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Is the Wenger era finally over? Granit Xhaka Eddie Nketiah Rob Holding Mohammed El Neny Reiss Nelson This great man's story is all over Arsenal Why am I going to write about these 5 players? Because they are the only 5 full squad members left from Arsene Wenger’s time in 2018. That leaves Granit Xhaka as the only certain starter from that era. Nketiah might finally make it and even Reiss Nelson is possible, but neither are sure of anything at this stage. One player for Wenger then. Is that a testament to how Wenger had fallen behind in his ability to run the team? In less than 5 years his team is gone. Hardly any considered good enough to get a start. That is sad but maybe it is the reality. And probably up to a year or so ago, a lot of fans didn’t rate Xhaka. He was out the door, bags packed, when Arteta came. Arteta said, “hey Jack, where are you going? Come back here and play for the Arsenal!” One of Arteta’s best moves, he may even get our player of the season this year with a strong finish. Are the current squad Arsene style players? Probably not. He liked to have a sprinkling of pure skill players like Pires and Ozil who couldn’t tackle or defend. In the Champions league final against Barcelona when Lehmann got sent off, he chose to take off Pires rather than Ljungberg on the basis that with ten men he needed someone who could defend. Pires never really forgave him. Wenger also liked players to play without too many instructions, trusting them to know what to do. This led to accusations that he wasn’t great tactically. Arteta is, by contrast, mad about tactics. Players have specific roles and guidelines under Arteta, they must work extremely hard, fill any holes, and do what they are told. Setpieces are seen as a way to win and are given high priority. 1. Granit Xhaka: The comeback kid After the impossible comeback, can he achieve the possible? So where now for these players? Let’s start with the only sure starter, Mr Xhaka. He is 30 and could be there until he catches up with his number and maybe beyond. He could maybe have 500+ appearances for Arsenal before he finishes. He can play fullback, defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder. He plays for the team at all times, you never see him playing only for himself. Now that he has abandoned his penchant for cards and has limited his mistakes, it seems impossible to drop him. He will be hoping that he can add to the 3 trophies picked up so far. A Wenger yes, so. 2. Eddie Nketiah: Will goals be enough? Eddie - young enough to break Henry's record Eddie Nketiah? I feel that it is going to be hard to displace Jesus no matter what he does. He has bulked up, he has improved all the time and he could surely have a great career, but will it be at Arsenal? It is hard to say. He is giving Arteta the best possible headache, though, as he has made Jesus’s injury almost irrelevant, not something Arsenal’s fans thought when Jesus left the World Cup. Jesus will have to fight for his place back, for sure, but I feel he may well get it. And I suppose Eddie will then have to leave for the sake of his career. A Wenger maybe, I think. 3. Rob Holding: Holding on for dear life A move down the table seems likely Rob Holding? He seems to have settled for his role as bit player. At 27 he is still young but he has only 153 total appearances for Arsenal, around 21 a year over 7 seasons. Few fans see him as getting a first choice position so will he stay? You never know, particularly if Arsenal become a winning machine. 20 games a season with trophies might seem better than 45 at the likes of Leeds or Southampton. But if we get one more great defender he may not even get those 20 appearances even with 5 subs allowed. I suspect he will move on or be moved on in the summer as I expect us to be in the market for a top defender. A Wenger no, I reckon. 4. Reiss Nelson: He could be anything Close to make or break for Reiss Reiss Nelson? An enigma. Over 6 seasons at Arsenal he has only played 25 league games and 55 in total. Now, Arteta has made many statements about him, always positive, and he has done well in some matches when given a chance but 6 goals does not seem to indicate that he will make the step up. Amazingly still only 23, so it is hard to truly speak with confidence but, honestly he needs an injury to a top player and to come in and do an Nketiah, give Arteta a major headache. I like him and his attitude. I feel he will have a successful career but I doubt it will be at Arsenal. A Wenger no? Probably. 5. Mohamed Elneny: I am there to do a job for Arsenal Our most faithful and reliable servant And now the last. The wonderful Mo Elneny. He has made it clear he wants to stay and be a bit player. I feel Arteta will accept that. He is Mr Arsenal, always reliable, occasionally scores a great goal and sometimes bosses midfield. 