Arsenal; Splash £25m on Lars Bender, stick with Wojciech Szczesny, Nicklas Bendtner out, Chu-Young Park’s alive

Five things we have learnt about Arsenal this week:

Lars Bender

Hello gang, thanks for dropping by and coming back for some more of my own-brand, taste the difference pieces on our beloved Arsenal Football Club.

I for one have had an interesting week; my eleven month old daughter has been recovering from her first stomach bug and Cross Towers has been awake each of the last days at 4am and thus I have been passing the time trying to calm Cross Jnr down with ‘CBeebies.’ CBeebies, for the uninitiated, is MSG for pre-nursery kids.  After one sold week, I already want to become an ‘Octonaut.’ I would be a kick-ass Octonaut.  I would, however, not save or rescue distressed sealife…I would catch and slap butter all over them, add lemon and barbecue them wrapped in foil for 20 to 30 minutes.

We have also encountered the trippy ‘Me Too!’ – which to all intents and purpose, is a make believe amalgamation of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle, centred around the perpetually cheerful ‘Granny Murray’ who appears to offer a child-minding service to all manner of shady characters (yes I will get to Arsenal in a minute, be patient!). I don’t do cheerful at the best of times, and at stupid-o-clock in the morning, cheerful is the least of my concerns. Therefore, if you are ever in my situation, stuck on a sofa with a grumpy, tired toddler, watching an intensely cheerful  child-minder, do what I do and imagine that she is actually the Scottish equivalent of  ‘Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody’ – Jackie Weaver’s terrifyingly maternal crime matriarch in the superb Melbourne-based crime film – ‘Animal Kingdom’ – that came out a couple of years ago (watch this ASAP!). Imagining that the woman entertaining your child with songs and rhymes is actually a brutal crime-queen who runs the streets of ‘Riverseafingal’ with an iron fist and moody 9mm submachine guns certainly gets me through those cold, dark dawn hours…

What on Earth have I learnt from that, I hear you proclaim? Well, you now know that your author is a cultured father with impeccable taste in World Cinema and that you are clearly in safe hands here.

So, what are the five things we have learnt about Arsenal this week?

1) Arsene’s transfer window folly could still very much bite Arsenal on the, er, arse.

Mathieu Flamini’s absence was brutally felt against a calculated Borussia Dortmund side 10 days ago. It was also noted when he left the Crystal Palace match after eight minutes, allowing Palace to look capable of bypassing the Arsenal midfield at will. Against Chelsea, the midfield were so out at sea that many fans heard them shouting ‘Wilson!’ at each other…The lack of a dedicated defensive midfielder, a problem that has been so obvious, I’d like to think that all Gooners to have noticed it, has been an issue since Flamini and Gilberto Silva departed the club, all those seasons ago.

Mikel Arteta is a lot of things (owner of the country’s best hair, owner of the best Scouse-Spanish accent ever, proficient penalty taker and guilty perpetrator of not pushing or kicking Marouane Chamakh hard enough being a few examples) but he isn’t a midfield general or destroyer in the mould of Flamini or Patrick Vieira. Not many are though, to be fair. An £18m bid for Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender in the summer was evidence that Arsene Wenger knew this and the re-signing of Flamini shows that he still knows this. But take Flamini out of the picture and this team look lost on the pitch against sides that this team could beat with Flamini in the line-up. Bender would not only be an amazing central midfielder for the club, but he could also cover the niggling worry that is right-back (Bacary Sagna is a class act…Carl Jenkinson is nowhere near ready and was arguably bobbins against Chelsea). Arsenal need to be hammering on Bayer Leverkusen’s door on January 1st with a suitcase stuffed with €500 notes adding up to €25m and take the negotiations from there.

2) Wojciech Szczęsny should have played against Chelsea on Tuesday.

No sooner than Arsenal’s Polish number one had further cemented the argument (not a hard one mind) that he is the best ‘keeper at the club since Jens Lehmann, at Crystal Palace on Saturday, Wenger then rotates his two Poles quicker than Demi Moore in ‘Striptease’ or Elizabeth Berkley in ‘Showgirls’ (yes, I watch shite films too) and puts the (often hapless) Lukasz Fabianski in goal against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup.

Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea

Now, Fabianski is capable of the sublime. But equally he is well known to have woeful games too. Do goalies really need to be rotated though? Do you drop a ‘keeper in the form of his life when playing a rival club in a competition you could and indeed really should win (to relieve some pressure) and put in a goalie that I doubt many of his defenders would have that much faith in? Fabianski is leaving next summer when his contract expires. We know that. He knows that. Wenger knows that. Do you need to placate him by giving him cup games? Now, was he at fault for the goals? Maybe, just maybe, he could have helped Jenkinson out a bit for Chelsea’s first, and not many would have saved Mata’s second, but would the defence have played a bit more confidently with the #1 Polish goalie playing instead? We shall never know, but I don’t think Wenger chose the right ‘keeper on Tuesday.

