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Pining for Pires

I think something has become really quite evident in the last few weeks, that our squad just doesn`t have sufficient depth at the moment. The likes of Fabregas, Hleb, Clichy and Adebayor have been asked to play so many games and it really is beginning to tell, in performances as well as results. Liverpool are highly likely to rest players for the match tomorrow and, while I would not advocate the kind of wholesale changes that I think they will adopt, it would be nice to have some flexibility amidst this sea of titanic clashes. Yet with the bolser wood van Persie again injured, we really have little choice in terms of rotation. Yet when one examines the injury list, we see Rosicky (even more brittle than van Persie), Eduardo and Sagna. Nobody disputes the talent or importance of these players, but surely a treatment room with only four players in it should not be an insurmountable obstacle for a club chasing glory on two Lucy Pinder sized fronts? Now, I support the fact that Walcott and Bendtner have enjoyed steep learning curves this season, both look to be fine players and we will benefit enormously from their experience this year. I was all for signing Anelka, but once it became clear Chelski and their filthy lucre were in the race, we were never going to be able to compete.

However, our deficiencies on the flanks have been brutally exposed. Rosicky is an excellent player and seems to be an honest professional, but his constant injuries make me wonder how valuable he is to us considering his wage packet. His understudy is effectively Abou Diaby, who clearly does not enjoy the position and is also a regular on the treatment table. This has got me thinking recently, maybe misty eyed nostalgia has impeded my better judgement, maybe the economics of the situation are beyond my knowledge/ comprehension, but am I alone in thinking that we might have held on to Robert Pires? Hindsight is a wonderful thing I guess, and Wenger pretty much always gets it right when it comes to knowing when to let players go. (I am sure I don`t need to list examples). But I have this nagging feeling that Pires could have been a very valuable player for us this season. I know he began his Villarreal career with another cruciate ligament injury. But one must question whether that was destiny or circumstance, the injury occurred in training, who knows if that would have happened at London Colney. As with economics, medicine is not my strong suit, maybe Pires is a little frailer and more predisposed to gaining such an injury. But a look at his current form has seen him oust Villarreal`s apotheosis Juan Roman Riquelme and become the driving force behind the Yellow Submarine`s title charge. It`s a different, slower game in La Liga, but I am not suggesting Pires might have played every game, but I think as a squad player he may have added some real value to us.

Obviously, it`s easy to think in terms of Rosicky`s prolonged injury spells, but Pires could have given us a real option from the bench. A genuine goalscoring threat with an intelligence and subtlety about him to ghost past packed defences. He also has a guile and grace we are all too familiar with which could have paid enormous dividends from the bench. At the moment, Arsenal have too few attacking options from the substitutes when there are one or two injuries. If we get in trouble tomorrow, Bendtner is pretty much the only solution. With Rosicky and van Persie out of the side, too often Hleb has been the lone cog on the edge of the box trying to eek out opportunities. Maybe I am wrong, but I can`t imagine that the rigours of the Premiership would have provided him with too many problems. He was hardly the most battle hungry of warriors and he lost a lot of pace following his cruel injury in March 2002, but adapted with his intelligence.

Arsenal did not cope with being five points clear at the top of the league and have shown a lack of experience in seeing out a title race (though all is not quite lost yet), I think Pires` experience in this scenario may have filled a void. When he eventually left Arsenal in the summer of 2006, unable to accept only a one year contract extension, I couldn`t help wondering why we didn`t just offer him the two he wanted. If it didn`t work out after the first season, surely we could have just said au revoir and maybe commanded a slight fee for him? Like I say, maybe the voodoo economics are more complicated than that, maybe it would not have worked out at all and this is all pointless reverie and speculative nostalgia. Maybe there`s more to the story that we are not aware of. But in the pompous glory of hindsight, I would suggest that a French wizard should probably have departed N5 in the summer of 2006, and that it should have been Henry. Am I being too simplistic in suggesting that, had we retained Pires, we might well still be top of the table?LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday April 4 2008

Time: 3:30PM

Your Comments

I think he wanted to leave and he made that clear after he was taken off in CL final
No, you're not being too simplistic at all. It still mystifies me what happened with the negotiations between the club and Pires, I think we don't know all the permutations and facts of what happened because there was room for compromise on both sides, yet neither budged. And Pires has now accepted a 1 year contract at Villareal, why couldn't he do that at Arsenal? There's no question for me that he would've aided our team enormously this season, certainly more than Gilberto. I watch Villareal mainly for him, and he's been so important to them. In a recent interview he said wanted to come back to work for Arsenal.
