Looking Back At Arsenal’s Season

Arsenal’s 2009-2010 campaign promised so much at one point but yet again delivered nothing more than a distant 3rd place, 10 points behind second placed Manchester United and 11 points behind champions Chelsea. Another trophyless season. In terms of the players coming through the youth teams and the Arsenal Academy, the future seems to be bright, but it is the present and near future that Wenger needs to be concerned about.

GOALKEEPERS:

Manuel Almunia – despite inspired performances (like in the first leg versus Barcelona at the Emirates for example), he continues to make costly mistakes which have ensured the Gunners do not get all the three points. He has improved but is good enough for second choice at best.

Lukasz Fabianksi – had an even worse season than Almunia and did not help his case with consistent high-profile errors and embarrassing performances (His ‘assistance’ in the Titus Bramble goal against Wigan anyone?) He may or may not be going through a bad phase (I doubt whether it lasts two seasons though) but I think he’ll make better use of his talents elsewhere.

Vito Mannone – showed a lot of promise with some impressive performances when both Almunia and Fabianski were on the sidelines (First example that comes to mind is his inspired showing in the narrow 1-0 victory versus Fulham where he single-handedly ensured Arsenal the three points) His obvious natural talent points that he just might be one for the future, and Wenger needs to give him more starts come September.

Need of the hour: A classy, competent and experienced first choice goalkeeper who will do what Cech, VDS and Given do for Chelsea, Man Utd and City resp. Hopefully there is some truth in at least one of the rumours regarding possible bids for the likes of Joe Hart, Hugo Lloris and Emiliano Viviano.

DEFENCE

Arsenal’s pathetic defensive display (a massive total of 41 goals conceeded) leaves no doubt that it’s the area the club needs to bolster most over the summer.

Gael Clichy/ Bacary Sagna – Sagna and Clichy are both good, in spite of their weaknesses (Positional errors at times to name one) and I think spells without injuy will help them (especially Clichy) to be more consistent and play as well as all Arsenal fans know they can. I am hoping this coming season sees him both in good form.

Kieran Gibbs/Armand Traore – are both great talents for the future and it will be a pleasure to see them grow and mature into regular first-teamers at some point. Definite positive prospects, though will need toughening up physically as do a lot of other Arsenal players!

Thomas Vermaelen – has had an immediate impact and been a very successful signing. Most Arsenal fans will agree with me when I say that it seems like he’s been a Gunner all his life. The Belgian has not only provided the team the kind of height and muscle and defensive stability it needs at the back, but he has also given them an aerial threat on corners and set-pieces and shown that he possesses a keen goal-scoring prowess as well which is always useful.

William Gallas – I think it’s time we let him go. Offering the Frenchman a new contract and another season as first-choice centre-back along with Vermaelen is not going to help Arsenal sort out their defensive issues.

Mikael Silvestre/Sol Campbell – I was and still am perplexed at Wenger’s decision to sign on Silvestre from Manchester United two seasons ago. Yes he is experienced and yes he is French (!) but he is past his prime and not suitable for the Arsenal defence against the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City or even the physically intimidating teams like Bolton, Blackburn, Wigan etc. Sol Campbell I am still undecided on. Barring some errors and rustiness, he has had a fairly decent run since signing on in January and it might still be good for the Gunners to keep him in their squad and on the bench for another season. He is nowhere close to his best from the ‘Invincible’ days but could yet have a part to play (however small) in the fortunes of the Gunners.

Johan Djourou – No comment since he has been out with a long-term injury. He is a decent player when fit so I think we can come to a better conclusion if he stays relatively fit this coming season.

Needs of the hour –  a centre back like Brede Hangeland or Pape Diakhate (both of whom have been in the Arsenal radar for a while) to pair up with Thomas Vermaelen ASAP for a solid centre of defense. Buying two centre-backs instead of one would suit the Gunners’ need more in case of injuries. A competent second choice right-back wouldn’t hurt either. (though a guy like Eboue can more than successfully fit the role at this point in time) Might be worth the gamble to give someone like Nordveit some first-team starts.

MIDFIELD

Cesc Fabregas – The talismanic Spaniard was in great form, despite the injury breaks and was the club’s highest goal-scorer along with having the highest number of assists for the Gunners. His injury absences starkly presented just how important of a player he is for Arsenal with his superb vision, his ability to create space, provide the perfectly timed and placed ball, link up with his team-members almost telepathically, single-handedly win games, and inspire his troops by example.

Alex Song – quietly announced his arrival as a genuine defensive mid-fielder this season by letting his impressive performances talk and provided Arsenal with a much needed physical presence, which they noticeably missed when he was on the sidelines injured. (The second leg against Barcelona at the Nou Camp is one very recent example) It is nice to see a generally underrateed player like him finally getting the deserved recognition and attention from fans and experts alike.

