Is This Arsène’s Strongest Squad & Win A Herbert Chapman Book

Yesterday’s review of Patrick Barclay’s excellent biography of Herbert Chapman came with Arsène using language of which his predecessor would have approved. It was the late Arsenal manager who introduced the salary scale which still exists, for the most part; a flat structure which has only just been punctured and reshaped but still with firm and level base.

Wenger spoke of his current squad being one of the strongest he has ever had during his reign at the club. It is a difficult job to compare depth or players out of their time; only the true footballing greats can transcend eras, slotting into future or past generations without even the merest hint of doubt. Others fit more questionably, have their strengths and weaknesses exposed as we look back or forward. Would a centre back now have been able to adapt to the robust challenges that existed in the English game two or more decades ago? Could their predecessor have coped with the pace, the athleticism of a modern forward? Questions to ponder, the answer in the latter scenario is always that the centre back was a great reader of the game, that compensated for the difference in pace; he would have adapted. There is never a right or wrong answer, just friendly disagreements.

But of his time in charge, is he right to be this bullish? Certainly the players are proving to be more durable in the Premier League than in recent years. Top now is enjoyable; it might not last but the evidence suggests that the squad will be hanging around the top of the table for a few more games and as those days stretch into weeks and beyond, who knows where their belief might take them. It is certainly better to see an Arsenal team competing for the title than languishing in a dogfight for fourth place. The season may yet end that way such is the closeness in the top four, the willingness of teams to take points off each other. Certainly we are reaching the point in the season where someone will strike a consistent vein of form / results; Arsenal have as good a chance as any of being the ones.

The depth of the squad is always relative to their time. If you look at Wenger’s double-winning squads, they weren’t hugely impressive once you got beyond the starting XI. 1997/98 had the legacy of George Graham’s back four to build on, augmented by Arsène’s own signings but once you got beyond the fourteen who played regularly, there was not that impressive a roster of younger players. Certainly none who progressed to have top flight careers.

2001/02 was a different story and a squad which had depth, arguably the deepest of any Wenger era. When the likes of Luzhny was not available, Lee Dixon was there; for Keown or Campbell, read Adams; Bergkamp, Kanu whilst the midfield had Edu and van Bronckhorst. There was experience and if Rosicky, Mertesacker and Sagna can be persuaded to renew their contracts, that scenario seems destined to be repeated in two years time or so. Certainly there were more options for the manager than The Invincibles could call upon if the need had arisen.

And that’s the key point on any discussion about squad depth. It is relative; what did the manager need at the time and was it good enough? In the three seasons mentioned above, he had enough options. Certainly he had more luck with injuries – yes, we’ll put it down to luck for the purposes of this argument – and never lost anyone with Theo Walcott’s significance in those seasons. It would have been the equivalent of taking Freddie Ljungberg out of the team with the regularity he was injured as his Arsenal career wound down. The key players stayed fit, particularly in 2003/04 and they were in their prime without exception. It is not a difficult case to make when suggesting that none of the members of that squad who played regularly, did so at higher levels before or after that season.

Could members of this squad have usurped any of those teams, forced their way into the starting line-up. If we are truly honest, not many. Perhaps Sagna; Mertesacker or Koscielny ahead of Campbell, Adams, Keown or Toure in their eras? A tough call. The likes of Cazorla against Ljungberg is an interesting battle and one which could go either way – I would opt for the Swede myself – whilst who knows, perhaps Özil may yet reach the heights Dennis Bergkamp scaled? The problem with such comparisons is the players development; are they at the similar stages of their careers? Some genuinely are, particularly across the back four and those choices would not be as straightforward as might seem on paper; previous generations have silverware underpinning their claims, to prove their abilities. When – if – this generation delivers, will the choices be so easy?

In case you’re wondering by this point what my Wenger Generation Arsenal XI would be:

Seaman; Sagna, Campbell, Keown, Cole; Ljungberg, Vieira, Fabregas, Pires; Bergkamp, Henry

With a bench of:

Lehmann, Toure, Lauren, Cazorla, Rosicky, Özil, Overmars, Wright

No room at the inn for some right now but it is not unbelievable to think that some of the current players will slot into that squad or make the choices a lot harder, a lot less straightforward.

