Football News: Arsenal Season Review

 

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Arsenal Season Review
Image from: goonersphere.com

Arsenal Season Review

Once again the FA Cup came to the rescue of Arsenal and prevented a fans meltdown. With the failure to qualify for the Champions League, players unhappiness, contracts running down all over the place, fan dissatisfaction and Wenger's sheer intransigence, this was a difficult season for the Gunners. Even more so for the followers of the club, who have seen their ambitions drop from challenging for the Champions League, to challenging for the Premier League, to qualifying for the Champions League and now just challenging for qualification. It is all a long way from the glory days of the 'Invincibles'.

With a few big signings in the summer, this had seemed like the season Wenger had finally loosened the purse strings in order to have a proper tilt at the title. As usual though, it soon became apparent that Arsenal were lacking and that better quality players were required just to get in the top 4, let alone have a chance of the title. It seems that the club is just too slow to act on obvious weaknesses, and then Wenger gets carried away buying multiple players to fill the same gap.

When it was glaringly obvious to all that a better keeper was needed, it was at least 2 seasons before Wenger finally brought Ospina in, then the following season he added another one in Cech. When the midfield was lacking bite, it was years before Coquelin made him realise it, then he has bought midfielders with bite in each window since. How long has it been that Arsenal have lacked a top class striker? Finally this summer Arsene moved to get Lacazette.

It is always too late and then a mad rush to just pile in bodies in that area of the pitch, leaving little in the way of funds to strengthen anywhere else that needs it. This poor budget management has meant the squad always looks stretched thin, especially when the customary injury crisis rears its head each season. How much longer can the FA Cup save Arsene Wenger before the club itself realises that the job is too much for just one man? It is clear to me that Wenger either needs oversight or needs to become the oversight for someone else.

Wenger is a man who has done so much for Arsenal, he deserves to leave with his legacy intact and as a legend with his head held high. Each year he stays on, he comes a step closer to destroying that legacy and being like George Foreman, remembered more for the bloated years after he should have retired, rather than for his glory years as a great boxer.


Arsene Wenger

I like Arsene Wenger immensely, met him a few times and found him to be a genuinely nice guy and everyone I have known that has met him has said the same. However, last season I have to put the blame for everything that went wrong at his door, much as I am loath to do so. Over the last few years, his actions have been responsible for the club's slow descent from the summit. There has been a lack of ambition, stemming from the top. Wenger's transfer dealings have been poor, there is no other way to describe them, as the funds have been there for more.

Then there is his management of the players, with regards to giving them far too much freedom, fitness training and salaries. There is too much leeway given to rich young men, who then go out and enjoy themselves far too much with no worry about consequences. That affects their fitness and they are not being pushed hard enough in training, so they have injury problems. Finally the salaries, average players are being rewarded for very little, there is no system of aspiration, whereby the weakest players have to aspire to the kind of earnings the top players get. Instead it is very much a flat base, so what do they have to inspire them to work harder in training and improve?

Worst of all, there is the contract situation. Not only did Wenger allow 3 key players to run down their contracts, but he also allowed his own to run right down and it became the subject of much unsettling speculation. That cost the team dearly, as it clearly affected things. On the plus side, he did, finally, change his tactical set up to something more suited to the players at his disposal, which was good enough to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final. However, overall this has to go down as a disappointing season, as the club went backwards.

Marks out of 10: 4


Petr Cech

It really has not followed the script we were all given when Arsenal sealed the capture of Cech from London rivals Chelsea, two seasons ago. We were told it would be the final piece of the jigsaw to turn them into champions and that he would win them 15 points all on his own. Since then it has turned out that Cech was not the missing piece after all and that, good as he is, the Cech of now is not the Cech of old and that he is not worth 15 points all on his own after all. He has simply not looked the same keeper he was at Chelsea. Still good, but not enough of an upgrade on Ospina, if even an upgrade, to have made the difference.

Marks out of 10: 6


David Ospina

Personally I feel sorry for Ospina, who was signed from Nice to be the missing link, the top quality keeper they had been lacking, only for Cech to become available the following season and arrive to replace him. All this despite him having played well enough to become a firm favourite amongst the fans. Wenger is now trying to keep two number one keepers happy by giving Ospina cup games, last season that included the Champions League games. It is an odd situation that can hardly be helping either keeper.

