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Erling Haaland is the difference Those of you with long memories may remember this blog at the start of the last season when I asked could we win the Premier League and did so by comparing City’s likely top 11 against Arsenal’s. I struggled to put any of Arsenal above a City player but I gave a draw between Jesus and Haaland on the basis that Jesus is proven in the PL and Haaland might not succeed as greats have not before him, one notable such was Andriy Shevchenko, who I believed was going to make Chelsea unstoppable. I also said that this was probably going to make me look foolish as I expected Haaland to shine. He did, in an unbelievable way. Pep, the Spanish guardian of the Viking god So, honestly, have you ever seen a better striker? I can’t think of any and I have been watching football for a long time. He had 52 in all competitions last season in 53 matches. Arsenal had 103 in 49 matches. So one guy gets more than half of all our players? He has 8 goals from 9 appearances so far. We have 15 from 8. So he is still scoring more than half our goals already? City get the Viking God, not Arsenal If he stays fit, I think he may be the main reason that City do extraordinarily well again, leaving the lesser teams to pick up the scraps. The fact that City changed their style of play to suit this machine tells you everything about him. Now, it seems he wanted to come to Arsenal, and Odegaard was pushing for this but he elected to go to City and nobody could blame him. Barring City getting punished for irregularities, he will win lots of trophies and Arsenal will struggle to get the big ones. Sterling's record to go? I want to put him into Arsenal terms. He has 62 goals for City already. Many big Arsenal names have fewer for us. Kanu has 44, Wiltord 49, John Radford and Kevin Campbell 53, Fabregas has 57. They all played for many years for us. If Haaland gets 53 again he will jump up into 6th place above Olivier Giroud on 105. He was the fastest to 50 goal contributions since they started tracking such things. If he gets similar figures for next season 2024/5 he will be pushing Ian Wright’s record. It is incredible. Bye bye Sterling’s record? Of course it may not happen. He may lose form, get injured, lose confidence, in fact anything could go wrong, but I have a feeling that this guy will keep pumping in the goals. For City, most probably. If he does manage 50 plus he will jump up into 3rd on City’s all time list behind Raheem Sterling on 131 and Sergio Aguerro on 260. Aguerro’s is a good target but Sterling’s certainly isn’t. 500 for Haaland, why not? Would he have scored so many for Arsenal? I don’t see why not, but Arteta would have to be humble enough to be willing to change Arsenal’s style of play to accommodate him. Pep, the modern day genius did. The point about Haaland is that he doesn’t get many touches. He makes many runs, often into great positions but regularly doesn’t get the ball. And so he is the epitome of the old commentators cry, “He did nothing in the game except score a hat trick.” Arteta too much of a purist for Haaland? Arteta seems to prize hard work above all else, and a guy who doesn’t seem to do much except score may be a big ask for him. A long ball aimed at De Bruyne and Haaland may feel a bit Sam Allardyce to Arteta. Plus Pep has the assurance of a guy who has won big trophies at big clubs. Arteta is having his first go. He may have felt it was too large a risk with the ball to go long. I guess we will never know. Would Arteta have controlled him or unleashed him like Pep Nobody else among the top teams play like City do now. Yes, City have a strong pressing game aimed at getting the ball back quickly as do all the major teams but Pep is willing to lose it by directing all efforts ultimately at the Norwegian. All their players know that this guy is unique. He will win trophies for them. They will get caps and acclaim as winners. Is there anyone for us out there? Despite all the goals and the big transfer fee allied to the incredible hype, he seems a very likable person. I reckon he would have loved Arteta’s Arsenal as Odegaard worked his De Bruyne magic for him. I think Haaland would have been the missing link, the goalscorer that we have been waiting for since Henry. Although Henry could score by himself and that is not really Haaland’s forte. Henry could get us the win. Haaland is getting them the win. And there is one big advantage of the long ball, so beloved of all the underdogs everywhere, you can keep your players back, ready to fight if the ball is lost. Ivan Toney the Wright guy? I do not see any one else out there in the Premier League who might come to us. Ivan Toney is being promulgated but, while he will bring a physicality and a target to all our incredibly talented suppliers, I am not really convinced of his class. Ivan Toney - can we take a bet