2009/10: the new Arsenal heroes

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.

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

23 Replies to “2009/10: the new Arsenal heroes”

  1. Excellent post, nice to find out more about the somewhat obscure players, e.g. JET and Coquelin.

    Does everyone rate Simpson that highly? I haven’t seen much of him, to be honest, which is why I’m asking. When I did see him play, I think it was in the Carling Cup against Wigan, if memory serves. He reminded me a bit of a young Wrighty, but I don’t know too much about him.

    Personally, the players I’m looking forward to seeing this season are Wilshere, Traore, Gibbs, Merida, and JET, from the young ‘uns, particularly Wilshere. From the older gen, Arshavin, it has to be him. He’s almost always looked a threat, regardless of opposition, and no wonder he was the most highly-sought after player after EURO.

  2. Good stuff, Tony. Can’t wait for the Team Talk article!! 🙂

    This is a VERY exciting list, to say the least. I know…I know…AW always talks about our youth and the promise thereof. But how any Arsenal supporter can be anything but overjoyed at the amount of young talent coming up would be beyond me to comprehend.

    I know we don’t expect to see much of Fabianski this year unless Almunia goes down again with injury. But I do hope he’s able to grow from his experiences last season, puts the knocks behind him as lessons learned, and gives a top flight performance as the Carling Cup keeper. A trophy is a trophy, and I’d love for the younger guys to come through and win that one.

  3. I’m eager to see Armand Traore. I didn’t see Gibbs coming through but it’s going to be very interesting having the three left backs at the club. No matter, the competition should be good for us.

  4. Sorry off topic but Owen moving to Man Utd?! That spanks of desperation a little!

    It could pay off but I don;t suppose the fans will be too pleased if there are no further signings.

    Great stuff.

  5. Intresting comments from Wenger in…..


    Parts of this post were copied from Sky. Sorry, don’t allow that.

  6. Tony,

    Your article is great. But your enthusiasm for Jay Emmanuel Thomas is maybe a tad overblown. He is an amazing talent, but mainly cause he is 9ft tall and more powerfull than bears, he has a great technique, passing and shooting, but he is like Diaby, Anderson, Micah Richards and Bendtner: he was powerfull ahead of his age, meaning he had it too easy as a junior. We saw the effect on those players: Diaby is not totally succesfull, Bendtner started as an arrogant toerag who thought he could outpower everyone, Micah Richards has faded horribly and Anderson has nowhere near showed the ability he was thought to have…

    Coquelin is my bet, he is gobsmacking amazing. He passes like Xabi Alonso and tackles like Macherano, he is Liverpool’s midfield in one man… Vela will be great, Ramsey and Wilshere are great, Lansbury will be loaned out to Scunthorpe in the Championship where he plays as creative midfielder. As for Bendtner, he will be our second top scorer next year (behind Golden Boot winner Dudu) and everyone will fawn over him. Merida is still a question mark, all the talent but the power is not there yet…Simpson can leave, I think…

    But a great article once again, Tony.

  7. Well Tony, you have highlighted a real problem. How do these guys get a game? Of the 15 you name, only 5 are in my “squad” of twenty two.

    Who are the players for the CC? If first team players are not getting a game, do they play in the CC?

    I think we have too many players, not too few! We have far and away the best second XI in any league. Fab, Eboue, Djourou, Toure, Gibbs, Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Theo, Bendtner, Vela. What happens when they average only one game every two or three weeks? Do they stay? How do the other ten in your list ever get a game?

  8. It is too early (my view) for JET, Coquelin,Murphy, Simpson et al to make a breakthrough to the 1st team this season (unless, God forbid, there are some major injuries in the first team).

    It is time for the fringe players in the first team to shine – like Vela and Ramsey (I classify Bendtner as having made the grade last season already). Then of course, there are our “new” players in Edu, Rosicky and Arshavin – hopefully, this will be their season.

  9. Sorry everything is in italics today – will try and change this in a mo.

    How do they get a game Daokta?

    I guess in the Diddly Cup, the FA Cup (Gibbs played at Cardiff I remember, and that was when I realised how good he was – and I am not sure Clichy was injured), and if luck goes with us, the last game or two of the Champs League group stage.

    Plus, think of the Stoke game and some of the other games in the final stages of the season, when we were several goals up with the game drifting on – put them on the enlarged bench and let them have a meander around.

    Plus, there will be injuries, so if Clichy is out for a few games and Gibbs plays, Traore is on the bench and then might get 15 minutes at the end of a game in midfield.

    Personally I wish we could buy another club – it is not allowed in England, but why can’t we buy a Scottish 3rd division team or a Spanish second div team. I mean no disrespect to clubs in these divisions – but we’ve talked earlier about how many clubs are on the very edge. Surely if Livingstone (to take one example of a Scottish team) really are about to go out of business, would it not be better if they became a club that was used for Arsenal’s up and comings. The problem is if people go out on loan we have no control over how many games they get.

