Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rating Arsenal’s Midfielders in the 2012/13 Season

The Matadors of Arsenal’s midfield

In the yesteryear, Arsene Wenger lined up a formidable 4-4-2 formation that had the right balance in defense, midfield and attack.

Using the Invincibles of the 2003/04 season as a classic example, the defense had rock-solid personnel that instilled fear in opposition forwards, the midfield had a mix of doggedness, aggression, panache, flair and creativity and the attackers smashed in goals with ruthless and clinical efficiency.

As the years went by, Wenger changed his approach, fixing his focus on his team’s technical side, which involved passing the ball around intricately before unlocking defenses with that killer through ball for a teammate. With this approach, the manager sacrificed a striker to accommodate an extra midfielder, thus the 4-2-3-1 formation came into fruition.

Wenger used this formation to bring out the best in his prized asset, Cesc Fabregas, and his 19 goals as well as numerous assists in the 2009/10 season epitomized the fact that Arsenal had resolved its football around its Spanish creative hub in midfield. After his flirtations with Barcelona, El Capitan departed North London but the formation remained intact.

Soldiers come and go but the barracks still remain intact, I presume.

Deploying Aaron Ramsey as the creative outlet in the 2011/12 season with Mikel Arteta and Alex Song providing the fulcrum was regarded as a failed experiment as the Welshman became a lightning rod for vitriol from the Arsenal faithful. Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance was a bright spark in a relatively dark campaign and a third place finish was meant to pave the way for good things to come.

This season, the Gunners acquired the services of Santi Cazorla and to everyone’s surprise, Arsenal made their second major sale, when Alex Song joined Barcelona, rather their bench, for £15 million. Song’s shock departure caused a stir but with Arsenal not bringing in any replacements, Arteta took one for the team, curbing his attacking instincts to become the team’s primary holding midfielder.

As the season progressed, Cazorla became the team’s creative lynchpin while Abou Diaby and Arteta provided the pivot supporting defence and attack. Diaby had his trademark injury layoffs but players like Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin put in decent shifts while Jack Wilshere made his comeback from a lengthy injury.

This is the third installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already published my ratings on the performances of the goalkeepers  and defenders but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s fulcrum in the middle of the park.

Feel free to share your comments.

Abou Diaby – 15 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

Abou Diaby’s career went downhill after that horrific tackle in 2006 when Arsenal visited the Stadium of Light. After seeing different specialists all over the globe, Diaby finally managed to get some preseason games under his belt  and it was widely believed that he was going to realize his potential with a consistent run out this season.

He began the campaign in the curtain raiser against Sunderland (home) and his physicality was highly welcome when the Gunners visited that Rugby playing lot. After his Man of the Match performance against Liverpool (away), everyone ran out of superlatives for the midfielder and comparisons between him and Patrick Vieira came in faster than Usain Bolt’s 100m Olympic World Record.

He was largely disappointing in Arsenal’s away draw against Manchester City (away) but when we thought that Diaby was going to get an extended run of games, he suffered an injury and was sidelined for a considerable chunk of the season. The lanky Frenchman finally made his return in the home fixture against Manchester City and his rustiness was glaring as he struggled in the game. His poor form continued in the Chelsea loss (away) and he was dropped from therein.

His hot and cold season continued when he followed up an outstanding performance against Stoke (home) with a rather disappointing outing in the nervy win over Sunderland. (away). His season came to an abrupt end when the club announced that he had ruptured his cruciate ligament on his knee and he’s to be out for nine months.

As they say, a picture speaks more than a thousand words

What’s the point of having a Lionel Messi in your team if he cannot play. In my honest opinion, I feel very sorry for Diaby but its high time the club cuts its losses with the Frenchman, as he cannot be banked upon to stay fit when his services are needed.

Rating – 4/10

Francis Coquelin – 22 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

After his stellar performances as a utility player last season, many had hoped that this would be the year of the Coq and with Song out of the equation, everything seemed to be in place for the young Frenchman to finally make his breakthrough. The midfielder featured sparingly in the Premier League but got run-outs in the domestic Cup competitions as well as some game time in the Champions League.