on him? But he does seem the best option there is. I feel he would score for us. He could supply enough of them to give City a very hard time and, if he blooms totally by being surrounded by Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Trossard, Jesus, etc., and knocking in 30 plus a season then City had better beware. Ian could always score for us We are scoring lots of goals at the moment without our strikers knocking in too many. What would we be like with a striker who would score lots of goals? I suspect it is the missing link. We didn’t get Haaland but we need to get as close as possible to the next best thing. Maybe Toney is that. If he turns out to be an Arsenal player not a Brentford one, January could be interesting yet. Another gear in our car would be very nice at that point. And hey, Ian Wright was 27 when he joined us and scoring for a lower London team when he came, same as Toney now. Could he be our new Ian Wright Wright Wright?
Walcott, Wilshire or Wright? On the surface this is an easy question, the answer is Wright, right? But today I will take a look at 2 players who almost became Arsenal legends and one who did. Jack Wilshire, Theo Walcott and Ian Wright and show up some surprises along the way, I hope. Wrightly so - A true legend I reckon most of you are saying there is no comparison. In the list of 50 top players voted by Arsenal fans, Wright was number 4, and Walcott and Wilshire are nowhere to be found. https://www.arsenal.com/history/gunners-greatest-50-players All suffered bad luck Strangely enough, though, one area where they correlate is bad luck. Injuries curtailed and derailed Wiltshire and Walcott’s careers and Wright’s difficult upbringing, his inability to attract a top team when young, and strikers considered better than him for England, all conspired to make his career a long battle. Walcott - exciting at his best Both Walcott and Wilshire had better achievements for England. They had more caps, Walcott 47 and Wilshire 34 to Wright’s 33. Wright never made it to a major championship, the others did. Wright rarely played competitive matches, the others did. Both played underage international football, Wright didn’t. Wright, even at his best, was the backup for England. Even after their injuries, England managers were trying to put Wilshire and Walcott back in. 2 wunderkids For Arsenal, Walcott and Wilshire were among the youngest players to make competitive debuts, Wright didn’t get there until he was almost 27. They were hailed as wunderkids, Wright was unknown as a teenager. Walcott still managed far more games for Arsenal than Wright, 397 to 288. Wilshire a respectable 197. Could Wilshire have been as good as Vieira? The one big difference, of course, between the legend and the nearly men, was injuries. We can all accept that both Wilshire and Walcott would have been Arsenal and England superstars without the injuries. They were truly superb, playing in big matches for the 2 sides and receiving huge acclaim. Walcott would surely have scored lots more goals and maybe even secured that striker role he so wanted. At 33, he could have surpassed Henry and still firing more in for Arsenal and England right now. Wilshire could have become the midfield maestro, dominating teams to this day while being accepted as a great in the Vieira mould. Both could be challenging Henry and Bergkamp for that top two position in the Arsenal great list. At their best they were supreme If you have watched these two at their best and most of you reading have, you know I am not talking nonsense. Injuries diminished their power, whether mentally or physically, or both, I am not sure. And so they are nearly men. It must be tragic for them to know that they were doing everything right, their careers progressing in an amazing way at a young age, making the step up to the big teams and having a huge impact, and then it all goes wrong through something they hadn’t got control of. Injuries can be the cruellest event in a footballer’s life. In fairness to both, they never stopped trying, and nor did Ian Wright. Poor Ian never got a real chance at England If Wilshire and Walcott’s hardest battles were with injuries, Wright’s were with life and football itself. He had to constantly pick himself off the floor to get his life back on track, from having a young baby as a teenager, to going to prison, to not making it at football trials, to being a black footballer when all they received was horrendous abuse, to being overlooked for England when he desperately wanted a real chance, to be used when it mattered. Yin and yang But perhaps his biggest piece of good fortune came, as in life it often does, in a mixture of good and bad luck. Bruce Rioch was appointed after George Graham’s meltdown with the bung scandal. He didn’t seem to like Wright and the feeling soon became mutual. He banished him to the wing and often didn’t play him. Now despite the perception that Rioch was a disaster, he actually improved Arsenal from 12th to 5th. In normal circumstances, he would never have been fired. But himself and David Dein (maybe deliberately so) didn’t get on, Arsene Wenger had already been lined up, and of course, David Dein was a big fan of Ian Wright. Arsene Wenger came in, Wright was restored, his career and trophies came back on track, and he even got 8 caps in 1997 and 4 goals, but again mostly in friendlies. 