Daily Archives: July 11, 2015
February 14, 2005.
Arsenal is set to play Crystal Palace in Highbury and the squad comes out of the tunnel led by the iconic and talismanic captain, Patrick Vieira. Behind Vieira, I see the mad Jens Lehmann. In no particular order, the lineup had Gael Clichy, Pascal Cygan, Lauren Etame-Mayer, Kolo Toure, Edu, Robert Pires, Jose Antonio Reyes, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. Back then, you could have only five players on the bench and the dugout comprised of Manuel Almunia, Philippe Senderos, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini and Robin van Persie.
Goals from Bergkamp (32′), Reyes (35′), Henry (39′), Vieira (54′) and Henry (77′) helped the Gunners to a resounding 5-1 victory but the game will be forever remember as the match Arsene Wenger selected an entire squad full of foreigners and pundits wondered if the Gunners were going to produce any English talent for the forthcoming World Cup in Germany. Sven-Goran Eriksson went on to invite three Gunners in Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and a young Theo Walcott.
Fast forward to July 2015 and Arsene Wenger has a squad filled up with foreign talent as well as some great English players. Arsenal currently has seven “first-team” English players in Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers, Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson.
Are any of these players the first name you’d see in the first team if Arsene Wenger chooses a squad when everybody is fit? I don’t think so.
It didn’t use to be like this in the past you know? Kieran Gibbs was the heir to Clichy’s throne after he departed to Manchester City but a combination of poor form and his niggling fitness issues paved the way for Nacho Monreal and the Spaniard never looked back. Jack Wilshere’s performances in the 2010/11 campaign were so awesome to the extent he even won the PFA Young Player of the Year award but he couldn’t build on it because he has had a career that has been blighted so badly by injuries. Theo Walcott was Wenger’s first choice on the right wing and he scored a lot of goals for the team but after suffering that ACL injury, he found it difficult to break into the team. The Ox had an extensive run-out this season but injuries halted his progress, Chambers had a great start to the season but poor form saw him lose his place to Hector Bellerin, Welbeck provided a stop-gap option in the wake of Giroud’s injury but he wasn’t a long-term solution and Jenkinson, well, was shipped out on loan because of the new acquisitions.
All the English contingent have their own stories but as it stands, the only way they could feature in the team is when the manager decides to rotate and staunch Arsenal fans know that Wenger doesn’t rotate that much. He’s certainly no rotation god like Rafa Benitez.
So what should we expect from Arsenal’s English contingent this season?
Gibbs should do better this season in challenging Monreal for the left back berth and I really hope he manages to stay fit. Injuries have been a bane to the fullback in his Arsenal career and he still needs to work on his positioning, something Monreal is very excellent at doing. He also needs to work on his output in the final third, because he really struggled to put in quality crosses or key passes when he was clean through on goal.
I consider this campaign a ‘make or break’ one for Jack Wilshere. There’s so much potential for everyone to see but what’s the point of having an asset when it’s more like a liability. Wilshere’s needs to work on giving out the ball in the right time because he has been on the end on some pretty nasty impact challenges due to mistimed tackles from defenders trying to win the ball back. I expect him to feature in the box-to-box role and he has to do his very best when he gets a chance because Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are ahead of him in the pecking order.
Theo Walcott has to sign a new contract with the club to show his commitment because I don’t think Arsenal needs to go through the drama they did when the club tried to tie him down to a long term contract. On the pitch, he scored four goals in two games he featured as a center forward and he offers Arsenal a different dynamism in attack. It’s going to be interesting to see how Wenger manages the Walcott and Giroud conundrum but if the manager has plans for Theo, I don’t expect to see any addition in this position.
As for the Ox, he needs to improve on his ‘numbers’. I love his directness and ability to take on defenders but the issue I have with the Ox is that he doesn’t rake in the goals and assists on a consistent basis. He’s a player with a lot of potential and he has had his injury worries in the past as well, but he has to do his bit to stay fit and give his manager something to think about.
Calum Chambers had a blistering start to his Arsenal career but he’s way down the pecking order in the right back and center back departments. I expect to see more of the lad in the domestic cup competitions and I hope he latches onto the opportunities he’d get because I don’t expect them to be much.
Welbeck is one lad I have high hopes for but in all honesty he didn’t really prove to me that he has what he takes to lead the line for a club like Arsenal. He needs to improve on his finishing and composure in front of goal. He has age on his side so there’s enough room for improvement opportunities.
Finally, Jenkinson will have to keep doing his thing while he’s out on loan.
I have very high hopes for Arsenal’s English players this season. Let’s just hope they can get the job done.
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