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Player by Player 201-0-11 Part 2

Player by Player 201-0-11 Part 2

16. Aaron RAMSEY- The season has been something of a dry run for him to get his match fitness back. Loan spells with Cardiff and Nottingham Forest will have sharpened him up; his comeback looks, in the short term, not to have been as complicated as Eduardo`s, who had residuary issues with his ankle joints. Ramsey seems both psychologically unfazed and, whilst he`s still some way clear of the form he was showing pre injury, physically he looks to be in better fettle than our other victims of the Premier League`s lumbering hackers. It`s telling that Tomas Rosicky`s involvement has virtually curtailed since Ramsey returned to the first team squad. The manager obviously has a lot of faith in this exceptional young midfielder to return to his stately progression into a bona fide first team player. They`re not quite ready yet, but the Manchester Untied game gave us a tantalising glimpse into a midfield future with Ramsey and Wilshere at its axis. The character and the humility he has shown in his comeback are very worth passing comment on too. 7

17. Alexandre SONG Billong- Another season of progress, now firmly established as Arsenal`s first choice "screening" midfielder. But Song has added a few more strings to his bow this year; many regarded his forays forward and his pointed comments about scoring more goals with some angst. But Song is slowly becoming the complete midfield player, having established an excellent rapport with Wilshere in constantly rotating roles with young Jack. A team is at its best when it is fluid and Song lubricates the wheels of the Arsenal midfield. But the excellent marshalling job he performed on Wayne Rooney shows his defensive abilities have not left him either. He still needs to iron out a few facets of his game; he seems to have cut a lot of his needless fouls out and his positioning is not always perfect. But these qualities come with experience and you`ve the feeling Song really billongs. 7.5

18. Sebastien SQUILLACI- Something of a scapegoat amongst Arsenal fans; our defensive ills have been somewhat harshly laid at his doorstep. It`s been a tough baptism of fire not aided by stop, start appearances. When he got a run in the side in November he put in some commanding displays. That said, it`s hardly been an inspiring season and he`s found himself well behind Djourou and Koscielny in the pecking order. The manager spoke at the beginning of the season of Squillaci`s leadership abilities and I have to say I`m not convinced we`ve seen much evidence of them. Fine for a fourth choice, but probably not much more. 6

19. Jack WILSHERE- Arsenal`s golden child has had something of a revelatory season. Last August the manager was pondering whether or not to send him out on loan. 9 months later and only Koscielny has played more and he has the official player of the season award tucked under his arm, as well as the PFA Young Player of the Year award. The likes of Rosicky, Denilson and Diaby have found minutes hard to come by due to Wilshere`s meteoric rise to prominence. He has been remoulded from an attacking midfielder into a more disciplined role. His comfort in possession and tidy distribution have been an ideal springboard for Arsenal`s attacks. A future slightly further forward is hinted at when one considers that, according to opta, Jack has created 60 goal scoring opportunities for team mates this season. A total bettered only by Fabregas. There`s still work to be done though; his tackling is still sometimes far too rash and his utter refusal to even entertain using his right foot has cost him good goal scoring chances and passes to better placed team mates. He is very much flavour of the month at the moment with Arsenal and England fans alike but he`ll find the worm will begin to turn from both sets of supporters eventually, such is the psyche of the English football fan. Cries of "Charlie big potatoes" will be out in force whether there`s evidence for them or not and he`ll need to deal with that. But his performances against Barcelona and his virtuoso display at White Hart Lane in the Carling Cup mark him out as one of the hottest young prospects on the globe. 8.5

20. Johan DJOUROU- Along with Wilshere and Szczesny, one of the bright sparks of the season and the perfect illustration that sometimes there are answers to problems that vary from "spend some money." Djourou was eased into the season, but by October, with Vermaelen out, a series of assured performances saw Djourou stake a place as a bona fide first teamer. In January in particular, with Djourou and Kosicleny forming a promising understanding, the Gunners stopped leaking goals. We`ve always known that Djourou brings composure on the ball out of defence, but what has really impressed has been his aggression. He has quite a leap on him and his sweeping yin is the perfect foil for Kosicleny`s front foot yang. Djourou has been able to outmuscle and out leap the division`s bulkier centre forwards. You feel to push on, he now needs to develop a voice box and become a cajoler and organiser at the back. He has dispelled fitness concerns by playing an entire season and on two occasions coming back a lot earlier than expected from injury. However, after coming back from his shoulder injury, his form dipped alarmingly in the last four games or so. But that shouldn`t cloud what has been one of Arsenal`s seasonal silver linings. 8

