Why are we failing? Perhaps this squad lacks real class.

I’m not sure if the first few days of the New Year should be a time for looking back or looking forward but having spent the Christmas break doing pretty much nothing but eat, drink and watch TV something I saw made me want to look back, if only for just a bit.
Sky Sports, when there is no actual sport on, churn out all these highlight programs. The NFL Top 10, Great Knockouts of 2008 and for us football fans (the real football not the American kind) they show the Premiership Years. Now, I don’t particularly want this article to turn into an anti-Wenger type rant but I watched the 2003-04 season highlights and when watching them you cannot but be stunned as to how good our team was then compared to how poor it is now. And if you don’t believe me lets run through the starting 11s.
First up it’s the Mad German versus the Dodgy Spaniard. You were never fully sure what way Jens was going to play. Like all great goalies he was a bit unstable and in some games he was as likely to give away a penalty as he was to actually catch a cross but there is no doubt that during that one season he was simply magnificent. He had a great defence in front of him one that we would have to admit is better than what we offer now but good keepers inspire good defending and Jens was more than good. Our current keeper in ok, nothing great but not a complete disaster either. Off the top of my head I can think of about 6 Premiership keepers that are better than him and about 6 that are worse. He has had moments when he has moved into the general area of very good but with his ability he is never going to stay there long. It is a sign of how we have gone backwards as a club that what we are thought was going to be a short term solution is now firmly our number 1.
Score (out of 10), Jens 8, Almunia 6.
Right and left back slots were taken up by Cole and Lauren in the past versus Clichy and Sagna now. And in these two areas the teams are pretty close. I love Sagna’s passion for the team but by Jesus I sometimes miss Lauren and his sheer hardness. He had that whole crazy eye thing going on and who can forget the cool way he took penalties? Cole, despite how much he fucked us over was a bloody good player and it’s a testament to Wenger that he has only looked the player he was for us in patches since his move to Chelsea. Clichy, while certainly a better player than Cole was at the same age lacks a bit of consistently. I do think he will end up the better player however.
Scores: Clichy 7, Sagna 8, Cole 9, Lauren 8. Overall Now: 21, Then 25.
Centre back pairing back then was Sol and Toure, now that was a proper partnership. Sol taking everything in the air and Toure using that blistering pace of his to mop up anything that was left over. This was of course before Sol went nuts and Toure went crap. Now we have Gallas who is a good player but useless in the air (at least at the back) and Toure who is like a joke of the player he was back then. Maybe Toure will recover whatever it his he lost but all I know is that for the past 18 months or more he has been piss-poor and it is only the love that he quite obviously has for the club that has spared him from the boos that have greeted a similar level of performance from Eboue.
Scores: Sol 9, Toure (then) 9, Gallas 7, Toure (now) 6. Overall Now 34, Then 43.
On the wings its hard to really say who or first choice wingers are now as we never seem to have enough players fit to give Wenger a choice but I can tell you for sure who they are not! Denilson, Eboue, Diaby and Song never are and never will be wingers. So really we have our new boy Samri and then perhaps Theo on the other side. I am presuming that Thomas will not play again this season. Samri has done more than well for us since his arrival. He has come into a team that, let’s be honest here, is on the slide and managed to not only fit in (I mean than in a good way) but actually put in some match-winning performances. He can score too which is a bit of a novelty for midfielders at Arsenal. Theo was really just beginning to show why we paid all that money for him when he went an did his shoulder, during training, international training, for an international friendly!
Back then we had the simply majestic Pires and Freddie opposite him. Its hard to remember just how good Pires really was for us until you look back on the amount of goals he either scored or made during that season, 36 league games yielding 14 goals and 10 assists, compare that to what we’ve had over the past few seasons in Hleb and Thomas R, depressing. Freddie managed to make 30 league games that season, scoring five and being credited with double that in assists, not ground-breaking but respectable. His work-rate and intelligent play more than made up for a less that prolific season in front of goal.
Scores; Pires 10, Freddie 8, Theo 7, Samri 8. Overall Now 49, Then 61.
In the middle back then had any two from three great players in PaddyV, Edu and Gilberto. PV4 was always first choice with Gilberto beside him. These two were the near perfect combination to have in the middle of the part, PV could roam where he wanted to knowing the Gilberto would cover anything that he left behind. People sometimes forget just how could a footballer PV was but what is a real shame i s how people forget how good Gilberto was. There were both first class servants of the club.
Today, in the middle of the park we have, sadly our only world class player in Cesc (and yes I know he is currently injured). Beside him it could be anybody, I think Wenger thinks that out of Song, Denilson and Diaby that maybe only Diaby could be a real solution but injuries and a bad attitude (as in sloppy) have put the cosh in that leaving us with Denilson as Cesc’s main partner.
Scores: PV 10, Gilberto 8, Cesc 9, Denilson 6. Overall Now 64, Then 79.
In front you could not pick a better pairing in the history of the club than Bergkamp and Henry. If we all thought that Dennis and Ian Wright were good it was just a warm up when compared to when Dennis and Henry clicked. It was just a bit of a shame that just as Henry was coming into the peak of form Dennis’s star (and man what a star it was) was fading but such is life. Despite one half of the partnership only scoring 5 league goals that season we were not short up front because the simply unplayable Henry got a whopping 30 league goals in 37 games. It may be awhile before an Arsenal player beats that record. Henry was the greatest player ever to play for the club, no arguments, full stop.
Today’s pair, while they have their uses look weak in comparasion. Robin, injuries aside each week looks more a scoring of great goals than a great goal scorer. He has some of the skill of Bergkamp but is far too selfish to play a support striker role and so we have two individuals up front rather than a partnership. Ade can be brilliant one week and then shockingly bad the next. But they are both young and will improve.
Scores, Bergkamp 9, Henry 10, Robin van P 7, Ade 7. Overall Now 78, Then 98.
So the overall scores so the Thens in front of the Nows by 98 to 78 (that’s if my maths adds up).
>Now I could go on and on and on about how the board and the manager have let the fans down and how if we had spent just that little bit of money in the following year we could have formed a team that dominated football because when you look at the Then team we were maybe a player or two away for true greatness. I could go on about that for quite a bit, and maybe I will but just not in this piece.
For now, it what could turn out to be a pivotally bad season for us I just want to look back on what was, the ghost of Christmas past and then maybe discover the optimism to look to the future with the hope that Wenger sees a bit of that team in the one he is currently building. Any maybe, just maybe in a few years time we can justly compare that team with the simply magnificent one of the truly remarkable season.
Played 38, Lost 0. Immortal.

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