Renaming Gillespie Road: Arsenal Tube Station

If you’ve ever taken the Piccadilly Line down to Highbury or Ashburton Grove you might have noticed the old tiles on the platform walls proclaiming the station to be Gillespie Road. Indeed, when you exit the station, you find yourself on Gillespie Road itself. If you know a little about the history of Arsenal, or the tube, you probably know why.

Arsenal Station, Piccadilly Line, previously known as Gillespie Road. London Underground. Source: Wikimedia

The story of the renaming of Gillespie Road station is always there, part of Arsenal folklore. It is intertwined with glorious memories of Arsenal’s ascendancy to greatness from the low point of 1913 through to success with Herbert Chapman in the late 1920s and the 1930s, and sits alongside the addition of white sleeves to the shirt or the development of the WM formation. Chapman’s infamous words on the tube, apparently, were “Whoever heard of Gillespie Road? It’s Arsenal round here!”

But how many of you have heard the full story? Recently The Arsenal History, and then the brilliant London Reconnections have featured two wonderful articles about the truth behind the renaming.

Firstly, in October, Andy Kelly of the Arsenal History revealed that the name of the station was actually changed on 31 October 1932, rather than the oft cited date of 5 November 1932.

More recently John Bull provided some fantastic insights into the renaming in his article “It’s Arsenal Round Here”. He pointed out that there is little direct evidence for the famous Chapman quote, and gives some context in terms of the development of the London Underground:

Logistically, Chapman’s timing was also perfect. With work underway to extend the (now) Piccadilly line north to Cockfosters, a complete update of all of the line’s maps, machines and other assets was already on the cards. Much has been made in some sources about Chapman persuading the Underground to foot the bill, but the reality is that they were about to (and had already budgeted for) many of those changes anyway – tweaking one more station name wouldn’t exactly break the bank.

In the end, the station officially became “Arsenal (Highbury Hill)” on the 31 October 1932. “Arsenal Stadium” had also been considered, according to a contemporary account in the Islington Gazette, but was ultimately seen as a step too far by the Combine. Eventually the “Highbury Hill” would be quietly dropped from the name by London Transport in 1960.

via @lonrec

Andy Kelly also points out that Arsenal have not one, but two stations on the London Tube Map which relate to their name, the second being the Woolwich Arsenal DLR station. This serves the area Arsenal originated in, around the The Royal Arsenal munitions factory in Woolwich, an area which they departed from in 1913 under the stewardship of Sir Henry Norris, relocating to Highbury (also originally named after Gillespie Road). The club played their first league game at home in North London on 6 September 1913, following strong opposition from Tottenham and after being relegated to the Second Division – the last time that Arsenal were relegated from the upper division of English football.

Each of these moments represents an important step in the creation of the modern Arsenal and supported their transformation into one of the most dominant club sides in England.

Recalling Rémi: Garde joins Arsenal, 1996

Today Arsène Wenger and Rémi Garde will face each other as Premier League managerial opponents for the first time when Arsenal meet Rémi’s new club, Aston Villa. This marks a significant point in the story of the Wenger’s 19 year affair with the English game, because as we will discuss, Rémi represents Wenger’s earliest influence at Arsenal.

Rémi Garde’s entry for the 1999 Panini album (Credit: @OldSchool Panini)

Rémi famously arrived at Arsenal aged 30 from Strasbourg on the same day as Patrick Vieira, 14 August 1996. Although they are hailed as Arsène’s first signings, Wenger did not actually join the club from Nagoya Grampus Eight until over a month later, on 30 September 1996. In fact, both signings were made on his recommendation.

ArseWeb’s rumour entry for 15 August 1996 provides a fascinating insight into the sentiment prior to Wenger’s announcement: the signing of the two Frenchmen added weight to the rumours that were circulating about his impending appointment. In a strange twist of fate the rumour entry for that day then mentions that Arsenal were being linked with Tim Sherwood, the very man Rémi has replaced as manager of Aston Villa:

In addition Remi Garde said something rather revealing:
“I’m glad to be signing for a club like Arsenal and working with Arsene Wenger.”
We are also still being linked with Tim Sherwood. The Mirror claims that a £4million deal is being finalised.