47 is a lot of caps for an injury prone footballer If Rioch hadn’t been fired, I reckon he would have sold Wright that summer of 1996. He was almost 31, and other than Man Utd, all teams were downward for him. He would not have become quite the Arsenal legend, finished anywhere near 4th in our all time list and, like Walcott and Wilshire, maybe not even make an appearance there at all. And that could so easily have happened. So the bad luck at having Bruce Rioch brought in was followed immediately by Wenger, and the extraordinary improvements he made to the careers of the old pros he inherited. Wenger was so important to all three Wenger was crucial to the careers of Walcott and Wilshire. Walcott was bought in at 16 for big money for such a young player but had to spend some time in the academy, being helped along by Liam Brady and Wenger. The same with Wilshire, who was already in the academy. He gave both their chance very young and they were teenage prodigies. Their career could have been stratospheric if they had just normal injuries to contend with. They still managed good careers, lots of England caps, crucial Champions league matches and playing at the very top of football. Ian Wright must look at such players breaking through as kids and say, I had to do everything in football the hard way, they had their career mapped out for them, given help at every step, I just had to never give up on my dream or I would never have made it. Fight till you die Credit must be given to Walcott and Wilshire though, because they never gave up, Walcott is still playing, and if someone offered Wilshire a chance, he would probably take it, as he has that never say die spirit. Coaching the Arsenal kids is a great job for him, as he can see every scenario in front of them, from rejection to huge acclaim, and he knows that the most important thing, is, like Ian Wright, belief in your ability. You must never give up. Could Wilshire somehow conjure one last comeback for Arsenal? Ian Wright overcome his mental struggles. For Walcott and Wilshire, maybe it was the injuries themselves that took the edge off their football abilities. I don’t believe it was their attitude. They have never stopped believing in themselves. I would love to see them have a last fling at the top with Arsenal. Possible? I doubt it, but in football you never know. Wilshire is there and seemingly in training he is amazing still. An injury crisis to midfielders and strikers, Wilshire gets thrown in, Walcott is brought back on loan, they fire Arsenal to the top and the fairytale is complete. For me, I would be nearly as happy as they would be. Ian Wright, Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott have brought me many ecstatic days. All will feel that they could have achieved more. Wright, if Arsenal had come when he was a teenager and England had seen his potential, and Walcott and Wilshire had not had their cruel injuries. But let’s celebrate 3 heroes of the Arsenal – the three W’s. They deserve a statue for their sheer grit and belief in themselves.
Arsenal, English? Really? My top 2 English teams for Arsenal (at least 100 appearances) David Seaman John Lukic Ashley Cole, Lee Dixon Kenny Sansom, Viv Anderson Tony Adams, Sol Campbell Martin Keown, Steve Bould Peter Storey, Michael Thomas David Platt, Ray Parlour Bukayo Saka, David Rocastle George Armstrong, Charlie George John Radford, Ian Wright Alan Smith, Malcolm Macdonald Arsenal are an English team. Arsenal are an English team? Really? So who is our best ever manager? The Englishman Herbert Chapman or the Frenchman Arsene Wenger? Not so easy to say but Wenger has far more trophies and upgraded Arsenal to the top of the pile when Manchester United, full with money, stars, and a huge fanbase, were in their prime. I think you have to put the Frenchman ahead, just. More trophies = Better? Our best ever player? Also French. The magical Thierry Henry. It is very hard to put a real English contender against him, especially in my time, which, as I find it too hard to judge players from the past, means I can only go on their records. So, Cliff Bastin (396 appearances, 178 goals) is behind Ian Wright (288 appearances, 185 goals). Not a true reflection as they are totally different eras. Ian Wright is a big favourite of mine, as he is to us all here in ASCB, but I have to concede he wasn’t as good as Henry or Bergkamp. The tall one is Ian Wright Our English