Arsenals Thrashing Of Everton; A Statement Of Intent.
Goodison Park was seen by some pundits as a tricky place for Arsenal to play their opening match in this years Premier League.
Firstly, Everton finished in fifth place last season, just behind Arsenal. So they're not exactly a bottom table club. The corresponding fixture last year produced a hard fought one-all draw.
And if you were to believe the multitude of gloomers and doomers, who have commanded the bulk of sports headlines during the closed season, Arsenal are woefully short of experience, leadership, maturity, depth, height, a central defensive midfielder, signings, and managerial ability.
This is only to be expected in the digital age, after all we are subject to news updates by the second. They proliferate quicker than most of us can refresh our browser or change the channel.
Unsurprisingly, most of the reports in the media suggest that the reason for yesterdays result was that the Everton team was less than useless, burdened with injuries, and undermined by the ongoing transfer saga featuring Lescott.
Obviously it had nothing to do with the quality of football played by Arsenal. On the contrary, as the doomers keep suggesting, Arsenal are woefully short of experience, leadership,...etc etc....
We all know that the Arsenal team features many young players. More and more of these young players are the product of the Arsenal youth development initiative. However, plenty of experience can be found in players like William Gallas, who has been playing top flight football for 12 years.
Cesc Fabregas has been at Arsenal for six years, Thomas Vermaelen has played first team football for Ajax for the last five years, the last as captain. Eduardo had three years of first team and national football, before he joined Arsenal in 2007. I could go on, but the point is clear, lack of experience is not an issue for Arsenal.
The lack of experience argument segues neatly into the lack of maturity argument.
It is true that Arsenal field the youngest squad in the premier league, so on the face of it, it is quite a tricky argument to defend.
The youngsters that feature for Arsenal can be divided neatly into bought up players and brought up players. Nasri (22), Walcott (20) Denilson (21), and Vela (20) are all examples of the first, they were bought for serious money as young players.
They have all featured prominently and consistently for their countries at various levels up to and including senior level.
Jack Wilshere (17), Alex Song (22) and Vito Mannone (21) are all products of the Arsenal Youth Policy and there are more on their way. Jay Emmanuel Thomas springs to mind. These players are going to be important this season. Anyone who watched The Emirates Cup already knows what Jack Wilshere is capable of. Likewise anyone who saw Alexandre Song mature last season.
And that is the point, young players will mature when they play with the big boys.
This transfer window has brought rumour and speculation by the ream. A consistent number that keeps popping up is that Cesc Fabregas is leaving Arsenal for a Spanish side. It always seems to stem from innocuous remarks made in interviews he gives in Spain that are then badly translated by the English speaking press.
Many nay-sayers would say that he was only handed the captaincy last year to try to keep him at the Arsenal. Not So. He was always destined to be captain, and the decision to strip William Gallas of the title provided Arsene Wenger with the ideal opportunity to promote him.
Cesc has been at Arsenal for six years now and is surely considered an old-timer by many of the squad, he knows Arsenal inside-out. He is also the teams main play-maker and I am sure that he is held in high respect by his team mates. What better man to lead the squad.
The notion that Arsenal lacks depth is now redundant. It may have been the case that in seasons past they have been left exposed when dealing with injured players. This was true to a certain extent last year when whole sections of the team were injured simultaneously.
This won't be a problem this season, with Walcott, Eduardo, Bendtner, Van Persie, and Vela as strikers, Arshavin, Fabregas, Rosicky, Diaby, Denilson, Wilshere, Ramsay, Nasri, Eboue and Merida as Midfielders, Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna, Clichy, Senderos, Silvestre, Song, Djourou, Gibbs and Traore as Defenders and Almuniua, Mannone, Fabianski and Szczesny as Goalkeepers.
All these players and Arsenal still manage to balance the books each year.
The Sun Newspaper and the BBC have both recently run stories linking Arsenal's lack of silverware with their apparent lack of height in the squad.
The simple truth of it is that last season, Arsenal beat most of the teams who were on average taller than them. The biggest difference in average height was two inches.
It's ridiculous that a blogger went to all the trouble to gather the statistics to prove this point, but it's more ridiculous that he felt he had to do it.
Arsenal haven't been as busy in the transfer window as their nearest rivals, with only one big signing, Thomas Vermaelen. Add to this the departure of, a large part of Arsenal's African contingent, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure and you have the recipe for major discontent amongst certain sections of Arsenal's fan base.
Despite Adebayor's marvelous goal yesterday, their departure was well timed for Arsenal. For a start the large sum of Arabian cash will certainly be appreciated. Also, both players have been looking to leave the club. Adebayor since last year, and Toure since the middle of last season.
There is no sense in keeping players that don't want to stay. Throw in the African Nations Competition later this year which will see both players away for a good while and physically drained when they return and it starts to make more sense.
Compared to the start of last season, Eduardo, Vermaelen, Rosicky, and Arshavin are new in the squad. Eduardo and Rosicky didn't feature at all last season, but after watching the preseason matches, it is obvious that they will both play prominently this year. Arshavin has wowed the crowds since his arrival earlier this year, so it is only Vermaelen who is an unknown quantity.
So four new players, three of which are tried and tested. Add to these the players who arrive from the lower ranks throughout the season, and there are maybe ten or eleven new players who will feature for Arsenal this year.
Arsenals perceived lack of a central defensive midfielder is an old chesnut. Since the departure of Hleb and Flamini, the aforementioned sections of Arsenal's fan base have clamoured for Arsene to spend lots of money to fill the gap.
Indeed they have spent so much time arguing this point they have missed the fact that Song and Denilson are performing precisely the duties of the unsigned player with alarming alacrity.
Arsene Wenger, undoubtedly Arsenals greatest manager, has had to build a team to replace and match The Invincibles. At the same time he has had to oversee the construction of and the moving to a new stadium. The Emirates truly is the Jewel in Arsenal's Crown.
True, Arsenal's form dipped whilst they adjusted to their new situation, but all the while, Arsene had his plan in motion. After the loss of Eduardo, and then the league in the 2007/8 season it was obvious to most supporters that the 2008/9 season held very little hope for Arsenal.
Indeed they finished fourth, retained their Champions League place, and got to the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and the Champions league even though Arsene spent the season playing with his squad. Many players played out of position, many formats were tried.
And it all comes to this: Arsenal are ready, the team is complete and ready to compete. They showed it yesterday at Everton.
Arsenal didn't win 6-1 because Everton had a depleted squad due to injuries, Arsenal were carrying enough of their own. It wasn't because Everton played really badly or because Lescott wants to go to Man City for a big wage packet.
It was because Arsenal played excellent football. Really stunning captivating football interspersed only by the lengthening of David Moyes's face.
Yesterday's performance wasn't so much about thrashing Everton, but more a statement of intent for the season to come.
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