Arsene’s Biggest Mistake

Those who know me know that I am an unqualified supporter of Arsene Wenger. However, that does not mean that I am beyond questioning his choices both on the pitch and in the transfer market. From this golden perch known as hindsight, we can all see that one decision in late May/early June of 2008 has had a profound and likely lasting effect on the fortunes of Arsenal Football Club. It was then that Arsene, seemingly with the financial ability to choose only one option, made perhaps his biggest mistake as Arsenal manager by deciding to renegotiate Adebayor’s contract for a pay rise rather than give Flamini the deal that he felt he deserved.

It would be a bit much to completely excoriate Arsene or the Board’s decision because at the time it was, admittedly, a very difficult choice. This was before all the Spanish shenanigans so excellently re-chronicled on Arseblog this morning. It was also following a season in which Adebayor had scored 30 goals in 48 appearances. And many people, including me, felt that, between the two, it would be much easier to replace a defensive midfielder than a 30-goal scorer. Oh, how we, and Arsene, were wrong.

The prime consideration for the Board at the time was the wage structure at the club. Flamini was reportedly seeking £70,000 a week and Arsenal were willing to give him a new contract at £50,000. He apparently came up with this self-valuation by calculating the probable cost of replacing him, which he pegged at £20m. There was also the somewhat less convincing argument that Flamini felt sorely underappreciated. Considering that he had been ready to walk out on the club the summer before his emergence and that he had only finally come good in his fourth year at the club, this seemed a little over the top.

It seemed to me at the time that Flamini was just as upset about not being offered a deal back in November or December as he was about the proposed salary. At the time, he was playing a big role on the pitch but he had only been a regular in the starting XI for a few months. The rumours of proposed moves to Juventus and AC Milan began a few weeks before the winter transfer window opened and that speculation hung over the club for the rest of the season. By the end of May, I still thought that Flamini would eventually accept the near 100% pay rise offered, but, of course, he did not.

Back when Adebayor was poor.

Back when Adebayor was poor.

Meanwhile, Adebayor got his second contract in as many summers. We will probably never know for certain whether Arsene always expected to plug Song or Denilson into Flamini’s vacated spot or if he truly believed he would be able to find and secure a replacement. But, as rumour after rumour came and went and Arsenal offers were rebuffed by clubs and players, the man the Boss had chosen over Flamini was well on his descent before eventually crashing and burning.

The rumours surrounding Adebayor and a move to Barcelona or AC Milan continued even after he signed the new contract and the player’s total lack of understanding for the media and the supporters only made it worse. Adebayor lost the supporters last summer and he never won them back. The Football Focus interview now seems to be the final nail in the coffin he had building for the last 12-14 months. Now, today he is in The Times blaming Arsenal supporters for his departure:

“The way the fans behaved towards me was not nice at all. I can’t understand why they were after me. I did my best for them and I was very happy there. I scored 30 goals in a season – it’s not my fault that Milan, Barcelona or Real Madrid wanted to sign me. In any summer, Barcelona try to sign Cesc Fabregas. But the fans never turned on him.”

It just shows how little understanding he has of the relationship between supporters and their club and its players. Whenever the Barcelona rumours pop up lately, a statement from Cesc comes up on Arsenal.com within a day or so declaring his loyalty and allegiance to the club. The thing that Adebayor doesn’t understand is that Cesc doesn’t even have to do that much. But he goes out of his way to assure the supporters and that’s why he will be loved long after he eventually goes back to Spain. but Adebayor couldn’t even do the minimal, which would have been to keep his mouth shut. Instead, he makes those ridiculous “Beyonce” quotes and has his picture taken in Spain for an interview wherein he seems ignorant or oblivious to the fact that he is being played by the Catalan media. Adebayor apparently can’t understand why, after suffering a stressful summer in which Flamini and Hleb left, Arsenal fans were upset with his conduct and his “I-was-on-vacation” excuses for not addressing the rumours.

