Failure to replace Flamini is destroying Arsenal’s title hopes

Feck me, another loss. That’s four in thirteen games now and we’re a full nine points off the top. Not the best result for a weekend where I celebrated my 23rd birthday, I must admit.

I warned you in Friday’s post that there was a chance I might miss the game due to birthday-related commitments and I’m a little relieved to say that it did turn out that way. I’ve only missed a couple of games this season and both ended in horrible defeats, first to Fulham and now to Aston Villa. By all reports they’ve been our two worst performances, so maybe I should not miss a game from now until the end of the season.

Obviously I can’t talk too much about the performance but from what I’ve read the team showed none of the desire that was so apparent against Manchester United as we hit the brick wall that was the Aston Villa defence. Apparently Villa could have won by more than two as their simple game plan of putting men behind the ball and hitting on the break with Young and Agbonlahor worked a treat. Once again we failed to adapt.

This result was so painful because it was so predictable. I woke up the morning of the game to check the result and almost expected to see us lose. I don’t know why, call it a hunch or something else but I just had a bad feeling about this one. It’s clear from the reports that our players just weren’t up to it and they were punished quite severely for their approach.

If what I’ve read about Villa parking the bus in front of the goal and our boys not having the ideas or energy to break through true then I find it incredibly frustrating. This is a problem that this group of players and the manager have had to deal with consistently over the past two or three seasons and there can be no excuses for not finding a solution. Manchester United and West Ham have both let us play in recent weeks and we’ve beaten them, Stoke and Villa have not and they’ve beaten us.

For me the problem is relatively simple – we’re badly missing Mathieu Flamini. When he left at the end of last season I was hugely concerned about the impact it would have on our side. He was my Player of the Season last time around and I went as far to say that he had the potential to become the best player in the world in his position. Milan may have used him sparingly since his departure to Italy but based on last season’s performance I still stand by that statement.

On the day his exit I had this to say:

“Many Arsenal supporters see him as nothing more than a hard-working grafter but in my opinion this season has seen him become far more competent on the ball as well excellent passer to boot. Add to that the fact that he is the first Arsenal player to really click with Cesc Fabregas and you have a man who will be more difficult to replace at the club than many people suspect.

Given the previous departure of Lassana Diarra and the fall from grace of Gilberto Silva, Arsene Wenger now faces quite a challenge to find an adequate substitute for Flamini. I should say that although I think Flamini will be incredibly difficult to replace I am not worried about Wenger’s ability to bring in someone worthy of doing just that. 

And before people start getting into a spin about making a huge signing can I just remind you that Bacary Sagna was a virtual unknown outside of France before the start of this season, while Abou Diaby and Alex Song are more than capable of doing the defensive job alongside Fabregas if required.”

It disappoints me to say that I have been proven right about Flamini being difficult to replace. But that’s not what irks me. What irks me is the fact that manager didn’t even attempt to replace him and on top of that, instead of playing one of the two men in the squad who have the potential to slot in for Flamini – Alex Song and Abou Diaby – Wenger has gone for Denilson, a player who simply does not possess the right attributes.

Now this is not a rant aimed at Denilson. Whilst he’s not my favourite player in the squad I do think he is quite a capable and decent footballer. But he is not a defensive midfielder. I’ve said time and time again that he should be rotated with Fabregas, not partnering him, and I really feel that the manager’s decision to continue playing him in the defensive slot is hurting our Spanish superstar and the rest of the team.

I’m expecting some criticism for what I am saying. There will be people saying our defence is flimsy, that our captain is a poor leader, that our goalkeeper does not command his area and that our talisman himself, Fabregas, looks a shadow of the man that was dominating the Premiership in the first half of last season. But I honestly believe if Flamini had remained, an adequate replacement been brought in or even Diaby or Song been played in the defensive-midfield position as soon as they were available then we wouldn’t be sitting nine points of the pace and we certainly wouldn’t have lost four games at this stage of the season.

The sad thing is that the manager has watched it all happen. With Diaby and Song unavailable in the first few matches Denilson was rightfully given a chance next to Fabregas in the middle of the park. He gave it his all but never, ever looked comfortable there. People can show me passing and tackling statistics until the cows come home but the lack of connection between Denilson and Fabregas was there for all to see. A manager of Wenger’s quality should have seen the signs, seen the lack of impact that Fabregas was having and made the change when first Song then Diaby became available. He didn’t and has been hugely punished for it.

With the manager continuing to view Diaby as an attacking midfielder and Song as a centre-back he has no choice but to dip into the transfer market in January and buy a ready-to-go partner for Fabregas. As I said earlier I want to stress that I don’t blame Denilson for where we are on the table – I blame Arsene Wenger. He needs to admit that his gamble on the Denilson-Fabregas partnership has not worked and do something about it. Otherwise it is going to continue to be a frustrating and forgettable season for the Arsenal Football Club. Ghanaian midfielder Stephen Appiah, who still remains a free agent, might be a good place to start.

Repercussions from this match will be big. The boys face Manchester City at the weekend in what will be an enormous clash against another club that desperately wants to break into the Champions League places. With Arsenal faltering at the moment it will be a perfect occasion for our opponents to show that they’re every bit as good as us and knock us down another peg. That they’re not will mean nothing, Villa’s win means we’re in a very vulnerable position at the moment.

With the majority of players away on international duty it’s bound to be a quiet week for football observers if not Arsene Wenger. Hopefully the manager will use the time to make some critical decisions.

What do you think?

Have your say on Arsenal’s loss to Aston Villa and the need for change by leaving a comment.



  1. Too many Arsenal fans’ blogs, too many suggestion/complain/rants but too little action from AW & the board… They couldn’t care less?? When will Arsenal win silverwares again?? Not this year I suppose….

  2. Well f**k me, there’s a revelatory post dripping with original insight. How about the times where Fabregas has been afforded a holding player behind him and offered absolutely nothing?

    Appiah remains a free agent for a reason. When faced with passing/tackling statistics what do you show to portray the “lack of connection” that’s there for all to see?

    I’m so glad the internet is giving people like you the platform to convey your opinions. The exact same opinion. Ad nauseum.

  3. “Add to that the fact that he is the first Arsenal player to really click with Cesc Fabregas.”

