Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Is Ramsey Cesc in Disguise?

There has been plenty of kinds words said about Aaron Ramsey this season. Rightly so as well. Although not everyone has been supportive of his career. Ramsey was quite frequently the focus of some of the Emirates crowd, as they channelled their frustrations of the team through one player. In the midst of this Wenger tried to accommodate Ramsey and stuck him on the wing, a trait afforded to some of the Frenchman's favourites like Abou Diaby.

The one aspect of Ramsey's game that needed to improve was his goalscoring. Particularly for a side that has lost a lot of goals from the side in recent years. Did you know that of the 27 goals Aaron has scored for us 11 of those came over the course of the first five seasons? That got me thinking of another midfielder, one that wasn't really noted for his goal getting but then suddenly sparked into life and added a new dimension to his game. Have you guessed who that former Arsenal man is? Yes, it's non other than the infamous Francesc Fabergas Soler. Here's the comparison between him and Ramsey in terms of games to goals.


Now, there is a danger of over analysis with statistics but it can't be denied that there are similarities. In Cesc's fifth season he scored 13 goals, which is what he mustered over the course of the previous four seasons. I've already touched on Ramsey finding his goalscoring touch but I was quite surprised to find there are only two goals separating them over the course of the first six seasons but with Ramsey having over 40 games to make up the difference.

I called upon the Cesc comparison as it reinforces Wenger's beliefs to stick with players. As fans we often judge players by their ability to score goals. You'll see it during the World Cup, just watch the rave reviews for defenders that score. Often it masks deficiencies, take Thomas Vermaelen for example. He scored eight goals in his first season, from quality headers to 30 yard left foot curlers. We were having the wool pulled over our eyes. Joleon Lescott is another,  Everton got a great deal because he scored goals, a great added bonus but defenders need to defend first and foremost. Wenger has been ridiculed for not being able to spot keepers. We may now be on the way to resolving that but it's certainly been a low key season on that front in terms of errors but if there was one area Wenger of the field that Wenger excels in, then it has to be centre midfield. Players like Vieira, Gilberto, Fabregas and now Ramsey. Players that had to learnt the ropes off a more experienced head before taking the reigns themselves. That's what makes Ramsey's upturn in production even more impressive. Ramsey did have Cesc for a bit but over the course of the last three seasons Ramsey's very much learnt the hard way and benefited from Cesc's departure.

The most crucial time for Aaron came when he was trying to get games in order to overcome the physical and mental scars that come with a broken leg. Particularly as we had refused to extend the loan at Forest, as Abou Diaby was injured. Eduardo's Arsenal career took a nose dive after a similar leg break. Something wasn't quite right and he was sold to Shakhtar. Instead Wenger sent Aaron on long to Forest, where he would see little game time mainly due to the inclement weather. Wenger remarked

“We did not get the number of games we wanted from him because of the snow,” said manager. He is a snow victim and we are as well consequently. But I am not tempted to do it [extend his loan]. If Abou Diaby was not injured I would certainly have considered it but not now.Aaron is not completely ready yet [for the Premier League] but he has been practising every day with the group for two months. I hope that when he comes back he should be ready in February.”
Ramsey of course then went on loan to Cardiff towards the end of the January transfer window but was now driven by the challenge of regained his place in the Arsenal team.
“If going out on loan again for a month to get a few more games helps me get back into shape quicker and into the Arsenal team then I will do that”
Usually these quotes are quite generic but if anything, time has taught us that this was actually the case.  Ramsey has gone on to play 125 times for Arsenal since these two loan spells. Wenger got this case spot on. There were many times when Ramsey could have been dropped but Wenger had faith and whilst I'm usually a fan of accountability for poor performances, he never really did anything disastrous, he just needed to get out of the rut he was in.

The future for this side is getting brighter, I have my doubts that the current crop are genuine contenders for a title but there is a transfer window to rectify that (I hold no hope on this front) but what I have seen lately is that we've started adding plenty of goals in other areas. Theo broke the 20 goal barrier in 12/13 and he has a very good understanding with Ramsey and the two are yet to play at the top of their game with each other. So if Ramsey can maintain his 15 goals, Theo with his 20 (difficult returning from injury I know) and Giroud adding a further 20 then we have 55 goals. It's a start, as we've often looked around thinking where are the goals coming from but there are threats now and genuine ones at that.

The foundations are in place for us and with Ozil getting a season under his belt, he's only going to get better. It's been an exceptional season for Aaron but it's whether or not he can maintain this level. Sides will be paying far more attention to him and if he overcomes that then we are in for a real treat. He deserves every penny of whatever salary he is on and it's great that he has the summer off because as the international players return in their drips and drabs from World Cup duty, at least we have our most in-form player ready to hit the ground running and ready to carry the side at the beginning of the new season. Let's not forget that if any of our players get to the World Cup final, history tells us they miss the first couple of games of the season due to little preparation but we have Champions League qualifiers to contend with.

Aaron Ramsey has been a real success story. One we should all enjoy and it was somewhat fitting that he scored THAT goal. Now he's thrilling us with some wonderful goals, amazing stamina and brilliant vision. I haven't even mentioned that we paid 5m for him as well. Maybe this time we've got the type of player we can keep for the rest of his career. Now that would be a turn up for the books.


Friday, 6 June 2014

Arsenal Player Power Rankings 2013/14

So another end of season blog? Have you had you fill? Well for those new to this feature we assess our players based on merit not ability and favouritism is also put to one side. To add to this we have last seasons Power Ranking to refer to and we’ll see if players have improved or regressed over the last twelve months.

So without further ado it gives me great pleasure to introduce our star-studded panel.

@yorkshiregunner, @addy88, @goonerdave66, @yankeegunner, @alan_alger_, @thesquidboylike, @mzk90, @giantgooner, @bradley08, @attwood10, @k4yn3r@LucaHelvetica and me @mj_afc

They all rated our players from 1 (being the best) to 10 and you'll read more from them a bit later.

So here is a quick run down of the Top 10 from the 2012/13 season

10th - Wilshere
9th - Giroud
8th - Podolski
7th - Gibbs
6th - Ramsey
5th - Arteta
4th - Walcott
3rd - Koscielny
2nd - Mertesacker
1st - Cazorla

There has been plenty of movement and only a couple of players remain consistent with last season, which tells me that this is a true reflection of player performance.

Hall of Shame - No Votes

Viviano, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Monreal, Kallstrom, Sanogo, Bendtner and Gnabry didn’t receive one vote between them. Not surprising for the most part but Monreal has regressed more than any other player over the last twelve months.

