Wenger and the older man

I get so hooked on all the youngsters coming through the ranks all the time, Wilshere, Vela, Ramsey, Merida and the rest, that it becomes easy to forget that the Lord Wenger has a fair old ability to work with old timers too.

It was widely said that when he arrived at Highbury he extended the careers at the top flight of several players by changing everything from their diets to their game plan.  Dennis Bergkamp we remember was still playing for us well into his 50s.  Or something like that.

I thought on this, not just because of AA, our new battery from Leningrad, but also because according to the always to be believed newspapers that Terry ‘Enry fellow is likely to be sold by BarBarBarca in the summer.  I just wondered…

The fact is that the oft repeated journalistic line about Wenger taking young players so that he can mould them is something he did do previously with older men with great success.  In this regard buying AA is not such a surprise – it is not totally against his strategy of everything he believes in.  It is just that he hasn’t done if for some time.

Indeed it is interesting how things change in football.   I guess most of us who know our Arsenal culture and history (which to me is a central part of following the club) know that there was this fellow called Charlie Buchan who we bought from Sunderland, and became our goalscoring hero.   What is often forgotten is that we bought him aged 34.

I’m not suggesting that the exploits of Buchan as an older player can be recreated by anyone other than the occasional genius like Bergkamp, but we really should not instantly think that there is something odd or unusual about Arsenal singing a 27 year old.

The sad reality of modern football is that injury levels seem to be higher than ever – probably because of the speed of the game.  So we need more and more cover – and AA is now added to Theo, Rosicky, Cesc, Narsi, Denilson, Song, Diaby, Eboue.

When put like that it is hard to understand the endless ranting of commentators who said that Arsenal fell apart because we failed to replace Flamini and Hleb.   They were both replaced: Flamini by Denilson and Helb by Nasri and AA.

And incidentally, just to finish, the latest on the Milan number 84 (M Flamini) (yes really he is number 84).  The most regular player at the club has made 22 starts.  M Flamini has made 9, and been a sub in 6 (including at least two where he came on in the last minute).  He is also  no longer in the French squad.

He has the compensation of a higher salary – but since playing regular football was for him a major priority, it must be a bit of a pain.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009


11 Replies to “Wenger and the older man”

  1. You’re right Tony, the papers have been making a lot of Arshavin’s age and what a huge departure this is for Arsene, even going as far as suggesting that it is an acknowledgement of the failure of his ‘youth experiment’. But his recent purchases also include Gallas, Sagna, Rosicky, and Eduardo, so not all youngsters. I also think that Arsene made an exception for Arshavin because he is a special talent who was also available for the right price because he comes from an unfashionable league.

  2. After a double sausage and egg m*muffin meal thinking of nondescript players is far too hard. So what about an overrated XI?

    GK – Petr Cech – average and wears a helmet, you didn’t see Bert Trautmann wearing armour.
    RB – Stephen Taylor – unless you’re rating his ability to be a cheating, diving tosspot, and is it me or does he fake tan?
    LB – Gareth Bale – don’t think I need to say anything here.
    CB – Kolo Toure – victim of a year long slump in form.
    CB – John Terry – by a distance, Chelsea’s third best centre back, until Michael Mancienne comes back from QPR.
    MID – Steven Gerrard – he’s very good, but still vastly overrated.
    MID – Anderson – he played well when United drew at the Emirates, what else has he done to justify the price tag?
    MID – John Obi Mikel – top marks for looking like a giant baby, 5 out of 10 for footballing ability.
    FOR – Roque Santa Cruz – one good season. Ever. McCarthy and Roberts are much better.
    FOR – Robbie Keane – Benitez might be an arrogant twat, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
    FOR – Emmanuel Adebayor – has done all he can to demolish his reputation as a skilled, hard working front man this season.

  3. I’ve got an outsider’s theory about Arsene Wenger and why his Arsenal side are fast becoming also rans in the Premiership; he’s a victim of his own success. When he arrived in England over 10 years ago, he can’t help but have noticed how lacking the scouting departments were in the UK, as evident in his own club at Arsenal. Conseqeuntly, he put in a place an extensive scouting network that would allow him access to the previously untapped (in the UK at least) exotic markets, namely Africa and South America. So young player after young player was snapped up from around the globe, a policy of bringing in plenty of players cheaply, weeding out the ones that weren’t good enough (for all the genius signings, there’s a Mendez, Diawara, Wreh, Owusu-Obeyie) and keeping the potentially world-class ones. This facilitated Arsenal to pick up players like Fabregas, Toure, Clichy and co., for relative buttons.