    Also, possibly the only new point you have here is incorrect. There was another player that left this summer, remember?

  4. I agree that the Flamini loss is the biggest problem but I doubt Song or Diaby would make the immense difference we need… Flamini wasnt scared of anyone in the midfield- didnt matter who had the ball- he was taking it from them… We need that kind of mentality… Shame he left… We need to be worried about staying in the top 4 this year… Aim for 4th and focus on the Champions League… We will NEED a DMF signing in January- Hopefully someone with that kind of mentality (De Rossi fits I think)… I am quite worried about this season all of a sudden…

  5. @ Asmo – Thanks for your sarcasm mate. I don’t know how often you read this blog but clearly this hasn’t been the first time I’ve spoken about this. If you don’t care about my opinion then don’t read the blog and leave the other people who enjoy reading and discussing to do it. And whether you’re referring to Gilberto or Hleb with your other point, I don’t agree that Gilberto brought the best out of Cesc and Hleb wasn’t his partner in the middle.

  6. I agree to a certain extent. What i don’t understand is why he hasn’t dumped Denilson in favour of a five man midfield with Toure in a DM role.

  7. Miguel Veloso? great buy if Wenger can open his eyes and admit we need a better balance in midfield.

  8. u r with me flamini was abig loss 2 us but wenger cuold not replace him why coz wnger have a tendency 2 be a good manager 2 young players afterv that he sells them. 4 the 1st tyme we need a miracle 2 finish 4th. we need more clichy’ses(dont blame him 4 the goal)in the team.there is no other committed 2 play 4 us.

  9. i am so peed off cause the same players were outstanding v united and the youngsters were brilliant v Wigan.There is enough talent around but the inconsistency is amazing.Villa were outstanding at the break with speedy play.this is our plot which they used against us.Until the transfer season opens there are still many games so lets hope that the performance improves.

  10. @ gachanja – I don’t think we need a miracle to finish fourth. That’s well within our grasp. But the players need to put in 100% every match and the manager needs to clean up the little selection mistakes he is making. It’s a frustrating situation but the current squad is good enough to finish in the top four, even without a new defensive-minded midfielder.

  11. Depressing and agree that is was sooo predictable. The way I am personally coping with this relentless wave of disappointement every second week is by letting go any expectation that we can pose any sort of title challenge this season. Biggest feat is that those we want to keep will take this as the last straw, drop their heads at an early stage in the season and … well, I don’t need to spell that out. We’re in for one hell of a rollercoaster ride this year, my friends and we’ll be lucky to nail the 4th place. Am I painting too dark a picture?

  12. @ Neilo – No, it’s not too dark. I’m optimistic and will never rule out a title challenge but at this stage the team needs to find some form and consistency. Anything can happen if we do find some but at this stage we’re some way behind Chelsea and United and even Liverpool – although I personally think they’ll fall away.

  13. The only answer fro our problem is lorik cana,made in marselle,doesn’t fear anyone in the game dedicated and can lead from his position.on top of that buy abdiol from valencia,arsenal will click,very simple decision,comeon AW.

  14. good post. if wenger had wanted someone like Cana in the summer he could have got him. wenger hald tried to sign players but at the end of the day he thought what he already had would do a good job. he was wrong. a lot of fans feared exactly what we are seeing now.

    Den is not having a bad season but the combination of him and cesc in the middle is simply not right. the central midfield area is not functioning correctly. whether cesc or Den is dropped, I dont really care but something needs changing. when its the same pair picked every single week that really annoys me. has wenger never heard the phrase, ‘flogging a dead horse’?
    f*ck the passing stats – the only stat that matters is the one at the top left hand corner of the screen.

    djourou should have been playing and possibly toure too for their pace. Young and Agbonlahor have tons of pace but Gallas and silvestre dont. It was clear they were going to play on the counter. that was a recipe for disaster.

  15. @ Spanish fry,

    I totally disagree with the title of today’s post.
    The performance was so bad against aston villa that u just cant point at only one thing that it was due to Flamini’s departure. Ya , t s true he must have been replaced and we r missing him a lot. But for the performance on saturday, the whole team is responsible, everyone should be hanging their head in shame.every one. U just cant point it to Flamini and try to cover the cracks. There was a lack of desire ,we were just simply keeping the ball and playing short passes near the midline while the 11 aston villa players watched it from their half. There was no creativity , or motivation. There s no character in the team.
    Flamini s departure alone cant be held reponsible for all this.

  16. @ GunnerCesc4 – You’re probably right for the Villa game. As I said early in the post I didn’t get to see the game and can only go on what I’ve read. Even so, most of my opinions are not a result of the Villa game but a general comment on our season as a whole.

    The thing that Flamini brought to our team that Denilson hasn’t been able to (again, I’m not blaming him) is trust. The players around him respected and trusted him with a football. Fabregas got forward knowing Flamini would mop up while the two centre-halves played better because they trusted Flamini in front of him. Perhaps I’m over-simplifying but at the moment the team is not playing with flow because there is a lack of cohesion in the middle of the park.

    Another thing Flamini did really well was raise the tempo of Arsenal’s game. He was SO intense and it sped everything up. Gilberto the season before was immense but Flamini took things to a new level. I don’t pretend to think that Diaby or Song could play with the same pace but I do feel that either of those two would see a more cohesive midfield, at least until the window opens and a more appropriate player is bought.


  17. From Untold Arsenal:

    From the start of football there have been tough players – defenders for example who would say to a passing forward “go past me once more sunshine and I’ll break your jaw”. And he would and the ref would give a freekick. Maybe.

    The first manager I ever heard talk openly about playing Anti-football as a complete tactic was Lawrie McMenemy who managed Southampton from 1973 to 1985. He was always on panels on TV giving his opinion, so he never got criticised – not even when he said, about one game against Arsenal in which his team was so dirty it even left the Liverpool focussed media of the day with their jaws dropping, “they’ve got more talented players than us, so we have to play dirty.”

    So Anti-football was born. It is, in essence, the use of every tactic you can get away with to stop the other side playing football. There used to be time-wasting, kicking the ball out of the stand, all that sort of thing, but then rules were changed to stop it. And so clubs started to find ways around the problem – to break up the flow of more talented teams, while not getting penalised. Anti-football, the antithesis of Total Football.