Samir Nasri – has been in delightful form for the second half of the season following his recovery from a leg fracture just before the start of the season, though he was not near to fulfilling his true potential. He will definitely have more of an impact this coming season if he can go through it relatively injury-free, hence giving him time to settle in and play to the very best of his abilities.

Theo Walcott – showed that he has improved from last season with better crosses and some good goals, but for me he is still stuck between being a winger and a striker and more often than not has better impact as a super-sub with his blinding pace than as a first-team starter. Another season like this season and I will be worried that he will never quite reach the considerable heights of achievement he had promised as the 15 year old signed on from Southampton.

Andrey Arshavin – unlucky to have his first full season as a Gunner be disrupted by frequent injuries that kept him side-lined. Though he was an important factor to the success of the team when he did play, the regular injury intervals did not allow him to get completely settled into a rhythm and play to the very best of his talent and abilities. He is a top-class player in spite of his diminutive stature and an injury-free season for the Russian will certainly bolster Arsenal’s bid for silverware.

Abou Diaby –  is exactly the kind of tall, powerful, physical player, Arsenal need in midfield. But he was inconsistent, with performances ranging from very good to blah. and his injuries did not help his case for finally living up to his potential either.

Emmanuel Eboue – has come a long way from the guy who was booed by his OWN fans last season and has returned to the kind of form that he had shown previously. He has been very useful for Arsenal for season, filling Sagna’s shoes if required but also working tirelessly and energetically when deployed in a midfield role. He does succumb rather easily to the force of gravity and this is not something any Gooner condones but he is a good player.

Aaron Ramsey – This was supposed to be his ‘breakout’ season. The Welsh youngster was in fine touch, scoring goals and impressively orchestrating moves in midfield until he was unlucky to pick up a double leg-break following a mis-timed Ryan Shawcross tackle. Fingers crossed that he comes back the same player and doesn’t suffer what Eduardo is currently going through.

Tomas Rosicky/ Denilson – both were rather disappointing and inconsistent at best. Rosicky has not been the same talented, reliable player he was for Arsenal after his recent very long spell on the sidelines and he was not in his best form in his first full season back from injury. Maybe it is time to move on and consider selling him or give him another season and decide depending on how he performs. Denilson on the other hand, promised a lot when he first arrived and he has delivered only a fraction of it. Talented he is, no doubt and he has scored the occassional goal for the Gunners this season when they have needed it but I don’t see him as a bona-fide match-wining future replacement for the current first-choice in midfield. He would definitely be on my list of players, Wenger should let go.

Needs of the hour – Sell guys like Denilson and/or Rosicky, buy someone like Yaya Toure or Felipe Melo for example to partner Song nd take some of the weight off his shoulders, ensuring that optimum use is made of his considerable and tireless involvement in Arsenal’s run of play. With the potential loss of Fabregas looming on the horizon, it is imperative that we buy two creative midfielders of the likes of Arteta or even James Milner for that matter, and even if Fab does decide to stay, we could use an extra, experienced, creative force to take some of the pressure off him.

ATTACK

Robin Van Persie – We all know just how deadly a fit and firing Robin Van Persie can be. It was evident how much of a difference he made when he returned from injury in that defeat versus Spurs as a substitute. This is exactly why both Arsenal and him have been unlucky due to the Dutchman being rather injury-prone. An injury-free RVP would definitely boost the team’s chances at silverware and give them that final cutting edge.

Nicklas Bendtner – St. Nick for all his important goals at crucial moments this season, is also prone to be exasperating and frustrating by the amount of easy chances he misses. But I guess every team needs a guy like him and his statistics this season are actually pretty good! I feel he is best as a support striker and am impressed at his improvement in the amount and quality of his goal assists. On the back of all this, I need we should let him be for at least one more season.

Carlos Vela – is extremely talented (The classy finish against Fulham on the last day of the season is proof enough) but still raw and learning. He is not yet ready to take on the mantle of the lone striker but I still feel that he has shown a lot of potential and should be given more starts to prove himself this coming season.

Eduardo – has been woefully disappointing. It is really sad to see him a mere shadow of the player he was before the horrifying injury. The Croatian who was in superb form till that fateful 23rd of February 2008, seems to be seriously struggling for confidence. In spite of finding the back of the net a few times, has proved that he cannot be depended on to win games in the absence of RVP up front. As much as it hurts me to say it, it may be time to look at other options. At the most let him stay for another season and try and see if he can get back to some of his old form as a impact substitute to begin with.

Need of the hour – Arsenal need another top-quality striker so that all the hopes are not on Robin Van Persie. The almost done-deal of Maroune Chamakh is welcome news as he is the kind of tall, powerful goal-scorer we need. (Though it yet remains to be seen how he adapts to the tough EPL after being used to playing Ligue 1 for Bordeaux)

%d bloggers like this: