Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Arsenal Understudies Can Play Lead Roles; Arsene Wenger May Be Missing Several Star Names but the Season Could Still Turn out to Be a Big Hit, Reports Wayne Veysey

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Arsenal Understudies Can Play Lead Roles; Arsene Wenger May Be Missing Several Star Names but the Season Could Still Turn out to Be a Big Hit, Reports Wayne Veysey

Article excerpt

Byline: WAYNE VEYSEY

THE OPTIMISM that was sky high at Arsenal when Thierry Henry resisted the overtures of Barcelona has been punctured during a hectic summer in which A-listers have queued up to depart the north London stage.

Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Sol Campbell will probably be joined by Ashley Cole and Jose Reyes through an Emirates exit door that is threatening to swing off its hinge.

Of that celebrated quintet, only the erratic Reyes would not be a contender for a place in the all-star XI of the Arsene Wenger era.

But if you had offered Wenger, back on that sodden night in Paris when Barcelona had extinguished Arsenal's Champions League dream and Henry's future was still shrouded in doubt, that he would lose Cole and Reyes but hang on to his captain and Real Madrid target Cesc Fabregas, he would probably have snatched your hand off.

The Arsenal manager knows he can build a team around an aristocratic spine of Henry, Fabregas, Kolo Toure and Jens Lehmann.

The importance of Henry staying injury-free is as essential as ever, especially now that Bergkamp has waved goodbye, although Wenger will hope that Robin van Persie can build on his sparkling displays at the World Cup and in preseason.

Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor offers a long-ball outlet with his gangly height, although the suspicion is that he is better on the ground than he is in the air.

It will be fascinating to see what use Wenger makes of Theo Walcott. He spent the summer at finishing school in Germany but, on the evidence of the England Under-21 match on Tuesday, his all-round game and positional play lags way behind his scorching pace and cool finishing.

The smart money would be on him being used predominantly as an impact substitute this side of Christmas.

Tomas Rosicky should adequately fill the creative and goalscoring gap left by Pires, but an experienced centre-half is needed to replace Campbell and a robust central midfielder to take the strain off Fabregas and Gilberto Silva.

It is a viewpoint shared by Henry, who admitted last week: "Before the end of this month, I really hope there will be some new arrivals to follow Tomas Rosicky."

Wenger's incomparable skill at unearthing hidden gems has been a considerable weapon for Arsenal in the fight to compete with Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

But it is not a level playing field and Arsenal followers will wonder how long he can continue to swim against the tide and have the appetite to do so.

The Gunners board cannot compete with splashing out [pounds sterling]30million on Andriy Shevchenko or paying Michael Ballack [pounds sterling]130,000 a week, as Chelsea have done, or the [pounds sterling]73m that United spent on Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.