Rémi recalls the initial absence of Wenger, but that they were already in regular contact:

“I spent more time on the phone than face to face because as you will remember he was still in Japan. I was at the Colney training centre. He called me every night to have news and find out about how it was going in the training sessions and everything.”

This adds weight to the idea that Garde (fluent in English and his native French) was brought in as an ‘inside man’ for Wenger, allowing him to gauge rapport within the dressing room, adding an experienced Francophone ally to a mostly traditional English Arsenal team, easing the transition and inclusion of other ‘Continental’ players he was adding to the squad.

Rémi’s arrival at Arsenal did make a big impression on the players at the time, as Martin Keown comments:

“I remember when Remi Garde first arrived…you could say it was the beginning of a French revolution at the club…We watched these arrivals with great interest…you could not fail to be impressed by him and the other French players Wenger brought in. I remember training with them at the gym and thinking: ‘These guys are serious professionals. They mean business.’”

ArseWeb documented Garde’s debut, in a match report by Derek Brownjohn for the three-nil win over Leeds United at Highbury in October 1996:

“Remi Garde made his long awaited debut with about 10 minutes left, coming on for the injured Wright (a slight groin strain apparently which should only keep him out of training for a couple of days), to complete a thoroughly satisfactory day for the Highbury faithful.”

Rémi replaced Ian Wright in the eightieth minute, and was rated half a point higher that Steve Morrow in the report for the day:

“Morrow 6.0 Probably not fair to judge him on only about 10 minutes.

Garde 6.5 Ditto, though he looked to have a good confident touch.”

Garde went on to win a league winner’s medal in 1997/98, after which he announced his retirement, only to renege. He continued for another season, until finally retiring in June 1999, having been out since that February with an injury.

In total, Rémi made 43 Arsenal appearances, including 16 as a substitute. He was always a ‘squad player’, but his arrival and departure marked important moments of transition: the start and end of Arsène’s Generation 1.0 team. It was Generation 2.0 who would go on to win the 2002 double and form the foundation for the ‘Invincibles’ team of 2004.

Garde became a pundit, and subsequently worked his way up from coach to become manager at Lyon in June 2011. He left at the end of the 2013/2014 season, and took a sabbatical before joining Aston Villa on 2 November 2015.

Wenger, and his old colleague Gérard Houllier (also once of Villa), played a part in advising Garde to take the role at Villa Park. On joining Rémi reminisced about Arsenal, and Wenger’s legacy:

“I remember the club at Arsenal 20 years ago without training facilities, without a modern stadium like they have today…All this has to be credited to Arsène…A football club is not only the results you get today but also how you will build for the future for yourself or for another manager for or another chairman or owner.”

Clearly, Garde still retains great respect for his former boss. By the close of today, we’ll find out whether mentor was able to outmatch the master.

Reshuffle: Will Welbeck bring enough to the table? Is Arsène a card short in his defensive deck this season?

At the last showing Arsenal’s weaknesses were rather exposed. Against Leicester the team missed Olivier Giroud, while injury to Laurent Koscielny was a reminder of the shortage of central defenders. The question sailing on the final draught whistling insistently through the closing transfer window was whether the late signing of Danny Welbeck and a preparedness to juggle defensive options would be enough to cover the gaps?

Welbeck's shirt hangs in Arsenal's Changing Room
Welbeck’s shirt hangs in Arsenal’s Changing Room

The sound of Arsenal’s travelling support imploring Wenger to buy another striker echoed around the King Power Stadium against the Foxes as Arsenal endured another relatively disjointed game. However, with the capture of Welbeck Wenger will argue that he has conclusively filled that gap. The transfer nay have divided opinion, but there is no doubting that there is potential for success.

However, it is that other conspicuous gap which leaves many concerned. Even last season Arsenal were lightly staffed at centre back, with the first choice of Mertesacker and Koscielny only supported by the benched Thomas Vermaelen, and Bacary Sagna making some commendable emergency appearances in the centre.
It was clear for a long time that Vermaelen’s future lay away from Arsenal and following his departure for Barcelona,
Wenger has admitted that the club need to strengthen the defence.

Debuchy has arrived, a great replacement for Sagna at right back, but not able to cover in the centre. Meanwhile, Chambers has produced some composed performances in that position so far and shown the potential that encouraged Arsène to spend £16 million on securing his services.

