On the Fringe: Who Will Come of Age in the 2008/2009 Season

Could Denilson help fill the void left by Flamini next season?

Triplec1988, proud member of TheGoonerForum

Whilst the 2007/2008 campaign ended in sheer disappointment, there were also many bright spots along the way.  Three of them were Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and Alex Song.  All three began the season as boys and finished as men.

Theo’s brace in the away draw at Birmingham ushered in a new wave of skill, confidence and maturity which materialized itself most notably in Theo’s amazing run in the away leg of Champion’s League quarter final match at Anfield.  Bendtner’s skill finally started to catch up to his ego as he stepped onto the pitch and scored the winner in with his first touch at home to Spurs.  Bendtner, who had a frustrating beginning to the season, ended up saving an additional two draws as well as netting a few more goals and grabbing some assists as he was given a run out in the end of the season.

Alex Song is perhaps the dark horse of this group.  The man once lauded as Arsene Wenger’s worst buy is on his way to becoming another great Arsenal success story.  Most used as a CB in Carling Cup matches, Alex won some praise with a sublime through ball to Eduardo to score the winner in the Carling Cup match against Rovers.   While some might have been surprised by his exception performance at Rovers, most were shocked when he received a call up for Cameroon this January for the African Cup of Nations and even more dumbfounded when Alex was named in the squad of the tournament, a crowning achievement for all of his hard work.  It wasn’t until April however that we were able witness Song’s best performance yet.  Alex was a surprise inclusion as Arsene Wenger’s side traveled to Old Trafford for a crucial league match against Manchester United.  Even more surprising was the young African’s inclusion in the starting line up.  Alex was not phased though as he rose the challenge and put in an outstanding performance which earned him a run as a starting in the back line through the end of the season.

All of these players might have had a hiccup along the way, but at the end of the long and grueling campaign all three had cemented themselves as a vital part of Arsenal’s squad.  With so many youngsters in the Arsenal youth system a few players will again surely rise to the challenge and work their way into the squad, adding vital depth down the stretch.  Here are my predictions on who to look out for in the 2008/2009 season.

DENILSON: The highly touted Brazilian was thought to finally become an integral part of the Arsenal squad.  Featuring quite early and often, Denilson had a promising start to the campaign.  However, inconsistency and injury interrupted his play during the middle part of the season.  As he came back into the squad after a long lay off he once again began to show signs of his skill and potential.  My mind comes to the game towards the end of the season when Denilson partnered Cesc in the middle of the pitch.  The two worked beautiful throughout the game and helped earn the Gunners a win.  I remember the superb pass he played to Walcott down to the byline to help set up one of the goals, it was a touch of class.  Barring injury I think Denilson will be vital in the middle of the pitch, potentially sharing time with the aging Gilberto and partnering with Cesc in the center.  He works tirelessly on the pitch and displays a wide range of shots, crosses and passes.  I think if the youngster can improve his defense and marking over the summer he can play a key roll in Arsenal’s challenge for the title next season.

CARLOS VELA: Perhaps not the most audacious pick, but a wise one nevertheless.  Carlos is touted as a superb talent and it is easy to see why.  The young Mexican put on quite a display while on loan at Spanish outfit Osasuna last season.  In one game against Real Madrid, Carlos stole the show with his wide range of skill, turning even Sergio Ramos inside out.  After three long years, Carlos will finally be given his chance to fight for a place in the squad.  Currently on duty for Mexico right now he is giving Gooners much to look forward to.  Netting two goals in his last two games for the senior side.  Carlos’ pace, passing and eye for goal will be a welcome addition to the squad.  While the lad is primarily a striker he was used in the left midfield at Osasuna last season and that is where we can expect to see him feature most this coming season.  I expect Vela to be used similar to how Theo was this season, as a super sub.  It will surely take the youngster a while to get acclimated to the league but I expect Carlos to become a key member of the Arsenal squad come February.

HAVARD NORDVEIT: The surprise inclusion I believe will work his way into the first team and add some welcome competition along the back line.  After finishing his first season at Arsenal with the reserves, Havard won praise for his maturity and skill from coaches and teammates alike.  Already the captain of the side, the towering youngster even made the bench on the last match of the season for the senior squad.  Arsene Wenger rates the youngster highly, singing his praise here.

