask yourself is why we still regard van Persie as a 30+ league game player? He has never finished a season with us. He’s always been injured. He’s a great talent, but he’s a luxury player. It’s madness to build a team around him, and it’s stupidly optimistic to go into a season planning on him playing 30+ games a season. I love the idea of getting Chamakh, because while he’s not “Messi, Ibrahimovic or Ronaldo”, he IS an experienced player who can play lone-striker in a 4-3-3. That is something we desperately needed when van Persie was out.

    The other question you’ve got to ask is whether van Persie’s botched injury had an effect. If van Persie had received surgery a month sooner, would we still be in the title race? We saw how effective he was against Tottenham. Now, imagine a fit van Persie against Birmingham, Tottenham and Wigan. We probably would’ve won those games, and we probably would still be in the race.

  5. The new hot discussion topic amongst people is that Wenger should learn from Jose how to beat Barca. Let Jose play with half his team members. They just forget that the same Inter was beaten by Barca in the group rounds.

    What would be hillarious is that people asking Wenger to learn from Redknapp if he manages to beat Man U as he has already beaten Chelsea.

  6. Finally, let’s look at it from Song Billong’s POV:

    1. Song is maturing as a great defensive midfielder
    2. Song is versatile and can play DM or CB
    3. Song was always going to play ANC in January
    4. There are no backups for Alexandre Song Billong

    I like Song. He has the makings of a great DM. He fits this Arsenal side well because he covers for the centre-backs when they go on their marauding runs. He still has his faults, but he’s become pivotal for the team.

    Hoever, there are no backups for him. Diaby doesn’t have the discipline or the work-rate. Denilson doesn’t have the tackling ability, strength or work-rate. Playing Nasri or Ramsey there would be a waste. We ended up playing Craig Eastmond, a kid of 18, in that position because we didn’t have a natural defensive midfielder.

    Why didn’t we have a back-up? We knew Song was going to leave for the ANC. We had plenty of time to think about it. Ideally, we needed someone would could play centre-back and defensive midfield, in order to cover for Gallas and Vermaelen as well. Why didn’t we get anyone?

  7. My contention is that we should’ve been prepared for injuries. It’s not a surprise that Arsenal will have injuries. We’ve been buying injury prone players, and we have an incompetent medical staff. We have had bad injuries for 4 or 5 years. I would’ve thought that after a while, we would’ve assumed that you can’t go into a season without a substitute for every position.

    It’s like walking into the Sahara Desert without a water bottle, and then blaming your death on the hot weather. Yes, it’s unfortunate that the Sahara just happens to be dry and unrelentingly sunny, but most sensible people foresee that they’d get thirsty and bring a water bottle along.

  8. Abhishek, the ways to beat Barcelona:

    1. Defend narrow and deep
    2. Attack them at their flanks
    3. Get your forwards and midfielders to press
    4. Be clinical on the counter-attack
    5. Don’t play Almunia or Fabianski in goal
    6. Don’t play Silvestre at centre-back
    7. Hope Barcelona have just got off a 19 hour bus trip

  9. Well endowed and do you have any names of players to fill those places WITHOUT loss of quality ?
    I understand what you say but do you think that let’s say Lucio who I think is a great centre back would he come over to us just to sit on the bench waiting for the annual Gallas injury to come ?

    No TOP players don’t come to a team to sit on the bench. But that is my point exactly. Look at Diarra 2 seasons ago and I still am not convinced that he actually is world class but he thought it himself and so he caused so much trouble that Wenger had to get rid of him in order to keep the team together.

    No world class player will come to sit on the bench waiting for another world class player to get injured. And if you really think we could have a bench with Maicon, Lucio, Puyol, Abidal, Xavi, Kaka, Van Bommel, Ronaldo, Messi just to name a few you are not of this world.

    And if those would be on our bench we would not suffer from the injuries we face now but our first team starters would not go to sit on the bench in another team and so would they.

    To have two equally strong teams of 11 players is maybe the ultimate dream of any manager but even then you could be faced with the fact that for example both your defensive midfielders get injured at the same time. So 3 equally strong teams ? As we have 4 centre backs out for the moment but even for that 3rd team we cannot use Campbell and Silvestre as backup, they have to be better. How far can you go ? And who will pay it ? And who wants to come to Arsenal as a worldclass player so be 5th choice centre back ?

  10. Walter, did you honestly think that it was a wise decision to go into a full season with Gallas and Vermaelen at centre-back with no back-up, Song at defensive midfield with no back-up, and van Persie at centre-forward with only Bendy as back-up?

    We have backups in most areas of the field. On the flanks we have Arshavin, Nasri, Bendy, Walcott, Eboue, Rosicky, Eduardo, Vela (if he plays). Attacking mids, we have Diaby, Cesc, Denilson, Rosicky, Nasri, Ramsey.

    What do we have at defensive midfield? Song… and maybe Eastmond

    What do we have at centre-back? Vermaelen, Gallas, Silvestre, Campbell.

    I’m not asking for Lucio (and if I was, I’d want to kick out Gallas). I’m not asking for Essien (and if I was, I’d kick out Song). I’m asking for a couple of squad players who can be relied upon to pull a shift and do a job. We have them in other positions. You’re putting words in my mouth when you say I want “world-class players”. I want the equivalent of Chamakh at DM and CB.

