No Easy Answers

Last updated : 27 February 2005 By Brian Dawes

So why does a young forward come into the team and feel he needs to put himself about? Van Persie maybe lacks the physical strength and stamina right now to battle on even terms in the Premiership so maybe he puts himself about just a bit too much to make up for his physical weaknesses. Winning the ball high up the pitch is a Wenger trademark but it's not at all necessary to dive in as he did. He might just be trying too hard to impress, on the other hand he just might be attempting to make up for qualities lacking elsewhere in the team.

Could it also be because Henry is getting too fecking precious and spends too much time giving 'those looks' when the pass to him is not quite perfect. Time was when he made a mediocre pass look good by still getting on the end of it. At one juncture in the Saints match, when he hit in a really great corner, he stood there admiring it instead of following up. Had he followed in he would have given himself a goal scoring opportunity on that occasion, not much of a gamble is it? Centre forwards make countless runs that come to nothing and they finally pay off with the one that does. Tell him please Arsene. The very best players in the world work harder when things are not going their way. We love you Titi but you are not quite perfect yourself so don't have a go at others for failing to match your tremendously high standards. Please encourage your team mates all of the time instead of just some of it, don't glare to indicate it was a less than perfect ball, applaud them for their good intent and wish them better luck next time. It's what good team-mates do. Going back to Van Persie, if Johan Cruyff can place Van Persie above Arjen Robben in terms of talent that's good enough for me. In my opinion he's not quite there yet but has all the makings of becoming a tremendous star, which might only be a matter of a couple of goals to aid confidence.

Rob is a shadow of a shadow of his former self and is sorely trying my patience; he was a non-entity for the time he was on at Southampton. He no longer runs past people and his covering and tackling rarely impress me. He is much better than his current form suggests and as I was saying at about the time of his injury - I'd rather Clichy was on the pitch. When Gael did come on he was far more effective than Rob. Clichy is a breath of fresh air, granted he makes mistakes but then all youngsters do. As a fullback Gael is today where Ash was a few years back when some idiots were saying that Ashley couldn't defend to save his life. Given time however the pair of them could form a rotating partnership down our left flank that would brown more than a few trousers. Like the Bridge-Cole combo for England it is something that's worth a much longer trial.

Toure is not at his best; he's having a dip in form caused in no small part to his lack of confidence in the various keepers and his lack of understanding with Cygan or visa versa. But at least he always gives 100% in wholehearted enthusiasm - we need this right now and he should stay in the team on that basis alone. I'm probably wrong but I don't get the impression that our defence is being coached as a unit, maybe this is the problem and not the fault of the individuals within our defence. Sol's stop-start season has helped no one, he's been badly missed for sizeable chunks of it and this has just laid emphasis on the lack of top quality defenders we have ready to step in. In Hoyte, Senderos and Djourou we have some very decent prospects, but that's not quite what is required in a crunch Premiership match. Cygan has come in and has often been blamed for everything that's gone wrong. There was even a prat behind us at St. Mary's who was screaming 'For fecks sake head it Cygan' after he just had! Pascal has done quite well when he's come in and he's played well in recent matches, but we're unlikely to win much with him as a regular in the side. Too often he is done for pace when caught wide. Philippe Senderos also lacks a bit of pace but his reading of the game is superb and his two-footed distribution is a major plus. Bobby Moore was slow so I don't see that as being the end of the world so long as he can read a game as well as he does. Philippe will do for me, but again he's not quite ready. Wenger has a huge problem in that he has a number of players who are nearly but not quite ready, if he replaces them with ready-mades they may never get the opportunity to succeed.

Lauren. I still like him but time and time again he's cost us. As with everyone who has licence to go forward he's been caught out of position. We've only ever had one man who could cover all these forward runs and due to his long absence some fans are at long last appreciating our missing Brazilian's true worth. More than any single individual he has been the difference between this season and last. The shame is that if Gilberto does get to play this season it will in all probability be too late for both him and us. Added to the fact that even when fit it will take him quite a while longer to fully match fit.

Sadly with Jens form right now we can pretty well guarantee one cock up per game. Unfortunately that is costing us goals. His decision making has been poor, he needed a kick up the arse and dropping him was the right thing to do, but Almunia didn't step into his shoes. We all know we need a new keeper but regrettably I don't see too many decent keepers around as viable options. This is because they are all making mistakes. Or are they? I'm sure I can't be alone in thinking that playing with up to five different competition balls that all 'move' slightly differently and very often unpredictably has made many keepers look really bad in the past two or three years. The ball manufacturers seem to have been encouraged to produce balls that help forwards to a degree where goalkeepers are being made to look rubbish through no fault of their own. Should you ever get to watch a game from directly behind the goal, as I have a couple of times recently, you will understand that a ball can move in three different directions from one kick. That doesn't however excuse poor judgement calls on crosses or knowing when to come or when to stay. It's these inconsistencies that are rattling our defence and not the shot stopping. Right now I'd go with Taylor for a spell because Almunia isn't even close to being a half-decent keeper and Lehmann does not have the full confidence of our defenders. We need a replacement but that can't happen until the summer so Taylor should at least get a short-term crack at the job.

Freddie is game but needs support around him, he misses Dennis when he's not there but still looks great when things are flowing our way. Regrettably not much has been flowing our way of late but he seems to have taken over from Rob in finding the net, which is a blessing for all concerned. Dennis himself has hit another purple patch and we wouldn't be struggling in Europe to the same extent if we could get him to fly.

