WTTGT Writer: Lewis Kyriacou
I’m not sure whether there’s been a more interesting time to be an Arsenal fan. The pressure on us to win a trophy has been brooding for six seasons. We’ve lost two of our best players in their prime to ‘bigger’ clubs, which hasn’t happened since Anelka, Overmars and Petit. Some 10 years following the 6-1 humiliation to the hands of Manchester United, our northern friends go one better by beating us 8-2 last weekend. Then, the most active deadline day Arsenal fans have had in years.
That’s one hell of a back drop! Here are my top five players that I think have a point to prove this season following all the drama surrounding Arsenal. And Benayoun and Walcott don’t even make the cut!
(5) Van Persie
I’m not suggesting that van Persie is a player who needs to prove himself. He broke the record for consecutive scoring in away games last season, and was Arsenal’s top scorer in spite of missing a third of the season, not to mention scoring on the big occasions like in the Carling Cup final and the equaliser against Barcelona when we beat them. But there’s no doubt that becoming captain brings new pressures. Without Cesc, he now is our talisman, but I question whether that’s enough to be a captain. His point to prove is that he can motivate the team to play better when the chips are down, can he galvanise a team to raise their game, and still perform to the best of his ability? It is now time to see whether he can lead a team on the pitch, rather just put the team in the lead by scoring.
A massive season for the young Pole. Wenger has shown faith in him by not going out and buying an experienced ‘keeper, like Given. He is paying back some of that faith; ironically, I don’t think you can blame him for any of the eight goals he conceded against United, and that penalty save against Udinese was sensational. He was, however, playing well up until the Carling Cup final, and an absolute howler denied us our first trophy in five and a half seasons. I guess what I am saying is whilst he has started well, it’s a long season, and only at the end will we be sure whether it was wise for Wenger not to buy a renowned number one.
The PFA Young Player of the Year has got to really step it up. He had that good a season he won the more prestigious accolade by appearing alongside Wayne Rooney on the cover of FIFA 12! I hope that following the Fabregas’ departure he is given a more advanced role, where he can penetrate defences more. Cesc’s shoes are massive shoes to fill, and no one is asking any one player to make up that loss by himself, but Jack needs to influence the final result more by adding goals and more assists to his game, rather than just playing well in the middle of the park. His current injury is a massive blow to Arsenal, and Wilshere must not only try and get back into the team once fit, but when there, improve it.
Some say deadline day for Arsenal was panic buying, but in truth we were replacing like for like; Santos for Clichy, Benayoun for Nasri and Arteta for Fabregas. Mertesacker, however, is the only established name brought in to improve our side, and not just to replace departures. He comes with good pedigree, 75 caps for Germany, who traditionally are good defensively, and has played in the toughest club competition, the Champions League. The last time we brought in a defensive household name was Sol Cambell. Mertesacker doesn’t, however, have Premiership experience. His performances will be compared to Jagielka’s and Cahill’s, and whether the more economic choice to bring in the German was the right one. I am hopeful he and Vermaelen will form a great pairing, but he is being asked to cure our defensive woes: A tall order even for a defender standing 6’ 6”!
Who expected that one? There’s no denying he’s a great player, and has the vision and passing ability similar to Cesc Fabregas. Bearing in mind this team has been moulded around that one player, we need to find someone who can play the Fabregas role during this transitional period. He is however, uncapped by Spain, and while there’s no shame being considered less talented than Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, we are putting faith in Arteta to raise his game in a way that his country hasn’t. The biggest point to prove, however, is his age. Whilst the whole media, myself included, willed Scott Parker to Arsenal, we believe Wenger was put off by paying a lot for a 29 year old. Arsenal, however, have just paid twice for the Spanish midfielder than Spurs have for Parker. Wenger has gone against his philosophy of nurturing future stars and out of necessity, gone for an established player in the closing hours of deadline day. With the pressure of being an “un-Wenger-esque” signing, coupled with the gaping void left by Fabregas, Arteta surely has the most to prove in this new look Arsenal team.
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