When I said that none of the above received any votes that’s not strictly true. @yorkshiregunner in his own quirky way kindly voted for one of our players to receive the ‘Contributions to Air Shots’ award and it goes to *drum roll*

Yaya Sonogoal

@yorkshiregunner added “makes Shola Ameobi look like Robbie Fowler. Added an Air Header to an impressive array of air shots too. I look forward to seeing an air penalty from the Postman.”

Poor old Yaya. Maybe he’ll make the top 10 next season. Or maybe not. Hopefully he goes on loan , or even better he is sold.

Missed the Cut

Lukasz Fabianski - He did make @yankeegunner's top 10 but sadly nobody else’s. I think Fab must have made him a fortune in that semi final win over Wigan. It’s the only explanation. Swansea awaits.

Oxlade-Chamberlain - Brazil bound Ox had an injury hit season and didn’t get enough minutes to further his case for a top 10 finish. Maybe next season.

Flamini - Pro’s and con’s to Mathieu’s season. The Flam/Arteta partnership never really delivered but he certainly added a tenacity to our play but that got the better of him on occasions.

Podolski - Poldi got three top 10 nominations, including one from me. I thought he kicked on in the 2nd half of the season but his early season injury cost him his chance to retain a top 10 place.

Wilshere - Jack also received only three votes and despite some particular highlights such as the goal of the season, he’s another player to fall out of the top 10. Injuries have cost Jack but I think the performance of another midfielder has put Jack completely in to the shade.

Rosicky - Sadly Rosicky fans, he doesn’t make the top 10 and I didn’t even need to fix the vote. Three votes and ranked as high as 7th.

Walcott - If it wasn’t for that injury against Spurs, he’d have been well up the board but he isn’t. Lets hope he gets up to speed as soon as possible when he makes his return to the team.

So, you’ve heard who hasn’t made the grade. Now lets see how our top 10 takes shape.

Arsenal 13/14 Power Rankings

10. Gibbs (down 3 places) 

@goonerdave66 - I am genuinely angry at Wenger on the left back rotation this season. Gibbs I see as a very good left back who has the potential to be a great one. Whereas Monreal I see as an average one with no potential. When he decided to give Nacho a run of games when Gibbs was not injured,  I simply did not understand it. The left back debate for the EC became about Shaw v Cole and Gibbs was the forgotten man, yet Shaw himself expected Gibbs to be ahead of him as he was in the previous England squad. However what is done is done and although his own manager may have cost him a seat on the plane to Rio, he will be fresh to Arsenal come August. I want him to play more times than not and personally would not lose any sleep if Nacho was sold. I think Gibbs could be our left back for years to come.

@thesquidboylike - The latest in a long line of good-to-excellent Arsenal left-backs, this was the season where Gibbs truly made the position his own. Having seen off the, ahem, threat of Andre Santos, Gibbs began the campaign as an equal to Nacho Monreal in the eyes of many. But 2013/14 saw the young Englishman cement his place in the team, and included the vital and oft-forgotten opening goal in the CL qualifying tie versus Fenerbahce. Unfortunate to be barely mentioned in contention for England’s World Cup squad, his future for both club and country is bright.

9. Arteta (down four places) 

@goonerdave66 - A few years ago I advocated Arteta for the DM role, a suggestion met with some derision at the time. 2 years on in the main he had no let us down. He reads the game superbly, tackles well and his distribution is top notch. However the one thing he lacks to take us to the next level in this role sadly is pace. He was immense at Wembley and no one deserved the climb the steps and life the trophy more than Mikel but I do think if we are to fight out the EPL we need a younger, stronger model next season. For me Arteta will be, like Rosicky now, a player you are always happy to see, know won't let you down but would not be in your first 11 week in week out.

@attwood10 - A good, reasonably solid season from Arteta. He's such an intelligent player and there's a reason he starts every game when fit. Often criticised because he's not a "big beast of a DM", but his defensive stats for us might surprise some (most tackles per game this season in PL). At 32, he's definitely declined over the past year, but was again a very important player for us this season and certainly played his part. I do, however, suspect he could become more of a "squad" player next season as we look to sign a long term replacement.

8. Sagna (up five places) 

@k4yn3r - versatile rock this year, especially as he had other distractions. Was impressive at CB

@alan_alger_ - The first time Sagna has played over 3000 Premier League minutes for Arsenal in a season, contributed one goal, three assists and took part in games where 15 clean-sheets were kept. On balance that looks like his best ever Arsenal season, although a strange quirk in the stats (possibly due to the increased minutes on the pitch) says it’s his worst season in terms of being on the pitch when Arsenal conceded a goal – 39 in total. My overall feeling is that he is a solid right-back worthy of a place at a top-six club in the division. Although I’m puzzled by the huge clamour from fans at the end of the season for him to stay (far better Arsenal players have been allowed to leave with barely a whimper), especially on increased terms. There must be a better right-back out there for us, I’d be looking for one who contributes more offensively. That said – Jenkinson is NOT the answer.

7. Cazorla (down six places) 

@mzk90 - Bit of an enigma. Has all the skills and the low centre of gravity, but too often can be caught in possession and brushed off the ball if teams make him turn back towards our half. Would see him as a sub if right player comes in or out wide left if they don't. That said, scored probably the most important goal of the last few years at Wembley.

@addy88 - Not as good as last season but especially in the second part of the season the little Spanish magician was magnificent. Cazorlas contribution in this part was quite big, initiating with both goals against Fulham at home and ending with the with the goal which got us one back against Hull giving us the hope and belief to win our first cup in nearly a decade. But everything comes with a downside, Santi tends sometimes to play dangerous passes on the Arsenal side of the field. If Cazorla can stop this bad habit and can connect to the performance of the end of this season, Santi can give so much to the Arsenal and there will be many more happy memories with him.

6. Ozil (*NEW ENTRY*) 

@giantgooner - He doesn't run around like a chicken with his head chopped off so the Ashtons of the world accuse him of laziness, but week in, week out Ozil dictates our play and unleashes moments of pure genius on the
pitch. Even more intelligent commentators seem to have underrated what he brings to our team. Make no mistake, this is a world class player at his peak, and if last year was an adjustment year he was still the most important attacker on the pitch for Arsenal bar Ramsey. But he also needs to stay fit - and staying on till halftime against Munich despite the hamstring injury wasn't helpful for either him or the team.

