Arsenal player of the year… the candidates | Rocastle tribute | 0800-WENGER

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Morning Grovers, we have a split post between Pedro and Geoff today… enjoy!

I’ve been thinking about Arsenal’s player of the year so far and there are a number of obvious candidates.

Samir Nasri would be most people’s based on his goals and assists this season. He’s stepped his game up a notch and he’s finally adapted to the rigours of the Premiership. Earlier on in the season he was virtually unplayable. His mixture of skill and pace was hard to track and the development of goal facing instincts helped push him into the public consciousness.

What has to be said is that his form has seriously dipped in the second half of the season, he’s gone into his shell a little and he really hasn’t taken charge in the absence of Cesc. I’ve been pretty disappointed about that. My main gripe with him over the past 2 seasons has been his mental strength and where it goes when the chips are down.

Still, 15 goals and 4 assists can’t be sniffed at… I’d like to see a return to form before he gets my vote.

Another player we’ve all been pretty excited about this season is the emergence of Jack Wilshere. Last year he was a reserve for the first 5 months of the season, then he moved over to Bolton where it took a while for him to break into Coyle’s starting 11… then he blossomed with some top performances.

This year, he killed the career of Joe Cole and his mooted move to Arsenal. On this site, we said it was fine not to sign the England star providing Jack was given a decent shot at the first team in his place. Well, Arsene didn’t disappoint and nor did Jack. Arsenal have developed a young player who has all the silky passing of a continental player yet all the aggression and fight of a traditional tough tackling English defender. Jack’s ability to defend hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Fabio Capello sees him as a Claude Makelele type player in the future and Wenger has also dabbled with him in the holding role. This was something Geoff called at the very start of the season, something I couldn’t see happening.

Jack has been one of the few players at Arsenal this year who has never hidden on the pitch, who has always given his all and has Arsenal blood coursing through his veins. He has 2 goals, 8 assists and 40+ appearances to his name, not bad for your first full season. I’m not sure Alex Hleb managed productivity stats like that in his whole Arsenal career.

I heard he’s got a bird up the duff. I’d say congratulations, but let’s be honest, no one plans for that type of news when they’re a 19 year old footballer at the start of their career. Jack, for future reference,

‘Don’t be a fool, wrap your tool’

My final suggestion for player of the season is a bit of a curve ball. It’s none other than Bacary Sagna, the greatest braided defender since Taribo West. He’s put in a solid 35 performances this year off the back of a very indifferent season last  year. He’s returned to the form that saw him installed in the team of 2008 and he’s absolutely impressed me all year.

First and foremost, Sagna is a defender. That is a rarity for an Arsenal full back. He’s incredibly quick, he’s committed and he’s a fearsome opponent not many get the better of on the pitch. This year he’s clearly worked on his attacking senses, after scoring a total of zero goals over the past two season he’s popped up with a few memorable goals this year, particularly the one against Everton where he ripped one past Tim Howard. He’s also popped up with 3 assists which can be credited to his much improved crossing ability.

I’ve always said it’s harsh to label a full back inept if he can’t cross, they’re defenders first and foremost and that’s why I was always fine with Sagna. This year he’s worked hard, he’s remained fit and he’s now a regular with the French team. He’s a real asset and he’s another player who I can honestly say I’ve never questioned when it comes to attitude. That’s why I’m putting him in the mix for the player of the year.

Let me know your thoughts for player of the year in the comments and we’ll knock together a poll for the end of the season.

In Other news…

It’s ten years since Rocky Rocastle passed away. I was a touch too young to truly remember anything poignant enough to put in a post so I’ll pass this over to Geoff who is one of the few that watched him come through.

My first memory of David Rocastle was when I was at Highbury, where they sometimes trained with George Graham, I was producing an Ad for JVC featuring the Arsenal team and some video equipment. The previous year I was with Don Howe and I featured Charlie Nicholas and about 5 players, amongst them were Tony Woodcock, Steve Williams and Paul Mariner, well when I was with George, they were gone and the ad out was out of date.

So I said George, I don’t want to pick your team (I did) and I don’t want any secrets (of course I did) but can you give me a few players that will still be here next season so I don’t waste JVC’s money on yet another ad (I wasn’t bothered in the slightest) He said sure, that I understand, he called over Adams, Merson, O’Leary, Thomas and one Rocky Rocastle. I remember looking and thinking where is Charlie, my hero? It was then I knew he wasn’t the future and saw the new breed.

