As the official Arsenal website crowns Thierry Henry as Arsenal’s greatest ever player via an online poll, it’s easy to look back at the last time Arsenal were greeted with Premier League success.
The invincibles season.
Looking back the squad we had then it was simply immense. There’s just no other word for it.
I know some of you look at the squads of Chelsea and Manchester United and think they’re on another level. But in 2004 when we lifted the Premier League trophy the same could be said about us.
The first team was outstanding and the players who would come in if we suffered injuries were just as good. So Arsene’s arguement that bringing in new players will effectively ‘kill’ off young talent is slightly flawed. Our squad back then was filled with talented players.
Our starting line up would consist of; Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Toure, Ashley Cole, Freddie, Vieira, Gilberto, Pires, Bergkamp and Henry. But we also had Wiltord, Edu, Kanu, Reyes (in January), Clichy, Parlour, Keown and Cygan waiting in the wings when required.
We also had the likes of Bentley, Pennant, Fabregas and Senderos making an impression in the reserves during that season.
Strength and depth are vital in today’s game and with Gilberto, Flamini and Hleb departing (as well as the aging Lehmann and Diarra in January) then our squad does seem to be a little thin at the moment.
Obviously, Gilberto and Lehmann could be considered over the hill but Flamini is a loss which ever way you look at it. Hleb was either loved or hated and while Â£11.9 million isn’t a bad return it’s still an experienced player leaving the club. People will say he never scored enough goals or made enough assists (although Hleb fans will point to his pre-assist rate) and he didn’t give enough to the first team but you wouldn’t really kick him out of the squad would you?
I realise that players want to play every week and that puts pressure on the manager but success almost suppresses this problem. Wenger didn’t have a problem rotating the invincibles squad simply because we were winning things. It’s the same with Manchester United at the moment. They have to drop either Anderson, Scholes, Giggs, Hargreaves or Carrick in every game but you don’t hear a peep out of them when they’re on the bench.
Everyone has high hopes for Samir Nasri but you have to give the kid a chance to get used to life in England, and the same can be said about Carlos Vela. And then there’s Aaron Ramsey – the Premier League is another step up and he will need time.
The jury is still out among Arsenal fans as to who should partner Fabregas at the heart of our midfield; some people are pointing to signing an established player, such as Xabi Alonso from Liverpool or Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, while others think it’s time for Denilson or Diaby to step up and prove their credentials.
What do I think?
I would be surprised if Arsene brought in Alonso or Barry to be perfectly honest. All the noises coming from Arsene are about giving youth a chance and that simply comes in the form of either Denilson or Diaby. No-one would have predicted Flamini being a major player last season, especially considering the outstanding form of Gilberto in the previous campaign.
We’ve been linked with so many players this summer, such as Santa Cruz, Arse Shaving, Eto’o and Huntelaar, but I just put that down to silly season in the press.
I truly think Arsene might have concluded his transfer dealings this summer.
With Adebayor looking almost certain to stay I would be completely shocked if we brought in another forward now. To be honest, even if Adebayor did leave I don’t think Arsene would have replaced him. Arsenal create so many chances, possibly the most in the league, and when Eduardo does return we will have 4 top quality players who can play up front – Bendtner, Eduardo, Van Persie and Theo Walcott.
But there’s till a while until the transfer window closes on August 31st so we could always get another last minute transfer like when Gallas joined us in the 11th hour two years ago.