Marks out of 10: 5


Emiliano Martinez

The promising Argentinian got a handful of chances, being given the EFL Cup games and then a couple of Premier League games while both Cech and Ospina were missing through injury. It was not enough to truly judge him on, but it was enough to lead Arsenal fans to believe they were well covered if either Ospina or Cech left.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Laurent Koscielny

The Arsenal captain has always been an excellent player for them, not just good defensively but also good on the ball, well suited to the Arsenal style of play. The move to a back three has suited him down to the ground, and his injury problems were conspiciously absent last season, as he missed very few games through injury.

Marks out of 10: 7


Shkodran Mustafi

A big summer signing, the German international was no stranger to English football, having been at Everton as a youngster, so it was expected he would adapt quickly. Unfortunately, as is the Arsenal way these days, Mustafi suffered injury niggles meaning he was in and out of the side and never really got to settle in properly.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Per Mertesacker

The big German has the pace of an asthmatic tortoise and I have seen milk turn sour quicker, in fact the only time he showed any speed of movement was to duck out of the way of the ball hit at goal. However, Mertasacker's attitude behind the scenes has made him a firm favourite of Wenger, despite injury keeping him out most of the season, he was brought back to play in the final Premier League match as a sub, before starting the FA Cup final and captaining the Gunners to victory.

Marks out of 10: 1.5


Gabriel Paulista

Gabriel has been a disappointment, indifferent performances, mixed with the odd good one and injury spells have been the story of his career with the Gooners. Pretty much like the entire squad these days to be fair to him. The emergence of Holding has put a doubt over his future with the Londoners.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Krystian Bielik

A young defender who got a few minutes as a sub in the EFL Cup v Nottingham Forest, before a January loan move to Birmingham City.

Marks out of 10: 0.5


Rob Holding

After arriving on a minor deal from Bolton Wanderers, Holding had little in the way of expectation on his shoulders this season but managed to hold his own on the occasions he was picked. It was when the team switched to a back three that he really came into his own though, looking extremely comfortable there.

Marks out of 10: 6


Nacho Monreal

Another of the players who really benefitted from the switch to a back three. Monreal was a decent left back, but far too defensively minded for the modern style of play and lacking in the pace to charge up and down the flank. As the left sided centre back of a back three, Monreal is able to use his quality on the ball to excellent effect.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Kieran Gibbs

Weak defensively, lacking in quality delivery when attacking, Gibbs is also one of the players who suffers from the Arsenal injury curse too. It is little wonder he lost his place to Monreal at left back, with the switch to a back three giving him a fresh chance to hold down a place, this time as a left wing back, it must be a worry to him that the right footed Oxlade-Chamberlain moved ahead of him in that position.

Marks out of 10: 0


Hector Bellerin

The season before, Bellerin had looked like a world beater, good enough to attract the attention of a Barcelona looking to replace Dani Alves at right back. While injuries clearly affected his form last season, he did look like a player who had been affected by the transfer speculation. Even when the shift to a back three arrived, despite it looking like a system to which he should be perfectly suited to playing as a right wing back, he never looked anywhere near the player from the previous season.

Marks out of 10: 3


Callum Chambers

Started the season as centre back in the opening Premier League match, but struggled and was sent out on loan to Middlesbrough for the rest of the season without making another appearance for Arsenal last season.

Marks out of 10: 0.5


Carl Jenkinson

The forgotten man at Arsenal, once a promising young right back, now a back up for the back ups! Just 5 first team appearances in total last season, as he struggled to get near the bench most weeks, let alone in the team.

Marks out of 10: -5


Mathieu Debuchy

It has all gone wrong for the French right back since he joined Arsenal. Prior to moving to the Gunners, Debuchy was a highly rated player with a number of high profile clubs showing interest. Now he is completely out of favour and there is little interest in his services from elsewhere. Just one sub appearance was his contribution to Arsenal last season.

Marks out of 10: -8


Granit Xhaka

Sometimes it feels like Arsenal fans are so desperate to see this big money signing from Borussia Moenchengladbach succeed that they overlook all his deficiencies to rave about every half decent performance. The Swiss international does have an excellent range of passing and the vision to pick out a pass, but he is slow, does not work hard enough, is prone to picking up needless cards, basically being a passenger for most of the game. It was not a good first season for him, but he is still young and has time to improve and get up to speed in the Premier League.