    Team Bath was wound up this summer… would it not have been better if Arsenal had been allowed to take them over as an Arsenal reserve team, and have our full coaching and development facilities there?

    Italics now fixed – back to normal type.

  10. Excellent article as always… I too am eager to watch the new heroes.. Last year was the year of Denilson, Song & Bendtner. They have shown everyone the talent which Wenger saw before signing them.

    Moreover, I would be eager to watch the CC as this we would have some of the players who did the double at the Youth level last year. Interesting times ahead.

    Sorry for deviating but has anyone read the Wenger’s interview? I couldnt believe it as it as soo unlike Wenger. I have never heard him say his targets before he signed him or the players who are gonna leave.

  11. was wondering whether it was an issue of shares or some sort of debt agreement – these would be the options available to raise cash. As you said, a rights issue is used to raise additional capital in exchange for equity (which the “company”, AFC, never really has to pay back). And because of the dilutive effect it has on the holdings of the existing shareholders, they are given first rights of acquisition. If they neglect to take up the option, then the chance is made available for others, eg. the general public. The second way to raise capital would be by the “company” issuing debt. Nothing more complicated than exchanging a bit of paper (an IOU) for cash which would be repaid later on, subject to the terms of acquiescence at the incipience of the deal. Coming back to AFC, my inferences are: 1.) If Usmanov takes up the equity issued, his holding increases whilst those of the existing shareholders most likely decrease and this puts the club in a precarious position; 2.) A debt deal may not be so bad, because if we use his money to retrieve some of that debt “paper” and pass this portion on to him with more favourable conditions, then we may be able to pay less in interest AND in actual periodic repayments, which frees up some (liquid?) funds for activities like transfers. He doesn’t strike me as the warm, fuzzy type, so whether he would do this JUST out of the goodness of his heart, I’m not sure… that’s the problem!

  12. Mason, please be respectful to the site, and all the other people who find a moment to comment.

    Your comments above are related to a topic that appears on another discussion. The comments section on that discussion “Who do you trust the most, the Times or Mr Usmanov” is still open – they all stay open for a couple of weeks – so you can post there.

    I am sorry to be difficult but it is the commentaries that make this site, and when this happens it spoils the whole flow.


  13. Hoorayyyyy! You’re back!

    And SO wonderfully off topic as well.

    Oh how we missed you.

  14. On the subject of JET – I think he is very promising but disagree that he has gotten ahead of hers purely through his size. What is notable is that he is very versatile and this is down to having very good basic football skills underpinning everything he does. his close control is better than most of the young players and thats not down to being bigger.

    Perhaps the most crucial aspect of JET’s progress and development is his mentality and maturity that seems to be beyond question. He takes the football side of his life very seriously and in this area is the diametric opposite to characters like Pennant who take it all for granted.

    JET sounds like a model pro – he works hard, stays back late after training and has let his friends slide away a little as they are all into going out drinking in clubs on a Friday/Sat night. He prefers to focus on his football as you only get one shot at your football career.
    I love the fact that he doesn’t take it for granted and I hope he continues to improve and gets to captain the Carling Cup team this year – as ever it is easy to get too excited but, barring misfortune, I’d be amazed if he did not end up as a very good top flight footballer.

    One other point is that its easy to dismiss players as getting ahead of the rest through physicality but our players are often playing with players many years older than them. Physicality is important in the modern game and JET will only get bigger and stronger.

    Micah Richards has stuttered in his development but he is still a frightening proposition and an excellent player.

  15. Good poser, as always, Tony. BTW, I was about to make a comment on the BBC & toilet post with regards to your latent ability to awaken a, hitherto hidden-in-the-subconscious, nationalistic sentiment that people sometimes do not know, or do not want to admit, that they have. But my computer decided to crash just before I submit my comment.

    Anyway, Diaby will come good. The question is when! Indeed he should have. Two things stunted his progress. (1) Injury at a crucial time in his development (which you have already mentioned). (2) Continual “out-of-position” usage, necessitated by too many injuries to others; resulting in befuddlement (confusion) in the young man. He can still be ‘Viera II’ if he can get a good stint in that position in other to master it. He seems not to benefit from being shunted about from one position to another.

    Gibbs, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere, Djourou & Bendtner are already making giant strides in their developments. Djourou reminds me of the great Franco Baresi of AC Milan.

    Coquelin will be a revelation; great ability he has. Jay Ema-T will actualise his potential if he can keep his wit about him and not tread the Ego path.

    Apart from Simpson, who I am yet not too convinced about, the rest I can say, with a degree of certainty, will be absolutely fine, if not this, season, surely next.

  16. Oh! and Tony,

    I quite agree with your suggestion about Arsenal buying a club in scotland or other, to wean our youngster and acquaint them with real rigours of full-time footballing instead od the loan system which we have no control over. How I wish the Arsenal management read your comment and think about it. Could you please phone the Arsenal TV Fans Forum and repeat your suggestion there? That will guarantee that they at least hear it.

