Monthly Archives: May 2012

Johan Djourou: His Life, His Times and His Future

and he showed so much promise last season

Bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, “deadwood”.

These are the words uttered from a faction of the Arsenal faithful when describing the club’s current fourth choice defender, Johan Danon Djourou-Gbajere, or simply Johan Djourou, as he’s known in the shores of Britain.

The road in Djourou’s path didn’t lead to such a bad and rough avenue initially, as he was one of those “young Guns” that was tipped for great things in the yesteryear but he had one hell of a worrisome knee, weak ankles, bad thighs, you name it.

He made his debut appearance in the club’s final season at Highbury and he had a decent run-out in the inaugural campaign at the Emirates. This was followed closely by a loan spell in Birmingham City that turned out to be a success story.

He featured spariangly in subsequent campaigns but Kolo Toure’s exit to Manchester City paved the way Djourou yet again, that amassed a total haul of 29 appearances before sustaining a knee injury in April 2009, which required a surgery, putting him on the sidelines for the best part of one year.

After recuperating from the long lay-off, Thomas Vermaelen took his place in the treatment table with an Achilles tendon injury, and his breakthrough arrived. Alongside Laurent Koscielny, Djourou forged a telepathic understanding as well as creating a catchy nickname, Djourcielny.

He oozed confidence and consistency, giving Arsene Wenger a chance to give himself a pat in the back, declaring that he ‘kept the faith’. On February 2011, in a game against Newcastle in St. James Park, Djourou opened his Arsenal goalscoring account and suffered a shoulder injury. The right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre, Sebastien Squillaci, came in his stead and Arsenal’s defense capitulated in grand style.

Prior to his injury, Arsenal had surprisingly failed to lose any Premier League game Johan Djourou had played since 2008 or so, a record that shocked me and many Gooners out there. With Vermaelen still out for all eternity and Koscielny having the fitness levels of an Ox, Squillaci did his bit to hold the fort and Djourou made a comeback only to get injured again by Bacary Sagna in a FA Cup quarterfinal game against Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger declared that he was out for the entire campaign after a successful re-constructive surgery on the same shoulder that received a blow against Newcastle a month earlier. At that point in time, Djourou was a cult hero in his own realm, as the Gooners sent him goodwill messages and thanked him for his surprising yet positive input to the team’s cause that season.

In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Djourou made a swift return after one month in the extremely disappointing 1-1 draw against Liverpool, where Arsenal failed to hold the lead despite being ahead in the 97th minute. It wasn’t really surprising because the same Arsenal failed to hold onto a four-goal lead in the same season.

Djourou’s return came with the good, the bad and the ugly with his game against Stoke (3-1 loss) standing out as one he’ll want to forget quickly as he was more or less involved in all three goals conceded. However, the 2010-11 season was a great campaign by his standards and he earned a second place finish in the Most Improved Player section of my 2010/11 Season Awards.

This concluded season, Thomas Vermaelen returned to full fitness, Laurent Koscielny upped his game and Arsene Wenger bought ze Big F*ckin German machine, Per Mertesacker, thereby sending Johan Djourou down the pecking order.

Injuries to the regular fullbacks saw Djourou get a shot as a make-shift right back, but he was torn apart countless times, with the games against Blackburn (Ewood Park), Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United (Emirates) standing out. Djourou couldn’t even exhume confidence in some games he played as a center back with clumsy outings against Fulham (Craven Cottage) and AC Milan (San Siro) coming into the limelight.

A player that was somewhat indispensable in the 2010/11 season turned out to be a player bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, and of course, part of Arsenal’s “deadwood”.

Whispers of Jan Vertonghen’s imminent arrival would have given Djourou more nightmares but the Belgian star has opted for Tottenham rather than Arsenal, giving the Swiss center back a sigh of relief.

A few days ago, Switzerland coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, suggested that Johan Djourou should leave Arsenal if he wants to continue playing international football.

Many fans want Djourou out because they feel that he’s part of the deadwood ravaging the club’s wage bill without giving the required output and Hitzfeld has decided to join the Djourou Out Brigade.

It seems as if Djourou has decided to crack, because he has revealed that he’s open to offers:

“My situation at Arsenal is not easy, I’ve never played so little, and especially not in my own position.

Despite having a contract until 2015, he says, “If an interesting offer comes, I’ll look at it for sure.”

Djourou has already been linked with a move to Italian champions, Juventus, and many will be hopeful that the move materializes sooner than later.