    In the 21st century Bolton and Blackburn took Anti-football forward by introducing rotational fouling, followed by rotational time wasting. The fouls and time wasting are there, but never by the same player, and so the number of cards is greatly reduced, but the opposition is broken and frustrated.

    Aston Villa use one of the most sophisticated rotational fouling systems yet seen, and they have added another element to anti-football which I certainly haven’t seen before. When a Villa player goes down he holds his head, and the ref stops the game, in accordance with the rules. Then, having stopped the flow of the opposition, he gets up, either with nothing wrong, or (as we saw during yesterda’s game on one occasion which happened straight in front of me) to have treatment on an ankle.

    Thus when the one really serious injury did occur – Sagna being totally crippled by a bad foul – play went on and Villa scored. If he’d held his head rather than waiving at the medical team, Villa would not have scored.

    So the issue is, why can’t we beat the clubs that play Anti-Football? Part of the answer was given by Mr Wenger when he said, “If you want to be champions, first you want to be consistent. At the moment we are not.”

    But there is more. In the great days of Henry we were able to overcome Anti-Football in all its guises because we had there players of such stunning ability that singlehandedly they could take on the Anti-Football game. At its simplest Henry would stroll out to the left and take two defenders with him. He could side-step all the lunges and kicks sent his way – often passing to Pires who through tactical know-how could get himself into the space left by the defenders who were Henry watching.

    At this moment we don’t have the same supreme quality that can get the goal quickly at the start, and thus make Anti-football invalid.

    But, there’s a bright side. Henry joined us in the summer of 1999, and that season we were 17 points behind the ultimate champions. The next season 2000/1 we were 10 points behind. In his third season we won the league.

    My point being that some things take time. Of course it can be argued that either a) time is what we don’t have, or b) we’ve already had 3 years without a trophy.

    But, contrary to that, what we have is a superb team that is inconsistent. If that team was made up of 28 year olds I would be worried, because at that age in football you can’t learn consistency. But at 21 and 22 you can – just as Henry learned his trade between August 1999 and August 2002 when he really started to fly. What we have also is an extraordinary team coming up behind.

    Those supporters who left early and missed Theo’s one man tribute to those who stayed, perhaps do believe that success today is everything and success tomorrow is not worth waiting for. They perhaps won’t even be happy about the extraordinary talent at the club. They will maybe have seen Fabregas underperforming of late, and think, that’s the end.

    But Cesc will get his ability back – after all it hasn’t gone totally, and a player will emerge who will singlehandledly be able to unlock Anti-football, and we will be back and running.

    It didn’t happen yesterday, and that’s upsetting. The boos that rang around the ground was upsetting also. I can only hope that Theo really did carry the message back to the dressing room that some stayed, and some chanted “Arsenal” until he left the pitch.

  18. @ ray – Lovely words mate. What an interesting read. I guess the one point of real contention is whether or not certain players stick around long enough to realise the potential of the whole team. Flamini and Hleb didn’t for various reasons and there is a worry that others will too.

    I’m patient and can wait for success but there’s nothing stopping Wenger making a smart move for some more depth in January.

  19. Arsene Wenger is the manager of Arsenal Football club and he needs to begin to put the future of Arsenal before any player.

    I’ve heard him say many times before that he doesn’t want to make a signing because it puts the future of a player in that position at risk. Its time Mr Wenger changed that philosophy.

    Le Boss has put a huge amount of faith and trust into this squad, and how he is being rewarded for doing so!

    The squad is full of talent, that cannot be denied but for me there is something else this set of players are lacking.

    Its a simple case of attitude. If these players can’t put in the effort for the less glamorous games then I suggest they fuck off. We supporters want to see commitment.

    A squad could have all the talent in the world but it doesn’t mean a thing if the attitude is all wrong. We lack the correct attitude and Le Boss needs to rectify it.

    The players are not repaying Wenger’s faith in them. It’s time to put the club first and not the players. Arsene, you’ve given them the chance and they are struggling. Do the right thing, for Arsenal’s sake.

  20. we all know that arsenal were never going to win the title; from the losses at to Hull, fulham stoke and other teams. wenger stll blindly continues to play these players who seem to show no consistency and this will backfire on him big time if he is not careful.

    He must be losing his marlbes at his age i guess as you know that cesc and diaby cant play together, he is still stupidly saying he doesnt need a player when there is a dire need of a defensive player.
    God help us

  21. @GunnerCesc4,
    I totally do not agree with you!!!!!The match was short of a good DM.Denilson and cesc were running around in circles.We had denilson and cesc while villa had sidwell and barry commmooonnnn.Cesc is not playing with freedom because denilson is a failure in my opinion. His promotion from the beer cup to EPL was too sudden. Bent-ner as we call him was a disgrace.
    The problem was that we could not match thier midfield as such our defence was under immense pressure.Our attack was dead so it gave Villa defenders the time and space to come foward.
    Dude WE MISS FLAMINI.I can count so many oustanding games he had for arsenal even when he was not a mega star.Remember Arsenal and liverpool last two seasons?I was reading an analysis of our problems and it was analysed that a DM should be able to run at least 4 miles every match. Guess what Flamini has the record in the milan match for running 7 miles.We had all the oportunity to sign Alonso what did we do wait till mid-night to sign him and we lost him.Who sank chelsea at the bridge

  22. @Ray

    What Spanish Fry says is absolutely correct. You are right about anti-Football, but the point is that lots of these kids are not going to wait around for success. And don’t forget Henry learned his trade next to Dennis Bergkamp – to name but one of the many experienced players that played alongside and guided younger heads.

    That has been totally eroded at Arsenal, with Gallas (poor leader, inconsistent centre back) and Silvestre representing “experience” then we really are in trouble. If Cesc, Ade and RvP stick around in the summer after another trophy-less season, then things will be okay. But if they leave we will be starting from scratch, for what? The third season running?