    And with Diarra, why didn’t we send him out on loan, and then recall him when Flamini did a runner and Gilberto left for Greece? Diarra was someone I would’ve loved to see at Arsenal. He’s positionally sound, great in a tackle, neat passer…. and he can deputise at full-back if needed.

  11. Separate subject and forgive me if Tony or Walter have covered this elsewhere but recent press comment makes much of the relatively elevated level of the Arsenal wage bill. I guess the purpose is to remove any of the perceived moral high ground from us. Is there any context we should be looking at these numbers in? Are they right? I am conscious that we have tended to pay generously for younger players and keep them on longish term contracts to preserve their asset value.
    Only comment on last night’s result is that top flight players are like thoroughbred racehorses and to be travelling for so long by coach (notwithstanding break and luxury) would definitely take its toll on subsequent performance. I would not be handing out the garlands to Mourinho yet.

  12. You know, Walter, the “replacement” player doesn’t have to stay on the bench till the “first team” player is injured. We could rotate and rest players so they stay fresh for the entire campaign, and so that we can actually challenge for the FA cup as well. I don’t think winning a cup would be a bad thing at all for us. We play at least 46 matches a year, and usually many more. It’s ridiculous to assume that any player can play that many matches season after season (we have no replacement for Song as pointed out), and madness to assume that several players can do it (Silvestre! for Gallas/Vermaelan).
    I know most fans probably know much less than Wenger about football, and I definitely fall in that category, but my beef with the Wigan defeat is not so much that the players couldn’t, but it seemed like they wouldn’t. No one is saying that Diaby, for example, has no talent, and at many times this season he has seemed like the midfield powerhouse we want, but he is inconsistent. Yes, he is young, and he will probably get better, but if we had a more experienced man alongside him, his inconsistencies would be covered and he would still be learning.

  13. @well-endowed goner

    You argue your points well. However, allow me to differ.

    CB. Silvestre is our sixth choice CB. Gallas, Vermaelen, Djourou, Song, and Campbell/Senderos all come before him. Silvestre is a French international. If a player of his calibre is not good enough to be our sixth choice, then you are setting us standards that we will not be able to achieve. Silvestre will leave this summer, not because we kick him out, rather that he wants to play and is unwilling to be our sixth choice.

    Campbell was a great signing because he was meant to be temporary. Remember we have Nordtveit returning next year.

    Centre Forward. I firstly would like to take exception with your characterisation of RvP as injury prone. This injury was as the result of an over-zealous second leg tackle. His previous injury was a twist. At the start of the season our options for CF were 1. RvP, 2 Edu, 3 Bendtner, 4) Walcott, 5) Vela. That all 5 were injured and we needed AA to play up front was a catastrophe. Should we buy for catastrophic moments such as these? I don’t think so. I think the only reason we are getting Chamakh is that AW has given up on Edu.

    If our skilful players are going to consistently get the kind of treatment that Ridgewell handed out to Walcott, then a squad of 40 will not be big enough for Arsenal.
    DM. We have had our share of DMs. We had Diarra and Gilberto leave because they didn’t want to sit on the bench. At the start of the season we had Song backed up by Denilson. AW also thought Ramsey or Diaby could do a job there. Next year we have Djourou and Nordtveit who love to play there. Should AW have found another 35 year old to cover during the ACN? I don’t think so.

    In conclusion you say “I would’ve thought that after a while, we would’ve assumed that you can’t go into a season without a substitute for every position.” We went into this season with a 29 man first team squad.
    • 4 goalkeepers – two of whom were youngsters
    • 2 RB – Sagna and Eboue
    • 4 CB – Gallas, Vermaelen, Senderos and Silvestre. Song also available as cover.
    • 3 LB – Clichy, Gibbs and Traore
    • 2 DM – Song and Denilson
    • 5 Central midfielders – Cesc, Diaby, Ramsey, Wilshere and Merida. Nasri, Rosicky and Denilson also available as cover
    • 5 Wide players – Walcott, Vela, AA, Nasri and Rosicky. Edu, Bendtner and Eboue also available as cover
    • 3 CF – RvP, Bendtner and Edu. Walcott and Vela also available as cover
    • The injured Djourou was the 29th.
    We did go into the season with a substitute for every position. In most cases, more than one.

  14. Cape gooner:

    1. At CB, going into the season: Gallas (never finished a season with us), Vermaelen (unproven) Djourou (out for the season), Senderos (out of favour), Silvestre (liability).
    2. Song isn’t as CB. He’s our only DM. It’s disingenuous to describe him as a CB because he’s need at DM.
    3. Silvestre is a liability. He was a liability last season. Signing him was a mistake. The fact that you think we can replace him with a 19 year old kid who can’t break into a Norwegian club side, and not decrease in ability, is testament to that.
    4. van Persie IS injury-prone. How many seasons has he been at the Arsenal? Has he ever completed a full season with us?
    5. Those forwards are fine for a 4-4-2. But when we switched to a 4-3-3, we needed someone to play as a lone-striker. Bendtner can do it. van Persie can do it. Eduardo isn’t fast enough or strong enough to do it. Walcott doesn’t have the nous for it. Vela doesn’t have Wenger’s favour. Which means we headed into the season with van Persie and Bendtner.
    6. I think it’s been shown conclusively that Denilson, Diaby and Ramsey can’t play that role. Not now. Not this year. But we were going to be without Song for a month in ANC. So yes, we needed someone there. As I said previously, DM/CB player.
    7. Did you honestly think we were fine with Silvestre and Senderos as our CB replacements, with no one to replace Song, and only Bendtner as a replacement for van Persie? Let’s take our pro-Wenger, anti-Wenger hats off for a second, and tell me honestly, do you think we were fully prepared?

