Player Grades: The Strikers
Robin Van Persie: A-
V. Persie was easily our best striker this year; this is due to the disappointing play of the other strikers on the team, and due to his outstanding play during the second half of the season. With 29 appearances for the Gunners this year, RVP has scored 19 goals and has 6 assists (two more goals and he will break his season-high with the team). Had he played the entire season, I'm sure he would have won the golden boot. He really has become one of the best strikers in the world. On a side note, I purchased his jersey last summer and there was a point during the first half of the season when I was afraid I had wasted thirty dollars; now I have absolutely no regrets and wear it proudly.
Nicklas Bendtner: F
Bendtner must be sold in the summer! He's not consistent enough as a goal scorer and is simply not good enough to be wear the Arsenal uniform. Arsene Wenger has given him plenty of chances and he continually fails to live up to his own hype. I would love to see him replaced by a guy who's better at shooting than passing - perhaps Kevin Gameiro, Edinson Cavani, or Nilmar. We need an actual striker who can come off the bench or fill in for Van Persie if/when he's injured. Someone who would force Wenger to think about switching back to a 4-4-2.
Marouane Chamakh: C+
Chamakh did a decent job of filling the main striker role during the first half of the season. If you look at his return (41 appearances with 11 goals) you might say that he was a disappointment. Goal.com listed Chamakh in their Top Ten Transfer Busts of the EPL (coming in at number 10) and I do feel that that's a bit harsh. First of all, he was a free transfer; second, I expected around fifteen goals from him this year. He's four off the mark with four games left. Now he probably won't make it to fifteen goals, but he did have a productive first half of the season. With the second half, Van Persie returned from injury and has played phenomenally, so that it tough for Chamakh to find playing time. It was also reported that Chamakh was extremely fatigued around around the start of the new year. That's a little disappointing and I hope that next year he'll be more acclimated to the Premier League. I love the aerial threat he provides and I think it would be wise to hang on to him for another season or two. The speed at which he plays at is a bit of a concern - a little too slow for the Premier League.
Theo Walcott: B
Another "tale of two halves" guy. For the first half of the season, Theo was dangerous and was a threat to score anytime he touched the ball. For a moment, I truly believed that Theo had found the missing piece to his game. Then he picked up an injury. Again. Since that, Theo has still looked dangerous, albeit not as much as the first few months of the campaign, and has produced both goals and assists. He has 12 goals on the year (his career high for a season) and I do hope that next season he'll be a 15-20 goal player. He just needs to improve his decision-making in the box and must become a more consistent threat in front of the net.
Carlos Vela: N/A
Vela didn't feature enough for me to give him a grade; he made 12 appearances with the first team this year and had a return of 3 goals. To be honest, I only remember one of those goals - that nice chip he had against Braga. Since the winter transfer window, Vela has been out on loan with West Bromwich Albion. From what I've seen, Carlos hasn't been given many opportunities to play over there. I'm not sure if that's due to Di Matteo and Roy Hodgson wanting to give their actual players a chance to improve and prove themselves, or if it's due to the fact that Vela is being outplayed by guys like Marc-Antoine Fortune. Either way, the recent success of Chicharito has put more scrutiny on Vela (in my opinion). United clearly have the best young Mexican striker on their team. I'm not ready to give up on Carlos yet, but he needs to show more. Next season could be a provide him with a huge opportunity if Bendtner leaves. I feel that Vela deserves more playing time, but I would keep him on a shorter leash than Bendtner. I would love it if Carlos could just flip a switch and become the lights-out striker opposite V. Persie that Arsenal so desperately needs, but I'm NOT very confident that will happen. We'll see.