  23. “Ray’s post” is a cut and paste from “Untold Arsenal”. I think he should have acknowledged that, but I think the post is good enough that even unacknowledged, a wider audience is a positive.
    We looked as though we were uncommitted. However, Denilson & Cesc were yellow carded in the 10th & 19th minute. Yellow cards make sure that players cannot take a chance on a mistimed tackle. They committed 22 fouls (to our 7). They didn’t play with 10 men behind the ball; whenever we might break, they fouled us and THEN got 10 men behind the ball. Anti-football.
    To suggest that Flamini would have helped is incorrect. If he had stayed he would have ended up with more red cards than PV4. Sidwell was rejected by Arsenal, however his yellow card came only in the 90th minute. I guess that makes him a better replacement for Flamini than Denilson.
    There are two solutions to this anti-football. Either the referees must stamp it out or we must get the referees on our side by playing a midfield of Walcott, Ramsey, Randall and Wilshire.

  24. @ Spanish fry and Scope knight,

    I agree Flamini is a big loss and it is impacting other parts of the field. And he would raise the tempo when needed. the last season he scored the opening goals against aston villa and reading justify that.
    However , I am not very sure we would have won had he played on saturday. I mean,u are making him out to be a superman who would have rescued us. I agree with ur points how his absence is impacting the game.
    But,but …. If our players could do it against Man utd one week back without Flamini, couldnt they ve done the same against villa ? … Thats where I think the players have to have a look at themselves … There are more problems than just Flamini … The central defence partnership ?! .. Bendtner ? Dont tell me we didnt have this problem before… Walcott and Nasri ,u never know – they are too good at times and invisible in some games…

    There is somthing seriously wrong with the mental aspect of the players. They just come out and play as if from a different planet one day and the other day they just hide inside their shells… I dont know ,people say it s lack of leaders on the pitch n stuff , but i think it s all upto the manager …He should be in command of things and he is not … In my honest opinion,he is becoming a victim of his own principles, by putting trust in players who are not ,just not good enough…

  25. @ GunnerCesc4

    You say “couldnt they ve done the same against villa ?” No. They played anti-football. ManU didn’t. Against ManU we out-fouled them 16 to 7, while Villa out-fouled us by 22 to 7. Think it is a coincidence?

  26. Arsenal have put in poor performances every season under the current manager. What’s different now is that the team – due to their relative in experience – is low on self-belief. Few have endured such a spell with so many defeats to average sides. In the past, you’d get the odd one, but not the number we’ve seen so far this season in three months.

    There was booing at the end of the game from the home fans, at least those that had remained in their seats until the end. I don’t think this is a particularly healthy way of expressing your support for the team, but I can understand it. People pay a lot of money to fund the wages of the manager and the players and they can accept defeats if they think the players have put in serious effort to win a game. There was little evidence of that on Saturday. The team is flat, and the team is tired. And it’s only November. There is no justifiable excuse for the fatigue they are feeling. They’ve had a week off since beating Manchester United.

    Critically, the team did not have the wit and imagination to break down an organized defence. Martin O’Neill attended the match at the Britannia Stadium when Rory Delap’s throw-ins were enough to beat Arsenal. He sat a few empty seats along from Ken Friar and Danny Fiszman in the section of the directors box reserved for Arsenal’s officials. He would have seen how easy it was to stop Arsenal playing. Basically, work hard and get enough bodies on the edge of the box to cut out the one-twos. They will rarely use width, and rarely shoot from distance. They are utterly predictable.

    The paying public deserve better than this. And – aside from their booing at the end of the Villa game – many voted with their feet and left early. Soon they will be voting with their wallets. All because the manager chose not to strengthen the quality of his squad in the summer. And because the manager is stubborn and will not employ the coaching expertise the younger players are crying out for. The squad is in worse condition than it was a year ago. That isn’t progress.

    Where does Wenger go from here? Well, he has to look at some of the brighter of his Carling Cup team and start giving one or two of them a start on a regular basis. If they do better than the present incumbents, then give them a run in the first team. This is how Ashley Cole came through and whatever you think of him these days, he was a vital component of the team that won five trophies in four years. That Cole only got his break by accident rather than design makes you wonder how many other potentially decent players have slipped through the net.

    The manager also has to seriously look at the real potential of his established first team players and decide if he can do better by some wheeling and dealing in the transfer market. January is only going to allow enough surgery to ensure the team will have a shot at the Champions League qualifying rounds in August. But he has to be looking at next summer and swallow his pride to buy players that are too old to mould. Established professionals who will not wilt when things aren’t going well.

    Wenger deserves the opportunity to put things right, so I’m not calling for his head. But the first step towards turning things around is realizing he has got it horribly wrong. Pride comes before a fall. Wenger will never admit his experiment has failed, but his actions in the two 2009 transfer windows will hopefully tell us that he’s admitted it to himself.

    To finish on a light-hearted note, a glorious typo on the Telegraph review of the match, which according to John Ley took place on “an unseasonably barmy north London afternoon”. Unintentional? Maybe. Inaccurate? Not so sure.

  27. @ Cape Gooner,
    I agree it is wrong to compare utd and villa game … villa spent most of the game with 10 players in their own half whereas in manu game there was too much space …
    But i think there is something really wrong wrt to the mentality of the players as is with the other technical reasons.
    Do our players play only when their ability is questioned ? why do they become complacent playing weaker teams ? … I sympathise the players, u dont get a lot of chances playing against 10 defenders ..but villa are not the first team to do that, it has been happening since 2-3 seasons… Wenger should have had his players sorted out to play such a game…

  28. @GunnerCesc4

    There is really very little point in calling it “anti-football”. It suggests that the solution should come from outside of the team, such as from referees or FIFA even, rather than from the players themselves. There are a few sports where the rules punish you for playing negatively – Basketball, Judo etc – and perhaps one day FIFA could look at that. Punish people for faking head injuries, punish teams for fouls (seventh foul = red-card for one player?).

    But that shit takes time, which, given the crisis we appear to be sinking into where we have forgotten how to play against anti-football (Villa have played the same way against us ever since O’Neill came along and they hadn’t beat us before), given that crisis, we need to buy players who know how to get past this predictable crap.

    Flamini was very much that kinda player.

  29. @ gunner12,

    U have hit the nail on the head.Brilliant post. Couldnt disagree with a single word of yours…

  30. Flamini turns into a great player and then leaves us to play UEFA CUP football with AC Milan, a team we beat whilst he played for us. I still dont understand why he left but I do understand that we are feeling the effects. I would love AW to offer 10-12 mil for Flamini :D:D to have back, Siging Appiah can do no wrong and then sign a better DM in Jan like Alonso, De Rossi, Cambiasso or even Gattuso.