21. Lukasz FABIANSKI- Has restored his reputation somewhat and shown commendable fortitude in doing so. With Almunia sobbing quietly in a corner at London Colney, Fabianski came back into the team and began to show why Wenger parted with the readies to get him in 2007. Incredibly agile keeper capable of making gravity defying saves. This time last year he was staring down the barrel of Gooner ire after seemingly tossing the ball into his own net with worrying regularity. This season, his Superman impression against Newcastle apart, he has not been dropping comedy reel clangers. That said, he still does not possess the personality or the experience to command his defence. Szczesny doesn`t quite yet either; but he gives you the impression he`s on the way. Fabianski is a quietly good goalkeeper, but you get the impression that with Szczesny in the reckoning- both internationally and for Arsenal- Fabianski was born at the wrong time. 7

22. Gael CLICHY- A solid, if unspectacular season from Clichy. You still get the rumbustuous style, the non stop sprinting, the lightning interceptions. Unfortunately, his crossing is still woeful and his tendency to drop behind the defensive line and play everyone onside is baffling given his recovery pace. Clichy is a very good left back and continues to be so. Trouble is, I`m not sure if he`s any better now than he was when he was 22. I`ve a feeling he`ll be the high profile departure this summer with his contract running down. 7

23. Andrey ARSHAVIN- It`s difficult to know what to make of Arshavin`s season. The numbers tell you he has scored 10 goals and made 17 assists in 2010-11. Those aren`t bad numbers at all. But he has lost his place in the Arsenal side, with the front three of Nasri, Walcott and van Persie providing us greater balance. The problem is with Arshavin, is that he reveals such an array of talent, that you are always left feeling that he could give you more. Mid season saw him go through the sort of funk that all players experience for far longer than you`d expect from a player of his quality. The goal against Barcelona seemed to turn his form around slightly, but he`s gone from indispensable to valuable squad player in two years. An exceptional player, he just needs to show it more often. 6.5

27. Emmanuel EBOUE- There`s no sugar coating it, he has probably been Arsenal`s most disappointing performer this season. Performer being the operative word, because it seems that`s his sole role in the squad nowadays. The court jester that comes onto the pitch when the game is over, hugs his team mates and throws his knickers into the crowd. This time last season, Eboue`s attacking prowess saw him preferred to Sagna for home fixtures. Sagna`s response has been to knuckle down, work on his weaknesses and become one of Arsenal`s top performers. Eboue`s has been to coast and take it easy. When he was actually trusted enough to get some game time earlier in the season, his displays were littered with mistakes, ceding possession in dangerous areas and general buffoonery. Yet still, the Arsenal`s supporters two year guilt trip indulged the cult of Eboue, which he allowed to go to his head. The nadir was his mindless shove on Lucas in the 102nd minute against Liverpool and the day the cult of Eboue was put to rest. That joke isn't funny anymore. 4

28. Kieran GIBBS- Arsenal`s Carling Cup run saw Gibbs afforded opportunities a plenty and he impressed initially. But another set of niggly injuries disrupted his progress and now a lack of game time has seen him lack sharpness as the season has gone on. It`s not easy to show your best form when your appearances are so sporadic and so Gibbs appears to have stagnated compared to the last two seasons. A season on loan might do him the world of good. 6

29. Marouane CHAMAKH- Up until December, he had been one of Arsenal`s star performers and carried the torch impressively in van Persie`s enforced absence. According to opta, Arsenal`s crossing success rate is 13% without Chamakh and 19% with him in the side. A series of headed goals, poacher`s goals and some serious hard work and hold up play won him instant acclaim from the support. However, as van Persie came back from injury, Chamakh`s form faded badly. He only netted one goal after 27 November and that was at home to Leyton Orient. The man himself claimed fatigue and lack of a winter break- to which he had become accustomed. Interestingly, my French flat mate did say when we signed him that he tended not to play so well when the weather turned cold, so it`ll be interesting to see if that trend continues next season. 8 for the first half of the season, 6 for the second. 7

52. Nicklas BENDTNER- Another player that does not seem to be longed for the club, the Dane has endured a frustrating season. Injured at the beginning of the season due to his World Cup efforts, Chamakh`s form kept him out until van Persie regained fitness. Featured prominently in cup competitions where his scoring rate was, once again, very good. But his first team appearances have been frustrating cameos on the wing. Still provides clear and present danger in opposition boxes and has now added a more altruistic streak to his game. Impressive assists against Villa and particularly at home to Stoke stood out. His goal against Ipswich was his highlight of the season, but at 23, he`s another one that needs to play or else he`ll stagnate and you get the feeling he won`t get that opportunity whilst van Persie still has two legs to stand on. 7