I'm not so sure that was anger as disappointment that he knew his Arsenal career was ending that way. Maybe that was behind it, but the guy still seems to have a lot of affection for the club. His recent comments about Spurs for example and the fact that he bought a house at Highbury. He was always clear that he wanted more than a year and that's where negotiations broke down, but maybe the CL Final had somehting to do with it. Perhaps knowing he was leaving influenced Aws decision to take him off.
Little Dutch
Whilst I agree totally that Pires is one of the best players ever to don your shirt, I don't know whether he'd still be as effective in the Premiership as he once was. I do watch quite a bit of La Liga and I like Villareal. But seeing how Jon Dahl Tomasson doing so well over there reminds me that it's a different league to ours. I think sometimes, it's best for club legends to go before they start to decline.
Fair comment Zola, but I have a feeling that he would have been talior made for the impact from the bench role. He started to don that role in his last season and all the noises he made suggested he was prepared to accept that so long as he was offered two years. It wouldn't have been the all conquering world class Pires of 2000-2005, but I think he would have added enough to make us an even more formidable squad.
Little Dutch
you never know, I dont really like looking to the past too much as it can drive you crazy with what could of beens. Had we kept him Rosicky wouldn't of arrived IMO so the depth issue wouldn't of been resolved. No question we are so thin at the moment, Menez or Ben arfa would add so much to this squad as both are hugely promising and just as importantly hugely versatile. On a side note do you think Denilson will start tomorrow, haven't seen the lad for ages ?
You're quite right HG and it's not something I usually do. It was just a thought I had on a quiet Friday afternoon. The more I think about it, the more I think it would have been perfect. All pie in the sky I guess, I just wondered if anyone else felt the same.
Little Dutch
well personally I didn't think he would be able to muster up form that he is displaying at the moment and credit to him for that, its just when Arsene feels he needs to make changes it seems like he wants wholesale ones and doesn't like mixing in a new idea with an old idea hence why there are no invincibles left playing in the starting 11 a mere 4 years or so since taking the world by storm. We really do need to add depth with players who can play wide, diaby and eboue are just not cutting it for me.
So...If reports of Jose Reyes being courted by Newcastle are true, what are peoples thoughts on Wenger scooping him back and, without Henry bullying him around, and putting him back on the road of development? Althetico and Real both treated him like the finished product, and so he spends long periods on the bench, Wenger treats him like a ball of potential, and he gets game time...
This is exactly what I've been saying! We don't have someone like Pires or Bergkamp to come off the bench anymore. We know Bobby probably wouldn't be fit enough to last the whole season, but neither can Rosicky or RvP. It's like having one more guy to share their role on the wing. While many of us keep saying we need to sign a new winger, that's all I'm asking - a winger who lasts half a season, then Rosicky the other half. But of course like LD said, maybe it's a costly thing to do, maybe not, we don't know what happened or how things work exactly in those negotiations. But I do miss Bobby Pires... (yes it's nostalgia too) He's the only former Gunner who I think is worth bringing back like now. But who knows, maybe age is taking its toll and maybe he'll wind down next year. But I still love him as a player and as a true Gooner.
Lou the Gunneress
Bootoo, the London weather that Reyes complained (and Arsene joked) about is still the same. Not to mention Newcastle. The physical side of the game he didn't like is still the same. If that story's true, funny how King Kev thinks he could bring someone like Reyes back to England at all.
Lou the Gunneress
Best finisher since Wrighty.
I think about this all the time. Of course it's just idle speculation, but I firmly believe that if we'd have had Pires in this team we would be well clear at this stage. You find numerous threads in the forum where I have show my girly side by crying and saying how much I miss Bobby!!
LD, bobby is not the main force in villareal, Di rossi and nehit are much more important to them there, he is just doing fine there no more, he did score amazing goal earlier this season. i think we should not let reyes go, he was doing well for me. quick, skilful, and very adoptable, he can play off Striker, left winger. now he must be happy in the bench for! i do not like players who unsettle the team like him and diarra but i think if we didn’t let these two players go we could of have better options esp. with amount of injuries we seem to get all the time. the only weakness for wenger that he is too nice sometimes with such cocky players , i do really believe that arsene had huge hopes for reyes but reyes just let him down with move back to Spain all the time.
Gooner SA
On 1-year extensions for all players aged 30 or above, I'm also curious as to how Almunia got his "long term extension" which was just announced yesterday when he's 30 now. If we say keepers are exception to that rule, then why not Jens last year - granted, he's 37, not like 30. Just interesting. Seems like Diaz, though just fired by Cesc, is doing well with Almunia and Fran Merida, who's also got his long-term contract signed recently.