  15. • 4 goalkeepers – two of whom were youngsters
    • 2 RB – Sagna and Eboue
    • 4 CB – Gallas, Vermaelen, Senderos and Silvestre. Song also available as cover.
    • 3 LB – Clichy, Gibbs and Traore
    • 2 DM – Song and Denilson
    • 5 Central midfielders – Cesc, Diaby, Ramsey, Wilshere and Merida. Nasri, Rosicky and Denilson also available as cover
    • 5 Wide players – Walcott, Vela, AA, Nasri and Rosicky. Edu, Bendtner and Eboue also available as cover
    • 3 CF – RvP, Bendtner and Edu. Walcott and Vela also available as cover
    • The injured Djourou was the 29th.

    Of your start of season squad:

    1. Gibbs, Traore, Ramsey, Wilshere, Merida, Vela are kids. Wilshere was sent on loan, Vela and Merida have hardly play a senior game. Gibbs and Ramsey are out injured, and where is Traore? Out on loan again?

    2. Silvestre is bad. He loses more games for us than he saves. Senderos was so disregarded that he didn’t play in the first half of the season, and he was sent to Everton in the second half.

    3. Denilson was tried as a DM last season, and failed miserably. This season, he’s been playing as the link-man, the safe option out when a player is being harassed on the ball. He is NOT a defensive midfielder.

  16. Well, since song just improve greatly as DM this season, I don’t even wanna imagine if, yeah, if he don’t improve and stay the same as he from last season….. Wow , we don’t even have a DM …..

  17. Starting line-up of players unavailable for the Wigan Game through injury.


    Vermaelen Gallas Djourou Gibbs

    Denilson Fabregas

    Ramsey RvP Arshavin

    Says it all really. Ok, I’m trying to fit players in a bit but Vermaelen could play right back and I’m sure Ramsey has played in the front three before. Not too sure of the Almunia issue, was he injured? But that’s not really the point, the point is, look at what we could have had.

  18. Once Sol was signed, MS was 6th choice CB,


    Any fair and genuine assesment of the season, of the CB ‘situation’, would have to factor in the signing of Sol, & the timing.

    If not.
    Why not?

    A mypoic argument.

  19. On a total tangent:

    It’s funny, people are now waking up to the fact that the Wembley pitch is ‘dangerous’.

    But aren’t willing to ask how the FA can spend nearly 1bn on a stadium, that doesn’t have a pitch!

    I think the new Wembley is the best thing to happen to the FA. It might spell their D**M.

  20. Sorry,

    Sol is mentioned above.
    I have no idea why he didn’t play against Barca.
    He played against Spurs and against Wigan.

    So it seems that he can play twice a week, if required.

  21. t00farg0ne, did you even read my posts?

    Finsbury, at the time of the Campbell signing, we had: Vermaelen, Gallas, Silvestre. Song (when unavailable) is needed at DM. Senderos when to Everton on loan. Djourou was injured. So we had a 35 year old who can’t play twice a week as our 3rd choice player, and Silvestre as our 4th choice. Gallas had his customary end of season hamstring injury, and then we had a first choice pairing of Vermaelen and Campbell, with a back-up of Silvestre. And Wenger was so untrusting of Silvestre that he was willing to drop Song to CB and play Diaby in the DM role. So the question remains, why did we go into the season so short of centre-backs, and why did we do through the January period without reinforcements?

    Why are you people so dense? It’s like talking to deaf sheep.

  22. Carefully there Well Endowned Gooner, you are making far to much sense. That could get you banned from this site. Didn’t you know that I’d we ever sign a player it is going to cost at least a hundred million pounds and will bankrupt the club – if you want that you must hate Arsenal. Why do you hate Arsenal so much? Why? We are managed by a deity not a mere human and whatever he does is right, just sit in the corner and accept that. Resistance is futile.

    Don’t worry though, everyone else will be bankrupt by the weekend and we will win everything without ever having to play a game!

  23. But Sol just played twice a week.

    Please don’t be abusive when you appear unable to read WEG.

    I understood you’re point. I just made an observation that Sol is not as inhibited a squad player as you’re saying. I could be wrong, but, he did just play twice in a week. I saw it.

    There’s no need to sound make yourself sound like an ArsenalHole in order to express a passionate opinion about Arsenal.

  24. e.g.


    There’s a whole essay to be written about what happened with Senderos.
    Care to make any effort, any thoughts about what went on there WEG? Any research?

    Was he given the ruff stuff from AW like Ade after the NB52 headbutt, or does he not want to play for AFC anymore? When was it decided he wouldn’t play for AFC again?

