How would The Invincibles have coped? A Retro-Retrospective.
By Dale Higginbottom
After the recent poor results around the end of the season and reading the hatred of many so-called Arsenal fans I wanted to bring a little bit of perspective on things and think about how would The Invincibles have coped if faced with similar situations?
Given that we have had to cope with Injury Crisis Episode III – Attack of the Shawcross we all know that we need larger squad, larger in fact than any other season in our history. We initially need a first eleven to mainly be there to get injured and sit in the injury room and a second eleven to come in and play the games.
The members of the first eleven will occasionally be making cameo appearances between injury spells, assuming that they are not ruled out for a whole season that is. So let’s assume that’s the case and this is our first eleven.
1st Choice XI 09/10
Sagna Gallas Vermaelen Clichy
I’m not going to argue with choices. I’ve tried to stick to the 4-3-3 and replace as best I can like-for-like so hence, Nasri replaces Cesc and does not make it into the first eleven. So therefore, here’s the second eleven that will play the games.
2nd Choice XI 09/10
Eboue Campbell Djourou Gibbs
Others such as Vela and Silvestre are there to fill-in in dire situations and make up the numbers on the bench or to play less important fixtures but I will ignore these for now as I would think give or take a player or two most fans would agree these are the 22 players that Arsene believes to be his best and these are the 22 that will play most of the important games.
Now a lot of the D&G/catastrophist fans hark back to the last time Arsenal won a trophy or mostly back to the ‘03/’04 season so I thought what happened that season? Arsenal failed to win the FA Cup and Carling Cup, got knocked out at the quarter final stage of the Champions League, which was eventually won by a side managed by José Mourinho, oh and there’s the small matter of Arsenal go a whole season without losing in the league.
We all know that was a fantastic achievement by a fantastic 1st XI and I’m not going to argue the merits of each player in that line-up versus our current one as that’s all been done numerous times on numerous blogs. No, instead I’m going to look at the next set of players, the like-for-like replacements (as best I can). So here goes.
1st Choice XI 03/04
Lauren Campbell Toure Cole
Ljungberg Viera Gilberto Pires
2nd Choice XI 03/04
J. Hoyte Cygan Keown Clichy
Bentley Parlour Edu Wiltord
I’ve done this as best I can using the number matches played by each player during the 2003/2004 season as a rough guide to give the details to hand. Can anyone really say that this ‘03/’04 squad has quality AND depth? Would that 2nd XI have taken the team through the business end of that season unbeaten? If the injuries this season had been replicated back then, would the theoretical squad available have been able to see those final few nail-biting games through?
Ok, now I know it’s difficult to think back 6 years and think, how good was the 18 year old Clichy and how does he compare to a 20 year old Kieran Gibbs or was Ray Parlour at that time better than Nasri or Diaby now?
This is all subjective of course but I think most fans will hold their hand up and agree that the squad is so much stronger now than then.
This last season we played 55 games whereas in ‘03/’04 the Invincibles played 57 games so what has happened? Why the massive increase in injuries? I think there are five possibilities.
- More international games during the season as more of our players play for their national teams, therefore showing a definite strengthening of our squad.
- More physical game, more running, more stress on the body leads to increased risk
- Zero Football. Hull, Stoke, Bolton etc try to find any
- Arsene buys injury prone players
- Lady luck is a Spurs fan.
Points 4 and 5 are obviously rubbish but one thing that is for certain is that the injuries are no longer a matter of being unlucky in one season, we now have to factor it into our squad and that’s where is struggles have been.
Arsene has already successfully replaced the Invincibles as a first team and the quality is there to challenge for trophies. He’s even improved the depth of the squad significantly but one thing that has been impossible to forecast is this imposed requirement to expect 7, 8 or 9 key players out at one time. I’m sure Arsene didn’t expect that he would need to have the Silvestre CB partnership at any point but this sort of contingency now needs to be built into the squad.
The Untold Index to Everything Positive and Nice (except Fifa and its bent world cup)
Woolwich Arsenal – now there is a club on the brink of disaster
The Book – not as useful as the Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy, but still, quite good for a read during the summer break.
This building has to take time, players cannot be brought in all at once as it will affect teamwork and continuity (See Manchester Citeh, Real Madrid) and bringing in 2, 3 or 4 players per season has to be the route to take. It’s getting there people, keep the faith.
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