As it is, Arsène is worrying about the here and now. Tomas Rosicky has apparently had surgery to repair his nose and he may be able to play if he wears a mask. I wonder what type it will be? A simple Lone Ranger eyeband, a full-on Batman or my own preference would be for a ‘V’ mask. Whether that is the flesh-eating alien or unknown anarchist, I’ll leave to you. As long as it isn’t anything like that used in Pulp Fiction, I should think the Premier League won’t mind. Elsewhere, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen have all sent notes from their mum asking if they can be excused from playing against Fulham because they’ve hurt themselves. Nacho Monreal might have to play because he left his at home yesterday but if he remembers it today, Señora Monreal’s wishes for her son to have the weekend off might be granted.

To finish with, the Orion Publishing Group have very kindly provided a copy of Patrick Barclay’s book which can be won if you answer this question correctly:

Who were Arsenal’s opponents when they won the FA Cup for the first time in 1930:

A. Newcastle United

B. Preston North End

C. Huddersfield Town

Answers to with your answer in the Subject field. The winner will be selected at random from those who give the correct answer after the closing date, which is Midnight GMT, Thursday 23rd January 2014.

If you can’t wait that long, click on this link to buy The Life and Times of Herbert Chapman: The Story of One of Football’s Most Influential Figures.

’til Tomorrow.

136 thoughts on “Is This Arsène’s Strongest Squad & Win A Herbert Chapman Book

  1. @MA

    Bergkamp was truly a joy to watch. I truly do hope that Ozil who isn’t really the same type of player but can have that same impact does!!!!!!!!

  2. Just found an article, thought i’d share because it is an interesting perspective. I don’t believe the whole Ozil has gone off the boil thing, but what i do find to be an uncomfortable truth is that he no longer has the same caliber of striking potential around him. An attacking midfielder depends on his team to finish the chances he makes , and Ozil had lethal players around him. Whereas our players are happy to pass it back , etc. No disrespect to our team, we are fantastic footballers as alluded to by Ozil himself, but our chance to goal ratio can’t be very high.

  3. MA
    its why im not a fan of any formation which has a lone striker..
    for me its negative and making it harder for yourself unless you play with messi…your basically asking your striker to be a midfielder and when youve got 5 already…??!!

    its easier to break teams down if you have at least two recongnised finishers in the line up..

    its why i prefer theo with giroud..

    prefer theo and pod with giroud if we playing a 433..but thats another story..

  4. @MA

    I agree, I would much rather see a 433 but the issue is, I think Giroud isn’t really suited to the type of 433 with fluid, interchangeable motion and movement but like you say it is working because we are top of the table.

  5. I do it myself sometimes but I think we often over think all the tactical stuff because its fun but the reality is that a team that scores lots of goals does it because they have good goal scorers. We have much more talent now and better midfield movement and skill now then we did 2 years ago when we were a 1 man team, but we are on pace to score the same number of goals. The difference was simply RVP. A good goal scorer who can finish the good passing moves but also move out get the ball on the wing or at midfield and create his own goal can do well with any formation, even if the midfield is not working at top efficiency. ManU has not had a decent midfield for 7-8 years but until this year they have outscored us every season. Look what RVP did for them last season. Suarez has been incredible this season. He and Sturridge have made Henderson and Cutinho look like much better players this season.

  6. @MA

    He is a joy to even listen to. I really do think that he will be around for a while because he is a player that wants and needs the trust of his manager ans clearly Arsene trusts him.

  7. @Moe & JJ

    I completely agree and that is why I don’t understand Podolski not playing. Ozil is at his best with finishers around him and Giroud isn’t a finisher by nature but Podolski is. This is why we must must must by a striker either now or most definetly in the summer. Arsenal can literally become unplayable should we get a striker that is capable of finishing off all of the passess that Ramsey, Mozart, Jack, Ozil and Santi provide.

    Just for a moment imagine Giroud(in form)/Jackson Martinez and Podolski upfront with Ozil, Santi, Mozart behind them with our defense. Simply unplayable.

    Anybody that thinks Ozil has slumped a bit, has anybody every thought that he just makes things look so simple and effortless that its looks like he is working hard because his class and talent allows him to look that way.

