Home > Arsenal, Football, Soccer, Sport, Transfers > Arsenal: Review of 2006-07 (+ a look forward to next year)

Arsenal: Review of 2006-07 (+ a look forward to next year)


Over the next few weeks we’ll be reviewing each of the Premiership teams’ seasons and discussing potential transfer targets, outstanding performers and their hopes for next season. We have decided teams will be reviewed alphabetically in case all three of our readers get angry that their team isn’t first on the list……!

ARSENAL: (4th):

 

 Pre-Season

Arsenal’s season promised to be a reasonably successful one from the outset. Henry was staying, he’d been joined by the likes of Gallas and Rosicky and promising youngster Fran Merida and the likes of Fabregas and van Persie could only get better along with a young but impressive looking defence. However, Bergkamp’s retirement, Sol Campbell’s strange decision to seek a new challenge abroad (in Portsmouth?) and the loss of Robert Pires and Jose Reyes to Spain meant Arsenal were going to need an injury free year and captain Henry at his very best. They got neither. To add insult to injury, Ashley Cole got his desired move to Chelsea and Arsenal had lost a fine left back with youngster Gael Clichy stepping into the breach with big boots to fill.

06-07 RECAP

The Premiership got off to a miserable start for the Gunners, draws at home to Arsenal and Middlesbrough sandwiching a shock defeat to Man City and Arsenal fans were looking worried. However a run of five premiership wins in a row including victory over Manchester United thanks to Adebayor’s last gasp strike gave Arsenal fans hope.

A clash between Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger stole the headlines in November as the pair went head-to-head following a slightly over the top celebration from Pardew when West Ham snatched a win over their London rivals. While both were keen to play down the incident, Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Liverpool consigned the story to history as Arsenal destroyed Liverpool with an impressive performance.

However, defeats to Bolton, Fulham and Sheffield United in late November and December meant Arsenal’s challenge was all but gone with Wenger’s men lying seventeen points behind leaders Manchester United. Back-to-back thumping wins over Liverpool in the Carling Cup and FA Cup restored morale at the Emirates. Completing a double victory over Utd gave the Gunner’s fans hope, but an ugly run in February saw expulsion from all three cup competitions in the space of a week at the hands of Blackburn, PSV and in the Carling Cup final to Chelsea which is now notorious for the mass brawl which saw Adebayor and Kolo Toure sent off as well as Eboue cited for throwing a ‘punch’.

March saw the end of Thierry Henry’s injury plagued campaign and despite Liverpool’s focus on the Champions League, Arsenal could only manage fourth place in the League with a disappointing season finishing with a dour draw with Portsmouth. Arsene Wenger spent much of the season paying fines for post-match comments and rocking back and forth on the bench as though he had stomach cramps. William Gallas failed to be the rock that Arsenal hoped he would be, injuries and constant complaints about his treatment at the hands of Chelsea, his teammates lack of quality, pretty much anything he could complain about, meant his first season will ultimately be remembered as unspectacular.

Strengths:

In Kolo Toure, Arsenal possess one of the finest and most underrated centre backs in the country. Without Toure, Champions League qualification would have been a real struggle and Arsenal fans can look forward to his partnership with William Gallas blossoming next season.

Fabregas reminded the world that he is already one of the best midfielders in Europe and will certainly get better. Fabregas is one of those players who you feel will always want to improve and better himself and his team. The Spaniard has also proven himself to be a bad loser, a quality in the modern game that is as close to a genuine love for the game as you can get. Fabregas is vital for the team and will be coveted now more than ever by the top clubs in Europe.

In Gael Clichy, Abou Diaby, Denilson and Theo Walcott to name but four, Arsenal have the nucleus for a hell of a side if they can keep the same group of players together alongside the experience of Gallas, Toure and Gilberto and Henry.

 Weaknesses:

However, the ability to know how to win games is something that presently eludes the youngsters. While Man Utd retain a habit of winning, Arsenal play sublime football at times, without the arrogance of knowing they should win their games. Grinding out results is becoming cliched at this stage and yet the truth is, for all Wenger’s protestations, smaller, more physical teams know they can beat Arsenal by sitting back, closing down and using set-pieces and strength to score goals.

