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Arsenal: Most Frustrating XI of the Premier League Era

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

Arsenal: Most Frustrating XI of the Premier League Era

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    Anyone who has sampled the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium will know that Arsenal fans are more prone to bouts of frustration than most.

    It is not hard to understand why: In recent seasons they have grown accustomed to watching clearly talented footballers fail to realise their undoubted potential. It is a painful quandary.

    A poor player is not frustrating. What is truly frustrating is a player who clearly has talent and ability yet still fails to deliver.

    Using that criteria, I've assembled the most frustrating XI of the Premier League era. There is a degree of poignancy about the fact that they line up in a 4-3-3: Arsenal have not won a major trophy since switching to that formation.

Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski

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    There is plenty of competition for this role: Arsenal have struggled to find an authoritative goalkeeper since the departure of Jens Lehmann in 2008.

    The reasons Lukasz Fabianski gets the nod is that he seems to be a player of some talent who has been continually undermined by psychological factors.

    When Arsene Wenger signed the young Pole he was hailed as a real prospect. Poland has a history of producing outstanding goalkeepers, and Fabianski seemed to set to take his place in that tradition.

    As we all now know, it's turned out rather differently.

    Whenever he has been called upon in an Arsenal shirt Fabianski has turned to jelly. He is particularly weak under high balls and crosses, and this frailty has been ruthlessly exposed by the likes of Stoke.

    Fabianski has already suffered ignominy of being usurped by his countryman Wojciech Szczesny. When he returns from injury this month we will discover if Vito Mannone has also superseded him in the Arsenal pecking order.

Right-Back: Emmanuel Eboue

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    When Emmanuel Eboue first burst in to the Arsenal team, he was a sensation. By the time he left, he was a laughing stock.

    Signed from Belgian club Beveren in January 2005, he got his break later that year when Lauren picked up an injury. Eboue went on to become part of a make-shift back four that took Arsenal all the way to the 2006 Champions League Final.

    Despite his promise, Eboue never really obtained a strangle-hold on the right-back slot, and when Bacary Sagna arrived he found himself shunted up in to midfield.

    This positional switch coincided with a down-turn in Eboue's performances, which were littered with diving, histrionics and some remarkably bad decision making. He even suffered the humiliation of being booed off the field by his own fans.

    Eboue is fondly remembered as a great character off the field. On the field, he has been swiftly forgotten.

Centre-Back: William Gallas

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    When Arsenal got William Gallas in part-exchange for Ashley Cole in 2006, some fans speculated that they may have got the better end of the deal.

    They could not have been more wrong.

    Gallas arrived with enormous pedigree, but will be remembered most for his strop in the wake of Eduardo's injury at Birmingham in 2008. By that point Gallas had inherited the captain's armband, but his display of frustration showed him to be anything but a leader.

    Gallas was eventually stripped of the captaincy midway through the following season.

    His subsequent move to Spurs has confirmed his unpopular status among Arsenal fans.

Centre-Back: Philippe Senderos

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    Philippe Senderos had all the qualities needed to be one of Europe's finest centre-backs. Instead, he is now a substitute at Fulham.

    Despite his strength and positional intelligence, Senderos was held back by a timid nature.

    He was regularly bullied by powerful forwards like Chelsea's Didier Drogba and eventually lost the trust of both Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans.

Left-Back: Andre Santos

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    Andre Santos is certainly a conundrum.

    He appears slow, positionally naieve and seemingly barely fit. Yet this is a man with international caps for Brazil.

    The only conclusion is that there is a good player within Andre Santos, but he lacks the application required to show us what he can do. Fans will be forgiving of a guy with little talent who works hard, but they have no time for a work-shy luxury player like Santos.

    The recent signing of Nacho Monreal means Andre Santos is now the third-choice left-back at the club. His time with Arsenal is surely approaching an unpleasant close.

Central Midfielder: Lassana Diarra

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    It is easy to forget that Lassana Diarra ever played for Arsenal.

    He was signed on transfer deadline day in August 2007. However, the form of Mathieu Flamini meant his opportunities were limited, and he left for Portsmouth after only five months.

    Arsenal fans are left to wonder what might have been. After a good spell at Portsmouth, Diarra joined Real Madrid in a €20 million transfer.

    Back in London, Flamini walked away on a free, and Arsenal were left without a decent defensive midfielder.

Central Midfielder: Abou Diaby

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    There are few attributes that Abou Diaby doesn't possess.

    He is the closest player to Patrick Vieira of his generation. He is a player we should be celebrating on a weekly basis. However, the greatest frustration for Arsenal fans is that he has become known more for his absence than his excellence.

    Diaby's long history of ankle problems, initiated by a horror tackle from Sunderland's Dan Smith in 2006, has dogged his career.

    He started this season in breathtaking form, only to pick up a muscular problem and miss the following three months.

    Arsenal fans will hope there is still time for Diaby to salvage his career and fulfill his potential.

Attacking Midfielder: Andrey Arshavin

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    In January 2009, Andrey Arshavin was signed to save Arsenal's season.

    Remarkably, he did it. His creativity and energy lit a fire under a struggling Arsenal side, and he capped it all off with a stunning four-goal haul at Anfield.

    Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, it never got better than that.

    As Arshavin's form declined, so did his work-rate. This incurred the wrath of the fans and the manager alike, and Arshavin was eventually farmed out on loan to Zenit St. Petersburg. However, the Russian club were unwilling to make the deal permanent, and he now finds himself back on the Arsenal bench.

    Every so often Arshavin will produce a beautiful reminder of the talent he possesses. It only serves to anger those fans who hoped he would go on to become an Arsenal legend.

Right Wing: Gervinho

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    Gervinho arrived from France with a glittering reputation and amid comparisons with Thierry Henry. Unfortunately, he's rarely looked fit to lace the great man's boots.

    Gervinho is quick, direct and skillful. He has most of the tools needed to be a dangerous wide attacker, with a couple of glaring exceptions. His finishing is far from good enough, and his decision making is wildly erratic.

    The early part of this season saw Gervinho given a brief run as a central striker. The subsequent form of Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott make such an eventuality seem extremely unlikely in 2013.

Left Wing: Jose Antonio Reyes

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    When Jose Antonio Reyes opened his Arsenal account with a stunning brace against Chelsea, he seemed destined to become an Arsenal hero.

    Unfortunately, he never settled in England and spent the majority of his time with the Gunners agitating for a move back to Spain.

    Arsenal fans' overwhelming sense will be one of regret. Of all the players in this team, Reyes arguably had the most natural potential. Unfortunately, he lacked the strength of personality to match.

Striker: Francis Jeffers

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    Francis Jeffers was signed to be the poacher Arsene Wenger craved but spent more time troubling physios than opposition goalkeepers.

    Eventually, he was offloaded to Charlton at a loss of several million pounds. Wenger seemed more than happy to wash his hands of a player whose most memorable contribution in an Arsenal shirt was being sent off for kicking out at Phil Neville in the 2003 Charity Shield.

    That moment of madness would prove to be his final appearance in an Arsenal shirt.

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