  31. Check out what this pansy has to say: “The former Arsenal man arrived on a free transfer from North London during the transfer window and he has been impressive so far.

    Flamini is enjoying his time at San Siro and believes he can achieve good results this term as he looks to learn from the best.

    “I settled down straight away when I arrived here and it was nice to see Philippe Senderos, who I already knew from Arsenal,” Flamini told Calcio 2000.

    “I also became friends with Ronaldinho, as he speaks French.

    “It’s different here at Milan. At Arsenal everyone was really young. Here there are better players and I can learn more things…it’s fantastic to play alongside three Golden Ball winners.”

    The midfielder also denied rumours suggesting that he was on the verge of joining Juventus.

    “A lot of journalists had written that I was close to Juve, but there was never anything concrete. I recieved offers from several big clubs from Spain, but I just couldn’t refuse Milan,” added the player.

    Il Diavolo are flying high this term and are just a point behind league leaders Inter following the controversial 1-0 win over Chievo Verona.”

  32. Here’s what we really need:
    1. Players who hate to lose, REALLY hate to lose!
    2. Players who will give 110% everytime to avoid defeat!

  33. This game hurt. Given the context of coming off a week’s rest, of beating United with the same lineup, of playing at home, and of the youth team dismantling Wigan in such sparkling fashion that was perhaps the ugliest Arsenal game I have seen all season.

    First, and perhaps most painful, is the fact that the team played without any passion. From the kickoff they looked nervous, uncertain, and very early on made key mistakes that led to yellow cards. Denilson picked up a yellow in the 10th minute and Fabregas in the 18th, this essentially de-fanged Arsenal’s midfield, true, but is there anyone who watched the match who thought that at any point that Arsenal team might come out and try to put a physical stamp on the match? Try to bully the win from Villa? No. Because this team lacks true passion. They can get geed up for a game, but when push comes to shove, when Agbonlahor knocks one of our players off the ball, no one is there to push back. Losing a game happens, but losing a game and letting the other team push you around because you didn’t give your best, because you caved in and let them push you around? That’s not Arsenal football.

    Worse than that, though, is the fact that the Captain of the team is one of the people who can be pushed around. Gallas is more likely to have a hissy fit than to tackle a showboating Nani off the pitch like Flamini did last year. And that’s the second big problem; ok, so let’s all agree that Gallas isn’t captain material, who is? Cesc? ha! If he was captain material he would have shown it by now. In any organization if there is a leadership gap a natural leader will rise and fill that gap — unless there isn’t a natural leader. Who then, Adebayor? Nasri? Denilson? Diaby? Do I have to keep going? Each name is more comical than the next. Arsenal have no leader. Gallas is “leader” only because someone has to wear the captain’s armband.

    The third big problem is tactical. I don’t quite think Wenger has lost the plot but he seems to be jumping around from chapter to chapter looking for a story line. It’s pretty clear that Arsenal’s tactic of 70% possession and 9 men in the opponent’s end of the pitch has been found out. Further, it’s clear that this team have no clue as to how to defend corners and set pieces: well, at least Almunia has no clue. Against teams that play open, attacking football, Arsenal are clearly superior. Against teams that invite them to attack, like footballing rope-a-dope, it’s clear that Arsenal are not superior. I’m not sure any team could put 9 men in the opponent’s half, pass the ball around, and expect their defenders to handle the inevitable counter. Sol Campbell couldn’t do it, Senderos couldn’t do it, Toure couldn’t do it, Gallas can’t do it, show me the 6′3″ defender who can clear every set piece, has the pace to catch Agbonlahor and the strength to knock him off the ball at the right moment. I’m not going to pretend that I have even a shred of the tactical genius that Wenger has but I think Arsene Wenger is asking a whole lot of his defenders. The overlapping play is nice and all but Arsenal seem to be sacrificing everything to go forward.

    Which brings me to the last problem, the one that we didn’t see yesterday but the one that everyone talks about all the time — Wenger’s reluctance to buy someone. First off, it’s November 16th, in the EPL there are 7 games between now and January, so, unless Arsene buys a free agent (the best of which is Stephen Appiah) the season will be over before he can bring anyone in. Up until last week, I was of the mind that we should let Arsene do whatever he wants to do; Arsene Knows Best and all that. I even said, “well more than any other season this one is an up and down season.”

    But I’ve changed my mind — watching Man U, Chelsea, and Liverpool destroy their opposition week in and week out will do that to you. Chelsea have allowed a stingy 4 goals this season, their goal differential is an insane 28 while Arsenal have allowed a whopping 15 (10 of which were at home). Far from the idea that there has been a contraction in talent this season, rather, more than any other season Arsenal are the ones who look ordinary.

    For me, this plainness in the squad comes down to the one position: Fabregas’ water carrier. I have watched Denilson and he is not good enough — Barry showed the gulf in class in that position yesterday. I don’t care what Wenger says, Denilson cannot cope with the most crucial position on this Arsenal team. He’s a good kid and all, he means well, but he’s not able to do it. I have to wonder if Wenger doesn’t already know — all you have to do is look at the fact that Wenger is playing 5 men in the midfield at home games to see that he doesn’t think Denilson can do it.

    Put someone in there with Cesc who has fire in his belly, someone who will help control the tempo, someone strong, commanding, and someone who can provide some leadership and this is a very different Arsenal team. Basically, it would be the Arsenal team of last year minus the pointless dribbling of Hleb and plus the goalscoring of Nasri.

    So, if I was Wenger, I would sign someone like Appiah, now. Then, I might also change my game plan a bit and play a little less open. Have the defenders not get so far forward. Maybe ask the keeper to come and claim some balls off set pieces. Reign in the radical experiment just a little, because what they are doing right now, just isn’t working. Every team in the EPL has to look at what Hull, Fulham, Sunderland, Stoke, and now Aston Villa has done and be excited to play Arsenal — that has to be seen as love’s labour lost.

  34. @SF
    We all agree that we lost a great player. So who would be the best replacement for Flamini in your opinion?