@yankeegunner, - Mesut Ozil arrived at arsenal amidst expectations that he would play slightly better than a Henry-Fabregas-Vieira hybrid. He may have warranted his transfer fee for the emotional lift he gave the club and the supporters alone. Realistically, it was always going to be impossible for him to measure up to the hype that surrounded him, particularly in his first season and specifically without a world-class centre-forward to finish the chances he could create. Because of the immense expectations, Ozil faced heavy criticism. Some of it was deserved, but most of it was absurd. Ozil improved Arsenal tremendously. He may not have dominated games as often or to the extent that was hoped, but he was always dangerous. His game certainly suffered from a lack of pace in the front three, particularly after Theo Walcott was lost for the season. And it’s fair to say that when Aaron Ramsey when down, he struggled further. His lowest moments came in some of Arsenal’s bigger games, and that added to the criticism he faced. But I think it’s fair to say that he was the least of the strugglers in those performances. It’s also fair to suggest that Ozil faced criticism largely because of his body language and languid style. He’s certainly no Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion on the pitch and he’s a master at conserving energy. He drifts into space intelligently and once in that space, uses his superior control and vision to keep the ball and play the right pass. He doesn’t rely on constant running, which means that his contributions often go unnoticed. Ozil did reserve one of his best performances for the FA cup when he dominated Everton. And he was equally scintillating against Napoli at the Emirates. Ozil finished the season strong which suggests that he was starting to fully acclimate to the style of the premier league and adapt to his new teammates. His statistics were respectable for a first season and when reviewed without the filter of ridiculous expectations I think his first season was an unqualified success. the best news is that there’s surely plenty more to come from him next season. Especially with the return of Walcott’s pace and the addition of all those other world class attacking players the manager will bring in this summer…

THE TOP FIVE

5. Giroud (up four places) 

@attwood10- My views on Giroud are well known, but despite my criticism of him, I do admit and recognise that he is very good at what he does. He's a superb link up player and, with the right players around him, he's again proved that he can be very effective. His numbers have improved from last year and, thankfully, he stayed fit all season. He scored some key goals for us and definitely played his part this season. However, his finishing in 1 v 1 situations simply isn't good enough a lot of the time. That should be bread and butter for an international striker and it has cost us this season. Shouldn't be first choice but should be a good option for us.

@mj_afc - Personally I absolutely love Giroud and I think the grief he gets is completely unnecessary , particularly when you consider there are no other viable options and all we do is effect his confidence. He's taken on Aaron Ramsey's boo-boys, who funnily enough have vanished off the face of the earth. Reality is they just picked a new player and when you consider that Giroud's has won more points than any other Premier League player, then I think we can afford him a little bit more room to manoeuvre. He's led the line brilliantly and has worked great as the axis in our attacks. He's not a Suarez by any means but he has his value and scoring over 20 goals this season has proved invaluable. Yes, a world class striker may have scored more but who's to say that would definitely be the case. Giroud showed in the cup final that he looks more of a threat with another striker up there with him and if we can get 'that' player then I think we'll be more potent with two up top.

4. Szczesny (up eight places - top 15 last season)

@yorkshiregunner - Best keeper in the PL last season. Wasn't to blame for the drubbings, really stepped up a level this year. Distribution improved too. Wouldn't swap him for any Keeper in the PL

@alan_alger_- In the past few seasons our keepers have been more likely to be remembered for the mistakes they have made, Wojciech included. Although there was an overall feeling that he was the best of the bunch - he had to prove it. That’s exactly what he has done in 2013/14. At a rough estimate his contribution in league matches has been worth at least ten points. It’s therefore strange that the FA Cup success achieved this season has been with his compatriot Lukas Fabianski in goal. Fabianski’s appearance at Norwich in the final game of the season denied Szczesny the ‘golden glove’ award outright (shared with Petr Cech) for the most clean sheets, still a worthy accolade

3. Mertesacker (down one place) 

@mzk90 - Played 51(+1) games this season which is awesome for such a big man. Leads with calm authority and shows what it means to him without resorting to the antics of WS or Poldi. Ignoring the penalty in SF and the drunken giraffe impression last minutes of final, he was solid as a rock all year.

@thesquidboylike - Show me an Arsenal fan who doesn’t love our BFG, and I’ll wager that they are phonies. Whilst last season saw Per establish himself as a guaranteed starter at the centre of the defence, this one has further embedded him in Arsenal hearts. A seemingly perfect combination with Laurent Koscielny – away day capitulations notwithstanding – plus a vital equaliser in the Cup semi and a genuine love for the Club make him the modern day Mr Arsenal. His leadership skills have blossomed too; whilst he has notionally been third-in-line for the armband, I fully expect him to be bestowed the honour on a full-time basis next season.

@bradley08 - We had a terrier as our pet for over 15 years. He wasn't the prettiest dog in the world, he certainly wasn't a fashion statement like a chihuahua or a poodle. He wasn't exactly brisk either, he once was beaten in a race across our garden by my two year old nephew who fell over three times whilst trying to stay upright. He was not your archetypal "dog". And yet........

He had an uncanny knack of knowing where the optimal place to be in the house was at all times. If dinner was being served, he was under the kitchen table waiting for scraps. If we were going off for a drive, he was sitting outside the car waiting for us.

Also, my mother is deaf, so she needed a visual aid to tell her if someone was at the door. Our dog was so good at this, he was most often found sitting at the window, looking out for any potential visitors so that he could raise the alarm. We didn't need a doorbell, we had him.

Rusty died two years ago. He's still missed to this day. It isn't his presence that we miss, it's the consistency of his input into our lives that's gone. He was there every day, every week, every year. We got so used to him that we took him for granted, it's only now that we look back and see how much he added to our lives.

Per Mertersacker is the Arsenal family pet. Scruffy, slow, awkward, sometimes doesn't wake up before lunchtime (stupid 12:45pm kickoffs) yet at the same time, he's assuring, consistent, always in position to help, and never missing when needed. Just because we get the same solid performance out of him week in and week out, that doesn't mean he shouldn't appreciated for what he brings to the club; consistent, unspectacular consistency.

2. Koscielny (up one place)

@k4yn3r - Kos the boss, dominant and scores the most vital of goals. The Boss has been immense this season.

@addy88 - Koscielny - the second part of the best centerback partnership in the premier league. Quite often the defensive performances get overlooked. But Arsenals defence was the thing, that carried us forward and Koscielny had IMHO the biggest part in this and he further scored the most important goal of the season, the goal that brought 30 more minutes in the FA Cup Final. On the over hand sometimes he likes to make reckless tackles which lead to unnecessary penalties or dangerous free. Kicks for the opponent (but it seems he works on that with Steve Bould).