Rocastle always played like his life depended on it, I was at White hart lane when he scored in the League Cup semi final and remember his face exploding, I also remember the day Graham told him he was going to Leeds and the poor kid burst into tears, much the same as a lot of us did, David I was there at the start and sadly there at the end, no one likes to outlive their stars, if we had a few of him in this team we would rip the league and the other three trophy’s, sadly under Wenger that will never happen.

Bless you Rocky, you were the spirit of Arsenal and you are sorely missed!


I called Arsenal yesterday for spare tickets for a customer, I went through the Platinum member’s line and would you Adam and Eve it? Wenger was answering the phone with the worst auto system message I have ever heard in my life, now if that’s not the antipathy of control freakishness I have ever seen, I don’t know what is, here have a listen! 0845 262 0001

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Snobby Arsenal fans | Player review and potential transfer round up!

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Good morning Knights of the Grove table… last night was international night and I actually put myself through a very entertaining England game.

I’m quite excited about the future of English football. It feels like possibly the most vulgar, disconnected England side of the past 50 years is finally on its way out and there seems to be a number of exciting players are making their way to the first team. There is a real danger I might actually start finding myself interested in International competition!

I thought Ghana made a good account of themselves last night, they’re incredibly aggressive off the ball and they can string a few passes together. I thought they were slightly cumbersome on the ball and a touch wasteful in the final third but their energy and passion was fantastic to watch. I really like Muntari, he’s the sort of player we should be looking at. He’s been outed by Inter Milan, he’s looking for an opportunity on the big stage again and he’d be welcome competition for Alex ‘I don’t fancy it’ Song. Imagine his height shielding the back four next year?

I’m also a huge fan of Gyan. He’s like Thierry Henry lite… he’s pacey, inventive and he’s not too shabby in front of goal. He’s also a work horse to boot. I think he could do a job out wide and he’s creative enough in the middle to take on players… something you can’t say of Chamakh. Ayew looked a handful as well… I think United are sniffing around him, so that’ll be an interesting transfer story this summer.

For England, I thought there were some strong performances. Jack Wilshere zipped the ball around with ease. He really suits that number 8 shirt and it’s exciting to see the future of English football is a player who wears the red and white of Arsenal. Ashley Young was also impressive out wide, if we ever needed a classic English winger, he’d be our man. He’s more in the mould of Marc Overmars than a Bobby P, but dangerous all the same.

I was also very pleased to see Cahill introducing himself back onto the International scene with a very solid display. I find it cringe worthy how snobby Arsenal fans are about English players. Unless they’ve been snared from a sleepy village in France for an astronomical fee, many don’t want to know. It’s like the fans now get off on Arsene taking massive risks with unknowns. I mentioned last night via twitter that I liked Cahill and someone said,

‘Not for £20million.’

Jeez, some people need to get over themselves! He’s worth whatever the market dictates, which last time I checked was not £20million, or the £30million some people have been touting just to dirty the proposition of signing him.

The fact is, he’s Premiership ready, he’s the right age,  he attacks the ball in the box and he has great positional awareness. Not to mention the pace he has… my gosh is he quick! I think he’s a class act and I think there is a very high chance we’ll nick him in the summer. In a defence like ours, 4 top defenders is perfect and like Geoff alluded to the other day, throw in Miquel and Bartley as back up and we’ve got more than enough cover for a typical Arsenal year!

In other international news, Robin Van Persie went off injured. Apparently he took a knock to the knee but in the professional opinion of Burt Van Mareaknvrenvajfd, he should be ok for the Arsenal game this Saturday.

So bloody good news there! He also scored I believe. Even more bloody good news!

The rest of the International review can be completed by you lot in the comments, I hear our Aussie Grover’s have something to sh0ut about this morning and it’s not a double episode of Neighbours…

Catch you in the comments!

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Maarten Stekelenburg admits he quite fancies us | Clichy on way out?

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Hot on the lips of many Gooners at the moment is the topic of the keeper. Many fans the world over seem to be keen on us adding an experienced goalkeeper to our ranks for next season. Not just an experienced player… a player who would command the number 1 jersey straight away if not through experience, through the fact we’d have to pay a massive fee as well.

