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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Next generation Arsenal prove they are the real deal

Last night Arsenal completed the job of knocking the famous Real Madrid out of the Champions League by competing in a thrilling - and yes its an oxymoron! - nil-nil draw at Highbury. The enormous sprit, the attacking style of play, and the visible growth in confidence across the team that was evident in both matches are all so heartening for this Gunner - and I'm sure all other Gunners' - to see.

Every Arsenal player - just as in the first leg - played their hearts out, knew and looked confident in their assigned roles, and played the Wenger vision of total football that must be close to anyone's definition of beautiful football. Arsene Wenger's next generation team is - as already said last Saturday by the Fulham manager Chris Coleman - ready now.

Eboue and Hleb have showed in the last fortnight that Arsene Wenger may have found a right-hand side combination that can be the offensive equal of our excellent left-hand side. Eboue is a superstar in the making. He has absolutely everything: heart, pace, strength, excellent defensive awareness, strong tackling ability, thrilling attacking drive, confidence, composure, good passing range… as I said he has everything! And Hleb came out of the shadows yesterday to show everyone his massive potential: his attacking dribbling and ability to beat a player in tight situations is fantastic. Once he gets a bit more composure when playing his final pass, plus loses his reluctance to shoot when in good positions, he could become REALLY good.

Fabregas was outstanding in a packed midfield and looked to relish the challenge of taking on the superstars of Madrid. His passing, running effort and intelligence on the ball was simply superb; and he has shown over both legs that he has the special character to raise his game in the biggest matches.

Toure and Senderos are only 24 years old and 22 years old respectively. Yet they faced up to the attacking pressure inflicted by Madrid with a concentration, application and reading of the game that belies their young years. This is a partnership with massive potential.

And a note for young Flamini who typifies what the Arsenal spirit should be all about. He put in a huge effort in an unfamiliar left back position, and proved to be a huge inspiration for the team because of his visible huge determination to fight hard for the cause.

The experienced heads of Captain Henry, Ljungberg, Gilberto and Lehmann brilliantly led by example, and I really liked to see how each one seemed to be constantly talking to and guiding their younger teammates.

But my biggest mention is for Arsene Wenger. Coming up to his tenth year at Highbury, he has bought Arsenal two doubles, an unbeaten league season, a record breaking league run, a scintillating brand of total football that is a joy to watch, and now he has blended youth with experience to knock out the famous Galacticos of Madrid.

He may not always get every decision right (but who does?), but his principles and practice of playing total football are unbeatable and I will always consider him as being simply fantastic. For me, he deserves to have seen his vision of play vindicated on the biggest stage in the last fortnight. Well done Arsene, and well done Arsenal!

P.S. I would like to add that EFT is one year old today! So, on behalf of everyone at EFT, I'll briefly take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has supported our site in its first year. Long may it continue…!!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A truly brilliant night fellow gooners!
A night where our young guns showed us and everyone else exactly what the Arsenal have in store over the next few years!!!
But it's nights like these that leave me screaming!!! YES SCREAMING!!! and i'm sure le boss and you guys too!!! WHY???