One can only imagine how different last season may have turned out had Arsenal taken the money for Adebayor last summer and used it to give Flamini his new and well-deserved deal. Unlike Flamini, Alexander Hleb is disliked by many Arsenal supporters because not only did he leave after Flamini, but, once at Barcelona, was regularly talking in the press about Arsenal and how he had called Cesc about coming to Barcelona. The rumour from a few weeks ago about Barcelona offering us Hleb back along with Gudjohnsen for Cesc is absolutely laughable. Hleb and Adebayor could never come back after what he’s done. However, considering his behavior following his departure, I would gladly welcome Flamini back home.

West Ham vs Arsenal Player Ratings

Emmanuel Money Bags Adebayor Proves To Be Too Much To Handle

Emmanuel "Money Bags" Adebayor Proves To Be Too Much To Handle

Arsenal traveled across London this weekend to take on city rivals West Ham United in what was a very hard fought victory at Upton Park.  A scoreless first half saw Arsenal come out from the break determined to find the breakthrough.  Despite the heroics of Robert Green, Arsenal found a way through off of a Faubert own goal.  Arsenal we able to hang on to advantage until stoppage time when a sublime pass from Bendtner  put Adebayor in on goal to double the advantage and sure up the three points for the visitors.

Almunia: 8 Fantastic first half from the Spaniard who made a few fantastic saves, including a great one on Bellamy.  Almunia seems to really be growing into his roll this season and as someone who has never been particularly impressed by Almunia he really is becoming a solid keeper.

Eboue: 6.5 Not the greatest game for Eboue.  He was slopping in the attacking third but solid enough in defense.  I still think he plays better as a right back.

Gallas: 8 Great game by Gallas, one of the few good games I can remember him having in an Arsenal shirt.  He dealt well with the Hammer’s attackers all evening and played some fantastic one on one defense.  Lets all hope that our Captain keeps up this form for many games to come.

Silvestre: 7.5 Played very well next to Gallas.  He is still getting used to our system but the Frenchman seems to be fitting in quite well.

Clichy: 7.5 Showed great willingness to get forward but was outpaced by Bellamy in the first half.  All in all though it was a typical Clichy performance, as solid as ever.

Walcott: 8 Theo was brilliant on the night.  His pace and ability to launch Arsenal into attack with the snap of a finger caused West Ham trouble all night long.  He put some nice balls into the middle and showed a great willingness to fight down the right and to get into scoring positions in the box.  He was unlucky not to score when he fired off the crossbar.

Fabregas: 7.5 Fairly good performance from the Spaniard.  He controlled the midfield well and seemed to work much better next to Song then next to Denilson.  He had a few passes get away from him but over all he showed great determination to orchestrate the attack as Arsenal searched for a winner.

Song: 8 A so-so first half combined with an amazing second half completed what is most likely Song’s best game for the Gunners to date.  He was fantastic getting back in defense and halting any sort of offense the Hammers got going and was good in the final third as well.  He showed good decision making in his passing and some fantastic skill on the ball as well.  I hope this game will give Song a prolonged run out at the defensive midfield position.

Nasri: 7 Quite game from Samir but continued to link up well with Clichy down the right.  I have been really impressed with the Frenchman’s skill and strength on the ball and I look forward to seeing Nasri continue to adapt and fit into the side.

van Persie: 7.5 Looked for goal often and came close on three or four occasions.  It looks like Robin’s free kick ability is starting to return as she rattled on off the upright.  He worked the keeper well and played some nice balls between the rest of the team, especially his chest down to an oncoming Walcott in the box.

Bendtner: 7.5 A performance the young Dane can certainly be proud of.  The game did not come easy to him the whole 90 minutes but Nick worked hard and linked up well with his team mates.  He played some excellent balls into the box and even worked the keeper on on occasion.  His ball to Adebayor for the second though was absolutely fantastic.  Suffice to say, I believe Bendtner is coming along quite nicely and gives Arsenal another solid option up top.

Subs:

Adebayor: 8.5 Made all the difference.  His willingness to fight for every ball was very clear and his hard work paid off early as some fancy footwork and a shot toward goal helped Arsenal find the breakthrough as Adebayor bounced a shot off of a West Ham Defender and into the back of the net.  His link up with the rest of the team was great and his goal was superbly taken.

