Sunday, May 1, 2011
Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review II
Player Grades: The Midfielders
Cesc Fabregas: B
This is a tough call and I'm not only referring to his grade; whether we keep or sell Fab seems to be a annual debate now. I'm not sure what I want to happen to our captain. Don't get me wrong, I want to keep him. I want him to be a Gunner until he retires, but with Barcelona looming and his desire to return to the Catalonia...it's difficult to rule out his sale this summer or next. The positive in selling him would be that we would have plenty of cash to find a replacement or two. But really, that's where the positives end. The cons are obvious, I would think. Fabregas is one of the best midfielders in the world and he'll only get better. His long passes (and passing in general) are second only to Xavi, in my opinion. When he's in the line-up, he vastly improves our attack and makes those around him better. He is our most valuable asset on the pitch. But, a problem with Fabregas (a familiar problem) is that he is oft injured. I'm also starting to wonder whether or not he should be our captain. Many critics note that he doesn't possess the qualities of a leader. I can't argue with that too much. But stripping the captaincy would most certainly lead to his departure. I don't know how everything is going to shake out, but I would love to see Fab at the Emirates again next season. As far as this season was concerned, Fabregas didn't play as well as he did last year - when he seemed to transform into a goalscoring midfielder. This may be due to the world cup and certainly the number of injuries he picked up this season.
Samir Nasri: A-
This was a great year for Nasri. He scored 15 goals in 44 appearances and really seemed to take the next step in his career, which resulted in him being a candidate for PFA Player of the Year and making the PFA Team of the Year. Like Walcott, though, Nasri didn't look as dangerous after his injury. Sami and Arsenal will be involved in contract negotiations this summer and I can't wait to hear the news of his extension. He will be an important player for Arsenal as they attempt to end the trophy drought next season. If Fabregas leaves in the summer, perhaps Nasri can fill the void. He needs to find more consistency, though, as a playmaker and a goalscorer.
Jack Wilshere: A-
Jack has quickly become one of my favorite players on the team - I think every Gooner will agree. I love his technique and his attitude. His best game of the year was an unforgettable one - Barcelona at the Emirates. But for most of the year, he's been very consistent and fills his role flawlessly. Well, perhaps nearly flawless, because the one thing that Jack needs to add to his game is shooting. Used to be when you typed "Jack Wilshere" into a Youtube search, you'd find numerous clips of him hitting amazing shots for the under 18s. I know he can shoot, but for whatever reason, he never seems to. And that's why he's only got one goal on the season. He should have at least eight, in my opinion, and he's capable of even more than that. It's probably wrong to be too tough on him - he's only 19 and you have to think that with another season under his belt, he'll grow in confidence in the final third. Jack should remain in the starting line-up next season and I hope to see him in an Arsenal uniform for the next 15 years. He's a potential captain of the future and I can't wait to see him lifting trophies for the club.
Andrei Arshavin: C
I own an Arshavin jersey. I was his biggest fan when he joined the club. He's had many great moments in his short Arsenal career. The 4-goal game at Anfield made him a legend overnight and again, if you were to do a Youtube search of his goals with Arsenal, you'd fall in love with him all over again. I have to see past that, though. With Arshavin, you truly get the good, the bad, and the ugly. When he first came to the club, he was incredibly lethal on the wing; he could make a move past any defender and he would find the back of the net. This season, however, he has looked lethargic. There are days when I wonder whether or not he still cares to play for Arsenal. Perhaps he does want to go back Zenit, but he's a professional and he'll never say it publicly. His play has shown otherwise, for the most part. He has 10 goals and 17 assists this year in 43 appearances. While that sounds like a decent return, you should also look at his numbers from last season - where he had 12 goals in 39 games. He seems to be on the decline. He has lost his passion and he's often a liability when asked to come back and defend. I think I'm ready for his departure, with Eden Hazard being his ideal replacement. If not Hazard, perhaps Elia or Marko Marin from the Bundesliga. Both excellent young left wingers.
Abou Diaby: C-
I'm prepared to give Diaby one or two more seasons with the club. Maybe that's too generous, but there are times when he looks dangerous going forward. With those long legs of his, he's one hell of a dribbler and I do like watching him play...for the most part. There are other times when he makes horrible passes and clumsy challenges. He's better for Song than Denilson, but he should really only come off the bench for Wilshere. He's a decent sub to have, but must really improve on his strength and fitness. He's another gunner who seems to be made of glass. And so, his low grade is due to the fact that he's only played in 19 matches so far this year.