Overall I still can't believe that Koscielny was four years ago a 2nd division defender and now a France regular. Arsenal can be very lucky to have a player like Koscielny, a true leader which deserves the name Boscielny.

@bradley08 - A picture tells a thousand words, right? How about two pictures? Because to sum up how good Koscielny has been this season, we have to recall this:

Ugh. Imagine that picture burning a hole in your memory. Imagine that picture gnawing away at you every minute of every day. That picture was Koscielny's defining moment at Arsenal. WAS.

Now it's this:
Whenever we look at how good players are, it's very easy to focus on tangibles, like technical ability or statistics. What has separated Koscielny from the rest this season is the intangible stuff that tends to be used as clichés; heart, passion, bravery etc. But to play in the role that Kos plays, as the centre-back who attacks the ball in front of the back line, you can't play scared. If there's a ball to be intercepted, you have to commit to getting there first, without the fear of cocking up making you hesitate. He was 6th in the league this season in interceptions per game, way ahead of other luminaries such as Kompany, Terry, and Vidic, yet he only gave away on average 0.9 fouls per game.

And then there's the second picture above. In one frame, we see the intelligence to make the right decision, the bravery to follow through with it, and the courage to not worry about potential injury. That one frame is a better description of Koscielny's season than any stat or any article will ever be. And most of all, it's what he deserves.

And the Winner Is....

1. Ramsey (Up five places)

@yorkshiregunner - Injury robbed him of the PFA player of the year award, another 10 goals and in all honesty Arsenal a title.

@giantgooner - I don't think I have enough space to describe how amazing Aaron Ramsey's progress was this season and what a special player he has become. Trying to pick Ramsey's goal of the season is a challenge in its own right; I'd be choosing between the volley against Liverpool, dribbling past 3 Norwich defenders in the box in October and the stunning backpedalling volley against Norwich again at the Emirates this spring. But on top of that he does more running than anybody else on the team, is an exceptional defender and is creative to boot. Now all he has to do is do it again, and this time stay healthy for the entire season!

@yankeegunner - Aaron Ramsey was quite simply the best player at Arsenal during the 2013-2014 season. His improvement from the previous season was nothing short of amazing. Ramsey always displayed a tremendous engine but the end product he added to his game was quite stunning. Literally the only downside to Ramsey’s season was the injury that shortened it. Otherwise he was the perfect
player. It’s nearly impossible to think of a poor performance by the Welshman. And when he wasn’t at his absolute best, he still had a habit of delivering the decisive contribution to a match. The FA cup final is a perfect example. It wasn’t his most impressive or impactful display, but there he was, scoring the winner deep in extra time with a sublime finish. That was Aaron Ramsey this season. Ramsey scored so many wonderful goals that it’s hard to choose one as his best, or indeed to choose his finest performance. But for some reason I have a soft spot for the goal he scored against Liverpool in the Premier League. Like all great players, Ramsey made his teammates better. Ozil improved when Ramsey was there to do the running and Giroud improved when Ramsey was there to run on to his trademark flicks and back heels. Ramey’s emergence is a huge fillip for the club and credit to the manager who believed in him enough to extend his contract at a time when many supporters were convinced he wasn’t good enough for Arsenal. The only question about Ramsey now is whether he can continue to play at this level long term and whether he can stay fit for an entire season. If he answers those questions in the affirmative, Arsenal supporters might start to get used to open top bus parades.

@mj_afc - What a turnaround for the player who had his role questioned by a lot of supporters. Who can forget the dark days of Ramsey on the left wing at Everton and QPR. Now he's in the middle and he's thriving. He was a huge loss to our midfield and attack. His willingness to run ahead of the ball has been vital. It's created space for him and others and his return was like a breath of fresh air. When I think of our best moments of 13/14 I think of Liverpool, Dortmund, Hull all of which included Ramsey goals. He has delivered and we just need to ensure there's enough rotation in order to keep him fit throughout the season. If any player deserved to score the winner in a cup final, then that man was Aaron Ramsey and with the armband potentially up for grabs, should he be in contention? I'll leave you with this video of Ramsey from Arsenal Player http://bit.ly/1tNGBhO.

So there you have it, do you agree with our top 10? Maybe you could submit a top 10 of your own in the comments box below. It's been an entertaining season and with silverware at the end of it, who can complain? 

To complete the power rankings here is the scoring matrix for the panel. I'd also like to thank all of the panel for taking part in this blog as it wouldn't be half as interesting without the views of others. 


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Arsenal End of Season Review/Player Awards

Season Review

August

I’m not sure you’re supposed to have roller coaster months in August but ours certainly was. The lack of signings and defeat at home to Villa meant a summer of fury was unleashed around The Emirates. We even contemplated Fenerbache eliminating us in the Champions League but that ended up being a demolition. So we left the month of August having signed two players, both on frees.

September 

This has been a pretty grim month for us and when it starts against your closest rivals (in terms of locality) and they’ve spent a whopping 100m+ trying to overtake you, then we were very much in squeaky bum territory. Giroud’s sublime finish was enough to ensure all three points and later that evening Wenger confirmed we were talking to Ozil. MESUT FUCKING OZIL as he became known on twitter and the place went umlaut crazy. The only downside was that a poxy international break stood between us and our 42 MILLION POUND signing. Who’d have thought it, us spending money. We were also drawn against tough opponents in the champions league. This led to the inevitable 'arsenal will be eliminated' routine that is becoming somewhat tiresome. We were unbeaten in September, playing six and winning five. The release of positivity was timely, especially given the poisonous atmosphere in August. Were the good times about to return?

October

It began with a bang in our first big CL game. Napoli were rolled over in a comprehensive 2-0 win and Ozil scored a beauty. 6/6 in our group, a good healthy start.The rich vein of form continued and it saw our joint biggest victory of the league season at home 4-1 v Norwich. Strange to think that we only scored four goals on two occasions in the league. We suffered our first defeat since the opening day of the season at home to Dortmund. Suddenly with a trip to the Signal Iduna our group was looking a lot more difficult than it had at the start of the night. Maybe the media were right? We did however put the defeat behind us, as we went to Palace (probably at the right time) and got 3 points and stayed top of the league. Even an Arteta red card didn’t hamper us. The month did end on a low though, as we went out of the Capital One Cup to Chelsea. I’m never sure what our players gain for the alleged experience on offer, particularly as some don’t play again for the rest of the season. We also introduced Giroud and Ozil from the bench but 1-0 soon became 2-0 and out we went. 