Lou the Gunneress
"But I still love him as a player and as a true Gooner." Agreed, I actually cried when Bobby left, love him, love him, love him. Also, sorry to get girly, guys, he's always been one of the best gunners to look at. :-) The young girls can keep Freddy.
Would have loved to have seen how the team of Pires, Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira would have played at The Emirates. Pires was brilliant, one of our very best players, especially before his injury. We definitely need to sign two more experienced players (and maybe four if van Persie and Rosicky are always going to be out).
Off-topic: "Vink's decision not to award a penalty came under fire from FIFA refereeing advisor Mario van der Ende, who claims he made a bad call. 'When you are an official at this level you know you have to get it right - and he didn't,' Van der Ende told the Sun.,16368,1766_3382347,00.
Yeah Jaelle, that too! :D Bobby's quite probably the best-looking Gunner in the past 10 years (imo). Freddie's quite cool and sexy but not hugely good-looking. Bobby's still "cute" at 34! The young girls can keep Cesc.
Lou the Gunneress
This is a good interview with Arsene Wenger from today/yesterday, I think it provides an excellent view of what his feelings are about our season and prospects
Bobby is my favourate ever player after Dennis, and i would have loved it if he had stayed at the club, cuz he always gave us something whenever he played, i still feel that our current team would have been perfect with REYES in it. the guy had a little bit of DB, TH n RP in him. it's a real shame that he didnt like the weather here, cuz he would have been a real star here, probably he'd even be competing with Ronaldo for the world player of the year. the width he provides on either flank and can even play upfront. and with him being in the team, we wouldn't have felt the loss of Rosicky and Eduardo that much. and now he is not even getting a look into the Athletico playing eleven, which is a real shame cuz the boy has all the potential in the world to be a top top player..
I think the reason you boys are giving extensions to older keepers is because you are still trying to court Manuel Neuer. At the moment, he is refusing to leave Shalke but as he is young, I suspect he might change his tune after a few years and go trophy hunting elsewhere. Wenger won't want to spend big money on a different keeper when he has two that can stay there until he can get his target...
i'm still missing his curl shot from outside the penalty box..;p
I miss his goals against 'pool and Sp*ds, he scored 14 goals in 3 consecutive season for us, we won the Prem. in 2 of them, now get him back!!! I want his name on the no.7 shirt, not half-invisible rosicky!!!
P.S: good one on Lucy Pinder, but how about Keeley Hazell? She's bigger... :D
bendter is not playing well can someone please confirm if this is true "Arsenal have won every single match which did not involve bungling Bendtner." i read it somewhere
We just need to get to half time without giving up a goal so AW can get this team back in it. Our formations really off.
crotch has no lov for us
Bendtner needs to come off as soon as possible. Everything about his play so far in this half has been horrible. But we dont have anybody but Adebayor to come on for him and he needs to rest.
i hv seen this sooo many times its getting boring.. gilberto has lost it, time for him to go.. i thinks we need song to come on for him straight away.. too many balls being given away and one of two things will happen now.. we don get the goal back and our title aspirations are gone, we et a goal back in the 84th min n the title hope is still gone.. so for cl sake, i do hope pool score the cesond so that we can throw away this game and rest fabregas, flamini and eboue for the 2nd leg
this formation just isnt clicking we are just running across the field
the only time we look good is on the break
Nik of time :)
nik redeems himself
Nik makes me eat my words and I will happily do it :)
Arsene is gunning for the win with that substitution!
yeah im havin bbq sauce on my words
Dont you just love Adebayor? Wonderfull skill from the big man. His work ethic has sparked this team into action
good effort by the boys.. gave all they had.. now they willl just hv to forget this result, pat themselves on the back for a wonderful season where they made most pundits eat their words and tune their minds on the big one at anfield.. pool came to our ground and got two draws.. now we'll hv to return their favour with interest
what if manu lose tomoro?
anonymous, if ManU lose tomorrow, we'll still be five points behind them. And if Chelsea win now they'll be two points behind. Then, when we play ManU next weekend we can close the gap to just two points, so we're going to need them to slip up again. And if they slip up against Chelsea, we're going to need Chelsea to lose a game as well. So, even if they do lose, it's look to bright for us.
How strange LD, I was just having this conversation with a mate before logging on here! we spoke about how usueful Bobby was and how his surging runs in the first 30mins of matches ensured we got the goals early on and then were able to relax. Whilst looking backwards is something I try and avoid, Its hard not to when you think of what Bobby gave us, his work rate inspired the team
it doesn't look too bright for us**
Hehe you guys are all here - why can't we stay on the Arsenal-Liverpool thread lol. Anyway, it's just so eff-ing predictable wasn't it!? You could see a draw when you saw that line-up. You could see Crouch scoring. You could see us equalising somehow. But you couldn't see how we'd win the game. That sums up the whole spell since Birmingham really (bar Milan).