The latest number 1 on our radar is Maarten Stekelenburg of Ajax. I’ve seen him on numerous occasions and I’ve never been particularly impressed. Personally, I thought he was the weak link during the Dutch World Cup campaign. I watched him drop a couple of clangers from long-range shots that made me think he was a touch over hyped. Though when you cross-reference his domestic record, he’s actually been quite impressive. Last season he only conceded 20 goals over a 34 game season, this year, he’s conceded 26. Not bad… though how much of that is down to playing in an uncompetitive league for a top team is down to your own interpretation.

For me, I’m not sure why we’re all talking about a new number one. If there is any position on the pitch I’m certain about, it’s the keeper. He’s got all the ingredients. He’s tall, has a safe pair of hands, he gives the defence confidence, he’s an excellent shot stopper and he’s extremely vocal. He has all the ingredients to be a world-class stopper and he’s only 19 years old. The one concern I have about him is that he’s a little too cocky when it comes to some of his twitter comments. Still, if Jens Lehmann had an account, what do you reckon he’d have been tweeting about back in the day… ?

Bear fighting and dreams of Spaniard slaying no doubt…

In other news, it appears Mr Clichy is stalling on signing a new deal with us. This is a story that might just have legs, not because I’ve heard anything juicy but because he’s been touted away from these shores for the past 3 seasons. There is never smoke without fire unless you’re near a disco smoke machine and I’ve got to say, I don’t think this is one of those moments.

His performances have been under scrutiny ever since he dropped his Birmingham clanger way back in 2008. It’d be hard for anyone to defend some of his shoddy displays… I know for a cold hard Pam fact that he himself admits he’s been below par… I just wonder if a fresh start could be on his mind?

A £13million offer would certainly suit me but this would most definitely be one of those occasions when a ready-made left back would need to be bought in because Kieron Gibbs is nowhere near ready to fill anyone’s boots at the minute. We can’t afford to start next year with a weak link at full back. In my book, if you’re not good enough, go and practice somewhere else until you are. Gone are the days when Wenger was allowed to offer players a 3 year apprenticeship at the cost of trophies… Arsenal fans don’t have the patience, especially if the money is there.

Geoff sent me a shareholders e-mail that informed us that Danny Fiszman had signed over 500 shares to Stan keeping him at 29.9%… pretty exciting news. It’s sad that Danny is so ill at the moment. I’d imagine that he’ll have to make a decision on his holding at some point, that’s when things will really get interesting.

I read that Jack Wilshere is being called up to the under-21 squad. How this is allowed isn’t beyond me, this is UEFA we’re talking about. I can understand international call ups, but something is seriously wrong when it is acceptable to risk the fitness of young man making his way in the game. It’s incredibly frustrating that as fans, we pays huge sums to follow our team and UEFA/FIFA can take away our chance to see our best players playing for their club because two levels of team want to play one player.

I find it outrageous that a manager with such vast experience of managing club players can allow this to happen as well. I guess it shows the selfish nature of people in the game… only out for number one.

We had enough problems last year when Pearce called up Theo, he absolutely tanked at the Under 21 Championships then picked up an injury that ruled him out most of the year. This should not be allowed to happen and Arsenal should be allowed to excuse himself with some sort of sick note… you know, the type of note fat kids always had prepared for school PE lessons way back when… I always wondered what the excuse was?

Nice to see allowing Aliadiere to pimp himself out ebay style. I remember how excited we all where when he was the Wellington Silva of his day. The guy who ran Clairefontaine said that the 3 best prospects to leave the French academy were Trezeguet, Henry and Aliadiere. Aside from having an appalling name to pronounce and spell, he was more of a crock than Robin Van Persie and so bad in front of goal, he made Juilio Baptista look like Batistuta.

He really was one of the first of many over hyped youth players of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Think of some of the names over the years that didn’t make it? Moritz Volz, Sebastian Svard and Arturo Lupoli spring to mind… who was your favourite over hyped youth player? Let us know his name in the comments… the best name won’t win a prize, so instead, I thought I’d show you a funny picture for your efforts.

Tree Goats

See you in the comments… not long to go before international week is over and we can get back to talking about proper football!

Tree goats… what a laugh!

P.S. I’m looking for 2 or 3 tickets to the Blackburn game… I’m more desperate than Aliadiere, so please do get in touch if you know of some.

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