Djourou has notched up 138 appearances for Arsenal and like many of his teammates, he hasn’t gotten that bliss feeling of standing on a podium to celebrate a trophy. However, he has two Carling Cup runner-up medals and a Champions League runner-up medal.

Whatever Johan Djourou’s future would bring, I can only wish him all the best because he’s at the stage of his career where he needs more games under his belt.

Unfortunately, Arsenal is not the club to offer him that.

Here’s to Johan Djourou, a stalwart that has dedicated eight years of his life to the Red and White.

Sayonara.

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More thoughts on RVP’s ‘Loyalty’ and some Transfer Speculation

Bouchra….playing a role for Arsenal?

As different European managers continue to submit their final 23-man squad lists for the forthcoming European Championships, jaws have been dropped and eyebrows have been raised. However, Arsenal has had its fair share of ambassadors that are essential pieces of their national team’s jigsaw puzzle.

With the curtain raiser for the competition barely a week away, the gates of the Emirates have remained shut, as Arsenal fans continue to feel the wind pass through the gates instead of gracing themselves with the wonderful sight of new signings.

I had promised my folks in my Arsenal BlackBerry group, Team Goonerdaily, that I won’t write about any transfer speculation till I see something concrete on Arsenal.com but when I delve into my Twitter timeline, all I see is,

‘Arsenal linked with A‘, ‘B has agreed personal terms and it will be announced after the Euros’, ‘C has declared that he’ll prefer Chelsea’, ‘D wants a salary of £300,000′ and the list goes on and on.

The media Vultures swarm around Arsenal publishing a million and one articles with the aim of getting hits and what have you, but I’ve decided to take my ‘pick from the pack’.

The Daily Mail has reported that Arsenal is trailing Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente, who has a buy-out clause of £28m. The Lion King, as he’s known in Basque, has scored 113 goals in 296 appearances for the Basque-based outfit and had his best return as a footballer last season with 29 goals in 53 apps (17 in Liga BBVA).

However, paying £28m for a 27-year-old striker with one year left on his contract is outrageous by our standards, and I believe that it’s just one of those news pieces that would make a few fans drool.

There’s also some news about Arsenal target, Olivier Giroud, as Montpellier Herault president, Louis Nicollin, has confirmed that the striker as well as club captain, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, are free to search for greener pastures, if they receive a “suitable” bid.

It is believed that Giroud has £12.8m release clause on his current contract, but the Scrooge-esque nature of Arsene Wenger and his transfer handling folks is proving that the fee is too much. Giroud finished as Ligue 1′s top scorer with 21 goals and from the few highlights I’ve seen, he’ll be worth the outlay.

In Montpellier’s penultimate game against LOSC Lille Metropole, he showed off his composure in the 94th minute to hand out an assist to Karim Ait Fana who scored the goal that gave the club one hand in the Ligue 1 trophy. They eventually won the league through John Utaka’s brace on the last day of the campaign. More recently, his cameo performance for France against Iceland was eye-catching to say the least.

I’ll certainly take this Giroud bloke over Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young and I’ll be looking forward to seeing his performances for Les Bleus in the Euros.

The Daily Mail also reported that Arsenal is keeping tabs on Manchester City’s no-nonsense holding midfielder, Nigel de Jong. Unlike Llorente and Giroud, I’ve watched de Jong on a consistent basis and I know his capabilities.

For what it’s worth, he’s the football definition of a beast and unlike Alex Song, he knows, breathes, loves his “primary” job and he’s damn good at it.

Elsewhere, Tottenham has stated that they’re confident in completing the deals for Jan Vertonghen and Emmanuel Adebawh*re. Speaking of wh*res, football’s most sought-after ho, Eden Wh*rezard has finally chosen his pimp, Chelsea. The news hasn’t gone down well with his other numerous suitors but we should brace ourselves for a hazardous campaign from Chelsea, because he’s one hell of a player.

Moving over to player departures, Johan Djourou has been advised by his national team manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, to leave Arsenal or risk not featuring for his nation while Nicklas Bendtner has bored us with his cliches yet again that he’s in talks with other clubs.

Like we actually care.

However, there’s a Gunner everyone cares about. He’s presently the club’s best player as well as the captain, all-spark, talisman, Flying Dutchman, perpetual goal scoring machine and the football standard for measuring technique.