    I don’t know. How can I comment?

  25. Yes well-endowed gooner, i did read your posts. The point is that we could probably cope losing Song, Gallas and Vermaelen at once. We could probably cope losing AA, RvP and Cesc at once. Players will fill in and the other world class players will make up for the loss of a couple of world class players. You can’t expect any club to lose 6 players of that quality at the same time and throw in Denilson and Almunia to boot and it not to affect them. We’ve done quite well considering.

    Look how much Man Utd struggle without one player (Rooney).

  26. WEG, you ask, “So the question remains, why did we go into the season so short of centre-backs, and why did we do through the January period without reinforcements?”

    So using your logic, here’s my question: What would happen if we had a big squad like you demand, with world-class replacements on the bench in late-August, reinforcements in January, yet still a relatively good year concerning injuries?

    You make it sound like you know all the answers, but your question is silly (as is mine) because it’s not based on anything but opinionated conjecture.

    It’s impossible to predict the future, but so easy to look back on and criticize the past. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

  27. Well endowed, we went into the season, and through the winter transfer, without the additional centre backs, because the manager could not find any who were

    a) better than what we had
    b) available at a reasonable (rather than an inflated) price
    c) willing to play for us
    d) willing to accept an Arsenal salary
    e) willing to accept that they would possibly not be first choice if Gallas and Vermaelen were fit

    A few notes on that

    1. I think the managers of several other clubs in the top 7 or 8 were in the same position of wanting back up in this position.
    2. Re inflated salaries and fees, in all markets when the seller knows you are fairly desperate he puts up the costs. And although we might have got a person in to play, we would have been lumbered with the salary for a number of years (since such a player will often stay put once having got a big salary and no one else would want to buy him). Also it would have changed our salary structure as others would have said, “if he has that amount, I want it too”).
    3. On salaries we are not far behind the top two salary payers in the EPL.
    4. If we had found such a player who met all those conditions and we played him ahead of Gallas, Gallas would certainly be walking now – which of course he might do anyway.

    On the speculation side, we have had several occasions where Wenger has identified exactly the right player, and has waited for him – even if it means an uncomfortable year. That may be happening here. I don’t know, but it is possible.

    My view is that since several other clubs were looking for class centre halves (not just in England but in Italy, Spain and elsewhere) and since Chelsea, and Man City can pay anything they want, we were bound to struggle.

    Like all businesses this is a balancing act and one makes predictions. For years the notion has been two quality players for the centre back position, and two extras who don’t mind if they don’t get other games (especially handy if one of them can play in another position).

    This year we went in with that, plus Song, who turns out to be an excellent full back in the making.

    And it turned out not to be enough. But I still don’t know who we could have signed who meets the criteria above

  28. Well-endo…I’ll call you WEG ok.
    The answer to your question is money and lack thereof. The board opted to use almost £130,000,000 to pay down our stadium/ development debts to guarantee we meet UEFA’s new standards .

    Now you are angry I get that but remember that AW will be the one taking the flak for that whilst the board voted on the spending.
    Personally I think they may have been right and nothing would please Platini more than being able to deny us a UEFA licence so that issue had to be dealt with beyond any shred of a possibility that we in breach of any guidelines.

    So the reason we spent nothing in January and very little in the summer was NO MONEY. Yes it is that simple.
    Blame Wenger if you like. Blame the board. Blame and insult your fellow posters here if it makes you feel better. It wont change the facts.

    They spent the money to secure our future. Disgraceful isnt it!?
    they should have blown it more players to make our fans feel better when they post on the internet. After all internet top trumps is far more important than a healthy balance sheet eh..

  29. Walter: I would like your opinion of Arsene using Sylvester against Wigan. I feel that every time he takes the field we are extremely vulnerable. Do you think it would have been better to give one of our youngsters (Tom Cruise, etc.) a run out at CB? Obviously they will not have Sylvesters experience but they will have more pace, energy, height (in Cruise’s case). Additionally, with Sol partnering him and providing guidance and support, I think the lack of experience would have been a minimal factor.
    Additionally, who do we have in the reserves or youth team that are CBs (I think Cruise is more of a fullback)?
    Really enjoy reading your articles.

    Scott (American gooner)

  30. @well-endowed goner
    “So the question remains, why did we go into the season so short of centre-backs, and why did we do through the January period without reinforcements?”
    Your argument is built on your opinions, not on facts. Gallas and Vermaelen played for the entire first half of the season. Senderos was kept, even though out of favour, only as a 5th choice backup. Silvestre is not considered a liability by AW; nor by me. He is a world class fourth choice! AW thinks a lot of Denilson; so do many on this site. His performances have dropped off since his back injury, but he played very well last season and at the beginning of this season. Your contention that “Denilson was tried as a DM last season, and failed miserably” has been thoroughly debunked on this site.

    Campbell’s performances have moved him up to third choice CB, leaving Silvestre as fifth choice. He is world champion fifth choice!

