Jun 122011

Apologies for the delay in bringing you parts three and four of Groan’s season review – I’ve just had knee surgery that has spectacularly sapped me of energy. On the mend though now, and confined to sitting down, so I’ve not really got an excuse anymore, do I? Just to recap, I’ve already covered the keepers and the defence, and today is all about the midfield. As ever, I’ll be looking at each player’s contribution, grading them and making suggestions as to where their future lies.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

2. Abou Diaby

Diaby started just 13 league games this season, and 17 games in all. That is less than Denilson and Rosicky, and places him joint 19th on the list of starts, alongside Kieran Gibbs. And it is not just the number of starts he has in common with Gibbs – both have the same key problem of being unable to string a series of games together, and are therefore unable to make the most of their undoubted natural ability. Diaby has an additional problem – he is 25 now, and rapidly running out of time before he is supposed to be hitting his peak. But he still holds the promise of delivering if he can only stay fit for an extended period, and is still highly rated within the club. With a slew of other possible departures, Diaby is likely to stay to retain a semblance of continuity. Needs to improve, though.

Rating: C
Future: Likely to stay, but unlikely to be relied on.

4. Cesc Fabregas

Here we go. Fabregas was affected by fitness issues for practically the whole season – it started with a lack of rest following his successful World Cup campaign, and it continued with a series of muscular injuries that restricted him to just 22 league starts. What I find somewhat surprising is how quickly people wanted to point fingers at him for a lack of contribution, when there were only a handful of occasions where he could claim to be fully fit. Despite that, he scored nine goals in all competitions and showed more creativity in his limited time on the pitch than many. I guess after last summer’s saga with Barcelona, some people just want to criticise. For me, while it hasn’t been Cesc’s best season, his effort and application cannot be faulted, unlike may of his teammates. If I wanted to turn my ire on anyone, he’d be a long way down the list.

Grade: B-

Future: Who knows. We’re in the same situation as last season – if Barcelona make a reasonable enough offer, we’ll probably let him go, and he’d go with my blessing and thanks. If they don’t, he will stay and continue to fight for us. I suspect the latter.

7. Tomas Rosicky

Pushed more and more to the periphery of the squad, Rosicky serves the valuable purpose of being a player on the fringes who doesn’t complain about his position. But sadly that has been the limit of his contribution for some time now – he is truly a shadow of the star we signed, and never has fully recovered from his injuries. With his contract expiring, his time is up, but his professionalism should be commended. Good luck Tomas.

Grade: D+
Future: Goodbye, and good luck.

8. Samir Nasri

Terrific for six months, poor for three – those bare bones sum up Nasri’s contribution this season. Were that the whole story, all would be well – he is not 24 until later this month and has the capability to improve further. But he is hardly endearing himself to us at the moment by essentially holding the club to ransom, using the single year on his contract to his advantage. In my view, he should be retained if middle ground can be found, but if Wenger decides that this is representative of Nasri’s character, then we should sell, else we will be in an identical position two or three years from now. Commit fully, or leave. That said, it would be wrong of us to use this scenario to belittle what he achieved this season – his six months of superb form are now being downgraded by many, and that is not fair. He was excellent. It would be great if he could continue to be that way for us, but the ball is very much in his court.

Grade: B+
Future: Up to him. I still suspect middle ground will be found, since I believe the player wants to stay. He is playing a dangerous game though.

15. Denilson

What can be said that hasn’t already? He has decided to leave, and not too many will be sad to see the back of him. I still consider him a wasted talent – he showed so much promise as an 18 year old, and was on par with anyone at his age group, but he hasn’t progressed in any way. He used to have tricks, he no longer does. He used to have a rocket shot, we haven’t seen it in ages. I don’t think he is as bad as many suggest, but he is not good enough.

Grade: D-
Future: Gone.

16. Aaron Ramsey

Great to see the Welshman back. After recovering from being Shawcross’d, he took some time to get up to speed during his loan spells, but began to show glimpses of the talent that had seen him ahead of Wilshere in last season’s pecking order. A winner against United was a high point, and hopefully after a full pre-season he can put his nightmare behind him. Let’s hope he doesn’t suffer the after effects that blighted Eduardo and Diaby.