Speculation regarding Robin van Persie’s future is rife, and Arsenal fans are already fearing for the worst, as they’re bracing themselves up for a post-van Persie era. Despite the fact that Arsenal’s shameful Board of Directors (yes, I said it!) hasn’t flexed their muscles enough to give Wenger the kind of funds required to attract “You-know-who”, there’s still a wild card left to play.

Behind every great man, there’s a woman providing support because a head with a shiny crown is nothing without its neck. Bouchra van Persie, an amazing woman with two amazing kids, has supported her husband, and she also has Arsenal’s best interests in her heart.

However, she has urged her hubby to repay the Gunners’ faith by staying at Emirates Stadium:

“Arsenal showed faith in Robin when he was going through a lean time, so we should not repay them by thinking about other clubs. Besides, our home life and our children are happy in London.”  

Just as many Arsenal fans have dwelt on, it all comes down to loyalty yet again, which is a bit overrated in my opinion. In football, like every other profession, a player would always want to get rewarded for his output, whether it’s in his current workplace or elsewhere.

The 2011/12 season was the campaign van Persie showed what injuries have robbed Arsenal of. If he was around 25-26 years, he might have been odds on stay for certain, but at nearing 29, this is his last chance for him to make a big move and Arsenal to obtain a significant fee.

Yes, we stuck with van Persie through the bad times but the term “loyalty” has been thrown into the air because we wan’t a player of van Persie’s calibre to stay.

Manuel Almunia spent almost the same amount of years, if not more, than van Persie, but we swept him by the roadside and treated him like dirt, because we have players like Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski as well as young Guns like Vito Mannone and Emiliano Martinez.

If Manuel Almunia demanded that we should show him some “loyalty” by handing him a contract extension, he would have been on the end of some barrage and vitriol from the fans.

However, van Persie has openly stated that’s he’s not motivated by money but he would like his club to show some ambition by getting a few additions. Is that too much to ask?

I, like every thoroughbred Gooner out there, remain hopeful that van Persie would stay, but if he goes, the world as we know it won’t come to an end.

Besides, Arsenal is like the mythical creature, Hydra.

If you take one head out, another will pop up.

Sayonara.

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The Robin van Persiegate Saga: What the Gunners Think About it

It’s all about trophies innit? (photo via Goal.com)

“I have been at the club for eight years and I am proud of that. I am a true Gunner. I love this club and that is no secret.”

“I will sit down with the manager and president at the end of the season and we will have coffee together.

“We will talk about many things but I already do that quite often with the manager anyway.”

These words were culled from the player that carried Arsenal’s goalscoring burden on his back the way Atlas carries the Pandora’s Box.

If he wasn’t in existence and his amazing haul of 30 league goals was taken away from the total number of goals Arsenal scored in the league,  the Gunners would have shared the same number of goals with Swansea (44), a team that finished the league in 11th place.

Van Persie has been a class act all season long, and he has handled himself admirably amidst the media vulture barrages in regard to his future. Towards the mid-point of this concluded campaign, van Persie was approached by Arsenal’s hierarchy with contract talks imminent, but he stalled till the end of the season.

Days after the enthralling curtain closer against West Brom that sealed the Gunners Champions League fate, the figureheads of the club braced up for a “crucial meeting” with van Persie, with his future being the agenda of the meeting. I’d hoped for Alex Song to accompany van Persie that fateful day, knowing that he could assist him, but they reached a deadlock.

Many Gooners started questioning van Persie’s “loyalty” but this masterpiece of an article by Lady Arse gave me a path to follow regarding this situation. I strongly suggest that you read it to get a “path” too.

In my own humble words, I gave five reasons why van Persie shouldn’t be begrudged if he decided to leave Arsenal which included:

  • Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity in general
  • Failure to replace key members of the squad
  • Present deadwood playing for the club
  • The heavy burden of goalscoring and,
  • A player of his talent deserves better.

For reasons best known to Chuck Norris, Master Yoda and probably Loki, I want to place myself in van Persie’s shoes.

I, a young talented footballer had a tumultuous start to my career but I found solace in the hands of a man I can call my father (Wenger). He took me in and handed me a chance to work with the best elder brothers around (Henry and Bergkamp) and they did their possible best to tutor me in the right path before handing over the baton.

However, I suffered more injuries than the amount of times Lionel Messi fires a shot on target and I couldn’t fulfil the massive potential everyone believed I had. There were calls for my head on a plate, but my daddy stood by me and never stopped believing that I’ll come good.

