Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Arsenal 2010-2011 Season Review III

Player Grades: The Defenders

Gael Clichy: B-

I'm torn on Clichy. If I were to have him replaced, my ideal choice would be Leighton Baines, who has had one hell of a season for Everton this year. Clichy, like Nasri, is apparently close to signing an extension with the club. There are also constant rumors out there that Juventus is interested in buying him. I can't say that I would be disappointed if he stayed or left. Over the past few seasons, especially this one, Clichy has had both good games and bad games. He's a guy who does nothing terribly and nothing brilliantly. He's a very solid starter for the team. I just wonder if it's time for a change. A guy like Baines has more experience and is more adept at pushing forward. Not to mention his free kicks. Not only that, I feel he is a better defender than Clichy - who has a habit of being out of position. I also wonder, in talking about the defense, how much of our poor play is due to the individual players themselves, or Wenger's defensive scheme. We play a high line, which often leaves us vulnerable to counter attacks and teams with long passing attacks. I'm sure it's a combination of the two. Not only must we bring in new defenders, but Wenger should also reconsider his tactics with the defense.

Laurent Koscielny: C+

When the club bought Koscielny last summer, I didn't think much of it because I hadn't really heard of him before, and I assumed that Wenger didn't sign him to be the starting center back opposite Vermaelen. Stupid me. Laurent has made 40 starts so far this season and in that time, I feel he has assimilated a bit more into the English game...but I don't want him to be a starter next season. He's proved to be a reliable substitute for us, though, and I wouldn't mind at all if he were on the team again next season. During the Manchester United game at the Emirates, Koscielny shut down Rooney and Hernandez, and even made some nice runs forward. Unfortunately for him, he also had a hand in costing us the Carling Cup, so we've really seen both great and poor from him. Koscielny may have exceeded my expectations this year - so a job well done...but still, Wenger must purchase a quality CB this summer.

Johan Djourou: C+

Same as Koscielny, really. At times, Djourou has looked good enough to start for us. He possesses the height and strength we need at the back, but there have been plenty of games where his marking has cost us dearly. He seems to have mental lapses during set-pieces, so he must improve on that before he can be considered a regular for us. He'll be back next year, but we should really be seeing him only when one of our starters is out injured. Again, Wenger must buy someone to partner with the Verminator.

Bacary Sagna: B+

Sagna has been our best/most consistent defender this year. He's a hell of a defender, and he is able to make nice runs forward. Having said that, he still needs to work on his crosses; they often go nowhere, but then again...we don't often have height in the box during games. But that's really the only fault to his game. Another fine year from Bacary. He'll be with us next year and I hope for many years to come. The best RB in the Premier League.

Sebastien Squillaci: F

I was excited when Arsenal announced the signing of Squillaci. Honestly, though, it was primarily due to desperation. We needed depth over the summer due to the departures of Gallas, Silvestre, and Sol Campbell. I still can't believe how much Wenger neglected this position in the off-season, considering the fact that three centerbacks left the team (oh wait, yes I can). With Vermaelen's injury, it didn't take long for us to see Sebastian in action. Considering the number of caps he's had for France and the fact that he was a starter for Seville, I expected him to adapt to the EPL much better than Koscielny. Now we know, I could not have been more wrong. Squillaci is a oft a liability at the back. His positioning, marking, and tackling have all been extremely poor. There's a stat out there (I'd look it up, but it would make me pull my hair out) showing the percentage of goals Arsenal let up when Squillaci and Koscielny are paired up. I mostly blame Sebastien for this. He has been the worse of the two and there's no room for him in the squad next year. He's simply not good enough for the league and is certainly not good enough for Arsenal. He should be sold this summer, but somehow I doubt this will happen. Wenger needs to purchase one of: Per Mertesacker, Gary Cahill, Mamadou Sakho, Brede Hangeland, Benedikt Howedes, or Neven Subotic. I'm there are tons of other great candidates out there. But everyone knows we need a leader back there. Getting Thomas back from injury will help, but he needs a partner. I think Cahill is the most likely candidate to sign with us, and I wouldn't have a problem with that. Although, I do wonder how well he would hold up in the Champions League games.

Kieran Gibbs: C+

Last year I didn't really care for Gibbs. I didn't think he had what it took to be successful in the EPL; I guess it's pretty easy to criticize a young kid. Gibbs has improved as a defender this season and looks very solid. He needs to build up strength (he's another one made of glass), and must improve on his attacking - specifically his crosses. If we did sell Clichy in the summer, I don't think Gibbs would be ready to start (which is why I want to bring a guy like Baines in to show him the ropes until he is ready). He just needs another year or so, but I'm liking him as a player a lot more now.

Thomas Vermaelen: N/A

I feel awful for Vermaelen; it must be extremely difficult to sit out for the majority of a season. We really missed him this year and no one knows what would happened had he been healthy. Hell, Arsenal could be crowned league champions this week had he not been injured. But there's no point in playing that game. The Verminator made three starts for us before his ACL injury. There's a chance that he could start for one of the three remaining games left. It would be awesome to see him out there again, but our fate is already sealed and it might be dumb to risk him. Who knows, though. I'm glad he was able to do 90 minutes for the reserves match against Man U. He should be ready to go in August, barring any setbacks. I just can't wait to see him next season. Hopefully we'll have a great player to partner with him.

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