As for his performances, the midfielder didn’t light up any fireworks and his sporadic amount of games didn’t help his cause either. Coquelin managed to play 90 minutes in only five games this season with his remaining appearances being bit-part roles as the season progressed.

Till this day, I’m still struggling to understand his introduction for Olivier Giroud when Arsenal needed a goal against Aston Villa (away).

With Schalke reportedly linked with the midfielder, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t jump ship this season.

Rating – 4/10

Aaron Ramsey – 47 Apps, Two Goals, Five Assists

If words could kill, Aaron Ramsey would have been in the other realm.

He battling hard to come back to playing football after he was Shawcrossed but replacing the departed Cesc Fabregas in the attacking midfield role was a big burden for his shoulders as he struggled with form and fitness. With Santi Cazorla given the mantle of creativity, Ramsey had to make do with a place on the dugout as he appeared as a substitute in his first five games this season.

Like last season, there were games when Wenger tried to make Ramsey a jack-of-all-trades but he still a master of none. However, he put up a very decent shift when he was deployed as a right winger in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City (away). Abou Diaby’s unfortunate and untimely injury in the game against Chelsea (home) afforded Ramsey a chance to get more games under his belt.

He marked his return with a delicious chip against Olympiakos but thankfully, no famous figurehead gave up the ghost.

Jack Wilshere’s long-awaited return to the team saw Ramsey spend some time on the bench but the lad always put up good shifts when he was summoned. He supplied an inch-perfect assist to Theo Walcott in the 1-1 draw against Everton (away) and a neat assist to Gervinho in the win over Swansea (away).

Unlike last season where Ramsey tried to over-complicate things by being too stylish on the ball, he kept things simple this season and this improved his game. According to WhoScored, Ramsey had a pass completion percentage of 88.3 percent in the Premier League and he also created 44 chances for his teammates. His carefully-weighted pass against Everton (home) certainly caught the eye but Olivier Giroud’s wayward finish couldn’t match the excellent buildup.

Since his return to the squad in the holding midfield position, Ramsey became a refined player and worked in tandem with Arteta, balancing defense and attack. His performances were so good to the extent that he was voted as Arsenal’s Player of the Month for the month of April, which is a welcome return from the same fans that rained curses on him in the past.

Ramsey ended the season in full bloom, I certainly hope he builds on this.

Rating – 7/10

Tomas Rosicky – 16 Apps, Three Goals, Two Assists

Tomas Rosicky was one of the best things that happened to Arsenal in the tail end of last season.

After suffering a niggling injury that halted his progress for his nation in Euro 2012, the Czech midfielder went under the knife and didn’t make any appearance for the Gunners till the winter, and to be honest, he wasn’t missed. The fans had been wowed by the excellent Santi Cazorla, and with his age becoming a factor, a few felt it was high time for Little Mozart to call it quits.

In Rosicky’s first full game this season, he put up a Man of the Match performance in that dead-rubber game against Olympiakos (away) that ended in defeat. He featured sparsely after that game but he came to life in spring when the Gunners visited Munich to rock the football world with that spirited victory over Bayern.

With Jack Wilshere out injured and Santi Cazorla drifted to the left, Rosicky had more games under his belt and was instrumental in Arsenal’s win over West Brom as he scored a well-taken brace. He also supplied an assist to Theo Walcott in the league match against Manchester United.

With Wilshere failing to regain his form after his return from injury, Rosicky continued his extended run of games till the end of the season. At the age of 32, Rosicky is living on borrowed time but Arsenal fans can be thankful for Little Mozart as he delivered when he was summoned in the business end of the season.

Rating – 7/10

Jack Wilshere – 33 Apps, Two Goals, Six Assists

14 months out of the beautiful game.

For a player like Jack Wilshere that’s known for his passion and zeal for the game, it must have felt like an eternity. With Robin van Persie leaving for Manchester United, the No. 10 shirt was vacated and it seemed as if Lukas Podolski was odds to take the jersey but it was specially reserved for Wilshere and he expressed his delight in being bestowed with the honor.

When he made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), every touch was appreciated by the Emirates crowd as they saw their No. 10 strut his stuff for the first time. Things turned sour for the Englishman when he received his marching orders against Manchester United (away) but he learned from those events and scored a goal against Montpellier after some good work from Olivier Giroud.

