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Arsenal's Squad Improvements

Arsenal's Squad Improvements

We will have to wait for the tortuous process of the transfer window to run its course to assess any impact of the final import or export of players into the squad. Going by the last couple of seasons this could even go on until the final minute of the final hour of the final day. But even if there aren`t anymore changes is it true that overall the squad hasn`t improved over this time last season?

If it is that would ignore the natural law of improvement because unless they are physically and mentally incapable of improving all those in the squad will be better players at the beginning of this season than they were at the beginning of the last one. Common sense would tell you that if anyone of us would identify a problem we have doing our jobs we should be able to train ourselves, or be trained, to eliminate the problems. Given the right raw material anyone of us can improve the way we do things. At the very least we would expect to be able to deal with the problems better than previously. Are footballers really any different from any of us in the way that they improve and develop in their professions?

Looking at the squad now compared to this time last season some improvements in our players are more obvious than others. To illustrate the effect that natural development can have on overall squad improvement I have highlighted just four players.

BENDTNER: Didn`t make any first team appearances for us the season before last but gained experience at Birmingham. Last season he managed 17 starts, mainly in the 2nd half of the season, and 23 sub appearances contributing 9 goals and 6 assists. By the end of the season he was looking much more of a first team player linking up play well and with a midfielder`s ability to pick out a clever pass. At 20 years of age he is older than Ray Kennedy was when he had such a positive impact on the 70/71 season. We can expect more from Nicklas next season.

WALCOTT: Halfway through the season some were questioning his rate of progress. In the 2nd half of the season there were fewer doubters with eye catching contributions in the CL against Milan and Liverpool and an assured personal performance in the ill fated game away to Birmingham. In the season before last he had made 13 starts, 19 subs with 1 goal. This season he produced 5 goals and 6 assists from 16 starts and 19 sub appearances. There is a palpable improvement there that will be all the better for the season just behind him. He is a young player of course and will still be a young player at the end of next season but he should be capable of delivering on that early promise.

DENILSON: An injury-affected season prevented us from seeing as much of him as we might otherwise had done. Having made 13 starts and 6 subs in 2006/2007 without scoring we would have expected to have seen more of him. Nevertheless in just 10 starts and 9 subs last season he was able to contribute 2 goals and 3 assists. At 20 he is beginning to show the physical development that added to Cesc`s game last season. He is physically strong for this age anyway but I would expect him to benefit even more next season as he reaches his 21st birthday two third`s of the way through the season. He tackles much better than many give him credit for. From recent quotes he clearly sees this as a defining season for him. If he is genuinely up for it then I believe this could be a breakthrough season for him.

FABREGAS: PFA young player of the year, European championship winner, premiership pass master surely Cesc can`t get any better than that. It is exciting to think that as a player he almost certainly will. Just as Ronaldo became an infinitely better player as a consequence of physical development so will Cesc. Cesc still looked, physically at least, something of a boy at the beginning of last season. He ended it looking and playing like a man - a more complete midfielder. The experience he will have picked up last season not only playing for Arsenal but in playing and winning with his national team could and should lift him to greater heights. There are no guarantees but this season could be his best yet.

There are others of course. Many of you will have your own thoughts based on what you have seen over the last season or so. Unpopular as it may seem Senderos at 23 will get better. Most knowledgeable coaches, and Wenger certainly would, will tell you that central defenders particularly improve with age. Rosicky and van Persie only have to improve their injury records to improve the squad. As for the improvement that Eduardo`s return could bring, on joining the club he set himself a target of 10 goals and 20 to 25 starts. He managed 22 starts with 12 goals and 10 assists in a dramatically shortened season.

The experience gained by Flamini and Hleb may not be replaced on a one for one basis but the collective improvement and experience of a young squad is in the bank with interest still to be earned. And there is still 6 weeks of transfer window indulgence to go!

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Date:Friday July 18 2008
Time: 1:07PM


A positive point of view which you can't disagree with. I think there's even more to come from Gael Clichy, he's going to absolutely amazing if he stays injury-free. Just hope we don't become an Ajax, i.e. just a stepping stone for players on their way to Real, Barca and Milan.
18/07/2008 13:24:00
I agree with the points of the article, but we definitely need some more experience to augment the squad. Gallas is the oldest at 31, then it's Rosicky and I'm not even sure he counts as an Arsenal player. Wenger admitted we lacked experience at the crucial time last season, by his own admission, that must be rectified.
Little Dutch
18/07/2008 13:34:00
Of the players mentioned above, I was disappointed only with Denilson, and that was due to injury. I think he can replace Cesc for a run of 4-5 games, when Cesc needs a rest, and his injuries hampered that, which would have aided his natural development as an Arsenal player. From the rest of the squad, my biggest hope lies with Diaby. Its a make or break season for him. I would like him to step up in the same manner that Flamini did last summer.
18/07/2008 13:36:00
I would like to see Diaby run after the ball. That would be a big start.
Little Dutch
18/07/2008 13:48:00
I know LD. Diaby really needs to up his game, but I dont want to rule out a Flamini-esque reincarnation for him. As for experience, we are going to have to accept Wenger's methods whether we like it or not, given his recent interview, that he probably will not replace the outgoing players with experienced ones. For the 1st time this summer, I am beginning to feel some anxiety for the coming season, but I trust Wenger to fix things before the transfer window closes.
18/07/2008 13:55:00
Although I do admire the chipper tone Amos, having seen us lose 3 experienced first teamers in Flamini, Bert and Hleb from an already lean squad, and Nasri, Rambo and Vela being the only three coming in so far I hope this six weeks is gonna get busy and fast!. We all knew our squad was thin in January and we've still not seen any real efforts to bulk it up. Another 3/4 players needed if we're gonna come close to challenging this year.
18/07/2008 14:11:00
I don't rule it out Niko. We've always seemed to have come up with something late on so let's see what it brings. I can see the need. But we can also expect to see something more from what we already have I feel. It's not simply me whistling to keep spirits up. There are some chips to cash in too - if that's not overdoing the metaphors.
18/07/2008 14:22:00
Yeah, like Vin, I think Clichy was brilliant last year. I also have a feeling that Almunia will improve further. Tbh I'm not very worried about losing Hleb, Gilberto, Flamini and Jens individually (Flamini being the toughest to replace). But to lose 2 first-teamers and 2 seasoned pros does worry me a bit. That's the only reason why I'm not sure if I want to see the back of Ade. But nonetheless, if Arsene was "comfortable" with the decisions of letting them go, I'll just trust him as always.
Lou the Gunneress
18/07/2008 14:24:00
Well Wenger on has repeated what he has said several times But every time we have done such a great job with the young players that you are concerned 'do we kill a young player or not by bringing another player in?' "It is a very sensitive subject which is not specially linked with money." This could be another way of saying we are not buying anyone or to make it look like we are not after anyone to stop clubs putting prices up
18/07/2008 14:45:00
Prits - I know what you mean, I'm starting to feel anxious about the coming season too. Doesn't help that United are probably going to strengthen further with Berbatov. This time last season, I was actually optimistic that the team would raise their game after Henry left. This pre-season feels very different and without some major quality additions I think we are going to find it a lot harder.
18/07/2008 15:10:00
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