Archive for March 24th, 2009

24
Mar
09

Is anyone on this team the new (fill in the blank)?

Prompted by Wenger’s statement prodding Abou Diaby to make himself in to the “New Vieira” I thought I might take a look at some of our current squad and see if any of them are the new anything. Hey, what else are we going to do during the international break? Sit around wondering if van Persie is leaving? I’d rather not.

The New Vieira

A couple of things here: first, we have to remember that Wenger’s system was different when Patrick Vieira terrorized opposition midfields. Vieira was paired with a more traditional defensive midfielder during his tenure at Arsenal (Petit, Gilberto, Edu, etc) which freed him to play the box-to-box role. If you look at how this season has gone so far, I think we’ve seen Arsene change his lineup to this more “traditional” Wenger lineup with Diaby in the box-to-box role and Song and Denilson in the defensive role.

Other than a sort of formational similarity, though, Diaby doesn’t really play like Vieira. Vieira was a hard tackling midfield tough guy. Yes, he distributed the ball well, but really, when it came down to it, Vieira was on the team to give lumps to shit kickers like Blackburn and Newcastle.  Diaby on the other hand has the dribbling ability of Alex Hleb and, unfortunately, Hleb’s tackling ability as well.

Wenger has encouraged the big fella to model his game after Vieira and for me that means getting stuck in a bit more. Hey, if I said Arsenal could have a player that dribbles like Hleb and tackles like Vieira would you turn that down?

So, maybe he’s not the New Vieira and is more like the new Vieirahleb. Once he learns how to tackle properly, that is.

The New Henry

There isn’t one and never will be.

Adebayor’s goal scoring record last year was impressive and threatened to reach the heights of Henry but this year has been a bit of a let off. Henry never had a let off (except his last season which doesn’t count!).

Not only did Henry score year in and year out but his numbers were eye popping. In 2005/06 Henry scored 33 goals in 45 games (including subs) on 172 shots, 87 of which were on goal. 51% of his shots were on goal, 38% of those shots resulted in goals, and he had a massive return of .73 goals per game.

In comparison, the return from our current three strikers is appallingly low: Robin van Persie is .46, Adebayor is .42, and Bendtner is .31.

But Thierry Henry was a once in a lifetime player, it’s not fair to put Bendtner in the same category when he so clearly is not a once in a lifetime player. He’s a fine lad with tons of confidence who scores good goals and works very hard and I like him, but he’s no Henry.

No one is.

The New Lehmann

Do we want a new Lehmann? I mean, there was a certain charm in his insanity but in the end I think he cost Arsenal a bit. Getting sent off in the opening minutes of the Champions League final will always go down as a black mark in my book and erased whatever good will his antics raised.

No, after Lehmann it feels good to have a steady hand at the till. If we could just get Almunia to be more, erm, assertive in his area then we’d really have something.

I do see a bit of The Madness of Jens in Fabianski but right now it just manifests itself as being very aggressive in the sweeper-keeper roll and not in the fally downy bizzaro antics that Jens perpetrated.

So, there isn’t a new Lehmann, thank the Gods!

The New Adams

Wenger simply does not create this type of player. He mints technically gifted midfielders faster than the US prints money but he’s never gotten his head around making a huge, hard as nails, defender who can not only withstand the pressure of playing in Arsenal’s back 4 but captain the team to boot.

Mind you he’s tried. Senderos was going to be the New Adams, before he had a mental breakdown and needed a vacation in Italy. Sol Campbell was going to be the New Adams until he had a mental breakdown and needed a vacation on the South Coast.

Djourou? No, he’s a good player and all but he’s already 22 years old, which by that time, Adams was Arsenal captain. Again, it’s a bit unfair, Adams was a once in a lifetime player and no matter how good Djourou is or turns out to be he can never fit in Tony Adams’ shoes.

Conclusion

I was looking at the team roster and I thought, well, maybe Diaby can be Vieira-esque but really what I’d rather have is Diaby be the New Diaby and Arshavin be the new Arshavin and Cesc the new Fabregas on down the line. I really do like a lot of the players on the team and I like them for who they are, not who they aren’t.

Sure, we’d all like to see Adebayor and Bendtner increase their conversion rates, or Djourou step up in a leadership role, or more hard tackling in the midfield but those are qualities that can be taught and with time I think all those players will gain some of those qualities.

But ultimately, that chapter of Arsenal’s history is written, those players are legends, and these are the players we have right here and now. These guys need to write their own legends. Imagine if this team wins the Champions League, every player on that Arsenal team will be remembered not as the new (fill in the blank) but as Diaby, Bendtner, Cesc, Almunia and Djourou: the guys who won Arsenal’s first Champions League trophy.

That’s what I’m hoping for.

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