After going to the bowels of the Earth, using horse placentas and what have you, I started 2011 with a bang and finished it with a bigger bang. Within months, I became the headline of every back page as I smashed records on the go. In my second season of full fitness, I guided my team to a third place finish but at some point in the season, I publicly declared that without them I’m nothing.

Now that my father (Wenger), brothers (teammates) and extended family (fans) need me the most, I’ve told them all that my stingy Scrooge of a daddy has to bring in new brothers before I can extend my stay. I also declare that I’m not really moved by green paper.

This my esteemed readers, is the Robin van Persiegate saga and here’s what other Gunners think about it.

In January, Le Forehead Gervinho said,

“I don’t want Robin van Persie to be sold. Arsenal is a team that needs great footballers and leaders on the pitch.

“And Robin is a player that pushes his team-mates to work more and do more during a match. It is a dream to play with him. He is the captain, the leader of the group, there is no doubt.

“I could see it from my very first day at the club. I believe when our adversaries see Robin in the team, it is a huge psychological shock.”

Arsenal’s newly-created backbone, Mikel Arteta is convinced that he’ll stay:

He is completely unaffected by interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona and not thinking about his contract renewal either.

“Now he is very calm and is not nervous about anything. I know he has said that in the summer he will consider things, talk it over and take the decision that he will take.”

Goalkeeping legend in the making, Wojciech Szczesny, declared that he’s here to stay:

“We are trying to make the most of it while he is here, he is a great captain and leader of the team and we are very pleased to have him.

“I’m personally confident that he will stay at Arsenal. That is where he belongs and that is where he is at his very best.

More recently, Bacary Sagna shared his views too:

I honestly don’t know and Robin is the only person who will know that and I’m not sure that he’s even sure. I can tell you that he has a great desire to win games and to play in the Champions League.

‘We want more players to come to the team.

Finally, the much-maligned Aaron Ramsey gave his take on the situation:

“He has proven this season what his value is to the team with the goals he has scored. It’s important to keep those sort of players at the club.

“He was our top goalscorer, won the Golden Boot and the Player of the Year awards, so any team would want to keep him. Arsenal are no different.

“He hasn’t given any of the other lads any indications on what he is going to do. Nothing has been said. But, hopefully, he will stay.”

These Gunners have shared their views regarding the enigma shrouding van Persie’s future.

What’s yours?

Sayonara.

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Top 10 Saves of the 2011/12 Season

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Arsenal shipped in a total of 67 goals from August 13, 2011 to May 13, 2012, with most of the goals conceded from schoolboy errors, defensive lapses, long-range volleys, headers and of course, own goals too.

As expected, the Premier League was the competition where Arsenal conceded the highest amount of goals all season long, and the 49 goals conceded was instrumental to the large amount of defeats the Gunners suffered in the concluded campaign which stood at 10. However, the Gunners still managed to be the third best team in the land, as this campaign could be labelled as one where inconsistency became a watchword.

It’s also noteworthy that Tottenham had a better defense by virtue of goals conceded (41) but they didn’t just score enough, which was able to allow the Gunners celebrate St. Totteringham’s day yet again. When I reiterated that if Arsenal ever ends up in 17th place, Tottenham will be relegated, I wasn’t bluffing.

Their Champions League adventure also ended before it started and it was more or less a nice way to begin next season with, from an Arsenal perspective.

Eventual league winners, Manchester City, boasted of the best defense with 29 goals conceded, with their superb goalie and Golden Glove winner, Joe Hart, keeping 16 clean sheets in the process. Relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers had the league most porous defense, amassing a goal haul of 82 goals, which was more than good enough to secure their second-tier status.

Arsenal bowed out of the Carling Cup in the quarterfinal stage and they also managed to play all their fixtures at the Emirates. The first Carling Cup goal conceded was in the hands of some bloke from Shrewsbury Town, in a game where debut goals for the Gunners was the order of the day. Fabrice Muamba scored against his previous employers in the Fourth Round but the final blow was handed to the Gunners by Sergio Aguero late on.

Lukasz Fabianski was the custodian in the sticks for all League Cup fixtures and he had no clean sheets to show for it. Wojciech Szczesny on the other hand, was the Carling Cup goalie of the 2010/11 campaign and he managed clean sheets against Newcastle, Wigan and Ipswich.

However, his communication error with Laurent Koscielny in the final game probably gave him a few sleepless nights or two.