However, beyond Chambers the only other senior cover for both right back and centre back berths is Nacho Montreal. Indeed Montreal was deployed at centre back several times during preseason. The further departure of Ignasi Miquel and Carl Jenkinson leaves the defence looking rather sparse.

With some shuffling Arsenal might make it through the season. Perhaps Monreal is seen to have sufficient skill to cover at centre back, something that might get him the increased game time he desires, but Wenger has left himself with a very, very small fig leaf to cover the defence. Any injuries to Mertesacker or Koscielny could spell disaster. Following years of turmoil at the back, defensive stability has been one of the key factors in our improved performances over the past two seasons, the high scoring disasters against the big sides notwithstanding.

Even last season Arsenal played at risk in the centre back position and only made it through with Sagna standing in. Now they have one option fewer.

This approach seems odd and was nicely summed up by Amy Lawrence in the Guardian recently.

However, one should acknowledge that striker was almost as concerning. While it is fair to say that the transfer of Danny Welbeck has not set the world alight, he is an improvement on options in that area and the general consensus is that he is a talented young English player who needs a chance to prove himself. This is an opportunity he will have at Arsenal.

His rather shifty appearance at his first interview belies the shock he must be feeling after deciding to leave the club he has played for for 15 years in just a matter of hours, but the opportunity that awaits him at Arsenal with Giroud out and Sanogo remaining unconvincing is too great. If he can take this on successfully he has the chance to do at Arsenal what he couldn’t quite manage at Old Trafford.

A relatively promising cameo for England against Norway was followed up by a good performance against Switzerland, and most importantly two goals. The second of these was well taken and it is clear that Welbeck has a point to prove. The comments from Van Gaal criticising his development and record should hopefully spur him on to greater things at Arsenal this season.

On internationals, it is a strange feeling to see an England squad with four Arsenal players and more to return. Though this doesn’t say much about Arsenal considering the current quality of the England team, I think it is fair to say that Arsenal have some of the more promising prospects, whether that potential is fulfilled is another question. The British core at the club is oft talked of, and clearly a lesson Wenger has learned following the emotional departures of certain players over recent years.

In terms of the transfer window Arsenal have been relatively successful, barring the fact that they didn’t get the centre back required and appeared a touch disorganised in the last minute chase for a striker that led to Welbeck.

In general the team’s performances so far have been rather stuttering but the side remain undefeated. The real test will come in the next game where they face Manchester City at home. Will Welbeck start in the centre? It seems likely.

Is there a top four threshold? How many points does Arsène need for Champions League qualification?

Following Arsenal’s draw with Everton in midweek the battle for fourth place has only intensified. Arsenal are in action today against Fulham, and though they have been on an impressive league run, taking 13 out of a possible 15 points in the last five games, they remain partially dependent on the results of Tottenham and Chelsea to ensure another year of Champions League football.

Previously we’ve looked at the predictions for fourth place and the historical data on the points needed to remain in that position. An interesting question arises in this situation, which is whether there is a real threshold which must be exceeded in order to take fourth.

The data show that over the past seven seasons the mean points total for clubs finishing fourth has been 70, but this ranged from 67 to 76. Indeed, the lowest points tally of 67 in this period was Arsenal in 2006. The difference is small and if you remove the outliers then we are essentially looking at a four point range for this position for most of this period.

Premier League Year End

Club in Fourth Place

Final Points






















However, if we are looking for the real threshold for fourth place, surely we should be looking at the performance the fifth placed teams to give us an idea of the real minimum which needs to be exceeded to finish higher than fifth.

In fact the points totals for teams finishing fifth in the period from 2006 to 2012 has always been between 60 and 67 points, and once again if the outliers are removed we are looking at a very small variance of three points, indicating that the fluctuations are small and that the data are relatively consistent over this period.

Premier League Year End

Club in Fifth Place

Final Points








Man City














As the mean points for finishing in fifth place approximate to 64, we should then look to this figure as the total to exceed to finish in fourth place, therefore in an average season we might expect teams accumulating at least 65 points to finish fourth.