November

The dreaded November which was nicknamed Death Run 1.0. A week of Liverpool (H), Dortmund (A) and United (A). Would our big game bottlers tag be shaken off? You know the drill, we were fantastic against Liverpool, as Santi noticed his first of the season and Ramsey, well he just continued being Ramsey. Then onto Dortmund and my only European voyage of the season. Little was expected from the game and we offered no threat in the first half and were lucky to go in 0-0. Ozil whipped in a world cross, Giroud knocked it down and Ramsey stooped to head home. 1-0 TO THE ARSENAL. It was to stay that way and suddenly you started to believe that the players could start to take confidence and they could see they could compete against the best. Let’s not forget that six months earlier Dortmund were in the Champions League final. This was definitely the highlight of the month. And just like Arsenal do, one high leads to one mighty low. We seemed to accept that two wins from three was good enough. We were abysmal against United at OT.  It left a sour taste but it was still a positive week. The sides character was again apparent as we won out through the rest of the month. November brought with it nine premier league points and six champions league points. Quite something given some of the November’s we’ve had before. 

December

Sometimes you can look at some games, not necessarily your worst performances or defeat of the season but Everton still irks me. They played excellently against us but we took the lead with less than 10 minutes to go and for a side that had not conceded in four games it was disappointing to concede so late on. It is often these moments that lead to a poor run of form and that’s exactly we we got. Napoli was far too close for comfort, knowing we could lose didn’t help as it certainly affected our mindset. Callejon netted the 2nd in the 90th minute and we hung on to progress to the knockout stages. So i’ve spoken about our character and ability to bounce back from defeat, well this time it to us to fortress Etihad - The land of the demolition. Free scoring City against high flying Arsenal. We went in at HT 2-1 down and Kosceilny had left the game injured. It was painful viewing as it threatened to get as bad as a game previously played in Manchester some two years sooner. 6-3 it finished and although a lot went against us that day, you have to think there was a bigger picture. We exposed our weaknesses and it was put down as a freak result which may explain we why didn’t have an answer against other similar performances later in the season. We then had the opportunity to beat Chelsea but Mourinho came and loaded up the space and restricted our attack,. A penalty appeal and a red card shout went unnoticed and it was 90 minutes that nobody was getting back. Lukas Podolski rose from the ashes and turned the game on it’s head at Upton Park, as Theo continued his good run of form in front of goal. Then to Newcastle and Giroud glanced home as took the points in a very poor contest but again six point on the road is superb. 

January

Happy New Year to Arsenal as we got back to grips with our form. Cardiff were beaten, admittedly quite late on and then we had Sp*rs at home in the 3rd Round. Walcott led the line and despite not scoring he looked quite lively but within 48 hours it was confirmed his season was over. Maybe now we’d sign another striker, lets not forget we chased Higuain and Suarez when we had Giroud and Walcott. We were about to become very one dimensional very quickly. Wins followed against Villa, Fulham and Coventry but January was to end on a disappointing note. We fell behind at St Marys in one of our many poor first half performances. However, the team turned the game on its head. Santi equalised and Giroud steered home brilliantly to give us a 2-1 lead but we switched off and Southampton capitalised. It was definitely two points dropped but again at the time it didn’t seem too bad but February was just around the corner. 

February

Cracks began to appear at Liverpool after we suffered our second drubbing of the season at Anfield. It was a horror show, we invariably raised more questions than answers but we were handed a lesson in terms how ill discipline can lead to utter disaster very quickly. We had the opportunity to right our wrongs against United and we failed to deliver, again. How we never scored against them this season given the amount of joy they’ve given to Premier League fans is beyond me. We went on to extract revenge against Liverpool by eliminating them from the FA Cup, despite fielding what you could say was a weaker side. The CL got underway and Bayern came to town and did a number on us again. Although we missed a pen and gave away one, Szczesny’s sending off changed the game and the tie. We lived to regret a late Koscielny charge forward as we got caught napping. 

March

The worst month of the season. We lost to Stoke. We lost to Chelsea 6-0. We threw away a last minute lead v Swansea and ended the month without a win in three games. We were also officially eliminated out of the CL. The positives, well, we won at Spurs for the first time in approximately seven years and we remained in the FA Cup, which meant our season had some substance going into April, not just race for 4th.

April

If we thought March was bad, then April didn’t start any better. We got spanked at Everton. Despite this I still thought we had enough to make top four. Our run-in versus Everton was much more favourable and we’d started to get players back. The disappointment was soon put to bed as we beat Wigan on pens to make the FA Cup final. It was a poor contest and one we made far more difficult than it should have been but hey-ho we made the final, that’s all that counts. The positive trend continue as we netted three goals in three consecutive against West Ham, Hull and Newcastle. Ozil and Ramsey were back in the side and suddenly everything appeared to be a lot better,

Merry Month of May

Champions League qualification was sealed prior to our against WBA. Our league campaign ended with two wins meaning we are actually on a five game winning streak going into next season. Lets be honest though, May was all about the FA Cup and our dramatic comeback to end, as the media would say:

NINE LONG YEARS

or

NEARLY A DECADE

WHAT. A. DAY.

If ever anyone says we celebrate fourth like a trophy, then clearly they have never won one because although I celebrated our last days wins at WBA and NUFC nothing compares to Saturday. Seeing Gooners happy at Wembley, North London and across the globe was brilliant  Seeing the pleasure it brought to the team was just fantastic to see. The celebrations went long into the night. It was just a great day. Everyone has their memories from the weekend, whether you were there, at a pub or at home. It was special and it’s great to see everyone lapping it up.

Overall, the season promised more than it has done for a few years we’ve won silverware and that’s what it’s all about. You can debate long and hard about what is more important re: European Qualification but you don’t get the high we experienced on Saturday. There are ifs, buts and maybes. However, if you were offered 4th and the FA Cup after Villa on the opening day, you’d have taken it. We’ve made progress in some areas and there is still a lot of work ahead but for not it’s all good. 


End of Season Awards

Best Player

Aaron Ramsey - No description needed.

Worst Player

Carl Jenkinson - Lots of effort, lacks ability. Not good enough. However, he’ll soon be our only right back 

Goal of the Season

Tomas Rosicky - Yes, ladies and gentleman. I, the self confessed Rosicky hater I'm given ‘Super Tom’ as some of you refer to him the honour of Goal of the Season. Now, I know Wilshere’s goal is great but it was against Norwich in a 4-1 win. I prefer goals that have bigger meaning, so Rosicky’s effort at WHL swings it for me. An absolute thunder bastard (as Ian MacIntosh would say) and it give us our first win there and in a good few years. 

