Friday, January 19, 2007

Lauren's off: where does this leave our full-backs?

Yes, he of the 10,000 mile death-stare has gone to play 'abroad' [as Sol thinks at least] at Portsmouth. It does seem a bit odd that Arsene so hastily shipped him off after Ralph was within days of a return to the first team after a year on the sidelines. One can only conclude that Arsene thinks that he'll never be the player he was before the injury, or that in keeping Ralph he could impede the development of Justin Hoyte and Eboue.

The latter would seem to be the case given some of Arsene's recent comments. Indeed it seems incredible that Justin has gone from a player who many thought had no real future at the club, to perhaps becoming our first choice right back. Whilst Eboue undoubtedly has the edge on Justin in terms of attacking flair, he remains painfully suspect at the back. Like Gael, he too often lets the ball float over his head to players on the wing behind him, or lets players behind him cut in to score. Moreover, his theatrics are becoming an embarrasment to the club. Arsene has publicly voiced his displeasure at Eboue's diving and play-acting, and even his team-mates seemed to give him short-shrift during his confrontations in the Spud derby.

Could Justin, therefore, be first choice right back? Perhaps. He has definitely shown signs of improvement over recent weeks - including a very Lauren-esque death stare against Tugay in the Blackburn match last week -but he struggles when getting forward.

A combination of Justin and Eboue's plus points would therefore possibly create an ideal right-back; individually, neither of them are anywhere near the finished article. Personally, I would have liked Arsene to have retained Lauren to oversee Justin and Manu's development for the rest of the season at least. I'd definitely have preferred Lauren's experience for a few more months than the paltry sum we'll receive from Portsmouth.

The question remains therefore: will Justin or Manu really make the grade? And how long should we wait until we find out. Similar questions could be asked about the ability of Clichy to really become a permanent replacement for Cashley. I do worry that, at least at present, we have 3 full-backs who would all be excellent cover, but don't warrant starting positions. Could a case be made for recalling Kerry Gilbert, or does his future lie elsewhere? Hopefully, they'll all prove me wrong.

To finish, a picture that says everything about Lauren's commitment to the Arsenal. Goonerboy, obviously, does not condone violence on the football pitch. But United? at OT? That game, along with the 0-0 v madrid recently, were surely two of the greatest 0-0s of all time. It was worth the fines and suspensions. Thanks and so long Ralphy.


Anonymous said...

"Personally, I would have liked Arsene to have retained Lauren to oversee Justin and Manu's development for the rest of the season at least."

This is a commonly-held view, but the only way players develop after a certain point is by playing, not by watching some other guy play. And both Hoyte and Eboue have obviously passed that point.

If you want to play Lauren ahead of them, that's reasonable, but it certainly won't help their development, it'll hinder it.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed that and glad you pointed to the 'as before' point. after his period out he could well be fully fit, but not as fit as before.

It's obvious from what he's said that Lauren is behind Hoyte and Eboue and whilst it would be lovely to keep him until the end of the season there's another much bigger view. Arsene treated Lauren the right way and given him the options. On the youth side he did the same with Stokes. He's honest with the players and whilst we've lost Lauren/Stokes other players in the club or looking to come in think 'There's a gaffer I can trust to do right by me.'

One thing I think you missed that was in Arsene's press conference was he mentioned a third player after Hoyte (my choice) and Eboue. It was Djorou. Djorou isan incredible talent but i think the way that wenger has played him CH but also mentioned him as back up in midfield and right back shows how highly he rates the kid.

I think Djorou (now I look at the name I wonder if I'm spelling it right!) is the next guy who's going to reach Cesc levels and Arsene is going to use him as 'sub of choice' by the end of the season to integrate him.

Don't often comment on sites but as I said I enjoyed that.

Anonymous said...

Eboue has given us a new dimension going forward & I think his problems are more mental. Clichy is a steady left back & I dont think theres a better left back out there apart from Cole but I can see Traore taking over in a season or two. I dont think Hoyte is good enough for Arsenal. Gilbert maybe

Sad to see Ralph go but he is 30 & Wenger is right in looking towards the future. If we got 1.5m from Portsmouth for him then thats a decent fee

Anonymous said...

People keep carrying on about our fullbacks and whether they will ever be 'good enough'. I hate to bust out the old 'Arsene Knows' cliche but honestly, Eboue's antics aside, they're not bad. The only way forward from here for them is up really, and they're only going to improve with each and every match. Clichy is a good example, he has impressed me very very much in the past couple of weeks, I thought he looked excellent, getting forward with purpose as well as putting in some important tackles. They just need time but I'm sure they will become very good players in the not-too-distant future.

tunadog said...

Think you are totally wrong about Gael Clichy..the guy will be as good as cashley , remember he was out for nearly a year & in such circumstances it takes a few games to find your feet but in the last couple of games he has been exceptional.Am very disappointed by Ralphs departure i am far from convinced about Justin Hoyte & feel Ralph has been sold more for financial reasons than playing ability.I thought that Kerrea Gilbert showed far more promise than Hoyte & i would prefer to see him given his chance.