Marks out of 10: -2.5


Francis Coquelin

After bursting on the scene and transforming Arsenal's fortunes with his energy, workrate and bite in midfield, it seemed like Coquelin could well have been a huge factor over the course of last season. Sadly for the Frenchman he struggled to get consistent starts and to perform to his best when he did play. He badly missed the creativity and workrate of Santi Cazorla alongside him and could not gel as well with any of the other midfielders at the club. However his desire was always there and Coquelin never let his head drop, even when asked to perform different roles such as being brought on to play at left wing back. In fact he was very impressive in the wing back role.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Mohamed Elneny

The Egyptian midfielder is one of those players I have difficulty working out exactly what the manager sees in him. It is not that he is a bad player, but for a team that has pretensions of challenging for titles, players should have some skillset that you can point to and say 'yep, that is why he is in the team'. Walcott has pace, Xhaka has a good range of passing, Elneny has ? I know he was mainly a back up, but it still amazes me every time I see him that such an average player has managed to get a gig like that. However that almost sums up the recent tenure of Arsene Wenger.

Marks out of 10: 3


Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey has become the target for the boo boys and suffered with injuries throughout his career, last season being no different. Unfortunately for the Welsh midfielder, he had one stellar season early in his career that he has since been unable to replicate. Often used as a utility player to fill in gaps in the team by Wenger, Ramsey has suffered by being versatile and willing. There were signs of what he could offer towards the end of the season, as he was a player that benefitted massively from the switch to a back three and a position more suited to his talents.

Marks out of 10: 3


Santi Cazorla

Cazorla is one of those players that makes his team tick, the kind of player you build a team around to get the most from his talents, under normal circumstances. However Cazorla has not had the luxury of the Arsenal team being built around him, he has instead been shifted around to make room for others, notably Ozil. Unlike many players, who would have sulked and so struggled in a new role, Cazorla worked hard and made the position his own. He offered workrate, aggression, technique, skill and a good reading of the game in a deeper role, plus built an excellent partnership with Coquelin in the centre.

Unfortunately for the Spaniard, his season was cut short early on, as a nasty ankle injury required surgery and he spent the large part watching on from the sidelines. He was sorely missed, particularly his creativity from deep.

Marks out of 10: 3


Jack Wilshere

It looked like being another season of the usual from Wilshere, odd appearances here and there, says the right things on social media to make the gullible fans love him, offers absolutely nothing on the pitch and then picks up an injury and is not seen again for months, other than in pictures of him nightclubbing and smoking sly cigarettes. However this season things were different. After being told that saying the right things on social media was not going to be enough to cover up for his utter mediocrity on the pitch and that he would be a back up player this season, Wilshere decided to fight for his place by running away to the seaside and joining Bournemouth on loan.

Marks out of 10: 0


Jeff Reine-Adelaide

A promising youngster who got a few chances in cup games. Impressed enough to ensure Wenger took a closer look at him this summer for the season ahead.

Marks out of 10: 4


Gedion Zelalem

A promising young winger, but his career has stalled recently and, after just 2 subsititute appearances in the EFL Cup, he was sent out on loan to VVV Venlo for the second half of the season.

Marks out of 10: 1


Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Does anyone even know what his best position is? Certainly he himself feels he is a central midfielder in the Steven Gerrard mould, and has said so publicly, but does anyone else see that in him? Mostly he has only impressed as an impact sub, as his pace and power is a real danger against tired legs, even though he lacks the intelligence to pick his runs properly. However, at the end of the season Wenger did what seems to be fashionable with a player that no one can figure out what position they should play - he put him at wingback. With the only real requirement to run up and down the wing as fast as possible to be involved defensively and offensively, he was well suited to the role.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Like so many youngsters before him, he got a handful of cup games and a last gasp sub appearance in the Premier League to show for the season. Now he needs to push on from that, unlike most, to hold down a regular spot in the team.