This season seems to be one of those which will be more competitive and the points total may be higher as Tottenham are on 58, Arsenal 60 and Chelsea on 61 with up to 18 points available (in the case of Tottenham and Chelsea who have six games to play).

Chelsea currently average approximately 1.9 points per game, Tottenham 1.8 and Arsenal 1.8. When this is used to estimate the points across the remaining games Arsenal and Tottenham are both placed on 69 points, and Chelsea 72.

The end-game?










This suggests that the race for fourth should be one of the most intense of the previous seven years, and that goal difference may be a deciding factor.

On the other hand, statistics and data cannot tell the whole story, and this is very much a predictive model, rather than an indicator of reality.

Tottenham themselves still have to play Chelsea who are the current incumbents in third place and also in touching distance, so the final outcome is far from certain. Undoubtedly, the fact that several of these teams are yet to play each other or close competitors, could skew the final result.

However, the model once again does suggest that 70 points would be enough to secure fourth, André Villas-Boas may yet be proved correct. This also shows that the points tally for each position is remarkably consistent. Today’s match against Fulham will provide further data which will go toward proving or disproving this idea.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? The true nature of Arsenal’s season

Arsenal Football Club is in the midst of a particularly turbulent period at the moment. The declining status of the team has been well documented, and inevitably the key fact presented by critics is the ever-increasing number of years without a trophy win.

This has increased from five years to six, seven, eight, until the point where Arsenal supporters no longer expect the side to challenge for the league title each season. Finishing in the top four and perhaps winning the FA Cup is the pragmatic aspiration, and probably closer to the truth.

That there has been a decline in the strength of Arsenal as a footballing force is undeniable. In 2004 they were the Invincibles, having assembled one of the finest sides Europe has produced. A series of failed title attempts followed the next generation with the slow break-up of the young team developed to succeed that pinnacle reached in 2004.

The change in circumstances has generated questions over the ability of Wenger to lead the club into the future, and led some to call for his dismissal. As might be expected it takes some adjustment to move from winning titles to simply scraping into Europe each season, though this is now a reality.

However, it should be noted that the current side is one in transition as Wenger continues the reconstruction process. Arsenal do not possess the team they once did, but Wenger has ensured that there are the building blocks of a much improved side in place.

Not only has he ensured that, but when the constraints Wenger has been working within over recent years are analysed it could be argued that Arsenal have performed better than should be expected.

Furthermore, it is regularly forgotten that the team built around Fabregas was challenging for the title until the final run-in over three seasons, 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2010-11.

In Mid-April 2011 Arsenal sat in second place, six points behind Man Utd but with a game in hand with seven to go. With seven games remaining in 2010 Arsenal were two points behind leaders Man Utd, and with eight to go in 2008 they were only three points behind Utd.

The key point is that though the final league standing has been third or fourth, Arsenal have still challenged for silverware over a number of years, whilst maintaining a place in the Champions League and running at considerably lower cost than rivals who have grown in the era of billionaire owners since 2003.

When viewed in the context of other contenders, very few are as consistent: Liverpool have dropped further and further off the pace after challenging for the title in 2009 and are now regulars in the Europa League. Tottenham have so far failed to build on one season in the Champions League, though they are improved this season. Football post-2003 and Abramovich is a different world and the increased amounts of money make maintaining consistency considerably more challenging when not competing on that unsustainable front.

Arsenal may have seriously struggled the past two seasons, but when placed in context Wenger has performed a minor miracle in pulling together this side and ensuring that Champions League football is still played at the Emirates. Even after a disappointing season Arsenal still now sit within two points of Chelsea in fourth and four of Tottenham in third.

Clearly, fifth place is not desirable, the loss to Bayern was disappointing, and that to Blackburn in the FA Cup was unacceptable, but it could be worse. This is where the glass half-full, half-empty idiom has relevance.

Arsenal’s performances have worsened over the past two seasons, and this is part of a longer term trend, which ultimately led to the break-up of a highly talented side that never fulfilled its potential. However, Wenger still has the team in touching distance of fourth place, even after the difficulties faced over the previous years. Few clubs have managed this and in the meantime the foundation of the next generation of players has been lain in the form of Wilshere, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Calls for Wenger’s dismissal are misguided, the club have taken the right position in backing the manager and stating that they are willing to finance a wholesale improvement of the squad.