    I understand that you think poorly of him. You are entitled to that opinion. Let us assume that we bought Upson. At the start of the new season we would have Djourou, Upson and Campbell fighting for a place that conceivably wouldn’t appear for half a season. Is that good man management?
    So to answer your question, we were not short of CBs. We had two at top 4 standard and two at the same standard as Kyrgiakos or Evans or O’Shea. We had further cover with Song.

  31. Nice perspective put on the injury crisis there. And indeed, Chelsea and Man Utd look so darn different when you put all those crosses in their outfield players.

    And well-endowed gooner, I’ve only one thing to say: the luxury of hindsight in knowing how things have turned out is much easier to talk about than the process of planning with foresight.

  32. I think WEG’s point is: if everyone knows Gallas will pick up an injury, if everyone knows Senderos won’t play, if everyone knows that Silvestre is a shocking option and if we know that Djourou is out for the season… Why no utility player or basic cover for CB?

    It was a mistake from Wenger.

    No shame in that – everyone makes mistakes.

    Our injury list is awful, no other team in the league would have been able to cope either, so let’s not get carried away… That said – the injuries are also entirely predictable.

  33. “So to answer your question, we were not short of CBs. We had two at top 4 standard and two at the same standard as Kyrgiakos or Evans or O’Shea. We had further cover with Song.”

    I’d disagree here. Silvestre isn’t in this category. Sol will struggle to perform week in week out, he also can’t really be placed in this category as everyday cover… so we didn’t actually have solid cover in this area – we were always taking a risk at CB and that risk didn’t pay off.

    It must be tough finding players in the January window who will compliment the team and not cost an arm and a leg. But in hindsight we should have had better cover than Silvestre at CB.

    Denilson has worked hard this season, I think it would be harsh to level too much criticism at him, but DM seems another area we will need to strengthen over the summer – again very tough to find players that are happy to play bit parts through the season, but that’s the manager’s job.

  34. Sol WAS on the team sheet for the last two games, last Sunday and Wednesday.

    Sol IS playing as every day cover.

    And, he’s playing better then a lot of younger CB’s around. No doubt about it.

    Are these Trolls,

    “Lying by omission?”

  35. Although, can he cope with Tevez and Ade whilst looking after MS at the same time?

    That is a different question, and one I’d ask of any CB!

    Bloody hell…

  36. Sol has played back to back games – it was never the manager’s intention and at his age It is unlikely he could sustain this for too long.

    Pretty harsh calling me a troll, but thanks for e welcome.

  37. Sorry, Mat B, didn’t mean to call you a Troll, but some are now wondering if Sol is on the plane to the WC.
    Not me, but it would make a nice story.

  38. I think that’s my point – a lot is being asked of Sol. It’s a very unfortunate situation having Both our CBs injured at once… But again, not entirely surprising!

  39. Mathew B,
    I’m just trying to clarify, the situation with Sol is not ideal, but he is capable of it. There isn’t any choice now anyway!

  40. I think he’s capable if he has some youth and determination next to him. Silvestre doesn’t really offer that, they will bit have to use every trick in the book to keep Ade and Tevez at bay.

    Agreed, that there is no choice.

    It’s been a crazy season, disappointing in the end, but that’s really only after having overachieved for so much of it.

    I’m hoping for a determined few performances from the team to end the season on a high note.

  41. Sorry again Matthew B, but as you can see above, there’s no difficulty in having a conversation. I can agree with you, but I can also add that I think that Sol has been a good signing, and as with any returning athlete he’s got stronger with every game.
    He has. No doubt about it. Credit should be given where it’s due if yuo want to make a balanced critique.

    WEG is a troll

    At least, he conducts himself like a Troll.

    Same old tired sounding ‘defensicve drills’ building up to an attempted offensive discharge.

    WEG raises certain questions, & then refuses to answer them.

  42. Sorry for my awful spelling – this damn thing keeps correcting my perfect English.

  43. Well, it’s easy to criticise the team and offer solutions that cost millions of pounds without considering the various issues that Wenger has to deal with.

    I always smile when people start suggesting players. That’s great, but do these players want to join Arsenal, will they join on our wage structure, will they add something to the team and accept a bit part role for much of the season?

    I’ll leave the solutions to Wenger, he does seem to have a bit more experience in this area.

    I do think the manager has some big decisions to make this summer, it’s clear we need to strengthen, but that unfortunately will mean some of our players will be disappointed… or sold.

    Looking back over season (though we still have a lot of work to do in the next three games), I’d say it’s better to be disappointed than have the nondescript season the press and all the doom and gloom merchants were predicting for us.

  44. Most of us had a bad feeling before the wigan game, but the shocking thing was the way we lost it. It’s not acceptable even with so called world class silvestre.

    And sorry walter neither chelsea nor utd wud have lost the game with their 2nd team after leading for 80 minutes.