    The problem was, charimen all round the country suddenly started thinking “What the f*ck?! They’re getting top-class players for £500K, that’s a gravy train I want to get on”, and scouting networks the length and breadth of the land started expanding at an exponential rate (partially due to increased finances as well). Obviously big clubs such as United got in on the act, snapping up Rossi, Pique, Possebon, Da Silvas et al, Chelsea muscled in and nicked Mikel along with a whole raft of others (but in a very Chelsea way), Liverpool got Insua, Nemeth and N’Gog and even clubs like Wigan are now sporting playing from Honduras and Colombia.

    So in essence, what Wenger did originally was bona fide genius, the problem was his system was so good, everyone copied it, thus saturating the market, meaning that now he’s either stuck in a financial war for a young player he wants (see Walcott and Ramsay) or he misses out. The scope of opportunity has diminished and whilst he’s still trying to nick players on the cheap (Eboue, Diaby, Denilson etc.) they just aren’t that great. The selling clubs aren’t stupid, and the very best young players in the world now command a premium. £12m for Ronaldo at just 17, £18m for Anderson (he will be class), big money for Pato (£10m I think?), heck even Lucas cost £7m! We all know Arsene likes to be frugal, the problem is his system which used to go hand in hand with frugality no longer does. It costs big bucks to play that game.

    If you want proof, look at the ‘Invincible’ team, and compare it to now. Fabregas and Sagna would’ve got in that team (mainly cos Gilberto and Lauren were average) and some others would play frequently (van Persie, Adebayor, Clichy and co). But it is hard to argue that it is not a side that has gone backwards in the last five years.

    My tuppence anyway…

  4. Here’s some pro-Denilson ammo for you Tony old chap. It’s from a (great) poster (a dame called Tough Cookie) from the blog: A Cultured Left Foot.

    Comparison of Denilson this season vs Flamini last season:

    *stats based on 23 games played
    *stats stolen from guardian chalkboard – bad girl!
    *tackles won and attempted include ariel challenges, so the numbers are different from those provided by other stats sites.

    Flamini (07/0 vs Denilson (08/09)

    SP: successful passes
    TP: total passes
    IN: interceptions
    TW: tackles won
    TA: tackles attempted
    FW: free-kick won
    FC: free-kick conceded

    Flamini == SP(TP)/IN/TW(TA)/FW(FC)

    11/02/2008 Blackburn(H):::65(71)/5/5(6)/2(4)
    02/02/2008 ManCity(A):::::57(60)/2/5(6)/1(2)
    29/01/2008 Newcastle(H):::38(47)/3/2(3)/0(1)
    19/01/2008 Fulham(A)::::::59(62)/2/3(4)/0(1)
    12/01/2008 B’ham(H):::::::46(49)/1/3(4)/0(2)
    01/01/2008 WestHam(H):::47(52)/3/2(5)/0(3)
    29/12/2007 Everton(A):::::30(35)/0/5(8)/2(2)
    26/12/2007 Portsmouth(A):37(46)/5/2(8)/2(2)
    22/12/2007 Spu*s(H):::::::43(47)/1/0(4)/1(3)
    16/12/2007 Chelsea(H):::::33(39)/0/4(6)/0(5)
    01/12/2007 Villa(A):::::::::36(39)/1/3(3)/0(0)
    12/11/2007 Reading(A)::::80(86)/3/1(4)/1(0)
    03/11/2007 ManUtd(H):::::46(48)/2/3(5)/2(1)
    28/10/2007 L’pool(A):::::::53(56)/1/4(7)/1(1)
    20/10/2007 Bolton(H):::::::55(63)/2/4(7)/1(2)
    07/10/2007 Sunderland(H)::53(60)/1/2(4)/0(2)
    29/09/2007 WestHam(A)::::35(38)/2/1(3)/3(4)
    22/09/2007 Derby(H)::::::::53(54)/0/3(3)/2(0)
    15/09/2007 Spu*s(A)::::::::35(40)/2/6(9)/2(1)
    02/09/2007 Portsmouth(H)::35(44)/6/10(13)/1(1)
    25/08/2007 ManCity(H)::::::49(52)/2/2(2)/0(1)
    19/08/2007 Blackburn(A)::::19(25)/2/2(4)/0(5)
    12/08/2007 Fulham(H):::::::35(39)/1/2(4)/1(0)