  35. spanish frey….i am happy to hear that i am older than u…i’m kiddin’…HAPPY BIRTH DAY!!

    bad performance and arsenal hanrvested what they have ploughed….as you mentioned the big problem is that they lost flamini….and found no 1 to replace him…..lokk at most of the goals scored against us,.,they should have been tackled in the middle of the park…..i don’t understand why the boss is so confident of….after all we have seen how weak our midfield is even when the team performed well…if we can’t cover up that …then we will keep losing that is the fact…and u have to start to accept that 5th season without victory is approaching… the way in the capital of ethiopia one teenager commited a suiccide after the lose to astonvilla….we are sad in here……and we love the team this much, but we are not getting what w deserve for our love….

  36. @SF: If it was any other day I would have pleaded with you to watch a video of that game, but to spare you the agony, I won’t. I do not agree that Flamini would have done anything on Saturday the same way I do not aggree with a lot of comments about the performance.

    The team was essentially the same group of players that beat Man U, but was tactically very different. If AW is talking about consinstency from his players, he should show consinstency himself first and foremost. The one thing I learned a long time ago was that you can make a player look bad by exposing his weeknesses/by playing them where they will be found.

    The case on saturday was Cesc and Diaby and that is where we lost the match and looked sluggish. And Yes, for my money, Denilson was our best midfielder on the night.

    Cesc is a passer of the ball with good vision. You use those skill sets better when you are creating things and running everything from behind and able to see everyone in front of you. That is why he is so good at what he does as AM. On saturday, he was played in the hole, where we needed a player with the attributes I will use to describe Diaby and Hleb. Keeping in mind that our lone striker, was not Eduardo or Adebayor.

    Diaby is a dribbler. Now those are players that flourish in the hole. Their dribling provides the additional holding up top and some incisive penetration required to help the lone striker. Sadly, he was played as AM.

    So we ended up having a passer where you need a dribbler, and a dribbler where you need a passer, and mind you, dribblere are a bit selfish, and you wonder why Walcot, Nasri and Bendtner were awfull?

    When I saw the lineup before kickoff I screamed “Fabregas should not play in the hole, altleast not today” In a 4-5-1, I believe the AM and the Player in the whole are your most important cess pieces since they are primarily supposed to add midfielder’s skills, vision and deciciveness to your attacking side while your rear-guard remains as solid as ever, without having to worry too much about attacking.

    After having said that, go back to watch the game paying very close attention to what those two players did vs what they were supposed to do in their respective positions. It will be difficult from my point of view to criticize the players on this defeat as I beleave they were setup(no intentionaly) for failure.

    One more point. In a 4-5-1 you don’t expect your DM to push forward as much but you could see Denilson had to, in a few occasions where I thought were positive. What mystifyis me is why does Gallas push forwar that much when he can’t even do his job properly???

    In second goal he was a yard or so ahead of Agbonlahor, he could have just positioned himself btn the striker and the ball and head the ball to Almunia, instead he positioned himself sideways as if preparing for a tackle.

  37. Come on lads our time at the top is over. We should just carry on and support Arsenal whenever we can. Sixth place finish is not that bad, we’ll be in the UEFA cup and that will be a good stepping stone for the youngsters. At least they could try to win something first rather than act like some cocky winners. All these talk about teams parking the bus when facing us is utter rubbish. Teams do that against the Liv, Chel and Manu. We have more trouble dealing with that than they have. Gone are the days of the one touch passing of the Bergkamp days. AFC dosen’t play like that anymore, its either pump the ball to Ade(whoever starts as lone striker) or play keep ball at a very slow relax pace. A change is needed but I dont see Monsieur Wenger doing anything in January so I’m enrolling myself in a coaching course and within a year I should take over Pat Rice. And when I start running the day training, Gallas and co they better be prepared… oh yes they better…I’ll give them a new sock ….right in the nuts

  38. I had been supporter for gunner more than a decade.This year I found gunner sucks, and arsene sucks. Come on, arsene, do your magic, and splash some money to buy quality players. Dont think of let those baby soldiers to do the tricks. teams like yours shld have consistency and the infantry wont give much the same quality like you hv in 2002-2003 seasons. If the team performance keep alike as last match, it will not need a warrant for the doom and I will be the 1st to switch camp.

  39. I had been supporter for gunner more than a decade.This year I found gunner sucks, and arsene sucks. Come on, arsene, do your magic, and splash some money to buy quality players. Dont think of let those baby soldiers to do the tricks. teams like yours shld have consistency and the infantry wont give much the same quality like you hv in 2002-2003 seasons. If the team performance keep alike as last match, it will not need a warrant for the doom and I will be the 1st to switch camp.

  40. If you want to look at someone who complemented Cesc well, look at Flamini – he was our player of the season last year, above Fabregas. But, already Denilson is beggining to fill that role, Song looks an able replacement when Denilson is out and Diaby gives us yet another option in Midfield. Not to mention Wilshere and Ramsey who have not only played in European fixtures but looked great against internationals twice their age.

    Let’s face it, despite flashes of brilliance Cesc hasn’t been the same since this time last year – his blistering performances at the beggining of last season haven’t been matched since. Sure he was still good for the rest of the season but he hasn’t hit anywhere near the giddy heights of last seasons start, and if anything this season has turned in some dire performances. He didn’t really look all that against Utd to be perfectly honest but we all glossed over that in light of the fantastic result.

    The squad lacks consistancy which is a symptom of lacking experience. When Gallas is on top form such as against United we do ok – his marshalling of the youngsters against the Mancs was brilliant and probably won us the game in the final 6 minutes. When he’s disinterested we lose the game.

    Arsenal don’t need a midfielder really – we need a fucking centre back who’s not injured (Toure), not old and shit (Silvestre), not inexperienced (Djourou) and not a moaning moody fucker (Gallas).

    We also need a captain with a bit of heart. When Almunia captained us in Europe he meant every word, and you could see his passion. How often do you see that passion in Gallas when the game isn’t on Sky or against a big team?

    Arsenal need a captain who cares about every match, a captain who can help the youngsters find consistancy and who get get the teams heart beating on a cold wet day against Villa. We don’t need an arrogant smoker who couldn’t give a toss unless its against Man U or Chelsea.