Marks out of 10: 4


Mesut Ozil

I am not sure what Ozil means, but if it means scapegoat or whipping boy, then it would certainly suit the German. Despite his silky skills and constant off the ball movement, which led to him being the Arsenal player who had covered the most distance per game at one point of last season, the fans are constantly on the former Real Madrid man's back for what he does not do well and accusing him of being lazy. A creative force with a talent for picking just the right pass with the right weight to allow his team mates to score, Ozil will always be abused because he is not a ball winner. Once again he hits double figures in both goals and assists, but he is still the target for so much abuse and talk of how poor a season he had. It is little wonder he has shown little desire to sign a new contract.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Alexis Sanchez

Since signing for Arsenal from Barcelona, in what can only be described as a coup, Sanchez has been the heartbeat of the team, dragging performances out of them due to his sheer energy and desire. However last season even his enthusiasm showed it had limits, as his teammates willingness to celebrate mediocrity annoyed the Chilean, who has a massive will to win. Public fallouts over his anger with the rest of the squad has left his future clouded. Odd how he seems to be the one the fans have turned on, when he was the only one actually putting it all on the line for them each week.

Clearly the club's best player, by a wide margin, he managed to notch 30 goals in total last season, as well as 19 assists, yet has been allowed to run his contract down into its final year. If even half the rest of the team had his attitude, then Arsenal would be title challengers every season, instead of celebrating the 4th place cup that they seem so proud of.

Marks out of 10: 8.5


Alex Iwobi

I think his impact on the team can be best summed up by the fact that just about all the commentators ever have to say on him is that his uncle is Jay-Jay Okocha. Iwobi is all the things Arsenal fans crucify Ozil for and yet somehow he seems to escape the criticism, maybe because he is quicker and trickier, though barely able to pass to a team mate when there is another blind alley to run down instead. Iwobi is lightweight, lazy and lacks any kind of will to win. It is because of players like him that they are no longer the force they once were.

Marks out of 10: -2


Chris Willock

A young winger who was given a couple of sub appearances in the EFL Cup.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Theo Walcott

A long time ago when Walcott was making a name for himself at youth level for Southampton, a former Gunners player was sent to take a look at him, as Wenger was considering signing him. The report came back to steer well clear and sign the lad on the other side of the pitch instead, one Gareth Bale. Of course Wenger never listened, signed the lightning quick Walcott, who has since matured into an overpaid, underperforming, lacking desire, injury prone player of the type Wenger seems to like collecting. Perfectly suited to a team with no ambition to win anything, as his only real ability is to run very fast without the ball. That ability did help him to a total of 19 goals last season though.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Olivier Giroud

Giroud is a French striker who seems more of an old fashioned English striker, but with a touch of quality, rather than just brute strength. Tall, good in the air, strong, lovely technique and control of the football but lacking mobility badly, Giroud is one of those players that really needs a partner up alongside him to get the most out of him. Despite being very much in and out of the side last season, Giroud racked up 16 goals at the highest strike rate per minute of any striker in the Premier League. Surprisingly still not highly rated despite that.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Danny Welbeck

Another of those Arsenal players that do not seem to have a best position. Not because they are so good in lots, but because they play lots but never look entirely comfortable in that position. Welbeck offers pace, height, hard work and is very likeable, but he has that Bambi on ice quality to his game and lacks any real, genuine, talent on the ball. With his pace and aerial ability, he should, if he managed to stay fit, be a contender for Golden Boot each season. However, his inability to finish his dinner, let alone a chance, most weeks, will see him often placed on the wing, where he will run lots but accomplish little other than to endear himself to the fans.

After a long injury lay off, he was back for January and he offered little of note in the 20 first team appearances he managed to make, other than to be a nuisance with his non-stop running. Maybe he is one of those players that needs to learn to slow down a bit before hitting the ball to improve his technique?

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Lucas Perez

While the summer arrival from Deportivo La Coruna did have a few injury problems during the season, even when fit Wenger did not seem keen to use him. At the end of the season, Perez was not even getting into the match day squad, which was a surprise as he did not look such a bad player when he did get a chance.

Marks out of 10: 2


Chuba Akpom

The youngster made one appearance in the 3rd round of the EFL Cup before a back problem ended his chances of more games in that competition. He was sent out to Brighton & Hove Albion on loan in January.

Marks out of 10: 1

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