Wenger is one of a select few managers who has been able to ensure European competition and therefore, not just income but a selling point for top quality players, and this will also be true for the coming summer.

Even if Wenger failed to bring Arsenal to a fourth place finish, what other manager would be available to take up the helm with the gravitas to bring in top players without Champions League football to offer?

Arsenal are clearly at a turning point, a pivotal moment, where the downward spiral of previous seasons can be arrested or will move further from control, retaining the right to play in the Champions League will be crucial in deciding this.

Strangely, Gary Neville’s well rounded opinion in Tweets with Piers Morgan best sums this up. His extended conversation provided some excellent insight, and think what you like of him as a player, but when providing comment Mr. Neville is positively cultured in comparison with the tabloid-type rubbish from Piers Morgan.

Gary’s later exchange highlighted some very salient points and he is completely correct when he refers to cycles:

“You will look back in twenty years time and state it was the most important 8 years in Arsenal’s history by doing the stadium..and making sure they were set up and haven’t stood still like some. United did their stadium over a period of many decades! Arsenal are sustainable, make profit, have cash and have gone about their business well. Step back slightly to move fwds (sic)!

it’s not perfect but its cycles! Arsenal are set up and in a world of bust clubs/banks etc. they have done the right thing…Others that look good now will have suffered in that time! Trust me!”

Indeed, Arsenal now stand at the beginning of a new cycle and though there have been several tough years it could be worse. There may be no prospect of silverware this season, but the potential to provide upward momentum is there.

After the result against Tottenham in the coming derby there will be much more clarity about the chance to provide the base for this new cycle to blossom. The glass might be more half-full than half-empty, no?

Arsenal vs. Blackburn: The return of the Cup

Arsenal face Blackburn today as FA Cup action returns to the Emirates. Arsenal now enter into a crucial run of six games which may well define the club’s season as all three competitions are up for grabs in the next month.

Wenger is clear that the team will retain focus, due to the fact this is a cup tie, even though there will be the inevitable distraction of the big Champions League game against Bayern on Tuesday.

“If you play a cup game you know if you win you are through. But if you play a championship game it’s just the usual thing and you could already have your mind on Tuesday night. I don’t think in a cup game it pays a big part in it.”

Indeed there’s much riding on this period. The FA Cup was the last trophy the club won before they entered the current drought, and there are many who regularly suggest this might be Wenger’s best chance of silverware. This season that is as true as ever, and a triumph of this type might prove to be a catalyst for this embryonic Arsenal side.

Kicking off at Blackburn Arsenal will enter 540 minutes of football in which the club will being playing for the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League position, with games against Tottenham and Everton. Within four weeks we will understand this team’s chances of success this season, and with it the potential of the longer term impact, whether negative or positive.

In that context, this match will set the tone, and will be important in maintaining confidence ahead of this difficult run.

Blackburn sit at eighth in the Championship currently, but have been through a raft of changes since the buyout by Venky’s, and are still a different animal to that led by Steve Kean last year. Now on their third manager of the season they are attempting to build stability at the club in the shape of new manager Michael Appleton, incidentally the only manager to have been in charge of three different teams in the FA Cup in the same season.

Results against Arsenal prior to their relegation last season were mixed, with a 7-1 at home, but the early season 4-3 defeat away (which incidentally saw the only goal during Chamakh’s long drought). Arsenal need to ensure that defensive brittleness does not occur this time round.

Thomas Vermaelen should return to the side after his injury problems, but Wilshere may not start due to a thigh problem. We may well see further changes as some names are rested ahead of the Bayern tie, and others get a run out in preparation.

Arsenal are on odds of 1.28 to win against the Championship side, and indeed have never lost to a lower league side in the FA Cup under Wenger. However, all too often this team has provided surprises, as Wenger mentioned, retaining focus will be key.

If you fancy a go then you can do so at bwin where you can register.

This period has defined Arsenal’s season over the last few years, and inevitably will do so this time around. Ultimately the team must take one game at a time, maintain focus and aim to fulfil their potential. Blackburn are the first test.

What difference do two seasons make? Arsenal’s average team age vs. Manchester City analysed

Arsenal have moved into a new phase of Wenger’s tenure, with a fourth generation team emerging over the past two seasons.

