October 19, 2011
Some people are never happy.
As news emerged yesterday that Arsenal have signed Thomas Vermaelen up on a new long term contract the ‘twittersphere’, home of knee-jerk reactions in 140 characters or less*, was awash with bitching, moaning and in-fighting, supporters angry that we would waste money extending the contract of another injury prone player.
I know this has been a difficult time to be an Arsenal fan but I think some people need to get a grip. Following Arsene’s revelations yesterday that half the team wanted to leave over the summer, and the ongoing contractual concerns hanging over Robin Van Persie, you’d think we’d be universally delighted at the re-signing of one of our top players. Yes, I know he’s not much use to us on the treatment table but hopefully his ankle troubles are behind him now and he’ll soon be back to his best. The contract offer suggests that Arsenal believe that to be the case. Wenger said:
The contract shows how much we trust. We think it’s a genetic accident that he had because he had it on both sides, exactly the same injury. There’s no medical reason why he should not play 50 games on the trot now.
God I hope so. It’s easy to forget what an impact he had here in his first season. Commanding in the air with that spring-heeled leap.
Admittedly those spring-heels have been more like broken Slinkies over the last season and a half, mangled by some over-zealous fat kid on Boxing Day. But it’s not just his physical attributes that we’ve missed. He’s an organiser. He’s a leader, something that we’re crying out for and it’s easy to forget that in his first (and only) full season he chipped in with a more than useful eight goals too. Even in his brief cameo earlier this season you could see how much we’d missed him. He brings an energy to the team that doesn’t show up an OPTA statistic. He’s exactly the sort of man we need to drive us on. Wenger went on:
It is a privilege to play for Arsenal Football Club and many players understand that.
On our side we are happy to extend his contract because he has shown he has the quality to play for us. He is a leader as well and he is a left-footed player, you do not find many of them. It is important to find a player in his position who has a good first pass with his left foot.
He is versatile too, you could imagine him playing in midfield or left back in an emergency.
Wenger also pointed out that at 25 he’s got a lot of good years left in him as a centre back. He hasn’t peaked yet. The man himself is happy too:
I am really happy to have signed a new contract with Arsenal. I always had the intention to stay here. I feel there is a big belief in me from the Club, from the boss and from the fans and that is one of the reasons why I stayed. Arsenal is a fantastic Club. We have great supporters, we’re doing well financially and we are playing with some quality young players now and they will develop, which is very good for the future.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t solve all our problems and those ankles will continue to keep me up at night, but it’s a start. To rebuild this squad we need to secure our best players and then start looking for new ones. We can’t do the latter until January at least so let’s do what we can in the meantime.
It’s a welcome boost ahead of a tricky away tie at Marseille tonight. It’s the first time Wenger has been back there since he was coach at Monaco and Marseille cheated him out of a couple of Championships by bribing the opposition. He’s been at Arsenal so long you sometimes forget about this extraordinary period earlier in his career and how much it must have shaped him as a manager. His constant mantra about how important it is that we do things in the right way and play the game as it’s meant to be played could well be a response to the outrage that he felt at the time.
In fact his almost fanatical crusade against ‘financial doping’, his suspicion about winning solely through spending, sometimes apparently refusing to spend the money at his disposal, could well have roots in this period. But yesterday he was refusing to be drawn on the subject:
I’m happy to go to back to Marseille because it is memories of passionate games. Times have changed. I love Marseille as a city. It is a real football city. That is over now because the owners [of Marseille] are not the same. Now it is completely different. Football has changed in France. It was not the happiest period of French football.
It feels like a pivotal game tonight. Get some sort of result and you’d feel we have a great chance of progressing from this group. Lose and we’re under a lot of pressure in the last three games.
Hard to know who he’ll go with tonight. Ramsey is back in the squad but Gibbs has a stomach muscle injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks. I expect there’ll be a small amount of rotation after Sunday. But not a lot. I think he’ll go with: Woj – Jenkinson – Koz – Per – Santos – Song – Arteta – Ramsey – Gervinho – Arshavin – Van Persie.
Fancy Arshavin might get a start after his cameo against Sunderland. I don’t know what got into him but he looked like he’d just remembered that he used to be a brilliant footballer. It was like Pat Rice, standing there with him on the touchline holding his pad, just whispered in his ear ‘you do know you’re amazing at football right? All that getting hold of the ball and running at defenders? Why not try some of that?’ The Sunderland defence looked terrified. I’ve no idea why he hasn’t played like that in a year and a half but if he continues in that vein I don’t really care. We’ll have a world-class player on our hands again.
World-class players are not easy to come by. When you find one you need to try and hold onto it.
* Only kidding. Love the twitter. Do follow me. Please!
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