Lou the Gunneress
Now our real chance left is the CL..advantage is on the scourser, but i think we can edge them..
Lou, all the 'Pool fans were on the other thread so we moved here I guess lol. I agree, it was very predictable. I didn't see how we could score a second. We had some chances but for every 10 chances The Arsenal get we score one of them. That's how our luck works. lhchye is right, the CL is the only real chance we have left. It will be hard, but I have no doubt that the boys can do it.
No real sharpness upfront. We need to be more lethal in front of goal. Conceded first again and had to fight back. You can't win a title doing that every match. We need to take the lead. Is it me or did Bendtner celbrate on his own? Poor show.. Time for AW to spend some cash and get a top striker and wingers.
When these games show our lack of any real finisher, I start missing Eduardo. RvP is not a bad finisher also, but he's still not at his best seeing as he was out for 5 months. I suspect we are going to spend a bit of cash this summer, but only around 1 mil. on a 16-year-old wonderkid that none of us have heard about.
It's weird, I had serious doubts in my head about Bendtner, but they he redeemed himself in the 2nd half. Trying to stay positive, I thought this game told us where our limits were. It's just a shame to see that after we've come so so very far.
Lou the Gunneress
Yes Cheese, not just this game, whenever we keep missing chances, my mind goes back to around mid-season when Eduardo looked like he just didn't miss chances! Remember that spell when it's like everytime he shot, it's a goal, or a well saved shot on goal? I keep trying to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, but our luck this season has just been horrible. Just one more player, had he stayed fit this whole season, either it's Eduardo or RvP or even Rosicky, those few draws would've been wins and we would've still be top or very close. Er sorry, so much for that. Look forward to the final part of the trilogy.
Lou the Gunneress
Yes Lou, it's like everytime he got the ball he scored! I don't remember the last time ManU had three such long term injuries to such important players at the same time. I also think our luck has been absolutely awful, but still, I was holding onto the hope that the team would win it for Eduardo. But we just have to focus on winning against 'Pool, who will most probably be harder than whichever team we'll end up meeting in the semis.
im sorry, but was it not just a matter of weeks ago that everyone was hailing your reserves asa being as good as your first XI. its a pretty weak excuse, just admit it AW over-expected from the players, to win a 38 game league you ned strenght in depth. oh and btw cheese, would you consider, scholes, carrick, g.neville, rooney and saha importnat players? well, all 5 were injuries ewarly in the season, but the likes of anderson, borown, hargreaves and tevez stepped up and we ground out 1-0 wins. alot of peopelk forget we have been without our captain for over a year now....dont use injuries as an exuse, everyone gets them it just depends on how well you cope with them and this season, arsenal havent.
U4L I don't think people were saying the reserves were "as good as first XI". The potential's there, it still is. But we can't expect them who've spent so much time on the bench to slot right in and do the job flawlessly. Not even the experienced guys like Gilberto, you need a run to get into it. Everyone gets injuries, ManU and Chelsea have more quality on the bench to back those up, no doubt about it. We're not saying we were the most unfortunate one, but we're definitely among the worst, alongside probably West Ham. Our thin squad has cost us at this stage when the remaining fit players are obviously tiring. That's a fact, no excuse there.
Lou the Gunneress
U4L, I don't think having players injured at the beginning of the season is as harmful as it is now. And I don't know many people who would choose Carrick, Saha and possibly Scholes in ManUtd.'s top XI. I'm not trying to make excuses, we gave away the title and that's that. I'm just saying that had we had a bit more luck, we could've had a better chance at the title.
carrick and scholes not in the first XI?
U4L I know what you mean. The general understanding's that your 4-man midfield looks like (backup options in brackets) this: Ronaldo (Nani), Giggs (Park), Hargreaves (Carrick) and Scholes (Anderson). Then O'Shea and Fletcher stand in when required. Is that the case or close? You lost Scholes for a long spell but your replacements are of quality and more than enough in quantity. That's what we lack - the "2nd string" players. At this stage of the season when injuries are piling up, you're only as good as your bench. That's what Cheese (my understanding) and I are saying.