90 plus caps for Egypt and major trophies for them. 3 trophies for us so far and I hope many more to come. I feel Arteta would have to be soft in the head to let him go as he can play a few positions, runs hard, has a lot of experience and always plays for the team. Only 5 league appearances this year but surely more to come if he recovers and only 5 needed anyway for a league medal if we manage it. Seemingly a great character to have in the dressing room. I don’t see Arteta letting him go. A Wenger yes, then. Is the Arteta era truly about to start? King of tactics, fan involvement, and players 5 players left from the great man’s time, but only 2 might be left over the next year or two. The feeling is that Arteta will continue with his vision, make Arsenal one of Europe’s feared sides again. It will be his side, with an unmistakable Arteta stamp on it just as Arsene Wenger’s sides always had his imprimatur. He doesn’t seem to have quite inherited Arsene’s way with players as virtually all seemed to love him, but once all players are his, then I feel they will run through brick walls for him. And his ability to work with tactics is surely a big plus? The one argument against Wenger, a lack of tactical nous, cannot be levelled at Arteta. The only question now is, is Arteta good enough? I truly feel he is. To me, all our great managers were Arsenal through and through. Arteta is that. I believe in him.
Eddie at the Crossroads Lots more phone calls required, Eddie Eddie Nketiah’s career has been stop start, for sure. He has always managed to score goals, that is indisputable, particularly for England where he has managed almost a goal a game, 37 in 38 starts. He has 27 in 112 for Arsenal which is not so good but in a huge number of those he came on as a sub, often near the end for a few minutes. His record in cups is good. 39 games and 16 goals and some of those were also as sub. It seems he has now got a chance to make it impossible for Arteta to drop him. If he displaces Jesus that would be amazing. Or could they play together? It doesn’t seem to be in Arteta’s mind and Saka and Martinelli surely won’t make way. Jesus can't make phone calls at the moment I really don’t see him starting both Eddie and Jesus short of an injury to either of our wide-men. Jesus could certainly fill a role on the wing but I really don’t see Eddie doing it. He has that poachers feel about him that Jesus doesn’t have. Jesus wants to do everything, be involved in all the action, a truly modern player, but he is not so prolific. Nketiah always seems to be there when the ball comes in the box. Every match he has chances. I suspect he will score more goals if he stays in that position to the end of the season than Jesus would had he not got injured. Impossible to truly say, of course, but Jesus’ goals tally of 339 club games and 128 goals, and 59 games to 19 goals for Brazil indicate that goal scoring is not his forte. What he does is terrorise teams, creating spaces, winning and receiving balls from everywhere, making him virtually impossible to mark. Arteta will buy him out? I suspect Arteta will buy a striker, if a suitable one becomes available. If he gets put in the team, then Nketiah won’t really get his chance. What then, for him? He must leave. I know he doesn’t want to, like Martinez before him. But Emi waited too long. He should have left well before for the sake of his career. Look at him now, a World Cup winner. Nketiah is in a similar boat, stick or twist. My opinion is that if Arteta buys, then Eddie goes back to the bench. Can he score for the senior squad? He may get 4 more matches to the end of January, Brighton, Newcastle, Spurs and Man Utd. He needs goals and to be dangerous throughout. But they are unlikely to be big scoring matches as they are 4 of the current top 7. Newcastle rarely concede goals. So, that is his task, score goals against the top sides, but also, crucially, Arsenal need to garner many points in these matches. A striker is judged on goals, yes, but also on his team winning. Scoring when losing is not the same as scoring when winning. An unlucky time to be our striker He has a tough task ahead of him. It is hard to see him knocking in too many. It is often said about even big players that they can only score against lesser teams, a charge levelled at our own Thierry Henry, but that is the reality. In the big games, not many goals are scored and even top strikers have run up their tallies with hattricks against small teams. Their record against the best are not so impressive. Assuming that to be so, then Nketiah probably won’t score many in these matches and we will surely drop points in January. Win those 4 and it will be amazing but maybe that’s a fantasy. His position will be shaky if we drop points. Towards the end of last season, he scored goals but the team lost. He is unlucky that it is such a challenging series of matches. Emi - the right decision made him World champion If we buy, I feel that he is sunk. He will never get his chance really as the new guy and the returning Jesus will be in front of him. Will he stay many years as second choice? This season is surely his defining one. Grab this opportunity