So the season has ended and we can take stock of where we are and the way we’ve performed. I’ve decided to a player by player analysis of each player and assign them a mark, just like in school. I just need to find a red pen with which to scribble on their report cards.
It’s broken up into two parts (today and tomorrow), and we start at the back with goalkeepers and defenders.
Wojciech Szczesny: Established himself as number 1 and the fact that Arsene Wenger chose to play him when injured, and requiring pain-killing injections, says a lot about the faith he’s got in him and the other options he has. Made some mistakes but I think these are necessary for a young keeper and he’ll learn quickly from them. Perhaps needs some competition next season to push him on but overall positive. B-
Lukasz Fabianski: Played just 6 games, didn’t really do anything wrong, but obviously the manager prefers an injured Szczesny to him and that must spell curtains for his Arsenal career. D
Vito Mannone: Made one substitute appearance against Olympiacos in the Champions League and provided one of the comedy moments of the season when trying to scissor-kick a ball he could have picked up. Has had a good loan spell at Hull by all accounts but like Fabianski will probably leave this summer. D
Manuel Almunia: Sat on the bench a couple of times, didn’t play once. It’s over.
Bacary Sagna: Mr Consistent but a season blighted by injury. He returned and immediately improved us but seemed to struggle a bit towards the end of the season before that Norwich bloke broke his leg again. All the same a crucial part of our back four, you could see how much more effective Walcott was with him back in the side, so let’s hope he makes a full and quick recovery. B
Carl Jenkinson: Thrown in at the deep end, struggled as you might expect then, when presented with a chance to fill in for Sagna, spent months out with a stress fracture of his back. Has plenty to learn but works hard, crosses the ball well and there are positive signs. C
Per Mertesacker: I like him and I think he brings an organisational quality to our defence which we missed, especially in the final stages of the season. He made a couple of mistakes as he adapted to English football but criticism of his lack of pace misses the point. Others have plenty of that and make errors. I think he’ll be important next season as we try and find proper balance at centre-half, and I think he was a good, steadying influence on a team that was all over the place at the start of the season. C+
Laurent Koscielny: Our second best player this season and makes a lie of those who say Arsene Wenger can’t sign defenders. Quick, committed, stronger than last season, and at times carried the defence. If this improvement continues he’ll be a real force next season. Deserves all the plaudits he gets. A
Thomas Vermaelen: I love his character and spirit, as well as his determination to get goals (6 league goals this season is a great return from a centre-half), but his forays forward have left us exposed at the back. Also guilty of a number of slips/errors for which others would be crucified. Am not fully convinced that he and Koscielny work as well together as they might. Should do better. C
Johan Djourou: Went from being reliable and strong to timid and flaky. Not helped by being asked to play at full back when he’s clearly not a right back, but will surely acknowledge that his performances have not been up to par. Now firmly fourth in the pecking order, he’s got work to do if he wants first team football. D-
Sebastian Squillaci: Started just four games (2 Carling Cup, 1 Fa Cup, 1 dead rubber Champions League game) and looks like a player bereft of any confidence whatsoever. It hasn’t worked out for him and I suspect he’ll be gone in the summer.E
Kieran Gibbs: Again a season affected by injury when he might have really kicked on, but I think there are positive signs. The competition with Santos is interesting and the block against West Brom may well be one of my favourite moments of the season. C
Andre Santos: The cuddly maverick himself. He’s quite something, left back/inside left/free-roaming playmaker. He plays with an enthusiasm that’s great to see and despite a torrid introduction to English football, improved as he adapted. The injury was a shame, but he’s capable of contributing high up the pitch, something we haven’t had from left back for some time. He’s also better defensively than given credit for and has a stabby tackle that’s very much his own. C+
Others (ungraded): Ignasi Miquel played 9 times and acquited himself quite well but you have to think he needs a loan spell next season in order to progress properly. Nico Yennaris had a couple of interesting and encouraging cameos but the same must apply to him too (he actually went to Notts County on loan but only played twice).
So, that’s it for keepers and defence. Tomorrow we can look at the midfield and attacking side of the team.
Other than that there’s very little going on this morning. I have nothing to say about departed players who criticise Arsenal fans for talking about him while he continues to talk about Arsenal. The hypocrisy and classlessness is stark enough for most people to see the true colours there.
And while the Invincibles have rightly been named the best team of the Premier League era, the whole concept of a ‘Premier League era’ is a load of old bollocks. It ignores the fact that football, and great football at that, existed long before Sky and the marketing men got their greedy hands on the game.
“We’ve never seen anything like this”, bleated the pundits after an admittedly exciting end to this season, but frankly anyone who thinks Man City struggling to beat off 10 man relegation fodder at home is more worthy than Arsenal having to beat the reigning Champions by two clear goals at their own ground – and doing so in the final seconds of injury time – is off their rocker.