    I wonder if the FA could be persauded to change their rule on the ownership of a second team playing in a lower league. Perhaps the Arsenal board could persuade Mr Usmanov to buy one of the ailing clubs and call it “Arsene Gooners” or well “Usmanov Gooners” if he likes.

  17. I ave to say Diaby is my favourite player, not that I think he is the best, just that I like the unpredictability of the man. This unpredictability though extends into all that he may or may not become.

    At present he is largely a liability displaying moments of sublime quality and his challenge is to cut out the mistakes. His passing is largely woeful and his tackling is no better. He can improve in pretty much all areas.

    The Viera comparisons to me are utterly pointless (they only started because of the similarity in physique and appearance)- he simply isn’t that type of defensive player and the strengths he has shown make him out to be a very different type of animal. I’d say he has more in common with Kanu than Viera.

    LRV I love your confidence that he WILL come good – I would love to feel the same. The truth is I don’t think anyone knows how it will pan out for him. I could imagine him going on to be a world beater or turning into a sort of Paolo Wanchope player (brilliant but frustrating) – nothing would surprise me.

    Again, I kind of like this about him.

    I’d be stoked if he could prove the idiots at F365 wrong.

  18. i actually don’t worry about lacking time for youngsters. their competition with the first team is actually complementary in nature.

    on the one hand, the better the first team play the more Arsene can afford to take risk and give them a chance – that’s how Wilshere and Ramsey got games early last season.

    on the other hand, the tougher is the competition, the better for the regular players – they get to rest more, though against their will. except for the goal keeper, it’s ideal for every other position to have the number one player playing no more than 2/3 amount of time of the major games. i would say that had Kieran been good enough last year, Gael wouldn’t have started almost all games until, inevitably, he got injured. if Kieran steps up and proves to be THAT good – his eyes for a killer cross is a great advantage over Gael – i wouldn’t be surprised, but shocked, to see beloved Clichy go next season.

    having seen the complementary between the up-and-coming youngsters and established first-teamers, it must be said that the kids haven’t shown up because they haven’t made the cut. take Djourou as an example. he played against Chelsea (won 2-1) because on the day he was judged marginally better than Silvestre. Djourou turned up with a stellar display, overcoming an undefendable own-goal to shut down top-class opponents. that’s how much it takes to play: you have to show that at least some of the time that no-one in the team is better than you. in this light, Vela, Ramsey, Wilshere and even Gibbs still has a considerable distance, judging from the end of last season, to get a more regular role in the first team.

  19. Interesting list of players you have chosen there Tony,definitely worth a team talk amongst your contributors.

    One name stands out for me,and that is Diaby.he disappoints time and time again,but i still believe he could be vital to the squad, and will come good..You are right, the only similarity between him and Viera is in appearance.It’s just a question of finding his right position,as he is more attack minded.I think he will be given at least another season.

    “Impact player” seems to be the flavour of the season and Bedntner and Walcott seem to perform better when introduced as subs.

    I think some of the youth team may have more potential than some of the reserves or so called squad players, in the long term.

    In hindsight,maybe it wasn’t a good time to play Ramsey at Cardiff,as his confidence was shattered.Vela has only started one league game,and I think he deserves his chance,but one keeps hearing that Wenger may loan him out,yet again.Maybe he knows something we don’t.Having siad that Jack needs more first team action,as he was locked behind closed doors after January.

    I was surprised to see that Djorou played a Champions League for us over three years ago,and regardless of injury,I am not sure about him.

    let’s hope the days of groin strain are over and having read that RVP may have suffered this problem because of his wisdom teeth,I am slightly flabbergasted.

  20. Re: Tony @ 11.33am – With a huge list of clubs struggling to survive that includes Newcastle, West Ham, Charlton, Southampton, Portsmouth, ManU and Liverpool surely it is time for the FA to allow “B” teams to play in the lower divisions. This would ensure the survival of teams in trouble, would help with the redistribution of funds to the lower leagues and encourage investment in youth development, especially young English talent.

    On another topic: Owen to ManU – What?

  21. I like the attitude of Lansbury which seems strange considering people feel he is believing in his hype a bit too much. But he admires Fabregas’ play very much and is now understanding how to control play and discipline himself better. He has a good future but he has big competition in Ramsey, Merida, Diaby etc.

    Wilshere, I have nothing more to say on him.

  22. It’s like bringing up your own kids. You want to fast-forward to see how they’ll be when they’re mature, but at the same time, not wanting them to grow up so rapidly. Personally, I can’t wait to see what special kind of player Coquelin will become, in particular. I think he will be one outstanding player amongst many others. I guess the journey from here to 5 years hence will be totally absorbing. – How Arsene will gradually intergrate all these fantastic prospects. That journey is another great reason to be proud of the club we support.

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