now or leave for the sake of his career. He is young enough to get his profession back on track. If he stays on like Martinez, then it will be so much harder. I love this guy I like Eddie. He is pure Arsenal, a Hale Ender and one of our own. When he kisses the badge he has the right to do so. Yet he has the right to leave. It may even be the best thing for him. There are lots of top players who never quite made it at Arsenal and I reckon Nwankwo Kanu was probably the best of those. There are many others like Podolski, Pepe, Arshavin, Rosicky, Charlie Nicholas and maybe even my old favourite, Charlie George, who just didn’t nail down a starting position for any long period of time. Sometimes injuries were part of the reason but with Kanu it wasn’t that. Kanu - even as a sub he was voted our 13th best ever player Kanu was with us for six seasons. He played 198 times and scored 44 goals, often as a sub. The thing is, Arsenal were winning trophies and there was one big factor, Dennis Bergkamp didn’t want to fly. Kanu played in an astonishing 53 European matches out of that total and won African footballer of the year twice. He won 2 leagues and 2 FA cups with us. Even as sub, he would come on quite regularly with plenty of time to make an impact unlike what Arteta seems to do with Nketiah. If Wenger wanted a fresh approach then Kanu was brought in. He was, in my opinion, just a shade behind Bergkamp as he was superb. And of course, he played for the Invincibles season. Second choice Eddie? Will Nketiah do the same? Play on when he is second choice? Even if we win trophies? He would certainly strengthen the squad if he does so, as he could pop up with a late goal. But If I was him, I wouldn’t. If he doesn’t hammer down a starting position this year, he should leave. Martinez was right to leave but if I was him I would have done so earlier. In a struggling Villa he is one of their most reliable players. And in a dominant Argentina probably second MVP. He got them their shootouts and Messi must love him. Second string for Arsenal would not have got him first choice at Argentina. Eddie’s career will flounder also as second string. If he doesn’t get his big chance after this difficult period, if someone is bought and replaces him or Jesus is back and Eddie is cast aside, then he has only one choice, I feel. Go, and show that he does have the ability after all. He could well turn out to be the best player never to quite make it at Arsenal. He needs to take that step. Don't replace Harry Kane at Spurs and be better than him Hey, don’t get me wrong. There would be no one happier than me if he finally steps up, makes himself undroppable and becomes an Arsenal scoring legend surpassing Henry’s figures. He is young enough to do that. Maybe though, he might need to leave and become another team’s legend. Best of luck to you, Eddie, if that is what you desire, but please, not the Spuds. Pat Jennings and Sol Campbell came from them to win trophies, but don’t sicken us all by turning the Spuds into a winning team.
The joy of being an Arsenal fan For me, a trip to see Arsenal is obviously one of the things I look forward to most. I have been lucky, most have been wins. I have seen Arsenal play against many big teams, Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, and many others. I have been away quite a few times as well. I was in Old Trafford in 1991 when we were deducted 2 points for the infamous brawl despite the fact that Man Utd started it as anyone can see on Youtube. I have seen Arsenal win and lose European matches. I have seen controversial matches, boring matches, friendlies, sending offs, debuts, missed goals due to distractions, watched from terraces and stands, had terrible positions and great positions, been jostled immensely on the terrace, seen fights among fans, listened to the incredible singing and chanting, and most of all, been caught up in the joy of Arsenal scoring and winning important matches. Our badge radiates outwards towards the world We are all fused together Those of you out there who have never been there need to go for that reason alone, to get caught up in the emotion of being surrounded by strangers who share the love of Arsenal, to experience that sheer untrammelled joy when a whole stadium erupts to celebrate their team. You forget yourself, as you transcend normal consciousness to become part of a union far greater than yourself, as you become one with your team. Go, experience it, you will always remember that feeling. It is not the same as being in a pub with all your friends, great though that experience can be. It is being alone, at the ground, yet surrounded by kindred souls, united by a lifetime bond, and exploding into unparalleled joy, hugging strangers, and being lifted up by that shared communication that fizzes through us all. It is Arsenal and we are there, with all the players, the staff, and even the away supporters, who are thrown backwards into despondency, at the same moment as we have been sent into raptures. Go. Leeds on Sunday was a crucial match. A must win for the forward march of the Arsenal. We knew it, and the Spuds knew it. They had dropped points against Liverpool, and we had to capitalise. 