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Analysis of Arsenal’s Offloaded Deadwood this Summer

Andrey Arshavin in action for Zenit St Petersburg in 2000

The prodigal soon returns home

Many Arsenal fans won’t be happy with how the transfer market has panned out so far but one thing is certain – the Arsenal hierarchy has been very busy offloading their deadwood that offered little or no contribution to the team’s cause last season.

In the course of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal had some players that worked their skins off and producing the goods on a weekly basis, even if it wasn’t enough to end the club’s everlasting trophy drought.

In goal, Wojciech Szczesny had the lion’s share of game time but Lukasz Fabianski had a rare stint at goal that was highly productive. The defense was manned by Per Mertesacker on a regular basis but while Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen struggled for fitness and form, the performances of Laurent Koscielny, Carl Jenkinson and of course, the intense battle between Kieran GIbbs and Nacho Monreal were worth commending.

The midfield had an interesting outlook with injuries robbing the club off the services of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby but while Mikel Arteta was a standout performer all season long, Rosicky’s rennaisance and Aaron Ramsey’s late season flourish were heartwarming to say the least. Santi Cazorla however, was in a realm of his own.

In attack, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud had to combine to fill van Persie’s scoring boots (there was still some space in the boots though). While the likes of Gervinho and the Ox failed to impress, Theo Walcott’s goalscoring form was a vast improvement in more ways than one.

At the end of the 2012/13 campaign, Arsenal would look back at the season with shame bearing in mind that they were outsed from two winnable cup domestic cup competitions by lower opposition that would’ve been defeated any other day. Even if they could take some solace with the Champions League exit in the hands of the eventual winners, the Premier League campaign turned out to be another topsy-turvy adventure that just saw the Gunners sniff at the final Champions League spot on the last day of the season.

After accessing the squad, Arsene Wenger and his negotiating chums got busy and many of these players have new employers. Here’s an overview of Arsenal’s offloaded deadwood this summer.

Vito Mannone to Sunderland

In 13 appearances for Arsenal last season, Vito Mannone managed two clean sheets against Stoke and Liverpool. He deputized when Szczesny suffered an ankle injury and on the Pole’s return to full fitness, Mannone was sent back to the bench and never managed to get his footing till the season ended.

He has had his fair share of heroics like the Fulham game a few seasons ago where he put up a 5-star performance but in my honest opinion, he has never convinced me and probaly many fans out there that he actually has what it takes to command a starting berth in an ambitious club like Arsenal.

With Simon Mignolet departing Sunderland for greener pastures in Anfield, Paolo di Canio’s punt for his compatriot, Mannone, is a highly welcome move and he would thrive in a club like Sunderland where he won’t be under any pressure to deliver but when I remember di Canio’s antics last season, I believe that Mannone would have to really step up.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: With Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski clearly ahead of Mannone in the pecking order, selling Mannone to Sunderland has a very good move

Andre Santos to Flamengo

When Andre Santos joined the club in 2011 along with a plethora of “panic signings” Arsenal made after that humiliating defeat in the hands of Manchester United, he looked a decent buy as he offered what Arsenal had lacked in the days of Gael Clichy – an attacking outlet on the left flank. His goals against Olympiakos, Chelsea and West Brom came in vital moments and he enjoyed a good first season by his standards.

Last season, things had gone awry for the Brazilian and his performances on the pitch have been nothing short of appalling. His poor positional awareness and dismal defending has cost his team times without number with his performances in the games against Schalke (home), Manchester United (away), Liverpool (home) and Brighton (away) bringing him to the bad books of Arsenal fans.

Then of course, there was the halftime shirt swap with Robin van Persie that prompted the fans for ask for his head on a shiny plate.

After another bad showing against Liverpool, the manager went to the transfer window when Gibbs suffered an injury, clearly indicating that he had no further plans in his team. He was shipped to Gremio but the club didn’t have the financial capabilities to seal a permanent deal and after grumbling on his return to London, he reached an agreement with Arsenal to terminate his contract.

Andre Santos is currently basking in the Brazilian Sun and I must say, he won’t be missed.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: With Kieran Gibbs injured on the tail end of the January transfer window, Arsenal didn’t think twice before swooping for Nacho Monreal. That speaks a lot in volumes.

Sebastien Squillaci to SC Bastia

For those that don’t know, Sebastien Squillaci is the real Man of Steel.

The French bloke arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain and the “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a very in teaching the younger ones like Djourou and Koscielny but he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre.

He even lived up to the Legendary No. 18 own goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut.

Seeing that guy wear the Red and White sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make. To the delight of Arsenal fans worldwide, the Man of Steel’s contract expired and Arsenal wasted no time is rolling the red carpet in front of the main gate of the Emirates.