Tomas Rosicky: D
Rosicky should be sold in the summer. Arsene Wenger hasn't been playing him much lately, and because he can't be found on the injury list, I have to think that it means Tomas is on his way out. I hope so. The Czech captain, like Arshavin, has given us a few great moments over the years, but he has never fully recovered from the injury that kept him out for what seemed like decades. I wish things could have worked out better. During the 2006 World Cup, Rosicky was a rising star. He was a brilliant passer with great vision and possessed the ability to hit shots from distance. Now he's 30 years old and a shell of his former self. It's time to move on. We need to buy a consistent midfielder who can come off the bench for Fabregas. I would love to have Christian Eriksen on the team, but for whatever reason, the transfer rumors have only linked him with Liverpool. Perhaps we need someone with more experience as well. I'm not exactly sure who that would be (Riccardo Montolivo?). But back to Rosicky, his poor grade is due to the fact he can no longer be counted on to do the things we need from an attacking midfielder. His passing and decision-making are not as sharp as they used to be.
Writing a long paragraph about Denilson would only infuriate me. I want to spend as little time on him as possible because that's all he deserves. I'm not sure where he fits in with the team; he can't pass and he can't tackle. I'm hoping his sale is imminent. We need to buy someone to fill in for Song or also to challenge him for his starting spot. I hate to keep targeting Ligue 1 players, but Stephane Mbia from Marseille would be an ideal candidate. We've been linked with him in the past and I hope to read similar things this summer.
Alex Song: B-
I gave Song a B-minus because I feel he was more inconsistent this year compared to the last. Every now and then he had a great game where he just dominated the midfield and broke up the attack of the opposition. But I feel that there were an equal number of games in which he didn't look as sharp. Alex did net five goals this season, which is impressive, but I still want more consistent dominance from him in the midfield for next season. Yesterday during the Manchester United game, Song put in a hell of a shift and limited the attack of the Red Devils. It was refreshing to see, and I hope he improves against top competition next year. We'll certainly need him to be at his best if we're to end our trophy drought. Competition might also be healthy within the team, though, and I do hope to see a summer signing that would allow that. Again, someone like Mbia would be nice. I also wonder if Frimpong will step up. It's certainly more possible than hoping Craig Eastmond will.
Aaron Ramsey: N/A
Easy to understand why Ramsey gets an N/A. It's wonderful to see him back out on the pitch again (and scoring a game winner against Man Utd!!). Aaron's recovery has been remarkable and I hope that he can recover mentally and rediscover that which made him a promising young midfielder. I love Ramsey's game and I think he fits in excellently with our style of play. Hard to see where he fits in, assuming he buy an attacking mid in the summer. Hopefully he does make plenty of appearances for us next season and doesn't go out on loan or anything. Along with Wilshere, the future does look bright for Arsenal (as it always does). Too bad we're currently stuck in the present. But honestly, Ramsey can be a key component as we look to end the trophy drought next season.
Emmanuel Eboue: C
I have Eboue listed as a midfielder only because that's how Arsenal.com lists him. As we all know, Eboue only sees time out on the pitch as a fullback...although there may have been one or two games in which Wenger deployed him as a winger. So again, I will list him here among the midfielders but will talk about him mostly as a defender. Not only is Eboue very quick, but his acting abilities have certainly led us to have many free kicks in the final third. Other than that, though, Eboue doesn't offer much going forward. There are times, yes, when he can pull of a decent Clichy or Sagna impression pushing forward...but Eboue isn't the greatest defender. His tackling is suspect and often stupid. I would like Arsene to add an RB to back up Sagna for next season, but this isn't as dire as us fortifying the middle of the defense...so it's not as if Eboue must be sold. I think it's also important to acknowledge the fact that since being derided by the fans a couple of seasons ago, Emmanuel has fought through that adversity by improving his performance. It's commendable and he has turned into a decent RM/RB, but perhaps it's time to find someone who can do better. Update: Arsenal might be looking to bring in 19-year-old Englishman Carl Jenkinson.