Return Of The Loanees – Henri Lansbury
The first of two important weekends is upon us, significant not for Arsenal’s footballing ambitions in the current season but the next. Three points from Norwich’s visit at lunch time tomorrow are absolutely fundamental to taking a firm step towards securing third.
Before I get into the dissection of another Arsenal loanee, I just want to mention an entertaining post yesterday by Daniel Cowan at North London Is Red. Do have a read and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Right, back to today’s business where we look at a midfielder currently on loan at Championship side West Ham and examine his chances to feature for the Gunners next season.
The player of course is the tenacious Henri Lansbury. Since joining the Gunners as a 9-year old back in 1999, the 21-year old has moved up the ranks of the youth and reserves teams. He’s featured a few times for the first team as well, scoring his debut goal and Arsenal’s opener in a memorable 4-1 beating of the spuds in the League cup in September 2010.
Over the past four seasons, Lansbury has served loan stints at League One outfit Scunthorpe United and Championship sides Watford, Norwich and West Ham. His efforts helped the Canaries gain promotion last year and he is again involved in aiding the Hammers’ Premier League entry bid this time around.
Due to his excellent performances with Norwich at the end of last season, there was expectation that Henri would be part of the Gunners first team this season. He did make a couple of substitute appearances in August, but both these were demoralising defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United. On deadline day, Lansbury was sent on loan to West Ham for the rest of the season. Shortly afterwards he signed a contract extension.
The Englishman started his Irons’ loan spell in style by scoring on debut in September. But a six-week spell on the sidelines due to a knee injury affected his form, although recent showings suggest he’s coming back to his best. In all, he’s played 22 times for the Hammers this season. While he’s not added to his goal tally, he’s provided 4 assists, his latest being a delightful inch-perfect cross for Cole’s second goal at the weekend against Hull.
Lansbury has even played in goal once this season, donning the gloves AND keeping a clean sheet after Rob Green’s sending off at Blackpool in February. Performances like these have endeared him to Hammers fans and many believe he’s been underplayed by Big Sam. This is his least productive loan spell however, contributing to only 5 goals at West Ham as compared to 9 in each of his previous loan spells.
So is Henri Lansbury good enough and consistent enough to play for Arsenal?
That is a debatable question. He certainly does not possess the technical qualities of a Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey or Abou Diaby. Lansbury seems to be more of a pass and rush midfielder. In a Gunners midfield built on good possession and patient build-up, he is certainly not suited to play in the deep-lying midfield role.
Maybe his most effective position would be left of midfield, where both Ramsey and Benayoun have played recently. It would allow him to play near the edge of the box, feed the full-backs and make inside runs to meet crosses. Ramsey is going nowhere anytime soon, no matter what some fans think. In which case, should we sacrifice the experience and control that Benayoun brings to the game in order to introduce the directness of Lansbury?
Unfortunately, I do not believe Henri possesses the level required to succeed at Arsenal. He reminds me of Mark Randall, remember him? Randall was very impressive for the Reserves and captained the side, but lacked the extra quality to make it in the first team. While I believe Lansbury is more talented than Randall and will have a better footballing career, I just don’t see it with Arsenal.
Lansbury has spoken about uncertainty regarding his Gunners future, while describing Sam Allardyce as a ‘great manager’. If the Hammers gain promotion, there is a strong possibility they may bid for him. If an offer were made, I suspect it will be one Arsenal will not refuse.
I know many fans think highly of Lansbury, so do feel free to air your views. I also want to thank regular readers of the blog and especially the people who take time to comment and discuss. Writing without being read is like making a 40-feet paper toss bang in the middle of the waste-basket without anyone seeing it.
Back with the Norwich game preview tomorrow. Due to the lunchtime kick-off, I’ll try to post the preview sooner than normal, so do check back early in the day for that.