The winners and losers of Arsenal's season
It’s that time in the season when we can really start looking back and evaluating everything that’s occurred throughout the last 10 months. Goals, match displays and various other aspects of the game – it’s also a time we can really evaluate each player based on a complete set of performances.
Arsenal started the season by introducing Emiliano Viviano, Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil to the team. It’s fair to say the latter was met with the most excitement. After the debacle at Aston Villa on the opening day, this signing provided a cushion for the Gunners hierarchy to sit on. Post Villa, the season started positively with an early North London derby victory under their belts. Good form continued into the winter period suffering just a couple of defeats here and there. The form of Aaron Ramsey was a large factor behind their early success. It didn’t take long before Arsenal were at the summit of the Premier League.
However, December was a sticky period for the Gunners because of fixture pile up. Draws against Everton and Chelsea and a 6-3 loss to Manchester City resulted in Arsenal becoming unstuck at the top. Fast forward to the end of the month and Arsenal were back on top with a 1-0 win over Newcastle, thanks to Olivier Giroud. Arsenal remained top throughout January despite losing the services of Theo Walcott.
However, when Aaron Ramsey made an extended appearance on the injury table in the middle of January, having just recovered from an injury, that’s when the team lost the plot a little bit. They bowed out the Champions League following a defeat and a draw against Bayern Munich. They also surrendered the title race to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool. There was even concern whether they’d make fourth or not. But, now that Everton lost to Manchester City then Arsenal will definitely make fourth.
It appears that the only shining light in Arsenal’s season has been the FA Cup. Wins over Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton have sweetened the prize even more. They now face Hull City in the final later this month. Now on to the players that have made the season what it is.
Up first, the top performers. There’s a few names I’d like to discuss with you and the first is, of course, Aaron Ramsey. We saw something of a transformation towards the tail-end of last season but, we saw the completed cycle throughout the first half of the season. Goals, assists, tackles and a lot of running. The reason why I admire him so much is because of the fact that he never ditches his defensive duties in his search for goals. You’ll always see him tracking back if there’s a dangerous counter-attack. Something which is forgotten when you talk about the Welshman.
Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have been one of the best centre-back pairings in Europe this season and have been rock solid despite a few of big defeats away from home. It’s their home form that has been admirable and it’s the reason why the Emirates has turned into a bit of fortress. Their efforts earlier in the first half of the season should be applauded. The fitness of both has also been key for Arsenal as they haven’t much football. Together and separately, these two are definitely contenders for player of the season.
The next player on the list is Bacary Sagna. He’s been an absolute monster of a player this season and if anyone deserves pay rise, or even a new contract, it’s certainly him. It seems as though he’s put those two leg breaks behind him and is recapturing some of that form he showed in his early years at the club. He bombs up and down that right side of the pitch like there’s no tomorrow. But, has also filled in at centre half when needed and has considerably improved his final ball. Pin-point crossed for Olivier Giroud. Sagna could be up there with the most assists in the league had Giroud been more clinical.
Various players have missed games throughout the season and therefore it’s hard to establish who else deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ramsey, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Sagna. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could but, he’s only featured in a few. Arteta could be in with a shout but. He’s been exposed too many times this season and hasn’t been the same force this time compared to the last couple of campaigns. Flamini has been rash and has spent more time out with a suspension than on the pitch, however, he does bring some bite to the midfield. Szczesny’s form has also gone downhill and the re-emergence of Lukasz Fabianski almost relegated the former to the bench. Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil could be mentioned higher if wasn’t for their injuries.
For me, it’s hard to judge who has been the worst player of the season because everyone has played their part at some point. Even Bendtner has knocked in a couple of key goals. Giroud has been hit and miss but, he has racked up 21 goals and nine assists. Lukas Podolski has also chipped in with plenty of goals. He has 12 goals in 24 games.
So my contenders for worst player of the season are Nicklas Bendtner, Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal. These may well be harsh, except for Bendtner; in my opinion Santi Cazorla does warrant a mention because he’s gone from extremely influential to a squad player. Yes, Mesut Ozil has been a factor in that but, when Cazorla has been given a chance, he hasn’t really grabbed it with two hands. A handful of appearances have made me re-consider and that’s it. Monreal is a harsh decision but, for similar reasons to Cazorla, when given the chance he’s been rather inconsistent.
In summary, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Sagna and Ramsey should be nominated for player of the season. Santi Cazorla, Nacho Monreal and Nicklas Bendtner are all up for worse player of the season. It’s all subjective don’t forget.