“Physically we need to get him up to the Premiership level, at the moment he is a bit behind. But technically and tactically he is already there. He is an intelligent boy with good vision. He has a good pass out from the back and he is strong too.  I hope that he can develop well.”

With Djourou failing to live up to his potential in the back and hinting at  move to the midfield, Nordveit could get his chance to move up the first team this season.  With the error prone Senderos and over rated Gallas as competition, who knows, perhaps the young Norwegian could be given a run.  If Havard hits the gym this summer and pumps some iron I think we would get to see him in action for the first team next season, becoming a crucial part of our cup competition squads and maybe even getting a crack at the Premier League.

Join the debate over at TheGoonerForum.

11 Responses to On the Fringe: Who Will Come of Age in the 2008/2009 Season

  1. Nickynicknick says:

    I think youre spot on with all of these and I wouldnt be surprised if another one of the younger bunch burst through as well. The obvious thought is Ramsey if he is given a run out in the Carling squad.
    I’m really looking forward to seeing it all take shape and showing the spuds that it takes a generation to build a team, not one season of cash flashing and a manager with another dodgy accent.

  2. Mike says:

    think outa the list above. i personlly thing it would be Carlos Vela. think he has what it takes for him to push for the first team str8 away. also believe Denilson would be a better player than he was lst season

  3. Norms says:

    Funnily enough I’ve always rated Song even though he was horribly frustrating. But somehow you could see the talent of a really good player wanting to get out of one delivering dross.

    I watched the African nations Cup as it was on TV here (Cape Town, where I’ve lived for 4 years) every day and he was outstanding. Passing, tackling, a football brain and I was delighted to seem him in our first team as the season drew to a close. Wait until the coming season and hopefully we will see him further mature into a cornerstone of the side.

    That was an excellent article and with a little luck all four of the players will become footballers in the mould we have grown to love….. real footballers playing in a truly skilful side. Roll on 2008-09.

  4. George says:

    Who will partner Cesc? That’s the $64,000 question.

  5. Mike is 8 years old says:

    Wow, people still do that “1st” crap….sad that it’s a gunner too.

  6. Stone says:

    Before last season most people were pretty certain how the starting line-up would be:

    That turned out to be totally wrong as Almunia, Sagna and Flamini all become vital parts of the side and Adebayor became first choice of all the strikers. But now I have no clue how the side will be by the start of the season. I would guess that with everybody fit, it would look something like this:

    The DM and CB positions look up in the air and the right wing and strikers are uncertain. What if Hleb stays after all? What if Ade will be sold? What if we don’t get a new DM? What if we don’t get a new CB?

    We have a lot of potential in midfield with Song, Djourou, Diaby, Denilson, Lansbury and Ramsey plus the likes of Toure and Gilberto. We do not, however, have anybody that most fans would feel comfortable with in this highly important position.

    In defence we just must make some changes. Kolo and Gallas should never play together again, that’s it. I can see Song as a replacement but not a partner for either one of them, he is the same height. Nordveit will be the eventual solution but I doubt that he is ready yet. Djourou and Senderos have been dissapointing after amazing starts of their careers. Djourou was the same age as Nordveit is now at the beginning of the 05/06 season. He ended up playing 7 league games and I think most people would say he did pretty good. Who knows, maybe in 1 year we will have a defence of Song and Nordveit together. That sounds like an excellent partnership.

  7. nagagunner says:


    We are taking this flamini situation too lightly. I wont be as easy to replace him!!!

  8. Passenal says:

    nagagunner – last season you would have said the same about Flamini replacing Gilberto. Denilson is a much more talented footballer than Flamini and just because he had an injury disrupted campaign last season, which prevented him showing all his skills, it does not mean he cannot cover that role. Also, Diaby will get more chances in the middle and whenever Cesc has played with one or both of them, our midfield has been outstanding. Ask Chelski who they ran rings around before the unfortunate JT incident and the departure of Diaby from the CC final.

  9. Stone says:

    Flamini is a much better tackler than probably all of our other midfield players. Gilberto is much more talented positionally and defensively but his play doesn´t fit with the Fabregas ball that Arsenal plays. The DM position isn´t all about who is the best player, it´s just about who fits best with Fabregas.

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