    Denilson======= SP(TP)/IN/TW(TA)/FW(FC)
    31/01/2009 WestHam(H):::::73(81)/4/2(7)/3(0)
    28/01/2009 Everton(A):::::::36(46)/5/2(2)/3(4)
    17/01/2009 Hull(A):::::::::::39(45)/1/2(4)/2(2)
    10/01/2009 Bolton(H)::::::::94(104)/0/2(3)/ 2(2)
    28/12/2008 Portsmouth(H):::61(65)/5/0(0)/3(3)
    26/12/2008 Villa(A):::::::::::42(47)/4/5(7)/3(0)
    21/12/2008 L’pool(H):::::::::40(46)/4/8(9)/4(2)
    13/12/2008 M’boro(A)::::::::33(41)/1/3(4)/1(3)
    06/12/2008 Wigan(H)::::::::62(66)/7/4(12)/2(1)
    30/11/2008 Chelsea(A)::::::29(39)/6/6(9)/2(3)
    22/11/2008 ManCity(A)::::::58(70)/7/3(6)/2(1)
    15/11/2008 Villa(H):::::::::::79(82)/3/7(9)/4(2)
    08/11/2008 ManUtd(H)::::::::58(61)/5/5(5)/0(3)
    01/11/2008 Stoke(A)::::::::::33(38)/1/5(7)/0(0)
    29/10/2008 Spu*s(H)::::::::::78(82)/5/5(10)/5(2)
    18/10/2008 Everton(H)::::::::67(73)/1/5(8)/2(0)
    04/10/2008 Sunderland(A)::::66(72)/1/4(5)/2(1)
    27/09/2008 Hull(H)::::::::::::54(61)/2/4(5)/3(1)
    20/09/2008 Bolton(A):::::::::57(69)/6/3(4)/1(1)
    13/09/2008 Blackburn(A):::::55(62)/2/6(8)/1(4)
    30/08/2008 Newcastle(H):::::29(37)/0/5(7)/2(4)
    23/08/2008 Fulham(A)::::::::47(55)/4/4(10)/1(1)
    16/08/2008 WBA(H):::::::::::69(77)/4/3(6)/0(1)

    (1) Pass success ratio
    (=successful passes/total passes)
    Flamini = 1039/1152*100 = 90.10%
    Denilson =1259/1419*100 = 88.72%

    (2) Interceptions
    Flamini = 47
    Denilson = 78
    (I made mistake – other stats say 82!)

    (3) Tackles won ratio
    (=tackles won/total tackles attempted)
    Flamini = 74/122*100 = 60.66%
    Denilson = 96/147*100 = 65.31%

    (4) Free-kicks
    Flamini: FK won = 24; FK conceded = 41
    Denilson: FK won = 48; FK conceded = 41

    Good night!

  5. The major European clubs have always had good scouting networks and I’d still rate Arsenal’s better than most. Coupled with the great magnet of a. AW b. opportunity to play in the first team at a young age c. good wages – I think Arsenal will continue to do better than most of the other European superpowers.

