Morning all, welcome to a new a new week.
We’ll start this morning with the not-so-news that Robin van Persie was named PFA Player of the Year last night. It was, after everything he’s done this season, fairly obvious he was going to win it and the captain was quick to praise those around him for helping him scoop the award won in the past by Liam Brady, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
Thanks Arsenal, my team mates, colleagues, my family and of course my friends and fans for this magnificent award. It’s a real honour!
Without them I could not have achieved it. For example, Theo Walcott, he has given me more than 12 assists and I do really appreciate that.
While it’s nice for Robin, and well deserved, individual awards in football leave me cold. I did think at the time it was pretty unjust that Thierry never won European Player of the Year but not so much that it ever occurred to me to think about it ever again … until now. Man of the match, player of the year, World Dribbling Champion, meh.
Of course certain individuals are going to shine but it’s a team game at the end of the day, and Robin’s thank-yous showed he’s well aware of that too. As for the Young Player of the Year, never heard of him, and the team of the year, triple meh with a slice of bleurgh on top. Of course you can wonder why Koscielny, for example, wasn’t in there, but then it really doesn’t matter one bit. What matters is that we know how good he is.
Speaking of which, Thomas Vermaelen has been talking up his central defensive partner:
He is a great player. I think we know each other’s qualities so at the moment it is going well. He has done amazing this season and I don’t understand why a lot of criticism was there in the first season. The first week I saw him you could tell he was a great player and now it is all coming out in his second season. I am really happy for him.
Without van Persie in the mix I’d suggest Koscielny has been our most consistent performer all season long. There was an adapatation period last season but I thought the perception of him was marred by a couple of really soft red cards, that mix-up in the Carling Cup final and our end of season collapse from where it was difficult to see the positives. This campaign he has been excellent, whether he’s playing alongside Vermaelen, Mertesacker or Djourou (or Song, or Squillaci), you know what you’re going to get with him, and to be able to do that week in, week out, is not easy.
And while many still talk about Arsene Wenger’s inability to coach defence or find good defenders, Koscielny’s rise from Ligue 2 to Arsenal in such a short space of time shows that for every Squilvestranovs, he’s still got an eye for a player. Sagna was another one, out of left-field, not really that well known, but he too is a model of consistency. More of those please, Arsene.
Meanwhile, Vermaelen himself says he’s living the dream at Arsenal, even if we’ve fallen short trophy-wise this season, and says he’s looking for the team to grow together in the future.
I have no intention of leaving this club. I feel at home in London and I feel that I have become a real Gunner. Arsenal is my club. In my eyes, they belong to the absolute elite of European top clubs. This team can grow further.
When I was young, I dreamed of playing for Ajax and Arsenal. Both dreams have come true.
It’s impossible not to love Vermaelen (you’d need a heart as cold as ice and one willing to sacrifice) because he is one of those players who gives you 100% in a very demonstrable way. Different from Koscielny who just goes about his business efficiently, Vermaelen is a heart on sleeve player who can lift others around him. Witness his unnecessary but beautiful clobbering of John Terry on Saturday. There was no need to do it but he did it anyway because he knows that were any of us in that position that’s what we’d love to do. We can live our dreams vicariously through Vermaelen, and there’s no doubt he’s got the kind of character this team has been accused of missing from time to time.
I think there’s room for improvement with regards to his football though. Defensively he’s liable to slip-up (sometimes literally) more than others around him but considering his stop-start Arsenal career due to those injuries it’s an area which he’s still got plenty of time to work on, especially considering he’s signed a lengthy new deal not so long ago.
There is a suggestion that his forays forward mask some of those defensive deficiencies, but maybe that’s something we’ve just got to live with. If he was going forward and not making a contribution then we might be more worried, but with 6 league goals this season – and two of them winners – there’s no doubt he adds something akin to a ‘plan B’ at times. As for what’s left of this season, he says:
It will be a big effort for everybody to get that third place. It is not going to be easy but that is because you play in England and it is not an easy league. Everybody can beat everybody. It is going to be hard to keep third place but I am confident that we will.
With a full week to prepare for a trip to Stoke, on paper our most tricky fixture of the three remaining, we can get fully focused on that scrap for third. All they’ve got left this season is a chance to spoil ours, so it’s going to be a big test. More on that as the week progresses.
And that’s about that for this morning, till tomorrow.