Lou the Gunneress
Just to give a bit of perspective to illustrate my point about the tiring pair of Cesc and Flamini. Our midfielders are: Rosicky (Diaby/Hleb), Cesc (Denilson), Flamini (Gilberto), Hleb (Eboue/Theo). Diaby's no LM. Eboue's no RM (it's about time to consider the experiment failed to be perfectly honest). Gilberto's just not the same player anymore. Rosicky, Diaby and Denilson are absent for more than half the season. We're relying heavily on the players' versatility (Hleb either wing, or behind main striker; Theo either wing, up front; if you can count Eboue's switch between RB and RM, then yes Eboue) and forced adaptability (Diaby on the left) to patch up holes here and there. Don't get me wrong, I admire them for doing the job, though some more effectively than others. Their attitude is just professional. If Arsene could convert a couple of them, that's an achievement already (e.g. Rosicky and Hleb relatively effective on the wings, Theo's development encouraging). Just that it's doing things the hard way, instead of letting each of the best players focus on that one single thing that they do best (Cesc being the most stable one, still has once played in RM). We've already coped very well considering. But it's not enough to win the title. That's what we're talking about.
Lou the Gunneress
Two things really for me: Firstly, Wenger wanted to rest players and that's fair enough. But then why not pull players from the squad he puts into the CC? Players like Denilson, Song etc. players who will have a lot of drive to prove themselves and who have great ability. Bendtner doesn't convince me and if you draw at Anfield and go out, I think he will have to put his hands up and say - ok lads, my fault for trying to steal the glory. Secondly, I do think the Eduardo injury thing hurt you guys a lot. It's like Cech and Cudicini getting injured for us last season; really knocks you back. But I guess what you have to think, even if you don't win the Premiership is that you have been pushing for first right up until April - it's been a few seasons since you can say that. Rome wasn't built in a day and next season - people will be rating you as proper title contenders from the start.
Personally, the Eduardo injury has had a psychological effect on your team. You have also missed Rosicky!
Zola, fair points there. Only on the first one, I think Wenger probably didn't strike the best balance, rather than 'trying to steal the glory.' Sometimes he does make things tough for ourselves (e.g. converting players like I said above), but his intention wasn't to try and pull off a miracle to prove himself or anything like that. He doesn't have to. I agree with you on the 2nd point, but if we keep going on and on, people'd say we use injuries as an excuse again. Like many people have said here, injuries are part of the business, we have to deal with them. It's obvious that Chelsea and ManU are built to cope with the worst-case scenario. e.g. even Hilario is decent and experienced, our 3rd choice keeper is 22 years old, still in his first year in England, you know what I mean. I don't think Wenger plans things based on the best-case scenario or being too hopeful/optimistic. He plans things based on "normal" circumstances. But this year, injuries strike multiple players at the same time, and sometimes in the same department, we've just been using our reserve resources to cope. We've come so very far, and believe me I'm proud of them, but that can't last long. However, I still tend to think the ManU/Chelsea way is luxurious and risky, designed to compete on all 4 fronts. Maybe for us, just signing 2-3 players in better quality than the bench we have, stay healthy and fit, I'm convinced that'd already make a difference next year. And you're right, we'll be expected to challenge again next year and there'll be more pressure. The press keep talking about our cash in the bank. I'm just wondering if Arsene, having come so so close this year, would open his cheque book and give our team that extra push in the summer.
Lou the Gunneress
Er Zola, I actually meant to add to your point about Denilson and Song lol. Nobody's seen Denilson, not in the starting line-up, not on the bench, not in the medical room. We'd all love to know what's going on! Song's a good defensive midfielder but what we lacked today was creativity, which Arsene did everything he could to address, by throwing on Ade, Hleb and Clichy. The original intent was for Flamini to attack more alongside Cesc, Gilberto holding, but we went off balance by having Gilberto there. If Denilson was available and fit, he should have started ahead of Gilberto, or played on the right side. Anyway, we've learnt a lot and just have to try harder next year.
Lou the Gunneress
Damn, I know why we drew the game now! I ate my lucky snacks, brought all my lucky things and did all the rituals but we still didn't win because this guy went to the Emirates today:
Lou the Gunneress
Stan is not a bad guy at all. Usmanov is the one we should be worried about. Stan has been in sports for a long time, and hes not in it to take over the club. Arsenal is a business and hes just looking to get a part of it and you cant blame him for that.
Geez here I just have to add "just kidding" everytime to avoid being taken literally.
Lou the Gunneress
Only Man Utd at Old Trafford left to go now, then the ref's should feel safe enough to start giving correct decisions our way again. Oh, the good news is, the Kuyt referree isn't taking charge of the second leg, the bad news is that Steven Gerrard's dad is. Not that I'm being sarcastic or cynical or anything, obviously 8-)
Lou - there are risks to having too many players as well. We have the biggest squad, I believe, and it shows - we have internal conflicts reported weekly! And I think todays result should make you feel a bit better about things... If you beat United and we beat United, you're still in with a shot!

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