At least, there’s a Daily Planet in the island of Corsica so Squillaci will be doing two jobs – playing for SC Bastia while wearing the Superman outfit inside his jersey. When there will be trouble in the town, Squillaci will leave the pitch and save the day, because when he’s on the pitch, he’s as good as someone that’s off it because he’s a short one as we call it in Nigeria.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Despite his VAST EXPERIENCE!!!!, he’s behind Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Miquel and even Johan Djourou’s spirit that’s in the club while his body plays in Hamburg. If he signed a new deal, there would have been a riot in London Colney.

Denilson Pereira Neves to Sao Paulo

Denilson was the part of the Brazil Under-20 side that won the South American Championships and was labeled as the next best thing in Brazil so he snapped up for £3.4m from Sao Paulo in 2006.

With World Cup winner Gilberto Silva, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Song and Lassana Diarra all in the squad, Denilson had to settle for Carling Cup starts but as the years went by, Denilson found himself available for first team action and he took his chance in the 2008/09 season because he was the Gunner with the highest amount of appearances that season (over 50 games or so).

Jack Wilshere’s emergence in the 2010/11 season limited the Brazilian to Cup matches and substitute appearances in the League but Denilson was a shadow of the player that was quite impressive a few seasons ago. After Arsenal played Fulham at the end of that campaign, the Brazilian told the World that he’s a frustrated figure at the club and he’s going to leave.

Arsenal negotiated a loan move for the bloke to his native Brazil and after a spell with Sao Paulo, they failed to match the Gunner’s evaluation for the player and another loan move came into fruition. With the Brazilian outfit failing to meet Arsenal’s demands again, the player took things to his hands and like Andre Santos, his contract was terminated.

Now he’s back with Sao Paulo after joining as a free agent, wily old sly foxes, the lot of them.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Instead of trying to fight for his place with Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, this Brazilian brought out a white flag and chickened out. Good riddance.

Andrey Arshavin to Zenit St. Petersburg

After an extremely disappointing campaign, Arshavin’s time with Arsenal is up as the club chose not to renew his contract. He was reduced to spending a lot of time in the dugout and when he came on, he looked rather uninterested.

He was pretty impressive in the Capital One Cup last season and his only significant Premier League moments include his late cross into the box that led to the goal against Queens Park Rangers and the penalty he won for his team against Fulham.

In what became his final appearance for the club, Arsene Wenger summoned him with 15 minutes left to play when the Gunners visited Stamford Bridge. With the Gunners trailing, they needed inspiration from anywhere but when the ball came to Arshavin’s path, he was found wanting.

Some say that he was played out of position, others said that his attitude was lackadaisical. I say that he’s a technically proficient player that began his career in the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.

Deadwood Offloading Conclusion: Arshavin’s movement was excellent and after what we’d seen from him at Anfield and the boost he gave our season after his signing, there was no doubt in my mind we’d signed a really talented footballer but talent only gets you so far. We paid a big transfer fee and big wages, and we got nothing close to value for money.  – Arseblog

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Johan Djourou and Francis Coquelin may be technically regarded as “deadwood” as well, but they are currently on loan and still have contracts with Arsenal so I decided not to add them on this list.

As for Marouane Chamakh, Park Ju-Young and the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, their cases are in Mount Olympus.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Performances in the 2012/13 Season – The Goalkeepers

Wojciech Szczesny - Sunderland v Arsenal - Premier League

Save of the season?

This season, Arsenal conceded 37 goals in the Premier League, 10 goals in the Champions League, seven goals in the Capital One Cup and five goals in the FA Cup. Unlike last season where the Gunners opened the floodgates with consummate ease, a more cautious approach was taken after the defense struggled badly against Tottenham. In a run of ten games after that defeat against Tottenham, the Gunners conceded only five goals winning eight games and drawing two.

Over the course of the season, Arsene Wenger used his available playing personnel in the goalkeeping department.

Wojciech Szczesny has been synonymous with first-team football but an ankle injury in Autumn, coupled with Lukasz Fabianski out of action as well, paved the way for Vito Mannone to strut his stuff but the Italian didn’t convince Wenger enough to command a first-team berth. A dip in form from Szczesny in Spring saw a fit-again Fabianski take his spot but another injury allowed the younger Pole to reclaim his spot.

This article is focused on rating Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. This is the first installment of four posts and today’s post is entirely focused on Arsenal’s custodians between the sticks.

Feel free to share your comments.

Wojciech Szczesny – 33 Apps, 13 Clean Sheets

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected of the young Pole working his way up the food chain. He began the campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a howler against Southampton.