3) Nicklas Bendtner has no place in this team, or club after Tuesday.

Good grief, we’re back to the transfer window folly. Yes, yes, Yaya Sanogo could be a really good player. Yes, he could well become a bargain free transfer. But he was injured as we approached the end of the transfer window (as was Lukas Podolski) and Wenger failed to add another forward to the squad.

Nicklas Bendtner 16

Trying to loan Demba Ba and failing is embarrassing and smacks of the Yossi Benayoun deal in 2011 – should we accept loans from ‘rival’ clubs? Surely we should be making statements?! Arsenal have needed a world class striker since Thierry Henry left and Eduardo Da Silva was maimed out of the game. There’s no point having Mesut Ozil in your team if you haven’t got a striker who can finish off his passes. Olivier Giroud is class act and I am hugely impressed by his improvements, but the top teams have three or four strikers; three or four decent strikers. Look beyond Giroud at the moment and you find a certain, much maligned Nicklas Bendtner, a man who appears to be halfway through an audition to reprise Don Johnson’s character from ‘Miami Vice’ and a player who put in a performance against Chelsea that barely registered a single positive remark from anyone who saw it. Having a striker that won’t shoot or have a go at the opposition’s goal is like having a celibate porn star.

Bendtner has no place in this side now, he will have, he must have, he surely has blown his chances now?!  Beyond Bendtner, we have Chu-Young Park; a player who has literally not been seen on a pitch for the first team for *actual* years. My thoughts and feelings regarding his situation are well known to my regular blog readers (both of them) and I feel deeply sorry for him. There must be an inside line on what is really happening at the club with Park. He is a South Korean striker with a better than decent international career, yet here at Arsenal  he isn’t deemed worthy of taking on a tour. A tour of Asia, of all places, nor indeed has he been deemed worthy of appearing on any first team bench up until Tuesday. And that is Arsenal’s strike-force. Yes, Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski are forwards, but they don’t put in many shifts as the designated #9, do they?  And they both aren’t available. Arsenal in injury-hit-shock, eh? Arsenal should have gone all out for one of Ba or Michu as an attacking option in the summer or really tried to replace Henry in the superstar stakes with the snaring of a player like Karim Benzema or Leandro Damiao.

4) The Emirates Stadium’s patrons are like theatre-goers.

Andrey Arshavin’s comments yesterday were been picked up by many media outlets and respected Arsenal Tweeters and perhaps offered an insight into why Arsenal have lost three games at home this season – games that appeared very winnable on paper to me at least – but have been superb away from The Emirates:

“It felt like the crowd was at the theatre – good seats, expensive tickets and they wanted to see a show, not to support the team… It was like there was no advantage in playing at home…Many of the players – the leaders that were left from the club’s time at Highbury – often complained that the atmosphere in the stands was so bad.” Andrei Arshavin with quotes used in both The Sun and The Mirror today.

Worrying words, no? I am by no means a regular at The Emirates, so it would be wrong for me to pass too much comment, but perhaps these sentiments tie in with Wenger’s comments about Gervinho when he left for AS Roma in the summer?

“I made that decision because he looked to play with a lack of confidence, especially at The Emirates. I felt that in the last six months it was very difficult for him to express his talent in a confident way…Then you sit there and think, ‘Do I bring him back or does he need a new challenge to get that confidence back?’ and I did not want to stop him from getting a new chance.” Arsene Wenger with quotes that ran in many media outlets last summer.

Are Arsenal’s home games actually being hindered by a passionless crowd who are overly negative…or are the crowd being suppressed by overly zealous stewards, who quash any sense of atmosphere the moment it threatens to appear? This interesting blog post regarding an attempt to inject some passion into proceedings against Chelsea was very eye-opening:


Would a passionate fervor actually drown out negative and snarky comments that players would probably hear if it is quiet and actually boost the team’s performance?

5) Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott can’t come back soon enough.

Podolski shoots, and is a born goal-scorer. He is the best finisher at the club in my opinion. Walcott opens up defences and pulls markers away from others. Both have been hugely missed and both cannot come back sooner. They both offer attacking options, and frankly, if Giroud gets injured or losses his form, the good start to the season will be nulled and voided by the time changes can be sought after Christmas.

(Bonus 6) Yay! Chu-Young Park isn’t AWOL anymore! He’s here! He played! He’s ALIVE!

Huzzah! #30 shirts all round!

Thanks for reading, have a great Friday gang and remember, ‘Me Too!’ = ‘Animal Kingdom’ and it is never too early in the day to eat chocolate biscuits.

Greg Cross

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2 Responses to Arsenal; Splash £25m on Lars Bender, stick with Wojciech Szczesny, Nicklas Bendtner out, Chu-Young Park’s alive

  1. silentstan November 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    stopped reading at the headline. Bender signed a new contract this week.

    • Dave Seager November 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      I think had you read it was the mistake we had made by not bidding in summer perhaps

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