Last season the excellent magazine Highbury High invited a range of supporters to participate in the prediction game, where the writers nominate the player who would make the breakthrough in the season to come.
The publishers very kindly included me in their list of guest writers and so I duly cheated and put in two players: Song and Vela. I’d give myself 1.5 out of 2 in terms of my predictive ability.
I don’t know if Highbury High will do this again, this year and I am certainly not wishing to steal their thunder, but I thought we could do a preliminary exploration of the possibilities at this stage.
So here’s the possible nominees. It’s a big list – just to cover the ground at this stage. As always, all thoughts welcome. And of course you can read much of this again at Team Talk. (Actually I am on the edge of running a Team Talk story so bizarre, so eccentric and so odd I guarantee you won’t believe it. But first, today’s story…)
Diaby: I thought he might be Vieira II, then there was injury, then there was Turkey when I thought, blimey I don’t know who he is but he sure is good, and then he never maintained that stunning performance. I suspect 2009/10 is the last chance for him – he’s really going to have to put in some great shows, or else, it will be farewells. Story is he has been doing lots of extra training through the summer – how good to find a pro who really cares.
Vela: In the last game of the season he was a different player. All the skills plus more muscle. If that is being continued (and he has had more and more experience with Mexico this summer) he could be ready to make a serious impact. There is a story (there are always stories) that he will head out on loan, but if not, it suggests the Lord Wenger believes he is ready and will use him more. Who knows, in three years time we could have a rotating strike force of Bendtner, Vela and Theo.
Ramsey: When he got a game he was very good most of the time (although only moderate in the away game at Cardiff). He’s one of the players now on a very long term new contract and everyone believes in him totally. The only question is, where does he play? Is he the backup to Cesc?
Wilshere: Another long term contract given in the summer and we all know he’s a genius. But its a crowded midfield – or could he become Bergkamp II. The only question is, is it this year or next that he suddenly explodes on the scene?
Djourou: Injury and injury, always injury – but clearly the Lord Wenger has him down as one of the players for us. He might just become a first team regular in 09/10. And if not this year, then it won’t be long.
Bendtner: There’s a good reason for saying he should not be on this list, for although there was that time when all we could hear was criticism – he wasn’t good enough and he shouldn’t play – now it is all different. It turned around in October last year in West Iceland where he put in one of the most incredible passes of the season – virtually 80% of the length of the pitch, inch perfect to Ade. The pass took out the whole West Ham defence to allow Ade to score. The critics continued, but after that moment, and even during his off-form period he kept going. I would not be surprised to see him playing as the big centreforward – which is why it would not matter too much if Ade goes.
Coquelin: Now we are into the more obscure. I think the first time I saw him was on TV during the pre-season tour a year ago and thought there was something there. The ungainly style has become more gainly and he shone in the reserves. The web site of Arsenal says, “The Frenchman is very much in the Makelele mould with a low centre of gravity and superb reading of the game. With his rugged and aggressive manner, coupled with a fine passing range, Francis is sure to have his eye on a holding midfield berth in the future.” Like a certain full back he came from the depths of the French second division.
Hoyte: I saw him play against Leicester reserves a couple of years back (that being one of the games I always went to before Leicester threw away the notion of reserve team football, what with me being in the midlands) and he was a horribly ungainly full back. Now he is maturing, and highly rated. Probably too soon for him, but I never realised where Gibbs had got to, so maybe.
Lansbury: Yet another midfielder, which means he has a big pecking order above him, so again maybe too soon, but everyone says this guy is special. Been at the club since age of nine, plays at each level for England.
Merida: Cesc II unless you count Ramsey in which case Cesc III. Also nicked from Barca, played in the Spanish Under 17s, then the under 19s and spent much of last season back in Spain on loan with Real Sociedad. Another loan period perhaps, but maybe just maybe….
Gibbs: He was called upon, and performed wonderfully. The only question is, how does he get another game unless Clichy is injured? He seems to have put the slip behind him, and beyond doubt every true supporter felt for him at that moment.
Traore: He played in the first ever game at the Ems I seem to remember, and has been on loan. He looked tremendous when I saw him before the loan – but it doesn’t always happen. And how many left backs can we play at once? Or is he now left side midfield?
Simpson: Out on loan for two years (Millwall for a year and then WBA) – his problem is we have a lot of strikers. The Arsenal web site has six in the first team, because they include Theo as a striker not a midfielder. Is that a sign of the new season? If he is back with us, he’ll be like Bendtner, in recent times, getting the occasional subs appearance.
Murphy: A long shot indeed – I can’t see him getting a sniff in the first team, but he looks a fabulous prospect as a forward to me. If he’s there its worth going to the Diddly Cup games just for that.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas: You play for Arsenal. You are 16. It is not as if you are not facing competition. And then you are named captain of the under 18s. And you find you can play in any position, so you get more games than anyone else in the academy and reserve teams. I can’t believe this guy won’t make it. Only question is when. This guy is amazingly incredible, stunning, extraordinary, unbelievable.
(C) Tony Attwood, unaided by anyone at Team Talk. 2009
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