Even after his errors coupled with fairly average performances from his deputy, Vito Mannone, Wenger returned Szczesny into the team and even used him in domestic cup fixtures, clearly showing that he had little or no faith in the deputy Italian. This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.

He got a wake up call when Wenger dropped him to the bench against Bayern Munich (away) and the fact that his father blasted the boss for his poor form didn’t help his cause. A rib injury to Fabianski allowed the younger Pole to return to first-team action and this saw a change in his fortunes as Szczesny kept clean sheets against Everton (home), Fulham (away), Queens Park Rangers (away) and Newcastle (away).

While he may want to forget his antics against Southampton (home) and Aston Villa (home), he can look back with pride when he reflects on his performance against Sunderland (away) as well those vital saves he made against Queens Park Rangers (away) and Wigan (home).

Szczesny is not a finished article but there’s certainly some room for improvement.

Rating – 6/10

Lukasz Fabianski – Five Apps, Two Clean Sheets

Lukasz Fabianski has been a back up goalie for as long as he can remember.

Since his arrival in 2007 despite being the best goalie in the Polish Ekstraklasa for two consecutive seasons in his time with Legia Warsaw, Fabianski has played second fiddle to Manuel Almunia and currently, his compatriot, Wojciech Szczesny. Like Abou Diaby, injuries have become part and parcel of Fabianski’s career with the Gunners and the meager five appearances he managed in the entire campaign is a testament of that.

Notwithstanding, the Pole has been a breath of fresh air in his somewhat brief return to the squad. When I saw Fabianski step into the Allianz Arena with his teammates, I feared for the worst but the goalie was in imperious form, saving efforts from Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben despite being out of the game for over a year.

How’s that for your first performance in a year?

This was followed with another clean sheet against Swansea (away) and if Nacho Monreal had tracked Hal Robson-Kanu well in the thumping of already-relegated Reading, Fabianski would have had three clean sheets in a row. He went on to concede from a penalty against West Brom (away) and was rooted to the spot when Norwich’s Michael Turner headed the ball past him. He still went on to make a vital save in that game to keep Norwich at bay.

With his current contract expiring this summer, Fabianski will have to review his future with the club. His cameo performances have shown that he can be a dependable goalkeeper but he needs to back it up with consistency and at least, staying fit to be available for selection.

Rating – 7/10

Vito Mannone – 13 Apps, Two Clean Sheets

Since arriving at Arsenal as far back as 2006, Vito Mannone has still failed to convince anybody that he has what it takes to be the custodian between the sticks for a top side like Arsenal. This season, injuries to Szczesny and Fabianski paved the way for the big Italian to stake his claim for a first-team berth and clean sheets against Stoke (away) and Liverpool (away) must have done wonders to his confidence.

He was wrongly benched for Szczesny against Southampton (home) and conceded from a penalty on his return to the first team when the Gunners played Montpellier (away). When he was tested against bigger opposition, he failed to impress as he was caught in No Man’s Land when he came to claim a cross against Manchester City (away), allowing Joleon Lescott to score an unguarded net.

His performance against Chelsea (home) didn’t inspire confidence in his back line and despite the fact that Thomas Vermaelen clumsiness played a role in both fouls that led to Chelsea’s goals, Mannone should have done better in both set pieces, as he failed to dominate his area in Fernando Torres’ goal and was caught out as Juan Mata’s free kick from Planet Jupiter crept into his net.

While he could be blameless for all goals conceded against Schalke 04 in both legs, he gave his manager a cause for concern when he failed to deal with a cross against West Ham (away), allowing Andy Carroll to head the ball narrowly wide.

In my honest opinion, Mannone is a decent goalkeeper but I don’t feel that he has a long-term future with the club, and it would do him some good if he seeks a move elsewhere, where he doesn’t have to be under the radar all the time.

Rating – 6/10

So there you have it, the first of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the defense comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Mannone Staying Put and Koscielny on the Spotlight

Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone

Not going anywhere

The second phase of international fixtures commence tonight and the star attraction will be the crunch encounter between Spain and France. As expected, the build-up to this game has seen different players come into the spotlight for more reasons than one.

Arsenal’s Spanish representative, Santi Cazorla, has stated that he wants to be like Andres Iniesta when he grows up, and that’s not a bad thing, considering the fact that Iniesta is one of the best midfielders in his generation. Despite the fact that his skin is no different from those zombies in Resident Evil, his football ability is light years ahead of the average attacking midfielder.

Like Iniesta, Cazorla is a versatile lad and he’s pretty good with the ball on his feet. However, Iniesta’s passing ability and creativity is second to none. It still goes down to Santi Cazorla to keep improving and one team will be the beneficiary of his success story – Arsenal.