I knew all along and I sure know now (league position!!!) that it was a massive mistake taking the heartbeat and engine out of the team when we did! Leaving the boys hardly anytime to adjust and recover from losing their captain! and more catastrophically not replacing him with SOMEBODY who could cover for the loss of TWO world class midfielders!!!
IF PAT and EDU HAD TO GO THEN SURELY THEY HAD TO BE REPLACED BY SOMEONE!!! even if it was just to hold things together while the bigger plan of developing the young crop of gems that we have took shape!!! Hopefully we'll get an explanation for that at some stage!!!
Having said that, I think we all saw where le boss was going and believed in it! We still do! And although I think le boss did mis-calculate the impact those sales would of had! I think our real problems have stemmed from the psychological fallout at the end of an amazing set of standards that we set a couple of seasons ago and then the mentioned sales!
Without the size, force and experience of EDU and PV, we adopted this mentally of WE'RE GETTING BULLIED! TEAMS ARE BEING TOO PHYSICAL! ETC. ETC!!! This MENTALITY should not of been allowed to develop. PV or another MF in that mould would not of allowed it to happen, simply by leading by example and getting stuck in! (NOTE THE IMPACT IT HAS ON THE TEAM WHEN THEY SEE TITI CHASING BACK AND CLOSING PEOPLE DOWN)
This is where I think le boss has been let down!!! BY INDIVIDUALS ON THE PITCH!!! namely, most of the senior boys! I think he expected more from them in supporting the gems! GILBERTO, PIRES, CAMPBELL IN PARTICULAR!
I don't think le boss would of expected an 18-year-old prodigy to outplay a seasoned world cup winner for most of the season, did you??!!
I truly believe le boss believes in these players and knows what we've got here! A COUPLE OF NOW PLAYERS (24-29 yr old DEFENDER AND MIDFIELDER) ofcourse would of seen us in better shape; but just look at who's been out! or in and out! for most of the season: CAMPBELL, CYGAN, COLE, CLICHY, LAUREN, TOURE, EBOUE, VAN PERSIE, FLAMINI, HLEB!!! Take those comparitive players out of any of our rivals teams! just do it, it won't take long, and then think about it!!???
Put those above, missing from last nights line-up, back in and include the likes of THEO, ADE, DIABY, GILBERT, DJOUROH! and then just look at that team!!! what a team le boss!!!
Le boss made one mistake as explained, and because those who should of been doing more to help their manager when he needed it, just haven't got their fingers out; we find ourselves playing the football we know we can play (and are probably one of the best in the world at playing) on the biggest stage there is! Delighting a lot of observers with real football, something those blood money just comes over west could never do!
BUT YET find ourselves fifth in OUR league with a mental block that should never of been allowed to develop!!! Im absolutely gutted this season (yes last night was great), but I know where we should be! and we're not there! Let's push on in CL! See if we can claw back that fourth place! but most importantly, let's get back our psychological edge and hope that le boss buys where we need to in prep for next season! we cannot afford to stand still again!
G4L (gooner for life)

3/09/2006 7:56 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....Well done 't' and Redsman.....two very accurate summaries. Followed by G4L & his happy regrets.

As 't' knows I have been Eboue's biggest advocate for some time. I also was quick to criticise AW, probably too quick. What I would love to see now is ALL gunners realising what an incredible squad Saint Arsene has built already! I was talking to another 'old' Gunner last night,and we naturally had ideas about our best potential team, assuming ALL our injuries were over. We came up with the following.


Eboue Toure Senderos Cole

Fabrigas Freddy

Walcott Hleb Henry Reyes

Now think of our subs, blimey the mind boggles:-

Campbell, Gilbert, Van Percie, Flamini, Almunia, Clichy, Lupoli, Hoyte, Bentner.

This of course means that AW, could afford to sell a few to help buy that extra special couple of players to boost competition ie;

Pires, Cygan, Lauren, Larrson, etc.

Now who would we like coming ? I for one want some Brits, because Im sick of the true fact that we have played nearly two whole games with no Brits at all. That is not good enough. Apart from that Im a very happy man.

PS: I would like Benfica next

3/09/2006 7:57 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn`t see Adebayor there but I know what you are meaning. If we just got our injured players back we would be incredebly strong.

Now if Thierry stays and we could sign a centerback, a sentral midfielder and maybe a goalkeeper (sorry Lehmann is aging..) then we would have a worldclass team for years to come!!

3/09/2006 8:23 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I was talking to another 'old' Gunner last night,and we naturally had ideas about our best potential team, assuming ALL our injuries were over. We came up with the following."

So you'd have a team with only one midfielder suited for defensive tasks and with the completely untested Walcott selected ahead of proven internationals like Van Persie and Pires?

3/09/2006 9:29 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's my concerns. I know henry can be brilliant, but when he's not, we lose. We have a team of ten plus henry. He will never be a great captain and nobody, including wenger, will critisize him when he gets lazy and poses.
I think for the team to get to the next level, he has to go. Next season I would like to see toure as captain with maybe reyes, van persie and walcott up front(go ahead lick you lips. We also have lupoli and adebayer. Plus with the money we get for henry and cole we can strengthen the defense and midfield. Next season could be total football, not 10 + 1.