What If Moment of the Season

January Transfer Window - We had the lead, what had the momentum but we didn’t reinforce in order to see what we could have become. Yes injuries played a part but when the likes of Walcott and Ramsey are injured and you only bring in a broken Kallstrom then you’ll pay the price. I think we could have won had we invested but we didn’t but you always think ‘what if’. 

Most Ridiculous Moment of the Season

Mathieu Flamini - Of course there are many, not just relating to Flamini but his red at Southampton was stupidity at its finest. Not only did he commit a ridiculous challenge but he missed game against Liverpool and Man Utd. Games in which we could have done with him, particularly at Anfiled when we needed defensive shape. Instead we had to throw in a ring rusty Wilshere and the rest is history. 

Biggest Win

Borussia Dortmund - Nobody gave us a chance and in a season where we’ve had a lot of questions asked of us and had little reply, we came up big in Germany. I was lucky enough to go to that game and i can’t say I even contemplated victory but we snatched it courtesy of Aaron Ramsey. 

I’ve done all of these off the top of my head, so feel free to disagree (your thoughts are welcomed). Anyway, that’s all from me for now. I’ll be back some time soon with the Arsenal Power Rankings, drop me a line if you want to be a part to be a part of it. Thanks for reading and until next time, enjoy the fact out of all the Premier League teams, only two have won silverware and one of them is us. 




Sunday, 6 April 2014

Arsene About Again

So, here we are once again contemplating how utterly dreadful we've been in yet another 'big game'. The only surprise is that I keep getting surprised by how incredibly inept we perform.

So before I rip in to the side today let me take you back to Friday. Wenger commented on our result against City.

But at least [we had] to come out with a strong performance. We feel we have done that so I think we have turned the corner and we have an opportunity to show that against Everton.

turned the corner, turned the bloody corner he said.

Now what he didn't say was what was standing around the corner. I knew fine well that far too many people (fans and staff included) were clutching to the fact we played so well against City. I even saw some on twitter describe our performance against city as our best performance of the season. That despite the fact we were completely hopeless in the first half. We were kidding ourselves into believing we could compete.

So to Everton...

The thing with Everton is they aren't actually that good. Yet we made them look like Bayern Munich. They are a tough nut to crack at home but I thought we were more than capable of beating them. However, our hapless players had other ideas.

The first area of focus is our formation. There are a lot of 4-4-2 believers out there but lets just focus on 4-3-3. It has been nearly 5 years since we adopted our current formation (coincidentally against Everton) and you know what, it's done absolutely nothing to help us. It has more weaknesses than strengths and we simply don't have the players or the tactical discipline to pull it off. This formation has killed our full backs for years. They get exposed and yet nobody alters their game. Now surely we don't set up with in the knowledge that we are going to leave Sagna 2v1 for the duration of a half. I couldn't work out who was supposed to be right wing for the first half. Was it Super Tom, was it Cazorla or was it someone completely different. I couldn't really tell. The fact is though that nobody defended the right hand side with Sagna and it was one of our many weaknesses. Despite the lack of support Sagna he was probably one of, if not our best player in the half. The side lacks rhythm and the personnel to take charge of a situation. In terms of formation we tried to copy the Barcelona blueprint but we've failed. We've had our moments over the years but overall this formation has been nothing but a disaster, especially considering we lost our best player two season ago. Now, we have Giroud. Teams are reverting to 4-4-2 and yet here we are stilling getting our arse handed to us on a plate.

The second is our tactics? Do they exist? I'm not sure. From what I could see we wanted to stand off them, allow Baines plenty of time and room and Arteta must at all times suck the life out of any potential counter attack. If Wenger believes that if all his players play to their potential that we'll win the game then he's incredibly naive. Even if this side plays to it's full potential it doesn't mean we'll win. We aren't that side anymore. We don't have Bergkamp, Pires, Henry etc anymore. We can't go on with this arrogant attitude.

The last issue is a particular position that is really infuriating me - Defensive Midfield. Now the clue is in the first word, or maybe it is an ironic title. We can go back to selling Song and not acquiring a replacement but when the chips are down the players need to offer protection and see out periods when we are under the cosh. Arteta has gone from a promising centre midfielder (in front of Song) to someone who quite frankly is no better than Denilson ever was. Did Arteta kill Denilson? He doesn't have the pace nor the discipline required to play DM. He wants too many touches, sucking the life out of counter attacks, which lack pace anyway. I also found his last minute strop a touch embarrassing. He's supposed to be our vice-captain. He is our second in command behind Vermaelen and people say we lack leadership...

So back to the game and the second goal. Oh the second goal. If you were within about 15 metres of me at the game, I was the one shouting.

HE WANTS TO CUT INSIDE, DON'T LET HIM CUT INSIDE. DON'T LET HIM... 2-0.

Absolutely dreadful. Lukaku is a handful but could we have made it any easier for him? Monreal (Spanish International) got too square and basically showed him inside and in turn passing him onto Vermaelen. Now surely, his international team mate would wise up but no, on he goes. Then he pulls the trigger and it's 2-0. Pathetic. Why couldn't anyone show him outside? I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was embarrassing. It was another Arsenal Sunday League Special. From that point nobody on the field believed we could get back into it. We reverted to potshots from distance but barely threatened.

2-0 Half Time.

Initially after the break no players appeared until Ramsey came out and trained on his own for several minutes before being joined by the others. Then it got me thinking, what could Wenger be saying to his players. Whatever it was would it motivate them? Surely it's all be said before. In the last couple of months he's been faced with the half time team talks at Liverpool and Chelsea, so would his words today strike any chords? I don't see how they could have. Surely Wenger delivered the heavy artillery in those games? You can see it in the players, they don't believe in themselves or their team mates.

I'm led to believe that Arteta scored the 3rd despite the PA announcer claiming Miralles got the final touch. Altogether another fine chapter in our calamitous defender, which has returned with a vengeance.

3-0 Full time

So where from here? How many back to basic strategies can one side go through? I haven't heard any apology yet, maybe that will come tomorrow. We'll be promised that the side will work harder, like Arteta said after Chelsea. Since we've drawn two and lost one. Quite the response Mikel. We just can't hack the bigger games. Take a quick look at the games amongst the top 5. The mini-table looks like this:

Chelsea 16 points
City 10 points
Everton 8 points
Liverpool 7 points
Arsenal 5 points

We've played a full complement of 8 games as well and have a nice tasty goal difference of -14. It is worth noting that despite not picking up so much as a point in any of those away games, City, Everton and Liverpool have only picked up one point in total from those same games. Moral of the story - Win your home games.