defence were so good Our best goalkeeper? Well, certainly Seaman has some competition in Jennings, or Lehmann, with all three having their champions. I would go for Jennings. With fullbacks there is an argument for English dominance as indeed in defence generally. David O’Leary, Terry Neill, Frank McLintock, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson were super players but as you can see from my 2 teams up above, the English defenders could hold their own against the best of the outside brigade. In midfield not so much. Brady, Vieira, Fabregas, Cazorla, Pettit, Pires, Ljungberg, Rosicky, Ozil, Ramsey, and others would have to be just that bit stronger than the 4 I have nominated above. On the wing, I chose Saka and Rocastle with just behind them Charlie George and Geordie Armstrong, who often played in a 4-3-3 which was a bit different from today. But are they better than Brady, Pires and Ljungberg who often played on the wing and Marc Overmars, Sylvain Wiltord and others? I would say that again the outsiders were a bit stronger. Super, super foreign stars up front Up front, it is very hard to make a claim that the best English forwards are a match for the best foreigners. The four Englishmen I have chosen were super players but the contest is phenomenal. Henry, Bergamp, Kanu, Anelka, Sanchez, Aubameyang, Van Persie and others of the Wenger era were true superstars. In the end, I probably have to concede that only in defence, including goalkeepers, can Arsenal claim to be an English team and even then with strong competition. Anyway this week I decided to take a look at who would be our first and second best English team. One rule was at least a 100 competitive matches so it knocked out guys like Ramsdale, who is surely itching to make my list. Send me VIP tickets for every match, Aaron, and I will put you top . I chose Seaman over Lukic, mostly because that is probably the consensus choice but truly John Lukic was a superb keeper and only a shade weaker. Ashley Cole and Lee Dixon over Kenny Sansom and Viv Anderson, Very little difference. Superb players with lots of England caps. Adams and Campbell, wayhey! In central defence, I chose 2 legends, Adams and Campbell over Keown and Bould and probably most people would agree with that. Again I should say that I am choosing from 1969 onwards, the year of my conversion to the Arsenal cult, so the great defenders of the past are omitted. Surely a dream defence? In central midfield, I chose Peter Storey, who was true class. He could play across the defence and in midfield, always won the ball and made himself available for a pass. Alongside him the legend that is Michael Thomas, who scored what was for me our greatest ever goal against Liverpool at Anfield to win us the title. It’s only Ray Parlour and David Platt provide good backup but probably the first 2 have the edge here. Saka our future GOAT? On the wing, Saka is surely destined to be a world great and we all love David Rocastle but the competition is huge with Charlie George, a massive fan favourite in my time, and the sublime Geordie Armstrong, our top appearances up to David O’Leary. Very little difference here. Ramsdale next to make my list? I chose John Radford and Ian Wright up front against SuperMac and Alan Smith. Radford was my hero, scoring vital goals, always leading the line and scoring 149 times. Always someone ahead of him for England and he only got 2 caps. Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton, anyone? Ian Wright also lost out to Lineker and Shearer but battled his way to 33 caps all the same. In my time no Arsenal centre-forward claimed the top English spot for any length of time. Can Nketiah? He has managed to be the underage top scorer. Time will tell but at this juncture it seems unlikely. Does Englishness matter? And so there you have it. Would My top English team beat my second best? I guess so as in one or two areas they are stronger. But it is tight and could not be guaranteed. I don’t feel they could beat the best foreign 11 though. Spot the Englishmen! So, to answer my question, posed at the start – is Arsenal an English team? Sort of is my answer. The best players come from everywhere, including England. The fans also come from everywhere as anyone who has been at the Emirates can testify. The owners are American and lots of the staff are from everywhere. Is it important? I don’t know. I think it could be if Arsenal don’t get back to the top. You do need the locals to support and a strong English presence will always help in that regard. Now we have so many English guys playing and starring in all sectors that we probably have the strongest English team at the moment of the teams in the top five. I await the day the Irish make a comeback and we get a Bulgarian superstar for our English team. And c’mon the Arse! These Englishmen looked to be the future. It is hard to make it at Arsenal