4 points clear and the Spuds know that even 3 wins will not be enough to guarantee them 4th place. A draw on Thursday gives us a very strong position. My View on Sunday Could Leeds not see Martinelli? And so, I sat in the ground, wondering what a desperate Leeds could do, they had fallen into a relegation dogfight. They had changed styles from the exhilarating attacking of Bielsa to the defensive conservatism of Jesse Marsch. They, strangely, played a narrow line, allowing huge wingspace, considering we were playing with 2 exceptional wingers in Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. Martinelli was left out wide to gather up every ball that our midfield and defence collected. He was an easy option to pass to and he went on so many runs it was unprecedented in my time of watching football. It was like nobody at Leeds could see him there ready to grab the ball and run at their goal. They relied on numbers surrounding their goals to smother the attacks. We hear you, Eddie But that didn’t work, Meslier, gifted a true howler to Eddie Nketiah, who thought he was chasing him down to put him under pressure, instead found that he didn’t know what he was doing, and poked the ball into the net with Meslier looking on in disbelief. As was I. It was as soft a goal as I have seen and if it was Ramsdale, he would have felt the weight of the fans anger. The Leeds fans were behind Meslier and I am sure they couldn’t believe what they were seeing, in what was their most important match of the season, the one in which they drop down into the relegation zone at exactly the wrong time. Oh my god, they must have thought. I have no idea what went through Aylings mind, down near the corner flag 2 Leeds players imploded But it was to get worse, Nketiah fired in a second minutes later to make it 2-0. Us Arsenal fans were flying, cheering, singing and felt sure we were watching a demolition as Leeds looked clueless, inept and beaten all ends up. But it got worse again for them. Luke Ayling, seeing Martinelli on another run down at the corner flag, flew in with both feet to upend him. VAR was called in but honestly, even though I was at the other end of the ground in the North Bank, I could see that this was reckless and unnecessary. He was gone and the irritatingly persistent aggressiveness of Raphinho towards the referee should have seen him get red as well. I am amazed he allowed him to pull and drag him like that. They were down to ten, 2 goals down and going nowhere. But somehow we deflated. We kept pushing forward, making chances, even some quite good ones, but it was like we don’t have that killer instinct, to put our feet on the throat of our opponents and squeeze the life out of them. We should have got 3 or 4 more but we didn’t. Doing things the hard Arsenal way In the second half they were a bit better. Marsch must have tried to impress upon them that they are fighting for their lives, their careers, and their reputations. I expected them to come out flying. They didn't, the game meandered, we were better, but not really doing much. Marsch seemed to want to keep the goals down And so they got a corner. And we gave away a bit of a soft touch as Diego Llorente was left unmarked to head in what I think is our first goal conceded from a corner in the Premier League this season. 2-1 and a nervy, unsettling end to what had been one of the easiest matches I have seen Arsenal play. We won when it mattered But the crowd erupted at the end, jumping, singing, dancing, waiting, applauding, and communing as one with that electric buzz that comes from knowing that this time, we had won when it mattered. We were Arsenal. Leeds have to go home crying, wondering if their glorious resurrection has come to an end. Will they go back down to the championship and struggle to get back out? Honestly I don’t want any of Burnley, Everton or Leeds to go down. I have friends in all three and I know one has to go. We play Everton and we may do Leeds a favour in their last match. But I have no wish for either to go down or to know that we played a decisive part. But that is what we have to do. Beat teams no matter what. Throw out your arms And so we did. We got the win. The Spuds are under greater pressure than us. We must at least draw against them and it would be unbelievable to beat them. To be in the ground as we score and at the end, triumph as we have done in our stellar past, and then to be caught up as the atmosphere goes into overdrive, fizzing, buzzing with lightning bolts of happiness flowing through us, making us so glad we are Arsenal and we have prevailed. This is why you should go, be there in the ground, make that connection with all the fans there, and the millions watching worldwide, and the millions that went before and will come after you. You are connected to them all, that part of us that is Arsenal. We are Arsenal.