    I’ve done some more analysis on the Denilson vs Flamini numbers. (Using 2 different sources) In the EPL Flamini played 30 times last year. Denilson has played 23 times to date this year.
    If equalising their numbers per game (ie reducing Flamini’s overall stats by 23% (23/30) consider this:
    Successful Tackles
    F 80, D 65
    Total tackles
    F 126, D 86
    Successful pass Intercepts
    F 44, D 81
    F 1151, D 2000
    Pass accuracy
    F 87%, D 87%

    So while Denilsons successful tackling numbers are down a bit, his overall success rate is higher (76% vs 63%). Also bear in mind that he’s played a handful of his 23 games this year as a wide (left and right) midfielder not in his usual central (more defensive role). However, when you consider the pass intercepts (81 vs 44) you start to see the value of Denilson, and adding both together (tackles and intercepts – main job description for these guys) he wins on 146, vs 124.
    Re passing it is no contest 2,000 vs 1,151 and shows the confidence he has with his teammates and the fact that he has had to take on a big role with so many injuries to the midfield. Offensively it is also no contest with Denilson already having 3 goals and 5 assists vs Flamini (in his full 30 games) 2 goals and only 3 assists.
    But the best comparison is vs the other holding midfielders in the league this year and Denilson has better numbers in all these categories than Barry, Mascherano, Alonso (only better in pass volume), Obi Mikel, Carrick, and Anderson. And he’s 20 and in his first year in the first team. Not too shabby.

  6. Flamini expected to be a replacement for Gatuso. That’s why he’s not starting regularly at Milan yet. He’s there for next year and further in the future. It’s a significant loss for us,… until Denilson and Song prove otherwise.

  7. Nhan Le

    your argument of Flam being Gattuso’s replacement doesn’t add up; Gattuso’s out for the season and Flam is still being used even as a sub for Beckham!

  8. hmmm all of those statistics would suggest that denilson is doing a brilliant job under the circumstances… but i wonder still, did flamini win the ball higher up the pitch? did we have so much more possession last season becuase of hleb’s ability to not lose the ball? Last season we just seemed to dominate so much more. why?

  9. Biggest difference from last year is finishing. Ade, RvP and Cesc have far fewer goals scored (although the chances they’ve had in terms of numbers are similar). RvP is improving recently after poor start to the year, and has also hit the post many times. Giving away too many goals as well, but they had that problem last year as well.

  10. Many people forget that this is Denilson’s first full season, and like your old girlfriend you constantly compare her to your new girlfriend and in some cases she is better and others you wish you had the ol’ girl back, but the truth is your new girl is probably better, but you need to let go otherwise you cant move on. Flamini left us for a richer master, and he has always been clever with his contract that’s how he came to us in the first instance.

    In Denilson we have a young Gilberto still learning his trade, but he isn’t as one dimensional as the invisible wall hence people compared him to The Cesc, due to the array of passes that he had in his game. I think we need to pause at this juncture and walk through that concept, In Denilson we have a player who quietly goes about his defensive work and can initiate attacks with a pass range almost as good as The Cesc, which means he is better than Gilberto and Flamini as he can get the ball forward, its that tiny dynamic that makes him a cut above those two, eventually it will allow The Cesc play further up the pitch. This is his first season, and I personally prefer players whose influence grows slowly rather than the flash in a pan type of player who inevitably fades as the seasons and the years roll by.

    In Denilson I think we have a very good DM, he isn’t a workhorse like Flamini as he has more positional sense, he isn’t just a wall like Gilberto as he has the ability to initiate attacks, and that is a very different animal to any we have had in the DM position , thus rendering any comparisons to players past redundant. Instead I think we should just sit back and watch Denilson blossom.

    I would rather have Sidwell running at our back line than Diaby. He is a monster, he is finding or was finding his feet but he is going through his spate of injuries which will clear up eventually, he has shown flashes of what he can bring to the team, so anyone who says he isn’t good enough is entitled to their opinion but I would ask for their opinion on anything else in the world. The correct accusation that should be levelled is that he isn’t consistent enough… yet. He can drive from the midfield, he has good ball skills, his vision doesn’t match the Cesc, but his direct running just causes havoc, which translates to space for other players to exploit. He has the potential to be a class player for this club, he is another that we should sit back watch and follow him on what will inevitably be a bumpy ride, but I’m sure we will all be more than happy with the end result.

    The bottom line is that the players who are supposed to be occupying our midfield aren’t available, if we had them all fit, our midfield would read Rosicky/Arshavin, Denilson/Diaby, The Cesc and Nasri/Walcott and that is a scary proposition for any team in the world club football and I can live with that! Honestly, just sit back and watch this team blossom. It will be a joy to behold and Wenger will again be lauded worldwide.

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