Good morning everyone, today we’re mostly going to be comparing the past with the present.
The above question is one I feel could spark some healthy debate in what could prove to be quite a boring week.
Which players would you take from the 1996 squad if you had the choice?
I know a common myth that prevails around cyber space is that Arsenal were a shower of rubbish when the coach took over, but that is a point I’ve always fiercely opposed.
This question isn’t about who plays the best football or who is technically superior… this is a question of preference, who would you prefer to see on the team sheet if you had the choice? What do you prefer in a footballer, technical superiority and sublime skill or hardwork, passion and heart?
If you look at the team Rioch provided, you’d be hard pushed to say it was a write off. I simply can’t accept that Arsene inherited a poor team. Excluding the signings he made before he was employed… lets have a run through the pro’s and cons of both teams!
So, in midfield… We’ve got Cesc Fabregas who has amazing vision and control of the game. We’ve got arguably one of the most exciting prospects since Bobby P in Arshavin and we’ve got a pretty talented wide man in Nasri. However, Song and Denilson seem to be struggling to adapt to the holding role. We’re beautiful going forward but we totally lack a winner in the middle of the park and we don’t have anyone who lives to defend/protect.
The Rioch team had a midfield that boasted Paul Merson… who was a magical player, he worked his socks off and could provide moments of brilliance from anywhere on the field. We had a youngish Ray Parlour… a solid player and a hard worker… some say he is one of the most underated Arsenal players ever… and I’d agree. We also had an ageing David Platt there to provide a bit of spark… but after that, we were in Eddie McGoldrick, Ian Selley, David Hillier territory. We didn’t have much strength in the middle…
So despite our current team having the same problems and the 1996 lot, I’m tipping it in their favour due to the attacking edge. 1-0 Project Youth.
How about up front? Well… this is an interesting one.
Rioch had Ian Wright… A legend, a goal scoring machine… he was Mr Arsenal. Then we had arguably the most important signing in Arsenal’s history playing off him… Mr Bergkamp. In reserve, we had fat Welsh journeyman, John Hartson. All three of those strikers were capable of 20 goals a season.
Compare them to the current crop of Nik B, Adebayor and Robin… Ade is a battering ram of a striker, capable of sticking the ball in the net if he gets enough chances, but prone to being offside (If you get the chance, pick up a copy of GQ this month and read Ade’s tip for staying onside… hilarious) 5 times a game and a bit lazy. Nik B is too young to make a judgement, but his composure in front of goal is poor… he does have great control and he is a team player… but he’d have nothing on Wrighty and Bergkamp. Robin Van Persie is a bit hit and miss… he is the best of our 3 fit strikers, but I don’t think anyone would say he’s blown us away this year.
So, if I’m given a choice here… I’m going with Bruce’s front line.
Defense is where I think we’re struggling… who would you prefer?
Sagna Gallas Toure Clichy
Dixon Keown Adams Winterburn
Would it be fair to say no brainer?
Individually, you’d have to admit that the above defenders would struggle to compete technically with most of our current defence… they may even struggle to compete for pace… but there in lies the issue. Do you need to be technically perfect to be a great defender? Is this where Wenger struggles? That back 4 had passion and heart by the bucket load, they worked hard at their art and they knew each others game inside out.
They were a real unit and a legendary defense. Could we replicate that again? Well… if we bring someone in who knows how to teach defence, we employ some more defenders like Gallas who live and breath clean sheets… then there is a chance.
Now… in goal. David Seaman versus Manuel Almunia. This one for me isn’t so cut and dry. I think they are pretty similar keepers… never too spectacular, but quite reliable. David Seaman gave us more magic though… but in fairness, he had a longer crack at the whip. However, Dave in a penalty shootout gives him a few extra percentage points…
Dave was prone to the odd clanger but the most disappointing thing he ever did was change his hairstyle, no one likes to see a grown man rocking a pony tail. On the flip side of the coin, one thing I can guarantee is that Dave would never roll around the streets of London with a cat on a leash… sorry Al… you’ve really got to man up over the summer. I’m awarding this one to big Dave.
So… overall, if we were taking best bits from both teams, this is how I’d line up.
Dixon Gallas Adams Clichy
Merson Cesc Song Arshavin
How would your team line up?
See you in the comments!