Arsenal kicked off the FA Cup with a fairytale goal from Thierry Henry but a clean sheet was also secured in the process.When Fabianski replaced Szczesny in the Fourth Round tie against Aston Villa, he conceded two first half goals from Richard Dunne and Darren Bent before the Gunners turned on the style in the second half.

Fabianski’s last game for Arsenal in the concluded campaign arrived in the Fifth Round fixture against Sunderland where he was left rooted to the spot from a Kieran Richardson volley before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sealed his team’s fate with an unfortunate own goal.

Arsenal managed only three clean sheets in the eight Champions League games they played this concluded season. A stunning volley from Dortmund’s Ivan Perisic opened the flood gates. This was followed closely by a win against Olympiakos but a goal by David Fuster almost spoilt the party.

Two subsequent clean sheets against Olympique Marseille was followed up by a 2-1 win over Dortmund in a game where the Gunners sealed top spot, but Shinji Kagawa still managed to get a goal for the visitors. Rafik Djebbour, David Fuster and Francois Modesto scored the goals that propelled Olympiakos to the Europa League in a 3-1 win over a makeshift Arsenal side.

The Gunners were outplayed, outclassed and literally out of the Champions League win a Kevin-Prince Boateng stunner, a Robinho brace and a Zlatan Ibracadabra penalty drove in the nails to Arsenal’s Champions League coffin. A valiant second leg performance wasn’t still enough to send the Gunners through.

Despite all these shortcomings, Wojciech Szczesny stood out from the crowd to make consistent performances, as well as some truly magnificent saves that can never be forgotten by the Arsenal faithful.

Here’s my take on the top 10 saves made by Szczesny and his peers in the 2011/12 campaign.

Courtesy of YouTube’s graciousness, you don’t just to read about the save, you get to see it…not all though.

Enjoy!

10. Wojciech Szczesny against Manchester City (17th December, 2011)

Arsenal’s defending at the Etihad was very resolute but a scary moment arrived when a cross into the box wasn’t dealt by Per Mertesacker and Johan Djourou only for Mario Balotelli to steal it from them superbly but Szczesny was on hand to make a great save.

9. Wojciech Szczesny against Fulham (26th November, 2011)

Thomas Vermaelen stole the headlines for his goals at both ends of the pitch but the save Szczesny pulled up from Moussa Dembele was simply astonishing. The Belgian forward was left with a clear-cut goalscoring opportunity but the big Pole was equal to the challenge.

8. Wojciech Szczesny against Chelsea (29th October, 2011)

In the most enthralling derbies I’ve ever witnessed as an Arsenal fan, both defences were in shambles as Robin van Persie stole the show with a scintillating hat-trick. However, a nervy moment arrived when Frank Lampard teed himself up for one of his trademark free kicks. Up stepped Szczesny to make another top-drawer save.

7. Wojciech Szczesny against Liverpool (20th August, 2011)

It was encounter that signalled the end of Liverpool’s barren run at Arsenal’s home ground but a moment of great quality arrived when Szczesny braced himself up to make a great save from an Andy Carroll goal-bound header.

6. Wojciech Szczesny against Liverpool (3rd March, 2012)

Luis Suarez deceived the ref to win a fictitious penalty but Szczesny was on hand to save Dirk Kuyt’s penalty. Kuyt went for the follow-up but Szczesny covered some distance to parry the ball to safety.

5. Wojciech Szczesny against Udinese (24th August, 2011)

Minutes after Arsenal had gone ahead on aggregate, Udinese were gifted a penalty. Antonio di Natale had a chance to score from 12-yards but Szczesny pulled off a save of the highest quality.

4. Wojciech Szczesny against Udinese (16th August, 2011)

Antonio di Natale was a constant thorn at Arsenal’s flesh in the two-legged affair. Despite his advanced years, he bellied his age with two great performances against the Gunners. There was a moment where di Natale fired in an awesome free kick that was destined for the net. Szczesny developed top-notch reflexes to make a great save.

3. Wojciech Szczesny against Bolton (24th September, 2011)

Early on it the game, Bolton’s Pratley flicked the ball goalwards and the odds of the ball hitting the back of the net were as sure as Gareth Bale going into the zoo to receive recognition from his fellow apes. Up stepped Szczesny to make a top-drawer save.

2. Wojciech Szczesny against Sunderland (16th October, 2011)

Carl Jenkinson allowed Stephane Sessegnon to send a cross to the Szczesny’s far post with Lee Cattermole set for the kill. Sunderland’s captain headed the ball towards goal but Arsenal’s goalie developed the reflexes of a cat to make an unbelievable save.