Anonymous said...

Clichy is class and has shown it in recent weeks, he has just recently recovered from an injury almost as severe as laurens and as expected took a few games to find form. he is good as cole waws at his age, and has the potential to be better going forward. Even when he does let the ball go over his head to wingers he doesnt do it in the same way as eboue, he watches the ball the whole way and his pace usually bails him out of emberassment, lets just hope it does against Man U

Tom said...

Gael Clichy is *better* than Cole was at his age, imho. Yes, he's got a few flaws in his game just as a younger Cole displayed (and maybe still displays), in particular - a tendency for being caught out of position. However we can't have it both ways ... if we play with attacking flair tht requires our FB's to get forward with pace and width - it is a fact of life that every now and again they'll not be in the right spot at the right time. Clichy is learning to improve in this aspect and doing it pretty quickly. He also promises more threat going forward but as yet he doesn't seem to have the confidence to get past the last man or shoot. His running out of defence with the ball at his feet could become a major asset for us.

Eboue has been outstanding for us to be honest. Sure, everyone is pissed off with the amateur dramatics and he has to cut it out or else he'll have to leave the club because the fans will not accept that playacting. I'm certain it will stop. He'll be a better player for it - and be respected by the fans. He has awesome pace over short distances, hence his threat in the box. As with Gael he needs to tighten up his defensive work in terms of positioning but he can improve, and he will.

Both players are very very young and only first team action will bring them on, but for sure one day these guys will be more complete players, more mature men and Arsenal heroes!

Get in the Arsenal!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think that Arsene is 100% right with his plans for the full-back positions. Eboue was in the top three for best defender in the Champions League last year- not bad if he is as crap as people here make out. Hoyte is an intelligent and hard-working lad with bags of talent. Both have work to do to improve their defending but all Arsenal full-backs have a habit of getting caught in front of the ball - Lauren did, Cole did and so do our current group. Cliche and Traore are progressing fantastically well and I am sure they will be outstanding.

Regarding Lauren, he is 30 years old and his contract would have ended in June. He knows that Eboue and Hoyte (and possibly Gilbert) will be vying for that position going forward, so I wouldn't have been surprised if he had been considering alternative clubs. My guess is that he told Arsene he would prefer to move on, if he couldn't be guaranteed the number one spot and, of course, there is no way that Arsene could have done that.

So, keep the faith. It is all going very well!

Anonymous said...

I watched Cole playing at Anfield today. Half an hour had gone before I noticed he was playing; he was very mediocre and I wouldn't swap him for any of our current full backs.

Anonymous said...

That was an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable article. Whilst I do not follow Arsenal specifically I have long admired the manner in which Arsene manages his team and provides youth with an opportunity. His shrewd ability to identify, nurture and develop footballing talent to its full potential is unparalleled, and, something not always acknowledged, done without investing huge sums. The consistently impressive Carling Cup performances are a true testimony to this aspect of Wenger's management and picks up on one of the 'special one's' major weaknesses. Whilst a small squad may appear like a good idea for the purpose of developing unity within the ranks (something that clearly hasn't worked at Stamford Bridge might I add) it conspires to ensure that the team is rather debilitated when key injuries are sustained. Compare the respective ability of Arsenal and Chelsea to cope with injuries to key players (Arsenal - Gallas Chelsea - Terry) and this point is more than substantiated.

So in light of that I don't think you need overly lament the parting of Lauren for you have within your ranks a number of more than able successors. Eboue's theatrics aside, he is an excellent prospect. As you so rightly said, his attacking prowess is fantastic and something that rarely fails to cause other teams problems. His defensive deficiencies are not so apparent to an outsider like myself I must admit but I think it is something that regardless comes with time and experience. So Lauren's departure should probably be viewed as another example of good business.

Anyway, this afternoon is what it's all about really. A true test for both sides if ever there was one. The two best sides in the Premier league never fail to produce compelling contests and I a sure this one will be no different. The game will as ever be won or lost in midfield and it will doubtless be fascinating so see who triumphs between your midfield and Carrick and Scholesy. I am still not entirely convinced that they are an effective partnership. However, they were not actually paired when we played you at Old Trafford and have certainly been instrumental since in establishing us at the top of the league. So today will provide a true examination of our current midfield fulcrum. The absence of Gilberto will benefit us I must say. He has been in fine form this season. As has the unsung Hleb. Such close control - its amazing that he is not Brazilian. He has this amazing ability to ghost past players with his quick feet. And his link up play is rarely short of exquisite. Another shrewd capture. Quite why United failed to express an interest in him (and Rosicky for that matter) remains a mystery to me. I can only assume that Fergie views Carrick as Scholesy's successor...

Anyway, best of luck for this afternoon. There will doubtless be a match report on this page to come! I shall look forward to reading it. Come on United!!!