The sound of many gauntlets being thrown down

The manager has challenged his team to show that they’re winners by coming back stronger next season. He says:

We were close this year but we did not win and what I expect from my team is that, if you are a winner, you say ‘let’s come back next year and win’. If our players are not capable of doing that and just want to walk out for bigger contracts, for me that would be the biggest disappointment.

Not only to not win this year but to not be capable of coming back together.

A nice little dig at the departed Flamini there and the gauntlet well and truly thrown down to the rest of the players. While the manager admits the Flamini situation wasn’t handled as well as it might have been the fact is he was on the point of leaving last summer, a new deal had been on the table since before Christmas and the player held all the aces when it came to negotiations. Had Flamini made the breakthrough a season earlier I’m sure he’d still be our player now. Oh well. Such is life.

We’ve seen Wenger’s teams come back from intense disappointments before and he’s obviously looking to replicate that. You just wonder if there isn’t quite the right character with some of the players. Is new leadership on the pitch required? A fresh face in the coaching staff? We’ll see.

Gael Clichy is a young man who has his head well and truly screwed on. He has warned players thinking of leaving that the grass is not always greener on the other side, saying:

No one can ever say they are leaving to win trophies because you don’t know what you are going to find when you join another team. Thierry Henry left us because maybe he wanted to win La Liga or the Champions League with Barcelona. But that is not how it worked out.

With the squad we have at Arsenal I am sure we are going to do something great very soon. All I am saying is that if everyone at Arsenal sticks together we can achieve so much.

We often talk about how continuity in managerial positions brings its rewards. Clubs, in England anyway, that chop and change their managers rarely win trophies. I suppose that could translate itself to the pitch as well. The longer the players stay together the better they know each other, the more of a team they become. However, there is the danger that things can go stale, that fresh faces are needed to add something to the squad as well. I’m certainly in agreement with Gael that we can’t possibly allow the number of players to go that papers and fans have been speculating about, that would be ruinous, but at the same time I don’t think it would be wrong to accept that some of the players in squad aren’t quite first team material.

We know that the manager wants to keep Hleb, I’d say beyond Lehmann he probably doesn’t want anyone to go. The more players that leave the more players we need to bring in this summer and while we do have some promising up and comers that’s not the sort of augmentation the squad needs. Experience is vital or we’ll have another batch of youngsters learning the hard lessons.

Emmanuel Adebayor is looking to improve for the season ahead, quashing any rumours he might on his way out. He’s quite candid about the fact he’s scored a lot but admits he’s missed chances too. Still, at 30 goals he has every right to look back on his season with a measure of pride. However, the manager isn’t going to allow him to rest on his laurels, by any means. He says:

I believe if Adebayor keeps his work ethic, there is still 20 per cent more to come from him. Does he want it enough – to get this extra 20 per cent out? Well that is where his future lies. If you lose that desire, you quickly become a nobody. We have seen players before, when they start getting the recognition, they ease off in their team work, and very quickly they die.

There were some suggestions that this was exactly what happened to him when he went through his fallow spell but I think that would be unfair. I think there were games when he felt the effects of playing up on his own for so long and doing so much work but the manager is dead right to spell it out the way he did. You start each season from scratch and he’s got it all to do again next time around. Hard work, that effort and running he puts in, will play a huge role in how successful he is.

Arsene says Jens Lehmann helped Manuel Almunia improve as a goalkeeper. I think ‘help’ probably isn’t the right word. I’d say he gave him about as much help as you’d give a Sp*rs fan with a broken down car at the side of a country road who was about to be raped by a bear, but I take his point about the pressure to perform bringing out the best in the Spaniard. He knew that if he fucked up then Jens would be ready and waiting to take his place. What a shame we didn’t have that kind of competition for places in other areas of the field this season.

Spare a thought this morning for poor old Freddie Ljungberg. After less than a year at West Ham they’re willing to pay him £3m to go away. It’s a hard life being a footballer, eh? In seriousness though, it is sad to see a guy like Freddie, who was so excellent for us, suffer the constant injuries which have slowed him down so much. A move to Spain might just suit him.

Right, finally for today the RNG has done its stuff and picked the winners for the Cesc TV show. I asked you which Arsenal player ‘Scarface Begs’ was an anagram of. To the people who answered ‘Bacary Sagna’ can I please have some of whatever you’re smoking, and to the man who said ‘Kanu’ I am lost for words! Anyway, the two winners are Chris Athanasi and Mark Nicoll. Well done to you both, I’ll drop you a mail when I have all the details about how to get your tickets.

Right then, till tomorrow.