The early games of this season have seen an altered Arsenal, seemingly rebalanced following the additions of Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud over the summer.

It is clear that the team and transfer policies have changed since losing Cesc Fabregas, but how does this reflect in the team’s ages?

Much was made of the young team that Arsène assembled, built around a core of players such as Fabregas and Van Persie, who joined the club close to the middle of the last decade. Some might have predicted a successful future for that team, but successive failures led to their dismantlement.

The transfer market strategy for new additions over the last two seasons has not had the same emphasis on youth.

Comparing the line-ups: 2010 vs. 2012

In this light we’ve compared Arsenal’s line-up age versus Manchester City on Sunday, with the team which lined up against City away, just two seasons ago, in October 2010:



Vito Mannone, 24 Lukasz Fabianski, 25
Per Mertesacker, 27 Johan Djourou, 23
Laurent Koscielny, 27 Sebastian Squillaci, 30
Carl Jenkinson, 20 Bacary Sagna, 27
Kieran Gibbs, 22 Gael Clichy, 25
Abou Diaby, 26 Alex Song, 23
Mikel Arteta, 30 Denilson, 22
Aaron Ramsey, 21 Samir Nasri, 23
Santi Cazorla, 27 Cesc Fabregas, 23
Lukas Podolski, 27 Andrey Arshavin, 29
Gervinho, 25 Marouane Chamakh, 26
Mean Age: 25.1 Mean Age: 25
Modal Age: 27 Modal Age: 23

The 2012 team has a mean age of 25.1 years. However, just three of the players were younger than 24, and the modal value is 27. This is indicative of the number of more experienced players in the squad.

Meanwhile, the mean age of the 2010 team is similar, at 25 years. However, five of the 11 players were 23 or younger, and the modal value of 23 reflects this. This is indicative of the focus on young players in the squad.

A More Mature Arsenal

In terms of mean age the sides don’t look so different. However, the distribution of age groupings between the two line-ups are rather different, and this has an impact on the mean. In fact the age distribution pattern is almost the reverse for each match, as outlined in the graph below.

In October 2010 Squillaci, 30 and Arshavin, 29 were the two older players who skewed the mean score, which hides the fact that the team had five players either 22 or 23 years old.

Indeed, the Modal value for age is just 23 in 2010, which indicates that Arsenal started with a much younger group of players in general.

In summary, the key group of players within the current Arsenal squad consists of players around 27 years old, meaning that they have several years more experience than the team which started two years prior composed most frequently of players around 23.

In general terms it can be argued that players reach their peak around 28, meaning that this side consists of players closer to realising their full potential, but also with the ability to provide support to a smaller group of younger players existing within the side.

Squad Changes

In 2010 Arsenal won by three goals against a Manchester City side which looked more similar to the team which lined up today, though not without it’s own changes.

To emphasize the drastic change that the squad has been through, not one of the players who started the match just 23 months ago played in the game yesterday.

Of those one is away on loan and four have now been sold, two of whom, Clichy and Nasri, went to Manchester City themselves, the other two to Barcelona – Cesc and Song, whilst Denilson is on loan at Sao Paulo.

In fact, only four of the players who started against City in 2012 had been at the club longer than one full season.

British Talent

A final thought regarding the patterns present here. None of the Arsenal players who started against City in 2010 were British.

Of the line-up yesterday there were three British players, these were also the only three players under 24: Ramsey, Gibbs and Jenkinson (though he has joint Finnish nationality).

This is another indication of the slow shift in selection. Though Wenger has always emphasised developing young players, this is the first time he has been able to bring a large group of talented British players into the first team.

Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott can also be included in this group of young UK talent, all under 24 years of age.

Ultimately, this exercise only provides a snapshot of the state of the team, however, the patterns are telling, and describe a group which has undergone a deep transformation. However, the start to the season has been more promising than expected given the summer departures of Van Persie and Song.

The dynamic has changed, but the information paints a picture for the future of the club. The more experienced players brought over the past two summers may well enable the smooth introduction of this core of young talent to sustain the club in the years to come.

How do you think Arsenal’s team has changed? Get involved in the comments.

