Midseason Review: Player-by-Player Review, Part 3By: Perry | January 5th, 2012
Part 3 of the review, coming right at you.
Stats: 22 appearances (3 sub appearances), 6.71 average rating, 2 goals, 6 assists, 2 yellow cards.
On his first full season since coming back from the Shawcross Special, Ramsey found himself as our main playmaker with Wilshere’s injury and Cesc’s and Nasri’s exits. He struggled to start his season, finding himself too slow, too methodical, and too fond of the sideways pass. But as the season progressed, Ramsey grew to his strengths and has reached the levels to where he was pre-injury- a creative box-to-box midfielder who can create several chances. Highlights include the last minute, crucial winning goal away at the CL at Marseille, and a great performance at the Bridge during our victory over Chelsea. Our lack of fullbacks in the last month has impacted Ramsey negatively, but this is still a season of progress for him. Let’s hope he can keep it up.
Stats: 21, 6.72, 2 yellow cards, 1 MOTM- 0-0 Marseille (h)
The tall German joined us on the last day of August from Werder Bremen for around 10 million, ready to play as an immediate starter following the injury to Vermaelen, the loss of form of Djourou, and the non-entity of Squillaci. He has performed adequately well, with his strong points being his overall excellent positioning and actually defending- one on ones, interception, stuff like that. Physically, however, he has been a small disappointment- he is very, very tall, yet is weak in the air. And he just seems a bit lightweight and a bit slow as well. Despite his shortcomings, he is miles ahead of Squillaci and Djourou (in his current form), and a big improvement over the likes of Silvestre, Senderos, and other backup CB’s we’ve had over the years. It’s nice to finally have a dependable, solid 3rd option that won’t cost you points, and for that ‘Sack deserves credit.
Stats: 22, 6.85, 3 goals, 1 assist, 4 yellow cards, 1 MOTM- Co-3-0 West Brom (h), Co-2-1 Aston Villa (a)
Another last day signing, Arteta was seen almost as a savior by some success-starved fans when he signed, and was seen as a direct replacement for Cesc. Tall, dark, and handsome, Arteta, on paper at least, seemed almost as if Cesc 2.0 had arrived. He’s Spanish, he’s a creative center midfielder, he’s in his twenties, he plays a neat pass, etc. But after a couple of games in, it was obvious that Arteta was no Cesc. He is not the creative outlet, the “rudder” that Fabregas was for us. Instead, Arteta plays like a more consistent, much more better version of Denilson (!)- he maintains possession, his passing is top notch, and his constant pressure on the opposition causes them to make more mistakes and lose the ball often. This lets our other two midfielders go forward without worry and adds extra cover and protection to our defenders. Arteta adds more like the metronome of our team, keeping us in control and adding a balance that has been missing for several years. All we need now is the acquisition of a world-class CAM or the development of one of our current players, for us to have a truly world-class midfield. Right now, Arteta has approached his role in a unique but essential way for us, and has done a good job at it.
Stats: 27, 6.94, 2 yellow cards, 32 goals conceded, 6.5 MOTM- Co-1-0 Udinese (h), 0-2 Liverpool (a), 2-1 Udinese (a), 1-0 Swansea (h), 1-1 Dortmund (a), 0-1 Manchester City (EPL) (a), 1-0 QPR (h)
Next to Captain Vantastic, Wojo is probably my favorite player of the season. For the first time since the days of Mad Jens, we have a reliable, good goalkeeper who can turn in the same excellent performances week in , week out. Szczesny was by far our best player when the season started, playing a big part as we advanced the CL playoffs against Udinese, saving a penalty in Italy. In addition, he made several excellent saves to help us to 3 points after 3 points when we started to get our season back on track. His individual assets should not be overlooked, either- he is great at claiming set pieces and crosses, and his leadership and communication skills have improved and he seems to be a real leader within the team, no mean feat for someone his age. His inexperience causes some issue now and then, but that’s something that will only improve. We finally have a strong, rock solid backbone in our team, and Szczesny is a big reason for it.
