Perhaps no period in The Arsenal Football Club’s history is so clearly A Historical Period as is The Banter Era. It is a period marked by two defining characteristics: signings and starters well below the value of those from Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea, and pulling fourth place out of nowhere with tactics and results seemingly in defiance of good sense. Most fans will disagree about when precisely The Banter Era begins and ends—was it with the construction and inauguration of Ashburton Grove? was it after Cesc Fabregas left the club? (no: it was definitely when Jens Lehmann brought down Samuel Eto’o)—but like all history, periods resist solid boundaries and moments. As a rough timeline, though, let’s say that the Early Banter Era starts with the inaugural Emirates Stadium season (2006-07) through the sale of club captain Cesc Fabregas (2011), with the High Banter Era running from that moment to the acquisition of British Record Signing Mesut Özil in 2013, and the Late Banter Era continuing up through today, when Carl Jenkinson still starts matches in anger.
This brings us to today’s Short Fuse Roundtable question:
Which player most typifies The Banter Era?
fbj0: Amaury Bischoff is pure, uncut Banter Era Arsenal. Low transfer fee? He was free! Check. Continental, preferably French? French AND Portuguese. Check. Talented midfielder? Of course! Injury issues? Oh my, did he ever! He was recovering from a long-term injury when we brought him in!
Bischoff never started a match for the Gunners' first-team and only saw mop up duty action in 4 blowouts, 2 of which were in the League Cup. He then was released less than a year after he joined the club. A relative unknown, injury-prone talent hyped up but never productive? Arsene Wenger has never had a more banterific signing.
Thomas Wachtel: For me, it’s Andre Santos. He was rated horribly but actually wasn’t that bad (although he was definitely kind of bad), but his style of play defied belief. A defender who couldn’t really defend, but scored reasonably frequently. A player of high ceiling (the goal against Chelsea) and low floor (most of his attempts at tackling). He also participated in possibly the most banter moment of the Banter Era – after having already qualified for the knockouts in the Champions League, we rested most of the first team for a trip to Olympiakos, but Santos played despite being the only healthy fullback we had. He, of course, got injured, meaning we had zero (zero!) real fullbacks for the Christmas fixtures. Add in the time he had to learn from Yossi Benayoun what loans are and you have the most Banter Era player in Arsenal’s history.
Aidan Gibson: Big Sexy, Because he just Gets the Barclays.
alsonamedphil: Jack Wilshere epitomizes banter, i.e., everything that doesn't matter about the sport. He's a fan favourite because he's loud, obnoxious, hates Spurs and happens to be English. Whatever his skill at the game might be, he's largest talent is his ability to finish off other people's hard work and getting himself injured when trying to do it all himself. Despite this, he was clung to as the future of the English and Arsenal midfield for far too long, because he's English, to the extent that Wenger did his damned best to try and shoehorn The Lad into the squad by shunting out his true midfield talent to the wings and play the disasterous 4-1-4-1 in 2014 on the back of Coquelin or Flamini being the sole DM. Wilshere belongs at Bournemouth and is still talked about as though he has the talent to be a star in the league. I'm sure he'll make a great commentator one day.
beardyblue: Gervinho, for me, epitomizes the banter era, because his success and production mirrors that of Arsenal during his tenure. He had a lot of promise and found himself with the ball in front of goal a good bit, but that scoring touch wasn't there. Gervinho could have been one of those hidden gems from the French leagues but, instead, because a symbol of ridicule and frustration due to his wastefulness. Bantz!
Travis King: Park. [Ed. note: no, we don’t know why Travis thinks the stadium is a player, but he’s at work and we can’t reach him for elaboration.]
Ted Harwood: The most Banter player is Emmanuel Eboué. He was not very good, but he is banter through and through. He once gave away a game-tying penalty to Liverpool, to Dirk Goddam Kuyt, in honest-to-god the EIGHTH minute of injury time. Here he is warming up:
Here he is stealing from the opposition:
And here he is coming on the pitch.
An honorable mention goes out to Kim Mikael Källström, who made three appearances for Arsenal after a January loan when the club knew he had a broken back and took him on loan anyway. He did escape being pure Banter, though, because he scored a crucial penalty in the FA Cup semifinal shootout in 2014. Thanks, Kim!
So, there you have it. Who do YOU think is the most Banter Era player ever? Comment below!