Related: How did Arsenal’s deadline day transfers perform last season?

Into the unknown: Arsène’s fourth generation

At the commencement of the 2011-2012 season Arsenal’s trophy drought stretched to seven years. The longest period of time without silverware since the infamous wait after the 1971 double win.

As a club, Arsenal have been through two seasons of complete change and transition. The world has watched as the team that Wenger built around Fabregas to succeed the Invincibles has slowly disintegrated, the lack of success and silverware haunting many of the third generation Wenger side, based so strongly on young players developed for years within the club.

All the Invincibles are gone and the ‘Third Generation’ has now receded into history with the departures of first Van Persie to Man Utd and then Alex Song to Barcelona. Indeed, it is probably true that the best three players have left the club within the space of a year, as Fabregas, Van Persie and Nasri departed. Furthermore, with the departure of Song, Arsenal have lost another key player.

According to Jeremy Wilson in the Telegraph this means that:

“In the space of just three days, Wenger sold the two outfield players who he selected most often last season and who finished first and second in the most recent player of the season poll.”

The loss of such players would be a blow to any squad, but the exodus may not halt there.

Speculation surrounding Theo Walcott, also means that another of the longer term members of the squad may leave before Friday, considering that according to the latest reports Walcott’s party has failed to agree a new contract after lengthy negotiations. It wouldn’t be unfeasible to rule out a now customary summer approach by the Premier League winners.

Arsenal will surely sell rather than wait until Walcott’s contract expires in 12 months and miss out on a proper transfer fee to offset the £12-15 million paid for his services to Southampton as a 16 year old in 2006.

That whole generation built around Fabregas, may be looked back upon as a lost team of underachievers. It is clear is that that team was extremely talented, but through circumstance never won the trophy which could have turned them into another generation of legends to follow in the footsteps of the Invincibles.

Some of the failings of that team may lie in the fact that the transition from the Invincibles team was made extremely rapidly, at a time when other teams such as Chelsea were becoming increasingly competitive, and outspending Arsenal by far.

However, the focus is now very much on the present as this season is pivotal for Arsenal, as further key players leave. Those who remain need to carry the flame of the club, and Arsène Wenger’s vision of football.

This Arsenal side will take some time to gel and develop as members of the previous side including Van Persie, had up to eight years to develop and learn how to play together. Arguably, the lack of trophies means over that period mean that the squad was ready to be shaken up, though Wenger would never have wanted to lose so many key players so rapidly.

However, from the ashes of that project Arsène has produced the building blocks of the next. Arsenal now look to a rejuvenated squad blended with experience and added grit. In the long term the club should look forward to a backbone of Szczesny, Vermaelen & Koscielny, Wilshere, Arteta and Cazorla to take the team into the future.

Meanwhile in the short term, much of Arsenal’s progress will now depend on mentality and how well the new signings can adjust and gel. Further key acquisitions in defence or midfield would bolster the side.

Six out of eleven starters for the first game against Sunderland arrived at the club either this summer or last, that’s almost 55%. Against Stoke there were seven, which takes the percentage of relatively new players close to 64%. Compare this to Utd who fielded four players who joined in the last two years as they won 3-2 against Fulham on Saturday. This means that much of this season will be spent developing understanding within the team, and an understanding of the best XI.

Over the course of the summer the Olympics demonstrated just what a difference psychology and mentality can make. Those who succeed in sport are those with the talent, but also belief that they can win, and determination to take this through to execution. Maintaining this mentality within a squad of players is even more challenging.

Wenger will not want the club to get into a dangerous situation where the best players leave each season, and go on to win trophies elsewhere. With star players lining up to leave, Arsenal run the risk of becoming a perennial selling club, unless they can buck the trend in terms of performance. Though this will depend on the development of the new squad: The unknown element of the Fourth Generation

The backline is clearly stronger than it has been in previous years, though injuries are the concern in midfield and the best combination upfront remains to be seen. Giroud and Podolski have both shown promise, but will most probably be utilised in different circumstances, whilst Cazorla looks like a quality player.

Furthermore, the promotion of Steve Bould to Assistant Manager has led to many hopes that Arsenal will improve on the 49 goals conceded last season.