Thierry Henry. Ah yes, the million dollar question. Will he, won’t he? Henry is one of the unfortunate players who will constantly be linked with something else. Gerrard is still linked with Juventus, Henry with Barcelona, Shevchenko will be permanently linked with AC until he returns there etc….Henry and Wenger have been semi-permanently linked with moves to Spain in the least year. While Henry has pledged his future to the club more than once, no-one would be too surprised to see him go. David Dein’s acrimonious split from the club seems to have caused genuine problems and I would fear for Wenger’s future before Henry’s. Wenger, more than any other manager bar Ferguson to Utd, is crucial to his club’s success. Who else could come in and coach his team to play with the style that Wenger does? Arsenal can be proud to play better football than most, if not all rivals, and finding a successor to the Frenchman would probably prove more difficult that finding a striker to score Henry’s goals every season.

Transfer Targets?

(1): Arsenal need to strengthen this summer, if not to keep the likes of Gallas and Henry happy then to keep the fans belief intact. A new goalkeeper is a priority. Lehman’s position as no.1 is not seriously under threat with Almunia failing to inspire confidence and Mart Poom seemingly happy to play third-fiddle? Craig Gordon of Hearts has been linked with the club, but a £10 million price tag and the relative weakness of the Scottish Premier League may see Wenger look elsewhere for a genuine alternative to Lehman. However, after watching Gordon keep a clean sheet against France for Scotland Wenger said this of the shot-stopper:

Clearly, the Scotland keeper is very good, Wenger told the Scottish Daily Mail. It is not the first time I have heard about him but that is the first time I have come to watch him in person. How old is he? Still only 23? Then I think he definitely has the potential to play at a higher level. Gordon has presence and good handling and looks a very good goalkeeper to me”

The signing of Legia Warsaw’s young Pole, Lukasz Fabianski will most likely see the exit of Manuel Almunia but whom Wenger brings in as his next first team goalkeeper remains to be seen.

(2): A third, experienced central defender may be on the move to the Emirates, especially if reports that Phillipe Senderos is surplus to requirements prove to be true. While Gallas would no doubt be furious to be moved to either full back position given his preference for central defence, injuries or suspensions to either of the young full backs could see an experienced central defender take Gallas’ place in the centre to leave the adaptable Frenchman to fill whichever void is required. While Arsenal have a solid defence on paper, Toure has held them together this season and Wenger will want to relieve his rock at the back of all the burden. Johan Djourou is another option however, should Wenger decide a left back is a greater priority with Eboue’s place at right back seemingly assured.

(3): A goalscoring midfielder to replace Pires, and possible Freddie Ljungberg? While Hleb, Rosicky, Fabregas and Gilberto can all score goals, a measly tally of 24 (including 11 from Gilberto) from 186 combined appearances is simply not good enough for Arsenal to maintain an assault on the Premiership crown. Ljungberg’s injury-hit season may have been his last for the club he has served so successfully while Mathieu Flamini has been told he can move on, leaving Arsenal with a lack of numbers in midfield. Out and out wingers may be the order of the day with the likes of Overmars, Pires and Ljungberg instrumental in Arsenal’s rise to Premiership fame and the club’s expansive, attacking philosophy crying out for wingers to move the team from defence to attack as fast as in previous seasons.

(4): Jereme Aliadiere will be let go in the summer while Nicklas Bendtner has signed a new five year deal and may be the next starlet to make the breakthrough to the first team. However, the Henry question may see Wenger keeping an anxious eye on the striker’s market this summer. Van Persie’s fantastic start to the season promised much but injuries curtailed the skillful forward’s progress. Emmanuel Adebayor will be reasonably happy with his progress, especially given the injuries of his two strike partners, but will still need to up the goals tally and cut out some alarming profligacy in front of goal. With all three first choice strikers plus Bendtner and Walcott in the wings, Wenger may be satisfied with his lot, but don’t be surprised if he tries to unearth another young gem from Europe to provide reinforcements for the big guns.

Next Season?

Given that it is harder than ever to succeed in the Premiership today, Arsene Wenger will know that next season is crucial for the development of his football club. None of the big four can afford to stand still and Wenger knows he needs to add to his squad and quickly if they are to realistically challenge for top spot next season. Injuries permitting, Arsenal should have a better time of it next season as their plethora of young stars continue to mature and develop. However, with spending power likely to be less than their main three rivals, Arsenal need to get their transfer targets spot on, preferably players who will adapt quickly, and Wenger may look to homegrown players as a result, to provide a more rugged style to an eye-catching team. The future of Henry and even Fabregas (being linked to Real Madrid in today’s papers) is also of great importance and the loss of either would leave a big gap in the squad. Arsenal fans will be hoping for a more harmonious summer in the Emirates and for the big players to follow Adebayor’s lead and pledge their future’s to the club.


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