    Which brings me full circle – Hleb patently never gave a toss, which is why we’re better off without him. The way he’s behaved since leaving, courting Cesc the way he has is disgraceful and underlines how little he cared for our club. If you think he is the type of player that Arsenal need to help them win against Villa on a cold wet winters day you’re mental in the head.

  41. A couple of weeks ago my mother in law asked me if I ever got bored watching Arsenal. No, I said, ecstatic/angry/frustrated/depressed yes, but never bored. Well, that’s now a lie. I was bored rigid at the Fenerbahce game and until I moved into angry/frustrated/depressed mode I was pretty bored at the team’s attempts to play on Saturday.

    No pace, no fluidity, no movement, and that is increasingly the norm. Put the Man U performance to one side – still don’t know where that come from – and we have been pretty stodgy. When we have played well, we have still looked vulnerable. Bolton and even Blackburn away could have been very different results. I still think the Fenerbahce away was the most flattering result in Champions League history. I reckon we could have lost that 6-5. Think West Ham away, the early season home games against West Brom, Everton, Newcastle, and we laboured against pretty average teams.

    If we aren’t going to blow teams away with the excellence of our football, which we have only done for spells during games, then we have to look secure and at least capable of defending. Our midfield and defence with full backs acting as auxiliary midfielders/wingers and trusting in the pace of Gallas and Silvestre (!!??) is not going to produce too many clean sheets.

    We have under Wenger followed a high risk strategy which relies on every one of the 11 players being at the top of his game if it is to succeed. When it comes off it is fantastic and I would not swap it for anything, but we have to accept that it is not going to happen week in week out. The first choice 11 is not consistent. The Nasri who played in the Man U game looked a completely different player from the one who laboured so badly against Villa. The only player who has been consistent over the last couple of seasons is Fabregas, and we are now paying for it big time. The boy looks knackered. He is having to come ever deeper to pick up the ball. He now has to play square balls to Denilson, to Gallas, to Clichy and is having trouble getting into great positions because he is doing so much donkey work. Denilson may have the same build as Deschamps but he is carrying the water to an increasingly dried out Fabregas.

    I know that the Under 20s team looks good but can you really see us getting the right combination of experience and youth that will make us truly competitive in the Premiership for the whole season? Last season we lasted until February. Will we make it to Christmas this season?

    Let’s look back to the team that got us to our last final – Champions League 2006 with 11 clean sheets on the way– and see how they compare with the present first XI.

    In goal, give me the 2006 Lehmann over Almunia.

    Full backs – I think I prefer Sagna and Clichy to Eboue and Cole, but what has happened to Eboue over the last couple of years? Perhaps we were never that good.

    Centre backs – Give me the 2006 Toure over the 2008 impostor any time. Campbell or Gallas. I think I would prefer the 2008 Campbell over Gallas, let alone the 2006 version.

    Midfield – One slightly over the hill Pires and a now departed Hleb over two wannabes in Walcott and Nasri. Give me the first two. Gilberto and Fabregas or Denilson and Fabregas. Close but Gilberto and Fabregas.

    Upfront – Henry and Ljungberg or Adebayor and Van Persie. Henry and Van Persie for me, despite the latter always being injured (or suspended).

    The point I am trying to make is that the team as a team has not moved on in the last couple of years. The 2006 team had to be dismantled – Pires, Henry, Campbell were on the slide and Ljungberg’s last good year was probably 2002 – but the 2008 team is one of potential not achievement, and I cannot see a firm base of experience on which we can see the potential flourish. We do not have an imposing goalkeeper. We have no dominant defender who will be around for the next three or four years – in fact we have no dominant defender period! In midfield we have only Fabregas, around whom we could build a team, but another potless season will see him back in Spain. Upfront, Van Persie is too unreliable and Adebayor showed his true mercenary colours in the summer. There’s always Theo, but you can see him staying just long enough to improve and get a great contract elsewhere.

    So, should we Gooners be downhearted? Well, if you genuinely expect us to be challenging for all the main competitions year in and year out, then yes you should. However, if you think that for seven years from 1998 to 2005 we played great football and won competitions, and that since then there have been times that we have been untouchable and can live with the rollercoaster, then just sit back (or stand up) and enjoy it.

    Here’s a positive to end on. Our lack of progress as a team has been magnified by the improvement at Chelsea, Liverpool, and ManU. However, how stable is that improvement? Those three clubs are heavily indebted or reliant on the whim of a Russian whose fortune is diminishing as fast as it grew. I know we have got the debts associated with the old and new grounds but these do seem manageable in comparison. Perhaps the world is turning in our favour when these clubs and other trying to buy success in the same way will not be able to bid up transfer fees and wages quite so aggressively and good experienced players will become affordable and welcome the opportunity of playing with a very talented group of youngsters. Then we shall see the wisdom of Wenger’s cautious approach to the transfer market and players wages as we reap longer term benefits.

    I am firmly in the “let’s enjoy the ride” camp. There will be lows but the highs will come again and they will be great.

    Keep the faith.

  42. @Balwinder,
    Nice post. I applaud you but I advice you keep these comments for a more consistent team. Arsenal will draw with Man City believe me they will. Cesc is disinterested cos he is tired of the lack of ambition from the club.
    See Barca yes the stumbled but boy when they picked they picked!!!!!
    We are inconsistent and i will not allow arsene and his minnows break my heart again.

  43. There is not much wrong with arsenal that the end or reduction of unneccessary tinkering by AW can’t put right. Remember we will be stronger in January than we are now with the return of Eduardo, Rosicky and probably Bischoff without even buying players. What we need is outscoring the opposition and while the opposition are busy conceding goals they wont have time to score themselsves. If we do doubles on Man U, Chelsea and liverpool the gap is down to 3 points. we just cant lose more ground

  44. People, lets face it. Cesc sucked on saturday, although I think it was his position and an early yellow card to both Cesc and Denilson hampered them a lot.

