5 Things We've Learned This Week
1 -Aaron Ramsey is good, but not that good ... yet
He`s Welsh, played one great game after being absent for the rest of season; this year`s player of the year is not Aaron Ramsey, but a season full of performances like that in the future and one day he may well be. His movement was like Sir Alex post match, constantly yards away from people who just wanted him to stand still. His touch was good, his passing accurate and sharp, but most importantly he didn`t shy away from any tackles.
The fine gap between potential and realisation is bridged by mental qualities, not physical attributes; just ask Stan Collymore. If the United game was not a one off, but the game of man finding his feet work again, then there`s no reason Ramsey cannot become a world class midfielder.
However, his emergence should not presuppose the exit of Fabregas. Wenger`s argument against buying experienced players has always been that youngsters can gain experience themselves through being given games. To go down this route only to sell players when they finally get to the level of Fabregas would be counter productive. Put simply, for Ramsey to maximise his potential, Cesc must stay.
2 - Alex Song is that good, now.
Wayne Rooney has been tearing teams apart since Christmas, since he got his fat new contract and since he realised he owed the United fans having shown he`d leave for an extra 10% on his wage. His aggression, movement and touch have simply been too much for each opponent.
On Sunday he looked pedestrian. There were brief flashes of inspiration, but for the most part he looked lost in the vast expanses of The Emirates. This time though it wasn`t because he was too busy thinking of how many extra zeros he`d like each month, but because of the constant attention of Song.
The Cameroonian marshalled Rooney superbly, reading balls before they reached him, turns before they were turned. Song laid the platform for Wilshere and Ramsey to dominate the midfield. A major reason in Wilshere`s impressive form in his first full season has been the discipline of Song, allowing Wilshere the freedom to play his natural game.
He`s still only 23 in a role that players traditionally develop late into. Makelele was 27 when a move to Real Madrid gave him the chance to develop into one of the world`s greatest holding midfielders. Song is more mobile, more effective with the ball.
Not bad for £1million.
3 - This has not been a season of under achievement
At the start of the season the criticism of Arsenal was that they lost too many of the big matches. They wouldn`t challenge said the pundits. They should be worried about getting 4th spot.
Barcelona, City, United, Chelsea; all big teams, all beaten. Arsenal have been victims of their own success. Had they started slowly and worked their way into contention, pundits would have spoken of steps forward, of youngsters starting to fulfil promise.
Carles Puyol was 26 before he won the first of his many medals. Fabregas is 24, the average age of what could well be a very special team. The title was challenged for, 2nd is a realistic possibility and the big teams have been beaten. This season has been part of the journey, not the destination.
4 - Money matters
It might be boring, it might be repetitive, but Arsenal`s approach to finance should not simply be held up as a good model for football, but for life generally. When the club wanted a big purchase such as the stadium, they made savings elsewhere and bought it with a long term strategy at repaying the debt. Instead of making a cheap fix with players, the club invest in coaching, in improving what they already have.
The reason the banks fell apart and peoples` debts racked up like Blackpool`s goals against column was the same reason pundits are criticising Arsene Wenger. Not happy with what you have? Spend, spend, spend and spend a bit more, before pausing to shred your repayment notices and spending some more.
Football matters. When it`s talked about non stop and each pundit repeats: 'the only way to succeed is to pay out money you don`t have,` it seeps into the national consciousness. Yes they have an old boy`s mentality, yes they`ve ignored racism and homophobia in football for too long, but with the financial fair play rules, UEFA have at last got something spot on.
5 - Arshavin isn`t all that bad
He may not have been the explosion we saw blow teams open with 4 goal bombs in his first year, but the Russian has not been shocking this year; far from it. He has treble the assists of player of the season Bale, and is 4th in the Premiership with 11. That`s more than Etherington, Van Der Vaart, Ashley Young, Charlie Adam.
If anything, Arshavin has fit into the system too well this season. It`s when he goes solo, shoots from 25 yards, tries to take on 3 players when there`s an easier pass that he`s at his best, his most unpredictable and his most destructive. Just let him play.
It`s been a week when Pep Guardiola refused to condemn his player Sergio Busqeuts for 'allegedly` racially abusing a black player by calling him a monkey. He even went so far as to call him "an example of professionalism and honesty." Players will continue to feel they can get away with such despicable actions when even their own manager won`t check their arrogance.
With that in mind a special mention to Alex McLeish, who refused to back up his diving player Craig Gardner, going so far as to make him apologise to each and every member of the squad. McLeish showed what he is, a boss: "He has to learn." Guardiola would do well to take the same advice. - Lewis Wright