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Silvestre's Cover Story

Mikael Silvestre has kept his place in the first team for every PL and CL game since his debut against Everton on October the 18th. That`s a decent run for what was supposed to be a cover purchase to bolster squad numbers. And he doesn`t look as though he might lose his place anytime soon.

Supposedly this was an opportunistic buy. A last minute deal that just come our way more or less by accident. If it was an accident then there seems to be a set of convenient circumstances surrounding the whole tale. Firstly just as the summer got underway Wenger appeared to 'promise` that of the players he would sign this summer one would be an established PL player. Now we know that he was after Alonso but it is very unlike Le Boss to be so forthright in his transfer pronouncements. But he couldn`t have known about Silvestre at the time surely? True that Silvestre was in talks with ManU about a new deal or a move, possibly to Bordeaux, at the time and just because he is very close friends with Gallas there is no reason to expect that Wenger would have heard anything from Gallas - is there?. So who did Wenger have in mind then?

Then in August Wenger again 'promised` that 'for certain` he would sign a player before the 2nd leg of the CL qualifier against FC Twente 'Will something be done ahead of the second leg? Certainly yes, but before Saturday, no,' said Wenger when asked at the time about signing new players. Everyone assumed that he was talking about the defensive midfielder that most had craved but surprisingly, and disappointingly for many, Silvestre was the acquisition he made prior to the CL game.

We are led to believe that Mikael was having a medical at Man City when he got a call at the eleventh hour asking him to join Arsenal and signed within 24 hours. Of course that`s possible, and it is the official line. But consider another, admittedly conjectural, possibility. That Wenger had wanted to sign Silvestre for sometime. If he had contacted ManU directly it might have been difficult to get him. Transfers between the clubs are rare in recent years. Even if ManU were willing to sell to us rather than force him to go abroad, as they did with Heinze when he wished to join Liverpool, the chances are that they would have wanted a lot more than £750K for him. So what better way than to wait for ManU to agree a fee and a transfer in principle with another club. ManU then couldn`t in all conscience scotch the deal if it met the terms already agreed. Could it be that rather than a convenient opportunity Silvestre was actually a target for some time?

So why Silvestre then? The Gallas, Toure combination had its weaknesses in the previous season though not quite as weak as some would suggest but certainly Toure wasn`t quite the same player after the ACN and then a bout of malaria. Meanwhile Senderos had had his young confidence shattered by some errors and the derision of unforgiving supporters. Yet Senderos is a player that Wenger rates highly. Perhaps highly enough to let him go to Italy on loan and rebuild his confidence to then come back to Arsenal as the kind of successful centre back that many supporters would wish for. Senderos may well complete a full move at the end of the season but you can see the attractions of such a deal from Wengers point of view if he has a senior player on a relatively short term contract to cover the potential gap left in the squad while retaining some hold, no matter how tenuously, on a player he rates highly. Again this is all just speculation, albeit hopefully entertaining. Silvestre must have just happened our way. It is hardly believable that Wenger is shrewd enough to have been working on such a deal since early summer.

But what`s the purpose of all this conjecture? Well I wonder whether opinions of Silvestre suffer a little from the perception that he is something of an afterthought. A useful bargain but not a strategic buy. Would views of him change if it were revealed that Wenger had targeted him from the outset? That politics prevented a direct approach? If there had been a minor tug-of-war with ManU to get him to sign would we have placed greater value on him? Circumstantially at least the latter is a possibility.

As for Silvestre himself, the combination with Gallas is one established at international level and may well be repeated in the forthcoming friendly round as Silvestre has again been called into the French squad. Not everyone will agree, I know some definitely won`t, but I think Silvestre has performed well even when results have been poor. He reads the game well, closes down space quickly, keeps tight when he has to and displays an experienced command of the art of defending. He also uses the ball well and in recent games you can look back at good accurate use of the ball with his left foot to create attacking moves. And he has also scored for us in a North London Derby - that has to earn him some legend status points.

Whether an afterthought or not Wenger might have just the right player to bring younger defenders along over the next couple of seasons. Gunners folk hero Martin Keown believes so.

"Mikael Silvestre`s arrival has also helped with both the youngsters` development and defensive solidarity. I have been impressed with the way he has wanted to lead and has shown great determination in sorting out the back line, attacking the ball and showing the aggression they need," said Keown. "People talk about needing height at the back but I was never that tall — it doesn`t matter how tall you are, the guy who wants to win it most will do just that."

Now if we can only sort out that midfield.....

