Jun 5, 2012
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Wenger’s recipe for Success – What could have been?

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If we look back 4 years to the 2009-10 Premier League season, Arsenal had a team full of up and coming stars. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that the majority of these players have left and achieved huge success at their new clubs.

But consider a situation in which all these players had continued to play under Wenger at Arsenal – I truly believe the Frenchman had a team capable of European domination.

Here’s a look at what could have been:

Wojciech Szczesny

Szczesny has proved himself as a decent Premier League keeper since joining Arsenal in 2007. Unfortunately due to Arsenal’s standard 3rd place league finish, he never gets the praise he truly deserves.

But when comparing him to the likes of Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann, there’s no doubt his a much safer option between the sticks.

The Polish shot-stopper has played 73 games in all competitions for Arsenal since becoming their number one Goalkeeper in 2009, yet he’s conceded just 29 goals.

Bacary Sagna

Sagna has dominated the right back position at Arsenal since his arrival in 2007. Since his £7.5 million transfer from Auxerre he has played 204 games for the club, contributing 4 goals.

Like Szczesny, he has proved himself as a consistent Premier League player, capable of competing with the best players in Europe.

 

Thomas Vermaelen

The Belgian was a relative unknown when he arrived from Ajax in the summer of 2009 as a replacement for Kolo Toure but he is now one of the first names on the team sheet.

Vermaelen’s tackling ability and willingness to attack the ball make him a natural leader at the back and he is more than capable at the other end too, scoring eight goals in his debut campaign – including a couple of long-range specials against Wigan and Blackburn.

That said, the Belgian has made it clear that he would swap his goals for more clean sheets – the true currency of a title-winning defender.

Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2010.The centre back was voted Ligue 2 Player of the Year in 2009, moved to Lorient that summer and excelled in his only season in the French top flight before earning a transfer to Emirates Stadium.

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The Frenchman is a quick-thinking centre back who reads the game exceptionally well and can turn defence into attack in an instant. He is comfortable in possession, loves to bring the ball out from the back and has settled in fast. He still has his whole career ahead of him and in the next few seasons he could prove to be a vital player for Arsenal.

Gael Clichy

Clichy, 25, joined Arsenal from Cannes in August 2003, and during his time with the Gunners made 264 appearances in all competitions.

In his debut season with Arsenal, Gael became the youngest player at the time to win a Premier League medal in 2004, aged 18 years and 10 months. Soon after, Clichy established himself as a mainstay of Arsène Wenger’s side and also a regular with the France national team.

Since moving to Mancini’s side, he has added a Premier League title to his name, whilst establishing himself as arguably the best left back in the league.

Alex Song

In the past three seasons Song has established himself as Arsenal’s No 1 defensive midfielder.

Strong in the tackle, positionally aware and a good distributor of the ball, he is becoming a master at protecting his back four, breaking up opposition forays and initiating attacks.

Arsène Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 formation allowed Alex to flourish this season in his preferred position behind the more attack-minded midfielders. His partnership with Jack Wilshere could become the backbone of an Arsenal side for years to come.

Jack Wilshere

Skillful, strong, inventive and versatile, Wilshere is one of the most exciting young talents in the English game.

He joined Arsenal in 2001 as a nine-year-old and has enjoyed a meteoric rise ever since.

Wilshere gained experience on loan at Bolton in 2009/10 and took the Premier League by storm in the 2010-2011 season, making more appearances than any other Arsenal player as he cemented his place in midfield.

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Jack is not only established at Arsenal – he’s was quickly becoming an important part of the England side too, until an injury-filled season hampered his progress.

When he regains full fitness, both teams will be looking to the youngster for inspiration for many years to come.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2011, for £29 million. Since, he has achieved success in various competitions with his new club, including the Spanish Copa del Rey and the FIFA Club World Cup. Even before departing Arsenal, Fabregas had become a European Championship and World Cup Winner with Spain.

The 25-year-old playmaker had aleady proven his class in the Premier League and at a World Stage. Having been with Arsenal for the majority of his career, Fabregas had become a key part of the Arsene Wenger’s squad, becoming the team’s captain in 2008.

Had Fabregas remained at the Emirates, he may have convinced several other players to stay. Regardless, he alone is a star player in any European side, with the right set up around him, the Spaniard could have easily captained Arsenal to European glory.

Mikel Arteta

Arteta signed a four-year deal with the Club after completing his move from Everton on transfer deadline day in August 2011.

The Spanish midfielder has a wealth of Premier League experience, having been at Goodison Park since 2005. He proved his worth to Arsenal fans with some impressive performances throughout the season, until an injury put him out of action for the latter stages.

Arteta would have been a key figure in this Arsenal team, not only does he provide assists; he also has an admirable goal scoring record for a midfielder.

Samir Nasri

In his first season and a half in England, Nasri demonstrated that he was ideally suited to Arsenal’s slick pass and move philosophy but despite some impressive displays, there was always the impression that a more complete player was waiting to get out.

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Such suspicions were confirmed when Nasri really kicked into gear midway through the 2009-10 campaign, his penetrative runs and artistry ensuring that the loss of Fabregas through injury did not hit the Gunners as hard as many observers predicted.

He took his fine form into the following season scoring 15 times and emerging as Arsenal’s main creative force alongside Fabregas.

Since leaving Wenger’s side, he has added a Premier League trophy to the list of his career achievements. Despite only being a fringe player at City, Nasri has proved time and time again that he can perform at the highest level.  He would have been a key player in this squad.

Robin Van Persie

Robin van Persie has now moved into the prime of his career. The Dutchman enjoyed a successful World Cup in 2010 and went from strength to strength last season, scoring 30 goals in 37 Premier League matches.

Van Persie’s quality has never been in doubt. He is an expert goal-taker and goal-maker with a penchant for free-kicks. That description fitted another of Arsenal’s famous Dutchmen and it was no surprise when the 28-year-old took Dennis Bergkamp’s No 10 shirt when it became available last season.

At times, injury has hampered his contribution but the Dutch striker is experienced, tenacious and passionate. He leads Arsenal’s attack and they can always count on him for goals.

Conclusion

Had Wenger managed to keep some of the key players at Arsenal, they could have had a first team easily capable of mounting a serious challenge in Europe. This is an outstanding selection of players when you consider how they are performing for their current clubs.

These players, supported by Wenger’s usual selection of youth players and a couple of the transfers made (Arteta, Chamberlain, Koscielny etc) would have provided the perfect formula for Champions League success. It’s just a shame that some of them decided to leave.

Please comment with your thoughts and opinions.

Article Categories:
Arsenal

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

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