From the French camp, the spirits are high but their shock loss to Japan raised a few eyebrows. Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny played that game and didn’t put a foot wrong all game long. French defensive legend and World Cup winner, Marcel Desailly, has lauded Koscielny, stating that he’s at par with Nemanja Vidic and Gerard Pique,

I love Koscielny, I’ve seen him a lot. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a great experience [against Japan], but he’s had good momentum since his arrival at Arsenal.

“He has good leg speed, which reminds me of Lilian [Thuram]. The last time we spoke I told him to work hard and he’ll become one of the best defenders in the world.

“He’s at the standard of a Vidic or Pique. I mean that sincerely.”

In contrast to Desailly, I won’t rank Koscielny with Vidic and Pique just yet, because he’s still in a steep learning curve and his performances last season showed what he was capable of. Koscielny on the other hand, is relishing clashing with Spain tonight.

If my memory serves me right, Koscielny’s last match against Spain was his first in the European Championships when he partnered Adil Rami in defense after Phillippe Mexes picked up a suspension. The center back pairing that night was impressive but Xabi Alonso’s brace was enough to book the Spanish side a semifinal berth against Portugal.

For reasons best known to Aliens scared to attack the Earth because Chuck Norris lives, Koscielny lashed out at Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, labelling him as a diver and a cheat. This is probably the reason why,

legend of the “Fall”

Koscielny doesn’t have to be bothered tonight, because the last time I checked, Suarez speaks Spanish but his national team wears Blue and Black. I’m looking forward to tonight’s match and I’ll be rooting for my best national team (after Nigeria, obviously) – Les Bleus.

Elsewhere, Jenkinson has been training with the English squad, Nicklas Bendtner took a swipe at Arsenal’s training philosophy and Alex Song paid a tribute to Arsene Wenger.

It’s fair to say that Vito Mannone is having his longest run-out in the first team making his debut in 2009. He had a run-out similar to this in the 2009/10 campaign, where he put up that 5-star performance against Fulham but when Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski returned to full fitness, Mannone went down the pecking order, much to his dissatisfaction.

Two successful spells to npower Championship outfit, Hull City, followed and the extended run of games did wonders to Mannone’s confidence as he went on an amazing run of nine clean sheets for the Tigers as they narrowly missed out on a play-off spot last season.

As expected, Hull wanted to retain Mannone’s services permanently but Arsene Wenger was having none of it. Maybe he saw the future and envisaged that Mannone could still play a role for the club or maybe he saw that raw potential in the Italian goalie and to be frank, I can’t tell.

Mannone had a couple of pre-season games but the Polish goalkeeping duo played most of the matches. Out of the blue, Lukasz Fabianski suffered a mysterious injury and his whereabouts are still shrouded in mystery, leaving Szczesny and Don Vito as Arsenal’s recognized goalies.

Szczesny kept a clean sheet against Sunderland before suffering a rib injury, and I was as scared as fuck when Wenger announced that Mannone will be  Arsenal’s custodian between the sticks against that Rugby outfit, Stoke City. The Italian did alright and did even better in Anfield, raising his confidence levels.

Szczesny came back to the side against Southampton and would have preferred the ground to open up after his howler but when I learned that he had suffered an “ankle injury”, I thought that Wenger was punishing him for his gaff against Southampton but as we can all see, Szczesny still remains on the sidelines, as Mannone has played every game, with the exception of the Capitol One clash against Coventry.

The young Italian had reiterated his desire to make No. 1 position his for keeps but Wenger was quick to declare that Szczesny is still in Pole position for that position. Mannone has attracted interest from his clubs in his nation, Inter and Napoli, and many believe that he could jump ship.

Mannone has come out to pledge his future to Arsenal, stating that he’s wants to remain at Arsenal for as long as he can,

“I want to make it clear, because there have been unfounded rumours, that my contract is not ending in 12 months,

“I’ve got a few more years and I’m happy to be at Arsenal right now. I’m looking at the present and my future is not in doubt. 

“I want to stay at Arsenal as long as I can, I don’t want to move to any other club.”

Mannone has stated that his current ambition is to break into the Italian national team and it will take some stuffing to displace the legendary Gianluigi Buffon and his able deputy, Salvatore Sirigu.

I still don’t know why I’m not very comfortable with Mannone in goal and his performances in the “big games” we’ve played this season (with the exception of Liverpool) kinda proves me right. He can’t still command his area and that seems to be a very big problem in my opinion.

However, I’m going to cut him some slack because on a grand scale of things, he has done okay, but I want Szczesny to be back a.s.a.p.

That’s today’s bit.

Sayonara.

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