    He sucked because he didn’t do well and that is not because of the other players in the field. I think people should be adult enough to blame their “pet God” when he sucks rather than finding excuses for him. On saturday, Ramsay or Wilshire would have performed better than him, partly because they can dribble much better, and even Randall would have performed better(I hope)

  45. When even Benitez stopped tinkering with his squad, AW has decided to be the tinkermaster in chief, and it is not working. We might blame leadership on the field but even players on the pitch know each others’ strength and weaknesses’ and can be demoralised by team selection. That is when you see players not trusting each other on the pitch and Arsenal CAN’T play that way

  46. Appiah is not the answer. Why sign more rejects of other teams?? He may be “experienced”, but so is Silvestre, and Gallas. Two players whom should not be playing for a team that is serious about making a run for the title. Which is why Man U got rid of Silvestre. So now some of you want Appiah?!?! A player that no one wants?!?! If he was so good West Ham would have signed him when he went to train with them. If he is not good enough for west Ham he is not good enough for Arsenal. And if Wenger thinks he is. That should show you what Wenger thinks of Arsenal. And how much ambition we don’t have.

    Instead of tryna save every little bit of money.. How about we invest in a real footballer. De Rossi, Veloso, Alonso, i’d even be happy with Yaya, hes a big, strong lad that would toughen up the MF. But signing a half ass player to piss around on weekends just to save money is ridiculous and shows no ambition at all.

  47. ianinja! I loved your comment. Bang on, mate. I’ve just read through the whole thread and there’s a lot of very good, intelligent debate and interesting suggestions about what’s wrong and how to fix it. I don’t happen to agree with the Flamini argument because although it’s plain to see that he’s missed – there’s a big hole where a Flamini should be – we didn’t actually win anything with him either remember. If you go back to our last title season – well the answers right there. We had Henry, we had Viera, we had Pires, we had Berkamp, we had Sol Campbell – etc. These were frankly outstanding players in defense, midfield and attack who were able to turn games, whatever kind of system or threat the opposition posed, with some great piece of individual skill or general performance that no team or system could cope with. Thierry and Dennis of course were the kings in this respect. Opposition teams couldn’t nullify Thierry Henry with tactics! They’d just hope he had an off-day or they got lucky. Today all those great players have gone – The Great Man, Arsene Wenger has gradually allowed a team of talented youngsters to replace them – it’s been a daring experiment – at times thrilling – at other times desperately frustrating (like saturday) but ultimately we see that, if the idea was to keep The Gunners up at the top, it has not worked. Now the game turners are with the other clubs. Gerrard, Torres, Alonso, Deco, Drogba, Rooney, Berbatov, Ronaldo and, though I hate to say it – even, ulp, Frank Lampost. Even when their teams are struggling those players will like as not produce something to make the difference. Today in my opinion we only have one player good enough to have made it into the 2004 title squad – Fabregas. I like the team – I think we’ve got some great young players who can turn it on. Theo hopefully will really become great – instead of just good. But they ain’t never going to be world beaters – or even EPL winners. Beating manure doesn’t prove anything. We did that home and away the season before last and still won nothing at the end of the day. The Great Man put his mouth where his money is – he bluffed and lost. It’s back to the drawing board now Arsene – I want you around for another 10 years. Build us us a new team and let’s win the league again.
    Oh and ianinja – a new sock! Priceless!

  48. SF,
    I disagree….Flamini is long gone and the game against villa is explainable. I knew within five minutes we would tie or even worse lose…Not because villa was good but because Cesc, Denilson, Sagna, Nasri, Bentdner could not put together a pass. Cesc, was not in form at all this game and still is not where he was last year(granted he is lacking 1st team minutes compared to last year.) Finally, our back four can’t pass or distribute at all. It’s that simple no mysteries here. Two years ago we had the same problem! We beat the shit out of the top three and lost to Man City, Sheffield United etc. And as far as the goals villa scored they were shit! They couldn’t even finish a penalty. Ablon-a-whore is dirty piece of shit. If I was any of the back four I would have sent him packing. As well that other little forward he would have been in the stands as well. So all in all the bloggers who put undue pressure on this team sort it out! It was a loss but not a big deal.

  49. spanish fly, why can’t you just openly admit that Aston Villa are a far superior side than you, Martin O’neill is far superior than Arsene and we have won the European Cup which you will never ever win. And we have English players in our team to boot.

    Up the Villa, Fuck the arse.

  50. I think Sidwell said it all when he said teams play Arsenal and know they can get something at of it, even when Arsenal is at home. No one is intimidated by Arsenal anymore. We have been way too soft for far too long. I also don’t think Wenger is the man to get us back to that level that teams go to Arsenal and know they cannot gain anything. I think an article i read said it best.

    “The time has come for Wenger to dispense with fantasy and replace it with a game plan that will give his club the success it craves. The glory, glory football should only be on show when games are in the bag, but they are a long way short of considering any showboating on this evidence.”

    Our style of beautiful football will always make us beautiful losers in today’s football. As the person who wrote the article said, there’s a time and a place to play beautiful football and in a close game, its not the time. We need to be able to dig out wins, in games we probably don’t deserve to win. Arsenal have not proved they can win ugly over the last 3-4 seasons and until then, no one will dread playing Arsenal. As i said, I don’t think Wenger is the man to get Arsenal to that point. Stubbornness is NEVER a good quality to have in a position of power. He is just too stubborn to change.

    A draw at Man City would be a good result, but Man City is a team in real need for a win to take pressure off their manager, so i wouldn’t be totally shocked if we lose again. Esp if the squad consists of Denilson and Bendtner.

  51. I can understand all the pain we are going through. But let us be objective here. Flamini is gone, thats for Sure. Whom can we groom to replace him as we look to the Jan transfer Window??

  52. Please for God sake, let Asene wenger revived the team, by strenthning the defence, I expect him if he can bring him Richard Michael for central defence and try to bring Osaze Odewingi from locomotive of Mosco to Arsenal, I beleived things we improved with the talented player already the team. Williams Gallas and Syvelster is the problem of Arsenal because they chip goals. For me, is Asene Wenger make me to be die hard Gunner. Let the management give him support to revived the Club during the January Transfer. Thanks Tunde Lawal, I remain loyal to the Club. Up Gunner

  53. Arsenal you’ve shame almost all your fans especially in Nigeria, can you see that the devil you know (P. Sanderos) is better than the angel you don’t know (Sylvester). Please strenghten that our DEFENCE, give us good replacement for M.Flaninin/Hleb and look for a good natural striker.

  54. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the awesome work Look forward to reading more from you in the future. I think it will be also nice if you add “send to email” tool so people can forward the articles to their friends easily.

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