Stats: 10, 7, 2 assists, 2 yellow cards.
Well, it was looking to be like yet another season for Sagna, as trusty and dependable as ever from right back. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury during the North London Derby and has been out of action since October. He is scheduled to return this month, something all fans are looking forward to.
Stats: 23, 7.07, 1 goal, 7 assists (leader), 7 yellow cards (leader), 3 MOTM- 2-1 Olympiakos (h), 2-1 Dortmund (h), 1-0 Everton (h).
Last year saw the rise of Songinho, where the excellent defensive midfielder Alex Song added a new, attacking dimension to his game. He struggled a bit, but this season, especially with the addition of Arteta, Song has really flourished in his new bucaneering role. He has improved on his dribbling and passing skills, something that was showcased when he delivered arguably 2 of the assists of the season: His mazy run that ended in a perfect cross for van Persie to put us up front against Dortmund in the CL, and his perfectly weighted cross-pass for van Persie to volley home in our win over Everton. Such is his importance to this team that when he got suspended back in August for stomping on Joey Barton, we lost at home to Liverpool and got stomped at Manchester United. There were other factors behind those losses, but Song’s absence was a big part of them. Our most influential midfielder right now, and a far cry from the nervous teenager that got ripped on by the fans a few years ago.
Stats: 23, 7.08, 1 goal, 3 yellow cards, 3 MOTM- 0-0 Newcastle (a), 0-1 Man City (Carling Cup) (h), 1-1 Wolves (h).
After an ok first season, Koscielny has had an excellent second season in England, establishing himself as an immovable starter at the back of our defense with some rock solid, consistent performances. He suffered a bit of a slump at the end of August, performing miserably in the 8-2 and scoring an own goal in our 3-4 loss to Blackburn. But since then, Kos has been nearly unpenerable. Partnering either TV5 or Mertesacker, Koscielny’s skills at tackling, intercepting, and reading the game have been inmeasurable for us in being relatively solid at the back and rising up the league table. Of course, he has also found time to make runs from the back as well. Notable defensive performances include away to Marseille and putting ‘Nando in his back pocket during our win over Chelsea.
Stats: 17(2), 7.08, 3 goals, 2 assists, 4 yellow cards, .5 MOTM- Co-1-0 Udinese (h)
He’s back. And better than ever. The Verminator is finally fit and healthy to play for us after missing almost the entirety of 2010-11. His presence has been made now, being a rock as ever at the back of defense, but also being an offensive threat with his surging runs from the back and his potent threat on set pieces. He had an excellent MOTM performance in our home qualifier against Udinese to put us in a good position to qualify, and scored a crucial equalizing goal against Fulham (besides, y’know, scoring the own goal that put us behind in that match in the first place!). A world-class defender, who is without a doubt one of the best CB’s in the league, Vermaelen has been essential for us this season and will remain to be as we continue our charge for 4th.
And our player of the (half-)season is…
ROBIN VAN PERSIE
Stats: 23 starts (3 subs), 7.28 average rating (leader), 21 goals (leader), 6 assists, 3 yellow cards, 7 MOTM- 3-4 Blackburn (a), 3-0 Bolton (h), 2-1 Sunderland (h), Co-3-1 Stoke (h), 5-3 Chelsea (a), Co-3-0 West Brom (h), Co-2-1 Norwich (a), 4-0 Wigan (a), Co-2-1 Aston Villa (a) (leader).
