With Arsenal Clearing Out its “Deadwood”, Who Will Replace Them?
For every Laurent Koscielny you purchase, there will always be a Sebastien Squillaci, the Man of Steel.
Down the years, Arsene Wenger has made some astute signings that became legends, endearing themselves into the hearts of the fans and printing their names into Arsenal folklore but there have been others that put up great shifts and were tipped for greater things, before they jumped ship to seek greener pastures.
Then of course, there’s the deadwood – those players judged to be superfluous to the team and are deemed surplus to requirements yet they somehow manage to stay at the club walloping their weekly wages without offering any noteworthy output of any sort on the pitch.
Take a player like Manuel Almunia, for instance, that joined the club as a back-up goalie for Jens Lehmann. When the Mad German’s time came to an end, the mantle was passed over to his Spanish counterpart but despite having his good moments, his glaring errors and confidence bereft performances cost Arsenal dearly, and as expected the club was heavily linked to a host of goalkeepers.
To make things a bit worse, Almunia’s deputy, Lukasz Fabianski, didn’t offer much confidence as well but in Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal had some restored hope and with Fabianski usurping Almunia in the course of the 2010/11 season, the Spanish goalie went further down the pecking order and offered no resistance whatsoever to the younger Poles.
With Fabianski already suffering a season-ending injury, Almunia was offered another chance to stake a claim for a jersey he once owned when a Dani Alves free kick ruptured a tendon in Szczesny’s finger. He didn’t do half bad in the shameful defeat to Barcelona (were the Gunners failed to register at attempt on goal) but in the subsequent games, Almunia continued to put up shaky performances like the outing against Blackburn but his shambolic performance against West Brom was the last straw. Wenger had to coax Jens Lehmann out of retirement to play against Blackpool and shortly afterwards, Szczesny regained full fitness and couldn’t replicate his form before his injury.
Almunia had a year left on his deal and was linked with moves to Spain and Turkey but he deliberately chose to remain at the club, chopping his 60,000 pounds per week and didn’t even make a single appearance in the 2011/12 before his contract finally expired. With Szczesny, Fabianski and Vito Mannone way ahead of him, Almunia didn’t care and that’s how he plummeted into mediocrity.
Almunia situation was rather unfortunate, but the reality of the situation was that Arsenal had moved on without him and had found the personnel that could his job better than him. For a mid-table outfit only concerned about maintaining their status in the league, Almunia would have been a good fit but for a team challenging for the Premier League, he became a liability.
Moving further up the pitch, Arsenal made a punt for Fenerbahce’s Andre Santos with Kieran Gibbs’ fitness clearly being an issue, as Gael Clichy decided not to renew his contract with the club. Off the pitch, Andre Santos is a great personality with a good attitude and cuddly smile to match but on it, he was an aberration.
When he joined the club, he wasn’t as bad as he is now. Played primarily as a wing back in his days in Turkey, Andre Santos waltzed forward a lot, contributing more in the final third as the Gunners were happy to get a full back that offered a better attacking output than Clichy but defensively, he was always found wanting, but somehow his tracks were always covered.
With Thomas Vermaelen not enjoying the best of forms on the left hand side of the central defense pairing, Andre Santos’ frailties were badly exposed, especially in the game against Schalke at the Emirates and when Gibbs suffered another trademark injury in January, Arsenal acted swiftly to sign Nacho Monreal that blended into life at North London. The acquisition of Monreal saw Andre Santos go down the pecking order and he was packaged in a bag and sent back to Brazil.
With Gremio failing to cope with the financial demands to make Andre Santos’ loan deal permanent, a part of me believes that he will be more than willing to take the Almunia route, much to the detriment of Arsenal. With the summer still young, many would hope that the cuddly Brazilian will be shipped out sooner rather than later.
Another player sure of a move away from the Emirates is Johan Djourou, Arsenal’s best defender by a far mile in the 2010/11 season. The club’s longest serving player has been on the fringes for as long as he can remember but finally made his breakthrough when an Achilles tendon injury kept the Verminator on the sidelines for all eternity.
With the panic signing of Per Mertesacker after the 8-2 drubbing in the hands of Manchester United, Djourou was faced in a mini battle with Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel to know who would become Arsenal’s fourth choice defender, you heard me right, fourth choice. He had a brief stint with Hannover 96 last season and will the German outfit failing to retain his services, Djourou is set to move on loan to Hamburg SV, with an option to make the deal permanent.
Arsenal took a ruthless approach on Denilson and have allowed the contracts of Andrey Arshavin and Squillaci to reach their climax. With Park Chu-Young’s temporary military service, Vito Mannone linked with a move to Sunderland following the sale of Simon Mignolet to Liverpool, as well as the potential exits of Andre Santos, Lukasz Fabianski, the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner and the shisha-loving Marouane Chamakh, Arsenal’s deadwood count is considerably low.
The million pound would be – with Arsenal clearing out its “deadwood”. who will replace them?
There’s a huge possibility that every team won’t have any deadwood in its ranks but that’s also as possible as searching for hair on Howard Webb’s head. Last season, Arsenal battled for four competitions (without yielding any fruit) with a list of 25 (or more) players that gave their all week in week out for the Red and White Army.
Looking at the current crop of players within Arsenal’s disposal, the potential candidates to join the exclusive “Club Deadwood” in my honest opinion are –
Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Abou Diaby and probably Gervinho
With Arsenal heavily linked with a move for Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, the chances of players like Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong and to some extent, Abou Diaby will be further diminished.
Frimpong has made a big name for himself off the pitch with his Dench Chronicles but on it, he hasn’t proved to Arsene Wenger and the fans that he’s ready to make that step up to play for a club of this stature. He has had a couple of loan spells but his countless injury problems have dented his progress as a footballer.
Francis Coquelin on the other hand, had his breakthrough with a couple of performances as an utility player but in his favored defensive midfield position, the chances have been few and far between. Le Coq must have fathomed that Alex Song’s exit would have paved the way for him but Mikel Arteta curbed his attacking instincts to become Arsenal’s primary holding midfielder, to Coquelin’s detriment.
As for Abou Diaby, his case is with the gods of Mount Olympus.
I still believe that there’s some potential in Coquelin, but signing a player like Fellaini will close the curtains on Le Coq’s Arsenal career, in my opinion.
For what it’s worth, it’s good to see Arsenal getting rid of it’s current deadwood. I hope they will be replaced with players that can contribute to the team.
I wonder what’s taking Higuain so long to come to the Emirates. Here’s the reason why…
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