  8. bergkamps game took a few months to come..he was more individual in his first season cos we needed him to be but it wasnt really until his 2nd/3rd seasons he was running things…
    but at that point wenger came and we had overmars and anelka putting teams on the back foot with pace..

    have i mentioned pace before?? 🙂

    very important is pace..
    helps if you got a few players faster than the oppositions..much faster..

    they cant be marked

    and defensive lines start to crumble trying to and thats when your intelligent players get the room to destroy the space theyve been gifted..

    henry used to toy with wasnt just his finishing or skill that made him the player he was…he’d run this way and that, excellent movement..defensive lines would open up with henrys runs and bergkamp would just control the game..picking them apart…

    we should have won europe with that strikeforce but denis wouldnt fly and see how you feel about playing 90minutes after travelling for 24hours…
    real shame…thats just my opinion as to why we never did it with them anyway…

  9. podolskis not playing becuase hes not been fit C. i dont think..

    my pal said theres a picture on twitter of him training with his calf strapped…

    probably picked up a few niggles after being out for so long..

  10. @JJ

    The strange thing is that Podolski makes very good runs that not only creates space but puts himself in proper positions to score and allow for Ozil and Santi to run the match. This is why Theo is such a massive massive massive loss because he not only had the pace (that you and I both love!!!) but he would make brilliant runs but do them at full speed causing the defenders to be left basically hoping that his teammates didn’t see him or he would miss.

    That is why I think that buying or giving Podolski as much match time as possible will play a huge part in whether or not we win the EPL. That’s just my opinion.

  11. Players like Henry, Bergkamp, Suarez, RVP who are calm and skilled enough to be good goal scorers are also good passers and they get plenty of assists. If I remember RVP had the most assists of any PL player over a 3 year period at the time we sold him to ManU. However, having someone like RVP or Suarez who is dangerous when they get the ball on the wing 30 yards from goal opens up the game especially around the penalty area and makes everyone else more effective even if that player does not always pass the ball. Suarez will make a good pass when something opens up but who would you rather have taking the shot, RVP or Gervinho?

  12. jj

    Exactly what i have said for so long. Not just individual pace, but also speed of the game. Speed scares teams, speed of counter attack, speed of passing, speed from defence to attack.

    In my opinion we need a player like Ribery/Hazard/Ronaldo/Robben/ , not those players but players like that, players who have a great shots cutting back inside. Players that have individual quality, freekicks etc.

    I mean when the hell was the last time we scored from a direct freekick!? We’re rubbish at that! 😀

    So basically a player who is dangerous on HIS OWN. We are currently a team that relies on it’s football style, but we need individual quality as well.

    which is why i think we will miss Walcott so much 🙁

    Damn it, I miss him already.

  13. @JJ

    If that’s the case then I can be ok with that but if its just because then its a strange strange thing.

    If Arsene fears that his calf may bother him on and off the rest of the season then why not buy a winger?!?!?!?! I know your like me and think that he should even if its just a stop gap. Though spending 30M on Jackson Martinez or Costa(who is very unlikely to leave whether it be now or the summer after declaring himself eligible for Los Rojas) would be a brilliant move simply to help us win the EPL.

  14. How long can you take a break from work before it becomes procrastination?……. 😉


    You know i feel about the Podolski situation, it is extremely weird considering when he came back , he immediately assisted walcott and scored himself. Then bam! Bench.

    Well im just trusting to Wenger that he has seen something (or nothing) in training that we don’t know about.

  15. @Moe

    I know mate, you feel like I feel about Podolski, should and needs to start unless he is injured.

    I’m going to trust Wenger and I imagine that he has something and knows something we don’t naturally.

  16. bill

    rvp was bergkamps natural successor..
    that sale hurt more than the cesc one.. not a fan of martinez..hes a good player but something tells me he wouldnt do it in PL..
    im a fan of costa i think hes more what we need but after recent developments (rumours) im now inclined to say go spend a sht load on draxler now instead and when the summer comes we let chelsea take their pick of whichever strikers scoring for fun in europe and we rescue lukaku (if jose will sell to us) in their fire sale….

    might even be able to afford pogba then too 🙂

    then thats it we shouldnt need to spend much more for a few years.