So here's the question. Imagine the headline "Arsene Wenger parts ways with Arsenal", what's your first reaction? Mine is relief. He took us to a new level, which I am wholly appreciative of but now coaches like Martinez and Rodgers are running rings around him. When it comes to the big games we are nowhere to be seen. It can only be resolved with new ideas and different methods. The FA Cup allows us to part ways on a high, this needs to end on a high but if he stays we'll face the same issues next season because the belief has gone. Even if we blazed a trail at the start of next season, you know what would happen and if you don't think I can possibly make such an outlandish assumption just look at previous seasons. We are stuck competing for 4th and I don't want 4th, I want to compete. Instead the best of the rest is good enough for us, we're just very lucky that the best of the rest = 4th.

So I'm off to wait for yet another apology from the players. I fear I may be some time. If only they cared as much as all of us eh?



Thursday, 27 March 2014

Wenger Misses a Chance to Send a Message

It has always irked me somewhat that whenever we seem to have an 'accident' there seems to be little desire to change personnel. Mainly because there has always been a lack of:

ACCOUNTABILITY

the state of being accountable, liable, or unanswerable.

Now when we lose a game 6-0 I expect a few home truths to be told and players to be dropped. I want players made an example of. I want them to live with the fear that sub-standard performances aren't good enough and it means that you'll be adopting the Alex Song position (on the bench). The lack of accountability has always annoyed me, sometimes it offers an insight into where you went wrong and who the manager holds responsible for poor performances. Think of some of the worst Arsenal performances (not including last Saturday), got one? Good. I'm selecting Newcastle away. The line-up that dark day in 2011:


Szczesny
Sagna
Koscielny
Djourou
Clichy
Diaby
Fabregas
Walcott
Wilshere
Arshavin
Van Persie

Well all know the situation right? So fast forward one week later and we play Wolves at The Emirates. The line-up:

Szczesny
Sagna
Djourou 
Koscielny
Clichy
Wilshere 
Song 
Fabregas 
Walcott
Arshavin
Van Persie

So only the one change and that was enforced, as About Diaby was sent off at St James' Park. Now what sort of message does that send out? If harsh words are had is the meaning lost? It appears Wenger may pander to his players too much. Yet last season when Szczesny was dropped he came back a new player. Dropping players does work. Who'd have thought it. Interestingly I read an article pointed out to me by @durhamgooner that Lee Dixon did with Amy Lawrence for the Guardian and he said

"I like Arsène a lot. He's got a really cool sense of humour, he can be really funny, he laughs at himself. He can be difficult at times – he is not very good at confrontation which you would expect him to be. He finds it very difficult to front you up and tell you why he's dropped you because he cares about you, so it is very difficult for him to look you in the eye."

Now forgive me questioning a manager that doesn't like confrontation. But what is that all about? A startling revelation from one of our former legends. You could speculate as a result of this apparent weakness that it's a reason why we struggle when the chips are down. His philosophy will work brilliantly when everything is going to plan but when your ship sails off track you need to take action and if that means dropping players, then so be it. 

So we fast forward to the comparison between Chelsea and Swansea line ups.

Szczesny>Szczesny
Sagna>Sagna
Gibbs>Gibbs
Mertesacker>Mertesacker
Koscielny>Vermaelen
Arteta>Arteta
Ox>Ox
Rosicky>Rosicky
Podolski>Flamini
Giroud>Giroud
Cazorla>Caozrla

So much like at St James' Park we had one enforced change, the other was to offer another DM against Swansea at home. So are we saying here that Podolski was the scapegoat for Saturday? Surely not. First of all, the bloke got subbed 23 minutes. His inclusion away from The Emirates is always risky but you know that level of inconsistentcy is always possible with the PR wonder machine. There's no need to speculate that Arsenal went into media lock down on Sunday but far what purpose did it serve. I agreed entirely with Wenger that his time was definitely best spent with his team but what can he say to a side that probably has 6/7 undroppable players. Is he still afraid to have that difficult conversation? Despite his faith there was obviously a lack of confidence. So if you play players after a mauling they suffer a lack of confidence. If you drop them, the sulk but are then motivated when they are introduced back in to the side. Sadly we don't have the squad to drop them all. 

Going into last night I would have dropped 4/5 players with the view to reintroducing them on Saturday. Why isn't Gnabry considered a variable option? It was only in January that Wenger spoke about Gnabry's chances of going to the World Cup, he said 

"There is more than a small chance. There's a big chance. We are looking at a guy who has good individual talent, he can go past people, is a good finisher and has a very good football brain with good vision."

Maybe Wenger has forgotten these words of praise but Gnabry has fallen off the proverbial cliff in terms of game time. We also had TWO right backs (by trade) on the bench, couldn't one of them play instead of Sagna? How is Sanogo good enough for Bayern and Liverpool but not Swansea. At least three players in addition to Flamini could and should have played. 

I just cannot fathom how we make the same mistakes every single season and maybe this is something that contributes towards our own downfall. This is one of a cluster of reasons why I think a new manager would improve our side. Wenger is not getting the best out of them and we carry passengers for far too long and then they get injured.

Maybe at the grand old age of 32 I'm a bit old fashioned but surely dropping players and making them accountable for their actions means that they will take more responsibility on a football field or is it just wishful thinking? Or am I just being naive?

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Big Game Bottlers

On Saturday I travelled in hope that we could pull off a result that would either see us catapulted right into the mix of the main contenders or back into our rightful battle #raceforfourth. Reality was that we'd lose because of how formidable Chelsea are at home. My main thoughts ahead of game were that Mourinho was plotting our downfall and he was planning some scheme to stifle us, as only he does. However what I didn't consider, not for one second, was that we would be absolutely gutless/spineless/weak (delete as appropriate). In what could have been a weekend of mass celebration, has turned into a complete and utter nightmare.

Whilst many ponder Wenger's biggest achievements and best XI's, I can safely say this was the worst performance under Wenger. Don't even attempt to compare against the 8-2. That side contained a back four of Jenkinson, Djourou, Koscielny and Traore and there was Coquelin at DM. Yes, we missed Ozil, Walcott and Ramsey on Saturday but all of those also appeared at Man City in an equally inept defensive display. We had our starting back five out on Saturday but our biggest downfall was that we didn't play as a team, instead we played like a bunch of selfish Sunday morning footballers. Its often a comparison used to take a point to the extreme but I'm sure many Sunday league sides would play a lot more intelligently than we've be doing in games against Liverpool and Chelsea. Seriously what are they advised to do?  We seemed to deploy a gung-ho right from the off. Surely we weren't trying to bury Chelsea in the first ten minutes? Given our record in first halves this season it certainly doesn't even form the basis of a logical plan.