1. Wojciech Szczesny against Wolves (9th April, 2012)

Wolves enjoyed a brief spell of possession and some intricate passing in Arsenal’s danger area saw Matt Jarvis swing a cross that was headed goalwards by Kevin Doyle. Up stepped Wojciech Szczesny to add another spectacular save to his impressive collection.

In my opinion, it’s my stand-out save of the season.

I’ve just shared my top 10 saves of the 2011/12 season.

They might not be the same with yours, so feel free to share your own pick of those saves that stood out for you.

I’ll end today’s post with Szczesny’s antics on Arsene Wenger’s car.

Sayonara

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10 Gunners That Need to Step Their Game Up Next Season

The 2011/12 campaign was one to remember as Arsene Wenger’s men fought a 10-month long battle that ended up without any share of the spoils the season had to offer. If Arsene Wenger’s team represented Gaul, the Blue Persians from Manchester won the Battle of the Premier League, sweeping aside their Greek neighbors, Manchester United, along the way.

It’s fair to say that Roman’s Army won the FA Cup and the biggest prize of them all after a battle in Germania.

Arsene Wenger’s Gaulish Army depended heavily on its gallant general, Robin van Persie, who single-handedly led his team to war, winning many victories in the process. His deputy, Thomas Vermaelen, was a rock while Majors like Alex Song and Theo Walcott supplied the “gunpowder” General van Persie needed in most of his wars.

Despite all these, there were some ‘soldiers’ that failed to live up to expectations this concluded campaign. I’m going to lay some emphasis on 10 Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up or face the axe.

Arranging them by the various playing positions, here’s my take on the infamous ten.

GOALKEEPERS

LUKASZ FABIANSKI

Fabianski is believed to be a monster in the training ground, making more saves on the ball than Superman with people. Unfortunately, he has failed to reproduce his inhuman goalkeeping training ground form on the field, topping it up with howlers that cost Arsenal dearly.

Fabianski fought a futile battle with Manuel Almunia at the start of his Arsenal career and he settled for the second spot. However, Almunia’s complacency paved the way for Fabianski in the 2010/11 season, and he produced his best and most consistent run-out in Arsenal colors.

A shoulder injury he suffered opened up the door for Szczesny and the young Pole shut it behind him. This concluded season, Fabianski failed to make a league appearance and he was reduced to two FA Cup, three Carling Cup and one Champions League appearance.

Performances aside, Fabianski has to give Wenger another reason to believe in him, as he currently faces a losing battle with Szczesny.

VITO MANNONE

Don Vito is one hell of a prospect, but Arsenal may not be the team to provide him with a platform to hone his talent, unless Arsene Wenger has some real future plans for this bloke. Since his arrival to the youth setup in 2006, he has failed to find his feet at the club, making his debut appearance two seasons after in the final game of the 2008/09 season against Stoke.

Mannone has made a couple of loan spells to Barnsley and Hull City, were he has managed to get valuable first team experience as well as exposure to a good football league.

Wojciech Szczesny is currently Arsenal’s custodian between the sticks, Fabianski’s potential departure could see Mannone move step ahead the pecking order but he’ll have the threat of Emiliano Martinez to contend with.

DEFENDERS

SEBASTIEN SQUILLACI

Squillaci arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain. The “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a key role in teaching the younger ones like Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny but he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre.

He even lived up to the Legendary No. 18 jersey’s own goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut.

To be frank, I don’t even want Squillaci to step up his game; I want him to enter the nearest train through the English Channel to play for any French outfit available. Seeing that guy wear the Red and White sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make.

His gift to Bobby Zamora last season buttresses my point.

JOHAN DJOUROU

Nothing hurts more than setting a standard for you and failing to keep up with them.

Johan Djourou started on the fringes and spent the earlier part of his Arsenal career nursing all sorts of injuries. However, more injuries to players above him the pecking order gave him a chance to strut his stuff on a regular basis.

Djourou had a very successful 2010/11 campaign, notching up 37 appearances and he put up great displays in a large chunk of them. Unfortunately, Djourou has become the football definition of the word, clumsy.

His red card against Fulham was very unnecessary and his performance against Manchester United was so putrid, that the boss had to opt for an inexperienced Nico Yennaris to enter the fray at the start of the next interval. He topped it all up with another clumsy penalty on Zlatan Ibrahimovic when AC Milan hosted Arsenal.