  45. Fair points and arguments all the way down, an interesting indicment that our best 11 does not include a goalkeeper! I think there is a fundemental issue that we all seem to be missing. Our goalkeepers seem to suffer similar faults, catching crosses, decision making etc. One of Arseblogs Arsecasts imagined our goalkeepers being trained at clown school, something the last week has not disproved… Should we be questioning the coaching? Something that probably can be extended to the whole team, too many goals we have conceded have been down to very basic errors, all of the first choice back four are very good players, but the unit seems to be less than the sum of it’s parts. Surely, this can be improved by coaching being improved? My personal belief is that the Arsenal should move heaven and earth to get Keown on the coaching staff. If he can coach a back four that included Eboue, Senderos and Flamini to 10 clean sheets in the Champions League, I have a suspicion that he can walk on water! Keown is someone who bridges both the Graham and Wenger years, I think the discipline he could bring to the team as a whole will add further steel to this team, maybe encouraging them to realise how you play without the ball is as important as how you play with it. Early in the season we looked great at closing sides down at putting in a shift when chasing the ball, this is where Barca were so much better than us, they harried us when we did not have ball and then stroked it around when they did have it. Something we have not done in the latter part of the Season. Yes, I think we need a new keeper, two new centrebacks, a DM to cover Song (Denilson is not a real DM) and a new striker. However, on top of this we need to look at the coaching structure, a new coach for keepers, and, possibly moving Pat Rice to a new position and bringing in Keown as assistant manager. Potentially making him the equivilant of Pat Rice to Arsene’s successor (no this is not an a call for Arsene’s head, just acknowledgment he will not go on forever) and I think Pat has done a fantastic job of instilling what the Arsenal means into the Wenger reveloution, but some change is required to the management/coaching set up, and this Keown as assistant would build on what we have and potentially be a foundation for the next incumbant. Sorry if this seems a bit jumbled, but posted from I-Phone, so difficult to keep sight of whole thread!

  46. 2 CB’s as assuming that Gallas and Silvestre will be gone. That would give us TV5, Djourou plus 2, I would also give Sol another year, plus if all else fails there will be Song, even with our injury record, surely enough?

  47. Your Chelsea line up is pants! Although this may well have been contrived to hide the fact we have ample cover.

    Ivanovic is already in for Boswinga, in a first choice line up with JT and Carvalho missing Ivanovic and Alex would come in.

    Mikel and Essien play the same role and would not line up together usually so with Essien out Mikel would step in to his place leaving Zhirkov to cover left, Ballack right.

    Anelka would be joined up front by Kalou and Joe Cole.

    Not a half bad team really.


  48. Scott on Silvestre and Campbell I have made another article and this in regard with the Wigan game. I think it will be up in the coming days, if Tony thinks its good enough

  49. I didn’t answer the questions because I went to bed, Finsbury. And while we’re at it, why don’t you answer my question? It’s very simple, and I’ve asked it to you and Walter now without a reply: do you think we went into the season with a fully prepared squad?

    But regarding your (collective) points:

    1. Finsbury, Campbell played back to back because there’s literally no one else now. Him and Silvestre are it, since Song’s injured, Vermaelen’s injured, Gallas’s injured, Djourou’s injured, Senderos is on loan and all our kids are out on loan. Plus, we’re out of all our tournaments, so why not? It’s indicative that he DIDN’T play twice a week when out season was still in the balance, though.

    2. Cape gooner, arguments are always based on opinion. You have an opinion, and you argue it citing examples based on fact and speculation. We both have less than 100% information concerning Arsenal. But based on what I can see; a) the injury crisis was foreseeable and b) we didn’t prepare for it.

    3. Finsbury, I don’t know why Senderos is on the outer. I rate him. He’s still 24. He doesn’t have pace and he’s a bit positionally suspect, but he is very intelligent and his style of play would complement our more ball-playing defenders (i.e Gallas and Vermaelen). We did him a disservice by surrounding him with kamikaze defenders, and I think he’d do well in a more balanced side. For my mind, Senderos would be a good 3rd or 4th choice centre-back. I am baffled why we’d chose Silvestre over Senderos this season.

    4. Terence, there is money to spend on transfers and wages. We have an agreement with the banks that 70% of all transfer proceeds are reinvested in the squad. We sold Toure and Adebayor for £40m, and we saved on their wages. We bought Vermaelen, and presumably topped up the wages on our other players. There was money available to spend on a centre back, but we chose to extend the contracts of other players.

    5. Tim, having multiple players competing for spots is called competition. It’s not necessarily bad. It stamps out complacency because each player knows they have to perform to play. Wenger thinks it kills the kids, but I’d like to think it gives the more competitive ones a way to focus this energy. Anyway, the only teams I see with a 35 year old and a 32 year old as 3rd and 4th choice CBs are in Italy.

    6. Tim, you never answered my question, and then posted one of your own? That’s rude. But I’ll answer yours anyway. On what do you base your hope that Arsenal will get through a (relatively) injury-free season? Based on history, it would’ve been reasonable to suggest that Gallas would break down at the close of season. It’s staggering to think that two denfenders can play 50+ games a season and play each game at a high intensity and high performance. So if we had another defender to push them, you can rotate them when they’re tired, or banned, or injured. Four defenders will get playing time throughout a season. Silvestre and Campbell will have totalled up 10+ games this season, and one was bought in Jan, and the other was intended as a 4th, 5th choice defender.

    7. Tony, I agree that it’s difficult to find a player in the January window, for the points you mentioned. I think it’s even more difficult in a World Cup year, when the good players are reluctant to switch clubs and risk losing their spot in the national side. But Wenger has extensive contacts. I have faith that somewhere along the line, he would’ve come across someone how fit the bill. The key point was that he “couldn’t find someone better than what we have”. I beg to differ. If we’re reduced to playing Silvestre against Barcelona, then we’re in deep trouble.