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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday November 17 2008

Time: 9:56AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
and the attack...
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17/11/2008 10:11:00

Agree Amos. Our strong point over the last few weeks has been our defense (oddly enough) whereas our midfield lacks composure, desire, commitment and ability. You know that I would drop Denilson and Walcott with Ramsey and Eboue coming in, but the manager seems fixated with Walcott. (Media pressure? Fan pressure?) As for up front. We now have the van man and Ade back. Can they finally start working together through the adversity? Do they need more help from the midfield? I would love to see Adebayor and Vela play together. We know how well Ade - Edu played and I think Vela is a very similar player. And back to the midfield. Maybe it is time for a formation change?
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 10:26:00

I would usually pick a fit in form RvP and then frankly I don't mind too much whether it's Ade, Bendtner, Vela or even Walcott playing up front with him. Depending on the opposition and form they all have something to offer. The real problem is in getting the midfield balance right. I think Cesc and Denilson are fine. We don't have a problem in central midfield. We have a problem in the wide areas of midfield which is upsetting the balance of the team. The attack won't function properly whoever is playing until we sort that.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 10:43:00

He's been good but I still don't see what Djourou has done wrong
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 12:55:00

A very thoughtful article! I think that Senderos was 'spoilt' by having to play regular first team football at too young an age before he was physically and mentally ready. This may be the reason le Boss is cautious with Djourou although he is a far better 'footballer' than Phil with better feet and more comfortable on the ball. I know that Phil made some high profile mistakes - not unusual for a young centre back - but he also played many magnificent games for us. He is a true defender who attacks the ball early and high up the field, is a solid, technically sound tackler and has a first class attitude. I hope he does well in Italy and regains his confidence so that we can welcome him back. I think Sylvestre has played well for us so far. Don't forget that he had been long term injured and hadn't played for ages when he arrived, any player needs games to settle in - especially at central defence. Sylvestre is technically good and a natural defender who reads the game well. I wish him every success with us.
norfolk dumpling
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 16:29:00

I have quite liked him so far. Although come the end of the transfer window it felt like christmas day had gone by and instead of having a brand new PS3 with Metal Gear solid i was left with an Amstrad with asteroids to play.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 17:10:00

On top of that My PS2 was traded in and left with no real replacement
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 17:11:00

I've said this to everyone who'll hear me: when Gallas and Silvestre played together in CD for France, they never lost. Which is one reason why I was so shocked on Saturday, when those two play together I feel more confident about our defense. I do agree with everyone clamoring for Djourou to get in the starting lineup. Still, I think there's something to the speculation that AW may be developing Djourou more slowly and carefully in order to avoid what happened to Sendy. I don't blame Gallas or Silvestre for Saturday, it's our dysfunctional midfield and our misfiring front line. That, and a group of players who come out against Man Utd full of fire and focus and commitment -- and who then come out against Villa at home with none of those qualities (barring Denilson and Gallas).
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 17:19:00

No disrespect but Silvestre is not the kind of player we should be signing if we are looking to challenge the champions for the title. Don't get me wrong, he was a fine player but Sir Alex who had him for 8 years or so let him come to us for a reason: he won't be missed at MU and he won't make us title challengers. Do you think for a second if Sir Alex was worried about us getting too strong, he would hesitate to keep Silvestre at MU rather than sell him to us?
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 20:20:00

As for Wenger, he said over the summer that he fears bringing in an experienced player as it would mean 'killing' the development of a young one. What is Silvestre doing to Djourou, Song, Senderos and Co if not exactly his fears?
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 20:23:00

Did Ferguson sell Silvestre to us? Wasn't he going to Man City using his option to go where he wanted to, and then at the last minute changed his mind when AW's offer came in?
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 20:23:00

Silvestre's contract runs out at the end of next season. As does Gallas'. Djourou, Song and Senderos (if he comes back) shouldn't and won't see them as a long term threat.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 20:53:00

This is a possibility. I am not yet convinced by Silvestre, and he is not the kind of commanding CB we need right now (and this has nothing to do with the fact that he is ex-ManU, or a supposed surprise signing). Gallas & Silvestre had a good game against ManU, and then they put in an average performance against Villa. There are some good signs of the partnership and I'm willing to give it a go, but the Gallas-Djourou partnership looks as solid/weak as the Gallas-Silvestre partnership.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 21:20:00

I am pretty sure Fergie would have blocked the Silvestre deal if he cared about MU's chances.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 21:49:00

MU's chances of retaining the title being weakened.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 21:50:00

It's true that ManU didn't need him. At least not enough to extend his contract or fork out for a testimonial match. That doesn't mean he isn't of value to us - for a season or two at least. Juventus didn't think that Henry was worth much when they let him join us. Nor did Inter put the same value on Bergkamp as we did. Spurs thought Pat Jennings was past it when they sold him to us. There are plenty of examples of different clubs valuing players on a different basis.
Report Abuse
17/11/2008 22:05:00

That's a fair assessment Amos. I wouldn't analyse the summer proceedings too much but I agree with you on Silvestre's contribution to the team so far. I don't think Silvestre-Gallas did badly against Villa. We lost it in midfield by not creating much, while they played on with Sagna injured leading to the first goal and Gallas got beat by Agbonlahor for the second - that doesn't mean we deserved anything from that game though, Villa deserved the 3 points completely. Silvestre may not be the Vidic-type CB that everyone craves. But he has shown more willingness to attack the ball with his head, to concentrate throughout the game and to organise the defence by communicating with each other. (As Keown testified, you can be a good CB without Crouch's height.) Bottomline: to date, Silvestre-Gallas, Silvestre-Djourou and Gallas-Djourou did better than Gallas-Kolo. Kolo hasn't found his old form since he came back from ACN really.
Report Abuse
18/11/2008 07:48:00

He werent too great before the ACN either.
Report Abuse
18/11/2008 20:01:00


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