53. Wojciech SZCZESNY- The breakthrough season for the young Pole, to be a popular number 1 at a club like Arsenal at the age of 21 is no mean feat. Especially if we take the crude and inexact logic that 21 for a custodian translates into an age of about 17 for an outfield player. Szczesny has something that the fans relate to. Personality. Not just in terms of his outspoken eccentricities, but at the age of 20 he made a bugling error that cost Arsenal a Cup Final. His response? He just got on with it and one doesn`t get the impression it affected him one jot. His greatest performance would have to have been at home to Barcelona. People point to Barca`s profligacy that night, but Szczesny is as imposing a presence as any keeper in the Premier League in a one on one situation. He`s obviously watched tapes of Peter Schmeichel and his infamous starfish movement. Szczesny still has much to learn, he can still be indecisive on crosses at times and needs to command his area with brains as well as brawn. But those mistakes are forgiven much easier by a fan base that sees we have the raw materials of a world class keeper that could man the Arsenal sticks for the next 15 years. 8

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Friday May 27 2011
Time: 3:49PM


Excellent write-up as always, can't say I disagree with anything there. Whilst I do think money needs to be spent this summer, I really don't know why it's the be all and end all to some supporters. As you point out, Szczesny, Wilshere and Djourou have been three of our very best performances, and they weren't the result of an extensive spending spree, they were 'internal promotions.' Fernando Torres is also living proof that splashing the cash isn't always the answer. Good notes on Wilshere, and the future years will be a struggle for him: as I believe you've said before, being English means a 7/10 performance becomes a 9 and a 5/10 becomes a 3. Typical media hyperbole. Similarly, we'll soon see him having to carry the weight of the entire country on his shoulders. Rooney is a ****, don't get me wrong, but I have a little sympathy with him in that whenever he pulls on the England jersey, people expect miracles. Jack will soon have to live with these expectations, too. Nevertheless, he has had a terrific season and can be very proud of his work, as can the majority of the squad. Which makes it difficult to comprehend why we were so disappointing. I really hope big changes AREN'T made: the core of the squad needs to be kept together. A couple of minor tweaks are needed, perhaps even on the training ground than in the transfer market. UTA.
27/05/2011 16:56:00
Great piece Tim, lots to comment on, but I'll go with Arshavin. He's an odd one that chap, he appears as though he doesn't want to be here or doesn't care, but I genuinely believe that's not the case .... he's just odd. Towards the end of the season I think he finally got the message that he's going to have to work to get back in the side because every time he came on the pitch he started tackling like a mad man, and you know what, he's pretty good at it too. Hopefully next season he'll be able to find his creative boots, because he's a cracking player on his day. Just needs to have more of those days.
27/05/2011 18:19:00
Great two-parter LD. I'd say without question we here at VA are lucky to have the best match-day reporter (no small task given that you actually go to all the matches - no armchair jockey with benefit of countless TV replays- and probably hoist a few mugs of the black stuff before you do) and best analyst on the internet. Thanks mate, I look forward to more of your musing next season. jb
27/05/2011 23:46:00
The thing with Arshavin is that he looks disinterested but I think it's exactly the opposite. Look at the tackles he made against Man United if you need proof. He tries to give the team his all. But having said that it's not his game to just track back or just opt for the Denilson-like backwards pass. Arshavin always tries to take a risk. When it pays off it's brilliant. When it doesn't he gets criticised in many quarters.
28/05/2011 02:07:00
Spot on....From no1 to no53!
28/05/2011 04:01:00
I dont know about Arshavin. I know he has the numbers but something just tells me that he has checked out on us a long time ago. he's not the focal point that he used to be and we have become predictable. Something just seems wrong. He doesnt always do his defending duties and this team is not good enough to have a free player ala Ronaldinho or Messi.
28/05/2011 10:11:00
That's a good point Gael-Force. We cannot afford to have a free roaming player. For that to happen all of our midfield players and our defenders must be able to cover and nullify the one-man disadvantage.
28/05/2011 11:52:00
Van Persie will not last a full season without injury so there should still be opportunities for Chamack or Bendtner. I don't buy it that Nik can't develop with VP at the club. VP is a player that needs to be protected and the whole club attack can't be solely built around him. We need Plan B(endtner). Although i love the player, I wonder whether VP even played half our games this season. Stats-gurus out there please indulge me.
28/05/2011 11:57:00
I think the idea of building a team around any one player whether cesc or RVP is just insane frankly with our track record of injury.
28/05/2011 15:12:00
Another masterclass by the Barca; looked everywhere for Evra.... Chicharito could be found in the offside position, mostly. VDS can say he worked his hardest in his last pro game.
28/05/2011 21:53:00
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