Grade: N/A
Future: Welcome back.

17. Alex Song

A mixed bag from Song this season. Started out by getting into more advanced positions, a clear tactical instruction, and while he scored some critical goals, his absence in the breakdown made us more susceptible defensively. At some point around the turn of the year, he reverted to being a true holding midfielder, and recaptured his previous form. Faded towards the end of the season, along with many others. Still needs competition for his place, especially with the Africa Cup of Nations coming up this season. Not a centre back.

Grade: B
Future: Still the only holding option we have. Needs to keep it simple.

19. Jack Wilshere

Arsenal’s Player of the Season. PFA Young Player of the Year. England’s great hope. One thing is for sure – Wilshere will be under a great deal of pressure next season, because the expectation level will be a million times higher than it was at the start of this campaign. In addition, he has the issue of the press, who love to build someone up before pulling the rug from under them. There is the general feeling that Wilshere has now been hyped as much as he can be, and his next dip in form will be met with heavy criticism. In other words, welcome to the big leagues.

That said, young Jack is very level headed, grounded, and well looked after at Arsenal. He has supreme talent, a required feistiness about him, and the self-belief to carry himself above his tender age. And he has been excellent this season, coming up with some extraordinary passes and having a Cesc-like ability to find a yard of space in a flash, turn, look forward and release the ball at speed. He is the most exciting young talent we’ve had since our captain, and his DNA is very much Arsenal. If anyone can cope with the inevitable pressure, it is Jack.

Grade: A
Future: Lynchpin.

23. Andrei Arshavin

Never has a player so productive been so heavily criticised for a lack thereof. Ten goals, plenty of assists, and an ability to unlock defences in a flash – put like that, it is hard to see why his stock has fallen so much, but the frustration with Arshavin is that you know he can offer more. Some players look lazy on the field, Arshavin actually is. Doesn’t offer his full back any support, is blowing out of his backside after an hour, and sometimes appears thoroughly disinterested in being there. Imagine what he could deliver if he gave 100% every game.

But, despite all the negatives, I would be surprised to see the little Russian leave. There are likely to be departures elsewhere in the midfield this summer, and we need to retain some of our creative outlets. Arshavin is likely to play more next season.

Grade: C+
Future: Unknown. Up to him as much as anything – how willing is he to guts it out?

Tomorrow I’ll be taking on the last part of this review – the strikers. Join me then, and if you missed the first two parts, the links are below.

(part 1 – Holding the gloves)

(part 2 – A case for the defence)

  One Response to “Groan’s player review 2010/11 part 3: The midfield mix”

  1. I’m curious about the Ramsey-Wilshere-Song trio. They’ve only just started making it this season, what will the next one bring? I think Wilshere will probably give us some poor performances (he’s had a busy year, it’ll take some time to get used to working so hard on a yearly basis), only to regain momentum in the 2nd round. If necessary, Ramsey can fill his boots easily, he’s bound to develop in time and he hasn’t been as exploited. You’re right about Song’s inconsistency. I hope Frimpong can take over if necessary. At any rate, Arsenal do need two separate quality midfield setups. If those spots can be filled by the youngsters, let them, but Wenger would have to assess it in the next few weeks if he wants to land a quality (and experienced) replacement.
    If Arsenal land a solid, reliable winger (e.g. Gervinho), we’ll see about Arshavin. If he still wants to shine, he’ll move along. The important thing is that Arsenal land two wingers, one for each side. Walcott was also troubled by injury, options are needed.
    As for Fabregas, the problem is that Wenger relies on him so. When he’s out for half a season, it turns out there’s little backup option. It’s likely that Arsenal will have to develop two completely different strategies in case Fab happens to get knocked out. The other would then probably have to be very un-Arsenal.
    If the rumours about Nasri are half true, releasing him is only a matter of time. The blackmail that he’s apparently engaged in could spoil other players, as well as the general climate at the club. If he’s in for the money, he simply should go to City, where he’s bound to play less and end up frustrated by lack of opportunity. If the rumours are rubbish, he should get a rise, but offset by the length of his contract extension. I would sign him for at least three years, with possible review of terms after the 2nd year. Even if he’s not the best paid Arsenal player, he’ll soon be, there’s no hurry.

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