The 2012/13 Premier League season has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs for Arsenal. A string of disappointing results in the league and in cup competitions brought forth a chorus of "club in crisis!" shouts from the media -- and even from some supporters. But now, nearly halfway through the season, we find our Club sitting fifth in the Premier League table and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
So what can we make of all of this? To help figure it out, we once again turned to our panel of supporters in the USA and Canada to find out their views on what has happened so far and what lies ahead in the second half of the season.
As the January transfer window approaches, just about every Arsenal fan becomes a "fantasy football" fan. Speculation and predictions over who the Cub could add to the squad runs rampant in every Gooner's mind. So who should Arsenal bring in? We'll get to that in a few days. But for now, in the spirit of the holiday season, we'll try a Dickensian style of transfer talk that we can call "Ghosts of Gunners Past."
Question: Which former Arsenal player from the Premier League era would have the biggest impact to the current squad and what would his presence add?
That's why my first pick would be Thierry Henry from 2002/2003. Titi was a terror in his fourth season with Arsenal when he scored 24 goals and also chipped in with an amazing 23 (or 22 depending on the source) assists. Henry was the comeback king as well and 21% of his goals scored that season came in the last 10 minutes of games. Oh, and 32 per cent of his assists that season were scored in the final 10 minutes of games as well. Stick him up front and he will win Arsenal games.
For my second pick, I'm going with a sentimental choice: Freddie Ljungberg from 2001/2002. I know, he spent a lot of time out with injury that year but he was a big game player who added legitimate width to Arsenal's attack. It's not his overall stats that season that made me pick him, though it was his most productive with 17 goals in all competitions, it was that goal in the FA Cup final. He simply dribbled past so many Chelsea players, then shucked John Terry to the ground and curled in a perfect shot from outside the box. He was the kind of player who played with a real red streak on the pitch to match the red streak in his hair. He could play down the left and give Arsenal some service into players like Giroud (or Henry!) and cause the opposition to have fits as he just dribbled rings around them. And in the cup games he would be the player to give Arsenal just a little more push when they needed it.
And last but not least, I want the guy who everyone loved to go to battle with, Patrick Vieira from the Invincibles. Captain of the Invincibles, I should say. He was easily the most physically imposing midfielder I ever saw play football and would add both physical grit and leadership to Arsenal. Arteta and Cazorla are already two of the best players in the Premier League, but the combination of Arteta's sure passing, Cazorla's creativity, and Vieira's dynamic box to box play would be a sight to behold.
Remember when Patrick was leading the charge as Arsenal racked up a hefty card count and took on the reputation of "dirty?" Are there any Gooners who wouldn't want that reputation and the attitude that went with it now? Sure, there were several others within that squad who shared the same attributes, but you knew the buck always stopped with Vieira, and you get the feeling that currently at Arsenal it stops with no one.
In addition to the above, I would also add Robert Pires from 2003-2004. He was a crucial part of the unbeaten title winning side that season and contributed with 14 goals and 7 assists. His technique, skills and quality finishing would be a welcome addition to today's Arsenal side. Not only did he score incredible goals (like the ones against Chelsea in Europe and Liverpool away), his play making abilities and link up play with Henry were just breathtaking to watch.
How can you say no to witnessing Bobby and Titi frolicking together on the green pastures of North London again...
I've made it a point to try not to think too much on former Arsenal players in relation to the current squad, for a couple of reasons. Primarily, because when I think back on previous Arsenal teams, I have a tendency to ONLY remember the greatness and neglect the fact that they made plenty of mistakes and were not nearly as infallible as Youtube clips would have you believe (that site made Llorik Cana look like the second coming of Claude Makalele); Secondly, because -- and I don't think I'm saying anything we don't already know -- but many of those former Gunners were simply better.
Bearing that in mind, I must agree with Tim's suggestion that one of those strikers is of greatest need, but I'll go another direction and put forth Ian Wright. Our current setup is badly in need of goals, yet we typically hold a great deal of possession in the final third, knocking the ball around outside the opposition's 20-yard box with every player seeming to look for someone else to make a move, a run, to do something, until Santi has a go from 25 yards out.
Wrighty played in a George Graham attacking system which amounted to "just get it to Ian," and while we don't play much Route 1 football nowadays, I think our second all-time leading goalscorer would be licking his chops at the players we have who could put him through on goal. And say what you will about the man, but Ian Wright could finish with the best of them.
A quick second shout would be for Robert Pires. Probably the most dynamic winger ever to pull on an Arsenal shirt (with apologies to Freddie), Le Bob always seemed to know what to do with the ball when attacking the box, which is where Gervinhoseems to fall short. He was hardly bothered about defending--we complain about Arshavin not tracking back, but Pires did it before it was fashionable--but we forgave him that for all that he could make happen when we were going forward. And unlikeLukas Podolski, Le Bob could play beyond 65 minutes without turning into a pumpkin. All that, and you've got the single most attractive footballer in Premier League history. You could be a straight as an arrow, but for Bob Pires, you'd have to consider it, you know?
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