Diaby: 7 Showed some nice link up and some fancy footwork but ultimately didn’t make that much of an impact on the match.

Sagna: N/A

Man of the Match: Adebayor has certainly added another dimension to his game this season.  The way he links up and interacts with the other players on the pitch gives us something we didn’t have last year.  His pace and physicality have become huge problems for Premier League defenders and his 8 goals in all competitions have helped Arsenal keep it close in the opening months of the BPL and the Champions League.

Arsenal vs Everton Player Ratings

He Came From Mersailles To Play The Arsenal Way!

Arsenal battled back from a one nil deficit to beat Everton at the Emirates this weekend before the club heads off to Turkey to face Fener in the Champions League.  The win was certainly welcome after a string of poor form in the league had cost the Gunners 5 out of their last 6 points.  Hopefully this come from behind victory can help catalyze a good run of form for the tough stretch ahead.

Almunia: 6.5 Made some good saves but his poor decision to come off his line on Everton’s corner towards the end of the first half nearly cost Arsenal big time.

Song: 6 Much better when moved to Center Back, but utter dreadful at right back.  His inability to play his man and his area certainly did not help as Arsenal conceded within the first ten minutes.

Toure: 7 Did well until he came off.  Marked pretty well and generally dealt with problems.  Showed willingness to press forward as well to help spur an attack.

Silvestre: 8 I though Silvestre had a great debut.  He seemed a little bit on edge at the start of the match but seemed to really grow into his role.  It was also nice to see an Arsenal defender attack a ball in the air and win a header.

Clichy: 7.5 Saves Almunia’s ass by clearing off the line.  Combined well with Nasri down the left and got forward to help Arsenal in the attack.  I was particularly pleased to see the Frenchman stand up for his teammate when Denilson fell victim of a poor tackle down the left.

Eboue: 7 Poor as a right midfielder but fantastic filling in for Right Back in the second half.  His natural defensive ability combined with his willingness to get forward was a much needed change.

Fabregas: 7 Not a particularly great game from Cesc but still managed to make a difference when it mattered.  On a day when not all of his passes were going on target his willingness to just get into the box and make something happened proved vital as he combined well with Adebayor to put a shot on goal only for the deflection to fall to Robin to put the Gunners up 2-1.

Denilson: 5.5 Poor game from the Brazilian.  His passing was woeful, giving the ball away too cheaply on more then one occasion.  His utter inability to place defense cost Arsenal early in the game as his man breezed past him for the go ahead goal for Everton.

Nasri: 8 Great Game from Samir.  The young Frenchman is forming a fine partnership with Clichy down that left hand side and he seems to have a nac for picking up important goals.  So far so good for Nasri.  If he can manage to stay fit he will make a huge impact for Arsenal this season.

Adebayor: 6 Poor game from Ade.  Other then the little pass to Cesc he really didn’t do much.  He is clearly not on top form and while he has four assists only scoring in one out of the first eight Premier League matches is just not good enough.  Bring on Bendtner!

van Persie: 6.5 Incredibly wasteful but got what ultimately turned out to be the vital goal in the match.  It is a good sign however that even while the Dutchman isn’t on top form he is still picking up goals.

SUBS:

Walcott: 9 Fantastic game for Theo.  You could immediately see the impact the youngster had on the match as his pace and ability put Everton on their back foot.  He worked well down the right side and capped off the afternoon with his first Premier League goal for Arsenal at home.  Well done Theo

Diaby: 7 Combined well with Theo toward the end of the game and grabbed a nice assist.  It is nice to Abou back to fitness and with Denilson’s poor form it is only a matter of time before Diaby will get his chance in the middle.

Man of the Match: Theo Walcott is proving to be a revelation for Arsenal this season.  He grows with every game and his pace, vision and finishing are clearly causing defenses all sort of problems.  Over the first eight games of the season one thing has become very clear: Theo needs to be on the pitch as much as possible, because when he plays, anything seems possible.