Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Player Ratings: Arsenal
The sight of Arsenal fans celebrating a third-place Premier League finish after a final day win against West Brom was criticised by some as evidence the Gunners have realigned their ambitions to modest levels after seven years without a trophy.
However, when you consider the appalling start Arsenal made to the campaign and the traumas endured over the course of the last ten months, securing another season of Champions League football has to be hailed as an excellent achievement for Arsene Wenger's side, who also managed to finish ahead of North London rivals Tottenham for a 17th successive season.
Robin van Persie - 10
After scoring more than 40% of his side's Premier League goals in 2011-12, it is not unreasonable to suggest Arsenal may have finished outside of the top six if it were not for their magnificent Dutchman. Their captain won games on his own and led from the front as Wenger's men climbed into the top three, and the thought of him leaving this summer will be too much to bear for supporters.
Wojciech Szczesny - 8.5
Oozing self-confidence and backing up his self-belief with some solid performances, the danger for Arsenal must be that a sparkling Euro 2012 with Poland will see some big-spending rivals sniffing around Szczesny. A stunning shot stopper, he is prone to making the odd high-profile error, but they were few and far between this season; he kept 18 clean sheets in all competitions.
Alex Song - 8
Credited with a host of assists in Van Persie's prolific campaign (11 in the Premier League), he won over many who suspected he was little more than a midfield enforcer. Seemingly given more freedom to express himself by Wenger, Song's ability to dissect a defence with a single pass was an improving facet of his game.
Thomas Vermaelen - 7.5
While some fans expressed disappointment at Vermaelen's displays in some of their low points - such as the hammering against AC Milan and the FA Cup exit at Sunderland - there is little doubt that they look more secure with this Belgian in their ranks than when they were waiting for him to emerge from the treatment room. His goals against Newcastle and Everton secured vital back-to-back wins in mid-March.
Mikel Arteta - 7.5
Trying to fill the vast void left by departed compatriot Cesc Fabregas was always likely to be an impossible mission for a player snapped up in Wenger's scramble for players at the end of the August transfer window, yet this was a commendable first season for Arteta at Arsenal. His late winner against Manchester City in April was a strike that proved crucial in their push for a top-three finish.
Tomas Rosicky - 7
Had he played with the flair and invention he showed in the final few weeks of the season throughout the campaign, Arsenal may well have delivered more. Rosicky rediscovered his touch and composure in the season-defining 5-2 victory over Tottenham in February and he kept that form going right through to early May.
Laurent Koscielny - 7
Viewed by many as a weak link at the back during his two years at Arsenal, Koscielny defied his critics with some solid performances this season, even though he was also a part of some of the most difficult defensive moments. His fortunate winning goal in the final game of the season at West Brom secured third spot in the Premier League.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 7
If Wenger had allowed this promising winger to play more often, he may have propelled himself up the end of season rating chart, yet Oxlade-Chamberlain was only used sparingly. The 23 appearances he gave suggested he will be an Arsenal star for years to come and he may well bolster his reputation with England at Euro 2012 this summer.
Kieran Gibbs - 6.5
Wenger took a huge gamble by throwing Gibbs into the heat of battle at the San Siro against AC Milan after four months out of the first-team picture and it backfired as his side were overwhelmed in the 4-0 rout. That solitary performance should not dilute the more impressive displays from Gibbs, as he was superb in the wins against Tottenham, Newcastle and Manchester City.
Carl Jenkinson - 6.5
Like Gibbs, Jenkinson showed flashes of promise and moments of indecision as he found his way into the first-team ranks. He may not have expected to play in so many high-profile games after his move from Charlton last summer and his sending off in the 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford was hardly the best of starts to his Arsenal career. He will nonetheless benefit from the experiences of the last 10 months.
Bacary Sagna - 6.5
Injury disrupted this Frenchman's season after he was crocked in the away defeat to Tottenham in October and then damaged the same leg in the final home game of the season against Norwich. He played a key role in their crucial six-game winning run in February and March that revived Arsenal's season and continues to be a reliable operator at right-back.
Theo Walcott - 6
Those present for the North London derby against Spurs in February will confirm the home crowd were turning their anger on Walcott like never before. He may have emerged as the hero with his second-half goals in that game and a final total of 11 for the season can be seen as progress, but his plus points are overshadowed by the frustration his performances guarantee. His crossing remains a flaw.
Aaron Ramsey - 6
Arsenal fans have long promoted this Welshman as a star worthy of top billing, yet many of them have recently started to question their own judgement. Guilty of giving the ball away too often, Ramsey needs to hit the ground running next season to confirm he is the real deal after all.
Per Mertesacker - 6
This big German was hailed as the new talisman of the Arsenal back line when he was signed from Werder Bremen last summer, but he admitted to struggling with the pace of the Premier League. His performance in the 4-3 defeat at Blackburn back in September was a low point, while he also always looked shaky against forwards with a turn of pace. These problems will not go away next season.
Thierry Henry - 6
While it's hard to judge a legend whose cameo appearances following his romantic return to Arsenal were more nostalgic than season defining, his winning goal at Sunderland proved to be a hugely significant parting gift. The two extra points that goal secured certainly helped in their pursuit of third spot, but Henry must have expected more game time after his loan move from New York Red Bulls.
Yossi Benayoun - 6
The Israeli playmaker was something of a peripheral figure at Arsenal for much of his season on loan from Chelsea, but played his part in their revival in the final few weeks of the season and left giving the impression that he had some unfinished business in a red shirt. However, doubts remain whether he is good enough to consistently make a difference at the highest level.
Francis Coquelin - 5.5
Wenger has long talked up the potential of 21-year-old Coquelin, but he was present for some of their less glorious performances this season. A starter in the infamous 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, the away defeat against Spurs, a 2-1 loss against Fulham and the FA Cup exit at Sunderland, he was also less than convincing in the 3-3 draw at home to Norwich earlier this month. Next season will be crucial in his bid to prove his worth at this level.
Gervinho - 5.5
Last summer's marquee new arrival has taken time to settles at Arsenal and the jury is still out on whether this £10.5 million signing is good enough to light up the Premier League. Sent-off on his debut at Newcastle, he showed flashes of inventive flair, but Gervinho had become a bench warmer by the end of the campaign. Must do better.
Johan Djourou - 5
Arsenal have found themselves waiting many a long month for the return to fitness of this Swiss international in recent years, yet some of his performances this season have done little to suggest he is the answer to their defensive woes. His constant battle with niggling injuries may be stifling the potential he showed in his formative days at Arsenal.
Andrey Arshavin - 4
His performances have served to antagonise rather than amaze Arsenal fans in recent years, particularly when they edged towards rock bottom this season. His move back to Russia on loan in February is likely to be a prelude to his permanent departure from North London this summer. Arshavin's lack of energy and negative body language in times of crisis makes him an easy target when the going gets tough.
Marouane Chamakh - 2
Signed amid claims that he would offer so much more to an Arsenal strike force that had been dominated by the sublime presence of Van Persie, Chamakh has seemed out of his depth at the club from the moment he arrived. Certain to leave this summer, he will depart with many wondering what Wenger ever saw in him.