Pat is doing his best to lead from the front but in doing so is often taking on far too much himself and forcing killer passes that are not really on. Unlike many punters I think he's been playing well of late. He is our most fouled player on a regular basis so I guess opposition managers feel that if you can stop Pat you can stop Arsenal. Pat misses Gilberto more than most, given that Edu has also been AWOL for pretty well an entire season and Pat himself has been playing catch up with fitness, things could have been better all round. Vieira also has a perceived problem with many fans because of his annual 'Real Madrid thing' for which some will never forgive him. He is also being compared to great captains of the past in McLintock and Adams. This is unfair. They were both tremendous natural leaders, it's not Pat's fault that he's not in the same mould and as much as we need a captain who can drive the team on he cannot be what he is not. Great team leaders don't grow on trees and are very rare, besides you always need about three or four leaders on the pitch and some others that should be up for it, like Henry, can be a tad moody. Others don't yet believe they are capable, but I happen to think Cole might well be.

Cesc has come in and done a job, the kid is the best 17 year-old I've ever seen and he's years ahead of where you'd expect a young creative midfielder should. If nurtured and not rushed he will become a classic player. I'm delighted he's had a rest, as I was seriously concerned about burnout. He must be patient as must the fans and the coaching staff because burnout is still a possibility. Likewise Flamini impresses me more every time he appears. He has that perpetual motion thing going for him that is so loved by any Arsenal crowd and he could play a big role next season. I see a midfield dynamo in the making here. We need more workers in the team and he appears to be one with a difference in that he has a whole load of skill as well as the commitment. One brilliant run against Southampton on Saturday was spoiled by a poor final pass, when the day comes were he finishes such a run with a goal he might become very difficult to keep out of the team.

Edu would be a decent asset if he stays, he's done well in a number of big games for us but then again he's been missing for large chunks of his time with Arsenal. Being a squad member is not what he really wants but it's what we need. Useful as it would be to have him remain and fine player that he is, I'd go for a fresh face, or a fresh faced youngster like Cesc or Mathieu, both of whom have earned their corn and a place in the Club's future.

Reyes has been a disappointment. After so much early promise last season he hasn't come on as we'd all hoped he would. He has yet to boss a game or tear a team apart. Although extremely capable he has yet to take a game by the scruff of the neck and change a match, which is what we require of our big guns. Should he go or should he stay? Well if he can overcome his obvious homesickness problems he is still a very serious prospect. I'm not sure that having all his family over has helped in this respect. If they are also homesick they may just be making his situation worse. A swap for Owen seems an obvious choice for both Clubs but I still feel that Reyes is the better long-term prospect of the two. Then again how many fans, Clubs or mangers are really interested in long term? Well Le Boss has certainly been looking long term, it's just that we all need a Crystal Ball to be sure he's got it spot on.

Jermaine Pennant was given every opportunity. He could have done big things at Highbury; he will do fine elsewhere no doubt, but what an absolute waste. Another Stan Collymore in the making. It must gall Mr Wenger that the cretin has so abused his numerous chances by being such a prize twat. Likewise what of David Bentley? Will he come back and be a star or is he another player who is just too flash? I'm sure the plan for him going on loan to Norwich was to give him a reality check and build up his physique. It may not have worked, due in no small part to his injury, but he is capable of great things. Unfortunately he also seems capable of being just a flash poser with more talent than brain although I sincerely hope I'm wrong about that. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie is another who could go either way. Ajax let him go for just this very reason, but we've all seen enough to know his amazing potential. He's too young right now but that hasn't stopped more stable young men making a mark, as in the obvious case of Fabregas.

Ashley Cole could eventually become the leader of our defence and god knows we need one. Then again he could just bugger off to Chelski, but if he were allowed to go we would definitely miss him. He has become a major force in the side and has the will to win that is sadly lacking elsewhere in the squad. He also rarely plays within a comfort zone, something that is not true of our entire personnel. Cole is looking for a new contract and is after more money, far more money, but Arsenal have a budget to meet and players wages have to stay in control. So the Club have to consider hard cash against experience or future potential. Potential has never won us much in the past though and is hardly likely to in the future.

One long forgotten and injury-hit player is Jeremie Aliadiere who I suspect was on the bench at St. Mary's to cheer him up. He's never had the chance to shine for any length of time but he was a great prospect before his last injury and certainly remains one now. If his recovery has gone as well as it seems to have done he might get the chance quite soon to make his mark.

Which when you add it all up gives a lot of maybes, a few perhaps and numerous don't knows. The present is a tad marginal but the future looks very bright. Thank goodness Le Boss is there to sort it all out for us. Like many others I can see that all is not well at Arsenal right now and probably for a lot of differing reasons, not least of all the veritable multitude of injuries and suspensions. Like a number of realistic Gooners, as much as I crave it to happen, I just cannot see silverware as a realistic probability this season. It's still a possibility but we'd need a huge change of form and fortune for that to happen, and quite honestly there are a lot of teams playing a whole lot better than us right now. So sadly I'm almost wishing our season away and looking forward to starting afresh in August. My birthday is in August so an early present would be good please Arsenal. A surprise pressy that included Wright-Phillips, a world class keeper and a world class defender would be my choice.

In the meantime it would be nice if we could draw a line under the stupid and unnecessary suspensions, get some form together and resurrect a disappointing season. Right now there is either still a very long way to go in the trophy hunt or we give up and call it a day now. So lets get out there and kick some arse please Arsenal, but let's not get sent off in the process.