Who else? Who the fuck else? It took a massive rehabilitation effort for this Arsenal team to rise from its August doldrums, and this man was at the center of it all. Like a father teaching his baby son how to walk, van Persie took this team by the hand during September and October and delivered crucial, important points and wins, particularly in the home wins over Bolton, Sunderland, and Stoke. He reached 100 goals for Arsenal in the win over Bolton, a testament to his quality and his loyalty to the club. He followed all of that up with a world-class hat-trick in our hilarious 5-3 win over Chelsea at the Bridge, and scored a simply amazing volley in our 1-0 win over Everton, the day of our club’s 125th anniversary celebrations. On New Year’s Eve he met Alan Shearer’s record of most EPL goals in calendar year, matching the Geordie’s tally of 36 goals in about 6 games less, during our 1-0 win over QPR. Currently the Golden Boot of the EPL with 17 strikes, van Persie has been the focal point of this Arsenal team, so much that hack pundits took to calling us a “one-man team” a few months ago. To top it all off, he has enjoyed an injury-free year (knock on a massive pile of wood), finally realizing his potential and quality, free from the medical table. The future is still a little uncertain for us, but whatever we manage come May, you can bet everything that Robin van Persie will play a large part of it. Now if he could only sign a new contract…
Based on our performances, our team of the mid-season looks to be:
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Andre Santos
Walcott Ramsey Gervinho
van Persie (duh)
Subs: Fabianski, Mertesacker, Jenkinson, Benayoun, Coquelin, AOC, Arshavin
Best Match of the (Half-)Season
Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal
Hahahahahahaha. Who would’ve thought this season would be the season we would win at the Bridge, scoring 5 goals no less? Well we did, terrorizing Chelsea’s defence and overaged midfield by turning a 1-2 deficit in the second half, with Robin van Persie getting a spectacular hat-trick. The goals were hilarious, too. ANDRE SANTOS scored, doing his dorky samba dance in the process. Walcott managed to stun 4 Chelsea players with his hidden tazer before running and placing it in the net to put us ahead. Then Mata scored 10 minutes from time to put a damper in our works. But then, the Slip. The moment of utmost glory. 5 minutes from time, a poor Malouda backpass sees accused racist and definite douchebag John Terry slip and fall to his demise as van Persie races past him, rounds Cech, and scores to put us ahead again. Then he scores again in injury time, just to be safe. A simply remarkable performance from Arsenal that reminded us what this team is capable of. More of this in the coming months, and we will finish in the Top 4 for sure. For now, let’s just relish those moments when we silenced Slimy Terry and his Cun- err, Jerk Pals.
Runner-Up: Arsenal 2-1 Dortmund
I really can’t think of another match this season that had so much importance. The performance itself was nothing special, aside from van Persie scoring yet again and Song going on THAT run, but the win secured our passage into the knockouts of the CL and as group winners, no less. Seeing as how this was called one of the toughest groups, and our trend to fail to qualify easily in past years, this was an extremely positive result. And for all of our efforts, we got Milan. Sigh?
Worst Match of the (Half)Season
…Yeah, we’re going to get ribbed on that for years to come. A makeshift Arsenal team that included Coquelin and Armand Traore as starters got the full treatment by a offensively full-strength Manchester United. Down 3-1 by HT, and having missed a penalty when we were still only down by 1, we embarked on a good spell that should’ve seen us score one more before United truly opened the floodgates and put three more past us, making it 6-1. van Persie added another, before Rooney and Young added two more to make it 8-2. An infamous scoreline, the worst of the Wenger era, and the worst for us over the last 100 years. A truly shocking day for Arsenal, and a sign that serious work was needed to help rise this team from its nadir. Thankfully, Wenger took the sign and signed more players, who have done much to turn this season around, albeit work is still needed to be done. Nevertheless, that was a miserable performance from Arsenal and one that the fans should never witness again.
Runner-Up: Blackburn 4-3 Arsenal
Ugh. Blah. Puke. We lost to BLACKBURN?!?! The current basement team of the league, the team whose fans have screamed for several months for a change in leadership? That team? Yeah, we lost to them, in our second most miserable day of the season. We had taken a 2-1 lead to HT, although it should’ve been more but for Gervinho’s finishing. Then we completely switched off, allowing Blackburn to turn the scoreline around, and then Djourou came on, and had a shocker as Blackburn added one more to make it 4-2. Chamakh had a consolation a few minutes from time, but it was not enough as Blackburn claimed their 1st win of the season. A truly horrible, horrible game from us, and one that I still can’t get over from. If we don’t make the Top 4 this year, we’ll look back at this match and only sigh, “what if?”.