  17. JJ, Moe

    Pace is clearly an asset and ideally you have players with skill and pace but pace is not a magic bullet. Henry had both and Freddie was fast but I don’t remember DB10 or Pires or any of the other members of that team being unusually fast but they could counterattack with the best. RVP is reasonably fast but does not use pace as a major weapon. Walcott is perhaps the fastest player I have ever watched but it took him years before he became a useful player. At the beginning of last season we had lots of debate about if Arsene should resign him sell him. Ox has not learned to use his pace to any real advantage yet.

  18. Weird as it sounds, my dream Striker is Balotelli with a better attitude,team ethos and Wenger’s influence.

    I think he’s beastly, on his day, Mad mario is impossible to handle.

  19. @JJ

    Costa doesn’t have a reason to leave Spain or Madrid as he is sitting in the same court as Messi and Ronaldo at present there.

    Martinez I really do think that he would do quite fine here in EPL. Pace, power, clinical and physical; seems like everything you need not to mention the service he would receive on our squad, it would be a joy to watch him finish and score for fun.

    I like Draxler and think that he does have the skills to play as a striker(currently plays mostly on the LW/LS but does drift centrally quite a bit and will linger). He would be quite an interesting prospect as a central striker more in that RvCunt style of fluid with great movement and very good to great technical ability and would be able to ply his trade on the LW in the mean time I suppose.

  20. @Moe

    That’s not that strange actually mate. Before he went to Milan, I was saying that we should put in a bid for him and even now. Arsene does like his projects and if he could ever get Balotelli to not just focus but stay focused on futbol and not the craziness, he could very easily be a top 3-5 striker in all of Europe.

    Could you imagine though how he would take Mert getting after him though for not helping to defend 😉

    I wouldn’t mind a cheeky bid for El Sharraway though.

  21. So the Manure vs. Chavs match could get ugly with both Rooney and RvP out for that match.

    I wonder what the line is on Moyes making it back on the team plane after the match!

  22. for as much as i think ballotelli would be awesome for us i also think hes another adebayor where we’ll get a good season out of him before he turned into a cock and fractured the dressing room..

  23. hmm the transfer scene of Arsenal is so quiet. Some rumours but nothing really concrete. Even twitter is suspiciously quiet. Either its brewing up to a new monster signing ala Ozil, or we simply won’t sign anybody. I guess when you work on big signing they cannot be pulled off all the time?

  24. Rooney and Costa to Chelsea? Lukaku should move to Arsenal then. If he cannot get playtime now, ones Chelsea aquier Rooney and Costa he won’t get a sniff at all…

  25. @Moe honestly though if anybody but Walcott took all our free kicks wed probably have scored by now. Arteta has a great shoot for example.

  26. Poodle.

    Anything is possible. Chelsea could win the league without Rooney or costa but I think we have a good chance to finish ahead of them if no transfers happen. They would be a much more dangerous with either in their team.

  27. As I have mentioned, this squad is not as thin as many make it out to be. In fact, in terms of quantity and quality at the moment, we are not far short of City or any other team in Europe :

    Giroud – Negredo ( Both on 9 goals in league but media would suggest Negredo the better)
    ????? – Aguero (The obvious difference in capability up top + GD between the teams)
    Bendtner – Dzeko ( 2 to 4 would suggest TGSTEL hasn’t done too badly on very limited showing)
    Podolski – Jovetic

    Walcott – Nasri
    Ox – Milner (I know who I’d prefer)
    Ozil – Silva (Ozil’s assists rate despite playing ‘poorly’)
    Santi – Navas
    Ramsey – Fernandhino (Ramsey on 8 goals, see Toure)
    Jack – Rodwell (no question who is better)
    Arteta – Toure (Toure on 10 goals but Arteta is a different sort of more cultured animal)
    Flamini – Garcia
    Rosicky – Boyata (They carry extra defender, we carry extra midfielders)
    Gnabry – ?????

    Gibbs – Kolorov
    Monreal – Clichy
    Sagna – Zabaleta
    Jenkinson – Richards
    Per – Kompany
    Koscielny – Nastisic
    Vermaelen – Demechelis
    ????? – Lescott

    The obvious difference is a striker and a Cback.