    8. I’m sorry for labelling you all sheep. It was out of frustration at your obfuscating ways. It baffles me that you can continually ignore my arguments, ignore my rebuttal to your arguments, and then call me out as a troll.

  50. great blog post. thank you Walter. It is good to finally read some reasonable words.

    I was really wondering why none of the doomsday prophets who request Wengers and half of our teams head remarked that the whole core of the team was missing. And some players were clearly exhausted. This includes faultless national hero Sol Campbell who got tired after 70 minutes.

    When Wenger signed him he said that he doesn’t expect Sol to play in the first team. Sadly Gallas never recovered from his injury. And those who are blaming Wenger for risking Gallas against Barcelona are the same people who blame Wenger for not bringing Van Persie in to “finish the game” when we were 2-nil up against Wigan.

    The home-football-managers who reload the game when their player gets injured are also calling Wengers head for not bringing a striker in in the summer. Let’s recall the summer then when he wanted to buy Chamakh (which Bordeaux refused anyway) and Eduardo and Bendtner showed good enough form. Unlike the genius football managers who crawled out 5 months later he didn’t expect Bendtner to get injured and Eduardo to totally dip in form and decided that we have enough backup strikers. Which classy striker wants to share the bench with two others after all? And Wenger has to consider that Arsenal has to repay a huge debt so he had to gamble.

    When so many things went terribly wrong injury wise Wenger tried to reinforce the team with a striker in January but he failed because of the limited choice. Which team would sell their trophy striker in that transfer window? He also tried to sign one CB at least but he was outbid by Ferguson.

    I am not sure if he counted on Senderos at the beginning of the season but I think that Senderos featured one time and then never again. Something big must have happened because when Senderos was sent out on loan in January, Arsenal made a very strong statement which made it clear that Senderos will not play for the club again.

    Many things went wrong this season and Wenger did some mistakes with his gambles. Wenger could tell better then anyone what he should have done instead. It’s always easy afterward or when you don’t have to manage finances. And partially thanks to him we are now in a much stronger financial position next transfer window than last.

  51. @ WEG —

    I think you missed my point. I wasn’t positing a new question so much as pointing out that your question was entirely based on personal, counter-factual conjecture.

    My question was simply rhetorical, and it was purposefully stupid. In fact, I say this explicitly: “your question is silly (as is mine) because it’s not based on anything but opinionated conjecture.”

    Your reaction above in #6 shows that you understood only part of what I said.

    And I certainly wasn’t being rude. If I wanted to be rude, I could’ve said, “Go f&ck off you troll. You are a moron.”

    (I don’t think anyone here thinks you are a troll or a moron, BTW. But if you think we are all ignoring your arguments, then why do you post here so often?).

  52. Tim, how is my question based on personal, counter-factual conjecture? It’s based on past history. We have injuries. Gallas hasn’t finished a season with us without on. We went into the season with only Senderous and Silvestre as backup, and replaced Senderos with Campbell mid-season. I fail to see how any of this is “counter-factual” or “personal conjecture”.

    And you still haven’t answered my question. Do you think we were fully prepared going into the season? I don’t think that’s a stupid question; it’s at the heart of my argument.

    I’m posting so often here because I find it annoying that people can be so smug about their points of view, yet ignore sensible, reasonable questions when confronted with them. Plus, everyone needs a gadfly to bite it on the arse, lest it become too conceited.

  53. WEG — You write, “And you still haven’t answered my question. Do you think we were fully prepared going into the season? I don’t think that’s a stupid question; it’s at the heart of my argument.”

    But that’s not your original question. I think this question is fine, and my answer is: 1.) yes, we were fully-prepared considering the circumstances, and 2.) it’s impossible to predict how many injuries we would have had at the same time.

    Silvestre, Campbell, and Song should have provided and should continue to provide adequate back-up. The fact that Gallas’ injury has lasted so long, and has overlapped with Vermaelen’s and Song’s is the problem.

    Could AW have had more experienced CBs on the payroll? Certainly. But would it have been wise? I’m not so sure, considering the circumstances at the time. To me, JD’s injury was the big problem because it happened right before the season started when any transfer would probably been very tough.

    Same thing with RvP’s injury. I feel we would’ve coped much better if Bendtner had not been injured at the same time (as well as other off-and-on injuries like those of Theo, Eduardo, Arshavin, etc.). And to me, Bendtner has played his socks off since coming back.

    But at what point do decide that there’s enough cover?

    You write, “having multiple players competing for spots is called competition. It’s not necessarily bad. It stamps out complacency because each player knows they have to perform to play.”

    This is certainly true. But on the flip-side, it leads to a much bigger payroll, might lead to disgruntled players causing squad unrest, etc.

    Your original question was this:

    “So the question remains, why did we go into the season so short of centre-backs, and why did we do through the January period without reinforcements?”

    It is personal conjecture and counterfactual because:

    1. Sol Campbell was the reinforcement
    2. I don’t think that we went through the season so short of centre-backs.

    My problem was that you present your question as if it were fact, when it’s clearly not if I can disagree with you. “So short of centre-backs” is a value judgment.