So let's play a game (not of the Saw variety) spot the difference.













So what similarities have we here? Five Arsenal 'defenders'. Three Chelsea forwards. Sagna in practically in the exact same position. Both resulted in a goal. Hardly any difference in them at all. Gibbs is woefully out of position. We are the masters of plotting our own downfall. You always wonder if they'll finally begin to learn?

The truth is we don't learn and that's why Wenger should and will be questioned. Our record against other top sides is pathetic. Ultimately it isn't the be all and end of all of the league but it's six games of the season and it ruins us time after time. 17 goals conceded against City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Absolutely embarrassing. The only comfort I can take is I didn't get a ticket to go to Man City. That's my only positive.  The best part of £100 spent on Liverpool and Chelsea and didn't show up in either. Good value for money.

The ever insightful stats from @orbinho threw out a stat that before this season we'd only ever conceded more than 5 goals in two Premier League games. So the three batterings really do tell their own story.

Whilst I still search for answers I can't help but look at how Wenger has neglected this side. We sold Song (rightly so) and replaced him by moving Mikel Arteta into DM. An opportunity to upgrade the side was missed. Don't get me wrong Arteta has had his good games but when the going gets tough, he isn't up to it. If you ever wanted stats to hide your deficiencies, then he had a 93% completion percentage on Saturday. Yet, in truth, he was awful. Ill-disciplined (like Song) and too negative in possession. He really is Denilson 2.0. Then you have Giroud. He was bought (if Wenger is to be believed) to complement RVP, not replace him. So we've gone two seasons awaiting a replacement for our last great striker. Don't get me wrong, I'll stick up for Giroud because he gives us options and he offers a plan b but in the toughest of matches, he's found wanting. If you watch his shot on Saturday (yes, I watched MOTD), he doesn't connect with his foot but his lower shin. That's just poor.

What this all says to me is we are going backwards. These high level results are showing that we are regressing. Did we get lucky because Ferguson called it a day? Much of the focus is on Wenger's possible deal but instead of asking yourself is he worthy of a new deal, ask yourself if he is capable of building a new side. My answer - he isn't. Mentally the damage that lies within the players can only be fixed with a new ethos and leadership. We have too many weaknesses. We used to throw away leads, now we just get humped. We used to get bullied, now we get pressured. That's how these Arsenal sides are evolving. You can tell the players don't believe in themselves. As soon as we went 1-0 down on Saturday, it was like they relived their own personal nightmare from Anfield. They had already accepted their fate. That's where the manager gets on their case but wait a moment, who is that sat on the bench, it's the manager. Not once did I see him offer instruction, attempt to change tactics or influence the game. How can you sit there and watch your team fall apart at the seems? I'm not saying standing up resolves our issues but at least try to influence the game. Mourinho has always out-foxed Wenger and he knows exactly how to beat us. No doubt the money argument will rear it's head but Chelsea have a lot of players we could have afforded but maybe it comes down to ambition. If prospective players are given the chance to sign for Arsenal or Chelsea, who do you think they'll sign for?

At the end of the days players want to win and we will win the FA Cup but is that not the perfect opportunity for Wenger to leave? I listened to the +Tim Clark (Arse2Mouse) podcast and Dave discussed this scenario brilliantly. Win and leave on a high, as Wenger should be remembered. Why not? Sounds perfect to me. Wenger has led us through this period/decade of transition and maybe it is time to hand over the reigns to another world class manager. Whilst fans will point towards Man Utd's ongoing decline, all you have to do to avoid such calamity is to not hire David Moyes. I want the Wenger era to end on a high but it appears the same mistakes are being repeated over and over again. Even the contract scenario of a few years ago seems to be regurgitating itself right now.  The players look comfortable and seem to get in based on reputation or by default. I can't be bothered with all of the AKB or WOB but when you talk about loyalty remember that we, the fans, have also been loyal. We've shown patience and believed in a project that many others would not have. Just look at the rats fleeing the United season ticket ship. Win the FA Cup Arsene and then let us embrace the legacy you've left behind and allow someone to take us to the next level, as you did back in 1996.

P.S Thanks for the apology today Mikel but sadly we've heard it all before.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Best (and Worst) of Wenger's Reign

In celebration of Arsene reaching 1000 games it seems to be trendy to pick his best XI of his time at Arsenal. So in keeping with that theme why don't we branch out? So I've prepared a few different XI's and see what you think.

The Best

Seaman - 1.3m
Lauren - 7.2m
Adams - Free
Campbell - Free
Cole - Free
Pires - 6m
Vieira - 3.5m
Fabregas - Free
Ljungberg - 3m
Bergkamp - 7.5m
Henry - 11m

Total Cost = 39.5m

Pretty straight forward for me. There may be some discussion over right back with Lauren v Sagna but I'm a sucker for The Invincibles and that swayed it. Not sure there are many others up for debate? Overmars? Left too soon to be considered for a starting berth.  Worth noting that Wenger didn't sign all of that team though.

The Worst

This is tough, forgive me if I have blocked out some absolute horrors.

Wright - 6m
Luzhny - 1.8m
Squillaci - 4m
Cygan - 2m
Silvestre - 800k
Hleb - 10m
Mendez-Rodriguez - 330k
Gervinho - 10.5m
Vivas - 2m
Jeffers -  8m
Diawara - 2.5m

Many, many players could have made that team but there are some shockers in there. From players from the lower reaches of the German league to the fox in the box.

Total Cost = 47.9m

The Most Expensive

I'm relaying purely on memory so forgive me if there are any errors here. Feel free to correct me

Wright - 6m
Sagna - 7.9m
Vermaelen - 10.5m
Koscielny - 9m
Monreal - 8.3m
Nasri 13.6m
Arshavin 16m
Reyes - 13m
Wiltord - 13m
Cazorla - 16m
Ozil - 42m

Total Cost = 155.9m

I'm sure you could go on and on. but they are just a select few that I have chosen. I'd love to see your best and worst teams, feel free to comment below. One thing is for sure though, 1000 games is a fantastic achievement and each and every club has their skeletons in the closet. You can't always get it right every time.