    Striker – considering Arsene was pursuing players like Higuain and Suarez last summer, I would take that as indicative of the type of capability he was looking for to enhance our current strike force. It’s more about capability over cover to me as Bendtner pretty much replicates Giroud reasonably well enough.

    Someone tricky, pacy and able to find the ball in the box to feet is what we need akin to how they have Aguero.

    Pato is interesting to keep tabs on for a loan with an option to buy. He is unwanted at his club and will be eager for a better stage ahead of the world cup.

    Still only 24, he is quick, intelligent and skillful. Focus will be the main issue but if Wenger can turn his career back round (as he has done with Metersecker), he could be a real steal considering he has bags of CL experience and crucially is NOT cup tied.

    The other glaring short fall is at Cback where we do have Agna as a surrogate but which would likely have implications for our right so not ideal.

    However given we are unable to even keep our third choice CBack happy at the moment, you can see how tricky it is to add here in January. Who would want to come to sit on the bench for us?

    There are 4 permutations :

    1) Wenger could get an experienced and older Cback who doesn’t mind long periods without featuring. he has gone down this road with the likes of Silvestre and Squillaci to no avail.

    2) Wenger could call back one of the two junior Cbacks we have on loan in Miquel or Djourou. This will pretty much depend on how much success they have had this season thus far and if we have injuries sustained before the January window shuts.

    3) Wenger can but a replacement for Diaby in midfield who can add height there to Arteta and Flamini’s current capability when need be. This player can then also cover as an optional 4th Cback. We missed the boat on Capoue (apparently now realises Spurs was a mistake and wants to leave) and Gustavo not to mention MVilla. We are pparently also tracking Kayoute at Anderlecht who is a bruiding 6’4 and at 24 perfect for us age wise when considering the other 3 Cbacks at the moment are 27++

    +he has sufficient skill to play in the midfield adding threat going forward more akin to Yahya Toure than Diaby.

    4) Wenger could opt to replace Vermaelen now with a quality Cback the overlap to cover us till the summer (assuming TV does not get upset and take flight in this window) This may also upset a bit of the good squad dynamics at the moment.

    In any case, we can see that the squad is a very strong one particularly if we regard some of the talents coming through the ranks in Sanogo, Zelalem, Toral, Bellerin, (Unlike Chelsea or United with legacy issues) we are set up to dominate for several seasons to come (Continuity being key) if we win it this season.

  28. C

    Haha, he wouldn’t dare mess with Mert! As to making a bid for him, i’m all for it, however there is considerable risk, do we really want to risk destabilising the dressing room at this crucial stage of the season? Too much at risk, i think Wenger is one of the only mamangers who can get something out Balotelli, but i would sanction that at the summer maybe. Give him time to work with him.


    That’s very true, and it’s incredibly regrettable, the guy has all the ability in the world and he throws it away. If he had half the attitude of someone like Rosicky or someone who works hard and has talent then he’d be world class. For me he will never reach that, he is an ‘almost’ player so far. Funnily enough. he’s quite young actually, so he has time.

  29. Funniest thing happened, i kid you not, when spell check told me Rosicky was spelled wrong, i went to check just for the heck of it, it gave me one suggestion, SICKROOM!.

    How do i post images here? I took a print screen.

    That is too much of a coincidence.

    Made me laugh though.

  30. poodle

    Yeah, i think walcott taking the freekicks was developing him, he actually was giving some good crosses into Mert.

    But i remember Arteta at Everton, damn the guy had a freekick! And it’s regretable that Arteta has turned into a defensive midfielder, i would experiment with him in attacking mid, just to see.

    That’s for pre-season though

  31. Bill

    The thing with pacy players is that to utilise the pace properly they either have to have individual skill, control etc along with it(Henry), or rely on other players to feed them the ball (walcott). I know pace isn’t all, but i think in more general terms i meant a player who runs at the defence, gets past his man, takes a shot or pin point cross.

    I miss directness, our team lacks that so much at the moment.

    However pace does affect the opposition which in turn helps us, opposition managers are more inclined to be cautious if they know that there is a player with pace who can hurt them in the blink of an eye.

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