Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Premier League season guide 2009-10 - Arsenal

The club

Party manifesto

"The Emirates super-state believes in free movement of skilled teenage labour, a sustainable approach to recycling the ball somewhere near the halfway line and benevolent dictatorship by an increasingly grumpy Frenchman in a blue coat."

Fat cats or hard times

Yet to buy into the new billionairism, so dependent on the silent hordes at bijou Islington residence. Jabba the Hut body double and main shareholder Alisher 'Keys' Usmanov has other ideas.

Their idea of dreamland

The theory: elastic-limbed graduates of the North London School of the Cushioned Backheel learn to reproduce Total Wengerball at will and kick-start era of futuristic European dominance. The reality: Kieran Gibbs falling over.

The table doesn't lie

Fourth and a Champions League semi-final looks like a decent season, but no trophies since 2005 has begun to grate. If the Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen settles, the squad already looks stronger.

If they had three wishes

1 World-class Patrick Vieira-style (circa 1998) midfielder discovered having kickabout outside Holloway Road branch of Chicken Cottage

2 Fifa decrees points to be awarded for artistic merit and ability to play intricate double-shimmy wall-pass

3 Real Madrid, Manchester City and other moneyed bullies continue not realising how good Andrey Arshavin is.

What a typical fan says

"Mmmm the prosciutto & sage chicken skewers with roast pepper aioli are divine. Where's everyone going?... The second half of what?"

The players

New kid in town Thomas Vermaelen

The left-footed Belgian arrived for £10.4m from Ajax, where he was captain last season, and is expected to slot straight into central defence.

English passion v foreign flair

Wenger preaches the pan-global melting pot, hence 11 different nationalities in the team at the end of last season. But there are stirrings of something else: feisty British bulldogs Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere could all play big roles this year.

Watch out for

Carlos Vela: the best thing to come out of Mexico since guacamole. Left-footed, wonderfully balanced and a scorer of spectacular goals – like a young Robbie Fowler only without the clothes peg on his nose.

Unsung hero

His foot keeps falling off. His knees are held together with hairy string. But Robin van Persie still scored 21 times last season and is a goal-every-other-start merchant. Interplay with Arshavin will be key.

Do not match the ambition of...

Recent superstar-feeder-club status has begun to sit uneasily. Cesc Fábregas keeps being 'mistranslated', waffling about Barcelona in the Spanish press. William Gallas always appears to be on the verge of bursting into tears.

Most likely to date Danielle Lloyd

Nicklas Bendtner had his drunken nightclub-exit upskirt moment last season. But he's not like that really. Although, Henri Lansbury does list at least a thousand very thin orange women among his Facebook friends.

National treasure

Wilshere, the best young English player anywhere. Has trickery, vision and hunger. A bit of a lab experiment, too: the first Englishman to go right through academy to first team under Wenger. More please. We want more of these. At least 10 more.

The manager

Arsène Wenger

Put your medals on the table

Invented broccoli and yoga in his first season, won the Double in his second and had the Invincibles in 2003–04. Arsenal's most gong-laden manager.

What's his style?

Puritanical vision of homogenised supra-national excellence. ie: jet-heeled Eritrean teenagers constructing dizzying 17-pass move that ends in goal-kick.

Will almost certainly complain about...

Media. Team losing. Team being clogged. Media reports of his team being clogged while losing.

If they want to get ahead they could wear a...


Flimsy but eye-catching, revolutionary spin on conventional classic. Often worn by congregation at weddings but very rarely by those who end the campaign with silverware and champagne-fuelled consummation. Offers no protection from rain, cold, sleet and other assorted rough northern elements but looks good while it lasts.

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