3/09/2006 9:38 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

The ship has had to sail through rocky torrentuous seas and it seems a calm finally looks to emerge. I personally sense it was a combination of Madrid lacking in their drive and sharpness with that of Arsenal simply being in the right place at the right time. How does one coach that kind of strategy? Ask Arsene Wenger, but rest assured the Gunners simply had to match Madrid for positioning and pace and the Galacticos were never getting through. While Raul Bravo is a suitable defender, Sergio Ramos has always concerned me and if Jonathan Woodgate and Helguera are fit, Ramos shouldn't be featuring until he completes more awareness and defensive tact. Promising but not yet capable. Ronaldo is not fit. Zidane is not the wonder anymore, Gravesen was hyped for transfer and could feature better in another side, just not in Madrid's side as they look to rebuild. Guti is a shrewd playmake on occasion, so that's not regularly enough, Baptista hasn't impressed and Robinho is found that step-overs and skills need more to make a more influential player. That's all for Sr Martin to ponder over.

All the above on Arsenal are spot on for me. It's been an excellent week for them, and makes for a juicy encounter to come at Highbury on Sunday.

I wish to pick up from Limey48's comment about Henry being released for the good of the club. I agree that Arsenal can rely on Henry for inspiration and indeed goals and if he isn't on form things do look less convincing. It's possible Wenger wouldn't criticise him and that could be Wenger's way of dealing with concerns, not focusing on one player unless it is very clear cut one player is a problem, maybe along the lines of Campbell recently. But were the club to release him, the uproar would be devastating, and I do not see it as a reality that the club would do so if Henry shows no indication of leaving. It would bring in good finance but Arsenal effectively lose their talisman, and it is debatable (IMO true) that they had suffered from the release of Vieira.

The promising thing for Arsenal is Wenger can build the players from their youth into professionalism around Henry, they form a machine that works to the ends of supplying Henry. Being such an inspirational player, he needs the service in order to function well. An inspirational captain? Again, debatable. Perhaps another article on EFT could go into the required qualities of a captain, and then match current skippers to a proposed skeleton criteria. If anyone wishes to write one to be put on EFT, send them in, the e-mail address is on the homepage. But at the moment, there is no one other to wear the Arsenal armband.

Champions League for the Gunners - Go, go, go!!


3/09/2006 11:34 pm

Anonymous IL-Gooner said...

I agree with Redsman - it's important for Arsenal that Henry stays. He's one of the best players in the world - why would we want him out? He's our best player, our best goalscorer, one of our best assisters, our best ambassador and our biggest winner. Although he had some games this season when he looked disinterested (especially at Anfield), these were still a minority. He's spectacularly consistent. He's one of the biggest reasons (together with Wenger) that players want to join the club. He's one of our more experienced players and the young players look up to him. Although he's suffered injuries in the past two seasons, he looks fit again and physically strong (unlike Vieira who seemed to be going downhill physically).

People question Henry's captaincy, but they should remember two things:

1. Henry is new at this role. Vieira's captaincy also looked like a big drop after Adam's departure, but he improved.

2. Most of the captain's role is not on the pitch. In my eyes, a captain's job is mostly before and after games. During the game, a captain should also show leadership, but so can other team members. In the match vs Madrid Toure did just that when he organised the defence. I remember a Beckham free-kick where Toure shouted and pushed his fellow players (including Gilberto) into their right defending positions. That's what we were missing from some of our senior players. However, I'm not sure Toure would be better than Henry at leading the side during training and in the dressing room...

3/10/2006 2:12 am

Blogger T said...

A lot of really solid comments, thanks everyone.

To repeat GunnerPete, I respect your happy regrets G4L, and your analysis made for really good reading.

Limey48, I can kinda see the logic in what you say, but I must say that I don't agree with it. I totally agree with Il-gooner's perspective... Henry is immense and his value as a talisman for the younger player is priceless. And as Wenger said last week, Henry is developing and getting better as a captain every match... an indicator of this is the awesome example he set against Madrid.

Redsman, you may be surprised that Helguera is fit but has been dropped after an indifferent season... and was on the bench against Arsenal. I was really surprised to see this because I have always seen him as a steely and reliable defender/defensive midfielder.

Finally, thanks GunnerPete for another brilliantly thought-provoking contribution. Your team looks like it will play fantasy football because the front six are all primarily attacking players... and in many respects I would love to see the football that it is capable of producing. My concerns, however, would be the lack of cover for the defence, and for this reason I would always look to have a Gilberto/Diaby type player to anchor the midfield.

I wonder what position Wenger has lined up for Walcott?

3/10/2006 6:02 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Firstly congrats on the 1st Birthday of EFT! Thanks to Newsnow also for letting me find you!