    My point from the very beginning has been that it’s so easy to sit here and criticize. It was not to criticize or to be rude to you, in any way, but I’m sorry if you feel insulted.

    It just seems to me that unless Arsenal win a trophy, AW is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t, and that’s not fair in my book. Plus, by taking this attitude, you obfuscate (your word) any tangible improvements within the squad, which is what Tony and others are highlighting. After every season, only one or two teams can win the PL and CL. And while it’s fine to judge that a failure, is that any way to go through life?

    In other words, I want people to think before they criticize, and when they criticize a person, to put themselves in their shoes. I don’t think that’s being smug at all, and I feel it is entirely sensible and reasonable. I think, if anything, that is the opposite. It’s just trying to add some perspective.

    After the last two heart-wrenching losses, of course, WEG, I would’ve liked AW to have had better backup options. Of course, I do feel our team needs new additions, and I would be very happy if we get a new GK, new CBs, and improve our defensive tactics. Lloris, Subotic, Hangeland, Hazard? If possible, yes please. Sign me up.

    But there’s a point when criticism becomes unfair speculation. That’s what I am trying to point out.

    Transfers are never black-and-white, and the future is impossible to predict. Players are people, too, and they have families. They are not simple commodities to be traded at will. There are so many things out of peoples’ control. Plus, “past history” always depends on how you narrate it.

    Just look at Barca the last two games. The most complete team in the world (perhaps in history), yet they still might not win anything this season. Winning is never guaranteed.

    There are many, many blogs out there that would completely agree with your opinion. And I, for one, am happy you are expressing them here because it makes things interesting, and logical argument is always good. I appreciate your postings, and I wasn’t being rude; rather, I was just pointing out a flaw in your argument.

    But when you criticize people for being mindless “sheep” or for being too “smug and conceited,” you should also take a look at yourself in the mirror. From what I understand, this blog provides a forum for reasoned debate, as a counterweight to so much negativity out there on other blogs and in the news media. I think that’s very much the opposite of being “mindless sheep.”

    And I the fact that people like me, Finsbury, Cape Gooner, Terence, etc. have taken the time to respond to you shows that we are not “ignor[ing] sensible, reasonable questions when confronted with them.”

    But hey, it really does all depend on personal opinion, doesn’t it?

  54. lucas neil + loric cana = 2 millions, 80k in total wages.
    shay given = 10 millions.

    1st two are not 1st choice but wud have been gr2 for 2nd and 3rd choice. Add to the fact, players tend to improve in a better environment.

  55. Talking of improvements…weren’t there quite a few asking for AW to get Lloris in goal? Based on last night, methinks Butt might be a better answer. At least if he made a cock-up, we’d have a good source for Arse’n’all jokes.

  56. @ Tim, sorry, you’re right – my original question was what you said, and yes, it was a loaded question. I think we’re going to disagree on this – I think past history of injuries is a reliable predictor for future injuries, and you don’t. If you agree with me, then you’d follow my logic to it’s inevitable conclusion. If you don’t, you’ll follow it to yours.

    Barca ain’t robots. They drew a derby match against Espanyol, away from home. They got on a bus, drove 22 hours to Milan, and played the best team in Italy, against probably the best tactical brain in Europe. Drawing one and losing the other isn’t that bad.

    I agree that Djourou’s injury was critical. I’d be happy with Djourou and Senderos as 3rd and 4th. But I feel that when it was clear he was out for the season, we needed someone else. You say that competition leads to enlarged playing squads and player unrest, but is that really true?
    Couldn’t a larger squad also lead to a stronger team, better results, a legitimate title challenge, and hunger from the squad players to break into the first team so they can get a piece of success? And can’t the converse (thin squad with no competition) lead to complacency and lacklustre performances, since a player’s place in the squad is guaranteed no matter how bad the performance?

    But you’re right. It’s all personal opinion. The only objective facts are on the table. Let’s see where we finish this year, and then we’ll talk a bit more.

    @ critic, I can’t walk away from a good fight.

    @ Gf60, Lloris had one bad game after a season of brilliance. Can you say the same for Almunia and Fabianski?

  57. @ WEG — It’s a balancing act re: squad size. The case of Real Madrid over the past few years shows there’s a point somewhere where overloading a squad with stars causes unrest because the egos are flustered.

    To me, if our squad had not faced so many injuries and had improved as AW had predicted, we would’ve been on the tipping point. That is one reason, I think, as to why AW has been careful about bringing in reinforcements. The problem is the crazy number of injuries meant that certain players were thrust into action before they were ready, and that, I know, is something he will rectify. In this sense, I think Wenger’s words about wanting to see if his team has the ability to win multiple trophies before he signs a new contract is really a challenge to these players.

    Also, I’m not saying past experience isn’t a reliable predictor (it should be), but the number of injuries we’ve had this season is clearly an anomaly. It’s been off the charts, and I don’t think any squad in the world, save Real Madrid (where the surplus requirements were players like Robben and Sneijder!), would’ve coped as well as we’ve had.

  58. That’s it again, Tim. You think it’s a anomaly, I think it’s normal. That’s the divide between us.

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