Attack may be more concerning to fans, and should Walcott leave, this might worth some late investment, bearing in mind that on top of Van Persie’s departure the likes of Chamakh, Park, Arshavin and Bendtner will most probably move on too.

The departure of Van Persie and possibly Walcott, combined with the lack of goals against Stoke and Sunderland so far this season, highlight goalscoring as a key issue, for which the newer players will have to step up to the mark.

These are interesting times for the team as they refocus and look to settle as a new team. Transition is a testing time, and even more so when the previous project did not fulfil its potential. Arsène handled the crisis situation fantastically well last season, and ensured that he did not have to worry about even qualifying for the Champions League.

However, silverware should be a key target now. There is the possibility that this could come in one of the cup competitions. Any trophy win could provide the spark to help imbue the winning mentality at the club once again.

Get involved! What are the major issues you think this side will face this season? Comment below.

Related: How did Arsenal’s Deadline Day Transfers Perform 2011-12?

Why is Marouane Chamakh in Decline? The Stats Analysed

When Marouane Chamakh arrived at Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer of 2010 there were high hopes for his Arsenal career. However, since his apparently explosive start to the 2010/11 season the goals have dried up, and his performances have dropped to the point where he has not scored a goal in six months. In the latest article over on the FootballScores Superblog I analyse where things went wrong for Chamakh, and his future at Arsenal. Click here to read the full article.

This full article is published on the Superblog.

Read more tactical analysis of Chamakh

What does life post-Thierry Henry hold for Arsenal?

After the humiliation of losing 4-0 to AC Milan on Wednesday night, Arsenal have had to say Au Revoir to a club legend, as Thierry Henry returns to the United States to rejoin the New York Red Bulls. Although the veteran forward didn’t recreate the heroics of yester-year this time round, winning goals against Leeds and Sunderland prove that Mr Va Va Voom still has what it takes to compete at the highest level. Given the fact that a lot of soul-searching and improvement is needed to salvage the club’s season, what does the rest of the campaign hold without the mercurial Frenchman?

Top Four Aspirations

Although all Arsenal fans would love to consider their club as a contender for the Premier League title, this season a top four finish must be looked at as a success, if it occurs. With the loss of Clichy, Fabregas and Nasri in the summer, the slow start to the campaign and increased competition for the top four, if The Gunners can qualify for next season’s Champions League it will be a real bonus. The battle for fourth place is seemingly now against Chelsea, with Liverpool and Newcastle outside contenders.

Henry’s ability to win a match would be a welcome bonus for the rest of the season, as he has he ability and past record of popping up with important goals to turn one point into three; take Sunderland for example. Without the French man for inspiration, pressure is now on the likes of senior statesmen Tomas Rosicky, Andrei Arshavin and Gervinho to help Robin van Persie to reach the required goalscoring tally to finish in the top four.

Champions League pride

Despite the dreadful performance in Italy in midweek, Arsenal Football Club must hold their heads up high and gain some respect and pride by winning the second leg. If the hosts score an early goal anything is possible, but realistically the club will be eliminated at the hands of Massimiliano Allegri’s men. However, despite a competition exit, a victory at home to salvage some honour, confidence and revenge is a must going forward.

The modern day footballer typically does not put his heart and soul on the line for his team, but one man who did and does is Thierry Henry. With a never-say-die attitude, Henry would urge his team-mates to get a result and play for pride in the second leg; in his absence senior figures at the club must stand up and be counted.

North London pride

Finally, with Tottenham currently ten points ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League standings, it is looking increasingly likely that Harry Redknapp’s men will finish above The Gunners in the table. This could also be critical due to the lack of available places in next year’s Champions League, however the north London derby on Sunday 26th February could play an important role in determining where each club winds up.

After losing 2-1 in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane, Arsenal simply must beat Tottenham at the Emirates to save some face. If Spurs are going to finish ahead of Arsenal some pride must be regained by taking three points from them, and giving the home faithful bragging rights for the time being. Thierry Henry was a menace to Spurs backlines throughout his first spell at the club, and would have pumped the side up had he been present next Sunday; the club needs someone else to fulfil that role if three points are to be achieved.

Gareth McKnight is a writer for Soccerlens, a blog on world football. If you liked this article, you can follow Soccerlens on Twitter for more of the same.