Advertising over...and onto the great play that we had over 2 legs. Hleb and Eboue certainly are an effective right sided combination...with a bit more poise...Ljungberg could have released Eboue for a clear shot on goal in the second half but opted to look for Henry instead. THAT is an example of the team STARTING to gel, and not quite getting there.

Thankfully the post and Lehman really helped us on the way to the quarter finals where we meet Juventus, another collossus of a different kind. The strikers there are far more potent and unlikely to be burger munching like Ronaldo...The feeling that it's not such a big deal now...if Werder put them on the brink...why not Arsenal?

I feel the previous comments about Henry leaving have their merit, but at this stage, he's a real talisman. I can only forsee that he plays out his games in the next few years as a gunner because nothing else really makes sense. Naturally, a Champions League spot is a big bargaining chip...and we aren't there yet in the League nor the Champions League. So I dont' see that Henry signs on until we have one or the other. He's a showman...and he wants the biggest stage in the world.

If anything, the youngsters are showing more potential and it is the experienced players that are being shown up. Pires swapped in for Reyes really softened the Arsenal defense...with no cover for Flamini. Bergkamp didn't have much time to make and impact and Hleb is showing why Arsene bought him all those months ago.

In a sense, the "First" team is gelling but in reality...the WHOLE team is gelling I feel. Even when Ashley comes back...there will be opportunity for the Flamini's and Larsson's to show what they can do. Cesc can't start EVERY game, and against Fulham he didn't. A shrewd tactic of Wenger's I remind Cesc he's here to don't go running off to Real Madrid!

Finally...on t's question for Walcott....I think he's going to have a lot of fun trying different positions. Maybe even a Bergkamp type player as an Attacking Midfielder if we don't have Reyes or VP. The key to this is we seem to prefer him on height. I think a rotation will come along with VP and Walcott possibly fighting for that position...along with Aliadiere, Lupoli, Bendtner, Ryan...ha! We do indeed have lots of potential still to come.

3/11/2006 4:10 am

Blogger T said...

Thanks Nturtle for the congrats... the year has flown by!

The team definitely look to be gelling more game by game, which in turn is adding much needed belief to the team, which again in turn is boosting the gelling process. This is a virtuous circle that Arsenal would do very well remain in...

I can't wait to see what Arsene has lined up for Walcott... and I get the hunch that we may see him tomorrow at some stage against Liverpool. Whenever it is that he does get his debut, I, of course, wish him all the best!

3/11/2006 11:19 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Having read many articles on the Arsenal game...and also the criticism of Alan Pardew (West Ham) and Gordon Taylor (PFA)of not being and "English" side...I just felt inclined to say that actually....Injuries to Gilbert also meant that we could not field at least one bloke who was born not too far away. Everyone has commented on Walcott, Sol and Cole...but didn't Gilbert also play against Ajax? As one of the 8 left backs we have had? Ludicrous to think that we play players due to nationality as well...just really illogical and Wenger truly uses his brain in refuting that. Excellent stuff Arsene.

In any case...I think you might be right T...Walcott might have a bit of fun replacing Ljungberg who is out with a calf strain it seems! Go boy go!

3/11/2006 1:32 pm

Blogger Abdul said...

Thanks for all the contributions over the past year. EFT has only been so uccessful beacuse of the people who have joind the debate. What a great first year!

Arsenal have shown real composure and poise this year in the CL. They seem to be playing without fear for the first time. Against Real, they realised they were playing against individuals rather than reputations - and the 1-0 aggregate scoreline does not do them justice.

I just want to join the bandwagon and highlight the performances of Eboue. This kid has come in at a time of crisis and performed tremendously. He defends well and attacks even better - what a prospect!

3/13/2006 9:54 am

Blogger T said...

Re Pardew, well said nturtle. I like what Pardew is doing at West Ham, and of coures he is entitled to his opinions, but they did have a hint of racism about them... plus he is also wrong to accuse Arsene because all our English players are currently unavailable. Further, the cost of Englsih players are generally too high for Wenger to afford... he wanted SWP, but he cost £22m!!!

Abdul, you are not alone in people joining the Eboue bandwagon... Andy Gray and Graeme Le Saux both applauded him y'day. Again, I give credit to GunnerPete for first talking about Eboue's potential here on EFT late last November.... plus I give myself credit too for backing this up after the Doncaster match... and then repeatedly on EFT in the last month.... yep, I'm not afraid to (shamelessly!) sometimes pat myself on the back! :)

3/13/2006 7:46 pm


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