Djourou has been the fourth choice defender at the club for a while and his performances this concluded season hasn’t raised any eyebrow.

I truly hope he steps up his game next season.

ABOU DIABY

“What’s the use of having a Lionel Messi in your team if he never plays a match”

If you ever approach Arsene Wenger to tell you a thing or two about Abou Diaby, rest assured that Wenger would use the following words; stamina, athleticism, dribbling skills, strength, technique and so much more. However, Wenger won’t tell you that Diaby suffers injuries than the amount of times Winnie the Pooh eats honey.

Many people use Robin van Persie’s injury as a reference point to what can happen when you exercise patience with a player but Diaby shows no signs of improvement from his situation as he keeps getting injured under strange circumstances. For all I care, Diaby can get injured in his living room if he stretches to reach for his remote control.

He has to find ways to kill his personal demons and play some football next season, as the patience of the fans are wearing thin.

AARON RAMSEY

Aaron Ramsey had a whole lot of games under his belt this concluded season but he failed to impress in a large chunk of them. Despite the fact that he had a good return of three goals and eight assists, Ramsey was an aberration in some of the games he played.

Time after time, he wanted to make that extra touch that was never necessary and he always tried to overexert himself with a back heel or some chipped pass when a simple pass to a teammate close by was a better option. He was on the end of some serious vitriol from the fans this year and the burden placed on him was certainly too much to bear.

With the likes of regular first team players like Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta coupled with the potential arrival of Yann M’Vila and some other midfielder from Krypton, Ramsey may find himself further down the pecking order.

He has to step up his game next season.

ANDREY ARSHAVIN

The diminutive Russian magician still remains Arsenal’s most expensive signing but he has been sort of an enigma because his playing style and attitude remains poor while his stats paint a different picture.

In his first three seasons at Arsenal, Arshavin amassed 28 goals and 35 assists but he was unbearable to watch last season, so unbearable to the extent that the fans questioned the manager’s judgment when he brought him on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the game against Manchester United.

Arshavin had a very torrid campaign last season and was shipped back to Zenit to rediscover his form. He’ll place his future on a balance scale after Euro 2012 and many Gooners won’t break sweat if he opts to remain at Zenit.

What a shame.

FORWARDS

GERVINHO

It would seem as if I’m being “too harsh” on the new kid on the block, but Gervinho has to put his ‘forehead’ down to vastly improve on his output on the final third, as the prospect of Lukas Podolski looms over the horizon.

Before the 2012 African Cup of Nations, Gervinho put up a great shift with a good return of four goals and eight assists but after killing that bird with his penalty in Equatorial Guinea, he became a ghostly figure on the pitch, oozing out the aura of a player bereft in confidence.

The good forms of the Ox and Yossi Benayoun saw Gervinho relegated to the bench in the tail end of last season, so Le Forehead has to step up his game if he wants to challenge for a first team berth next season.

MAROUANE CHAMAKH

He started with a big bang blasting in 10 goals in his first 21 appearances, then he followed it up with an atrocious goalscoring record of one goal in his next 23 appearances to end his first season at Arsenal with 11 goals in 44 games. However, Chamakh kicked off the next campaign with more shambolic outings, managing a header against Blackburn as his only goal in 19 appearances.

Chamakh offers Arsenal some dynamism in attack with his renowned ability and link-up play it seems as if van Persie has turned out to be his kryptonite.

Chamakh seriously needs to get his head up and work very hard to fight for his place next season because he’ll have to contend with Lukas Podolski, Nicklas Bendtner, Carlos Vela and Park Chu-Young for the right to be called van Persie’s deputy.

PARK CHU-YOUNG

I’m still perplexed and bewildered with the signing of Park Chu-Young. If Arsenal used him as bait to catch the numerous “fishes” of the Asian market, then I must say that it was a plot that worked really well.

However, Park Chu-Young has not been given a chance to prove his mettle as he was just subjected to only SIX minutes of Premier League football, all season long. I actually envisaged that his dream goal against Bolton revealed his abilities to his manager but Arsene Wenger signed a legend on loan to cover for the departed African stars, further diminishing Park’s chances of starting games.

He has to meet his manager to clarify his status at the club because he needs to get some good football before quitting to join the Korean military.

Here has been my overview of 10 Gunners that need to step up their game next season.

It feels good to be back.

Sayonara.

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