He continued to put up stellar performances and the assists were flowing in as well, with some defense-splitting passes against Newcastle (home), West Ham (home) and Liverpool (home). The English Press sang his songs in the wake of a high-profile friendly against Brazil in Wembley, and he didn’t disappoint with another magnificent outing for the Three Lions.

Amid all the justified hype around the midfield maestro, things turned very sour when he suffered a thigh strain against Sunderland. Arsenal had harbored hopes of the midfielder playing the home clash against Bayern, so the club doctors had to work their magic on Wilshere.

Wilshere was on the end of some rash challenges against Sunderland

Wilshere played the game against Bayern and even supplied an assist on the night but he and his teammates were powerless as teh Bavarians outclassed Arsenal at the Emirates. Wilshere missed the second leg through an injury and he never rediscovered his form afterwards, with uncharacteristically appalling outings against Norwich and Everton.

He was replaced by Rosicky and made a couple of substitute appearances towards the end of the season. It’s believed that he requires a surgery this summer to fix up an injury but it’s good to know that Wilshere’s performances weren’t unnoticed as he was nominated for the 2013 Young Player of the Year award alongside Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale.

Rating – 7/10

Mikel Arteta – 43 Apps, Six Goals, Six Assists

With a pass completion percentage of 91.5 percent, Mikel Arteta ranks among the best passers in European football. With Thomas Vermaelen promoted to the rank of captain, Arteta assumed the mantle of the Verm’s second in command and he led the troops whenever the Verm wasn’t available.

With Alex Song leaving for the sunshine of Barcelona, Arsene Wenger tasked Arteta with an unfamiliar holding midfield role, and he excelled admirably in the role this season. In 34 Premier League games, Arteta made 108 tackles, 97 interceptions and 2,750 passes with 2,517 passes reaching its intended target.

Arteta also had the coolest of heads from the penalty spot, converting spot kicks against West Brom (home), Wigan (away), Norwich (home) and Reading (home). He will forever rue his late penalty miss against Fulham (home) that was the difference between three points and one.

His influence on the pitch was unrivaled and I must confess that my heart skipped a beat when he was forced out of action with an injury in Arsenal’s game of the season against Newcastle.

Rating – 9/10

Santi Cazorla – 49 Apps, 12 Goals, 16 Assists

Arsene Wenger was puzzled to know that Santi Cazorla didn’t make the PFA Team of the Season and he’s not alone on that argument. Arsenal fans have been blessed with the sheer brilliance of Santi Cazorla in his debut campaign with the club, and he’ll probably be a good pick for the signing of the 2012/13 season.

The Spanish magician has been a model for consistency this season and he’s the only player in the team that has managed to play every Premier League game thus far this season. The manager also spoke about how Cazorla has surprised him this season with his consistency and amazing fitness levels in a physically demanding league like the Barclay’s Premier League.

In my honest opinion, he has been a joy to watch and in as much as many Gooners have endeared Tomas Rosicky to their hearts, he has spent a considerable chunk of the campaign on the bench due to Cazorla’s imperious form. Cazorla’s versatility has also seen him displace Podolski with Jack Wilshere moved further up the pitch to hone his attacking prowess, which is still a work in progress.

His ambidexterity is a stuff of legends. Like the great Pavel Nedved in the yesteryear, Santi Cazorla can release a surface to goal missile from both feet with consummate ease.

12 goals and 12 assists in his debut Premier League campaign is no mean feat and it’s fair to say that Cazorla has exceeded every expectations. According to WhoScored, Cazorla fired 115 shots, created 96 chances, attempted 86 dribbles, was fouled 50 times, made 184 crosses, passed the ball 2,471 times with a pass completion percentage of 86.8 percent.

Even if he failed to be recognized by the FA for his amazing exploits this season, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you who Arsenal’s best player is this season.

Rating – 10/10 #Shikenah

So there you have it, the penultimate posts focused on different playing positions in the team. The final post on the attack comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Defenders’ Performances in the 2012/13 Season

A bedrock for next season?

Arsenal and defending – two words that don’t go in tandem with each other.

Arsene Wenger has built his football on free-flowing attacking football and times without number, his team has been caught out at the back and there are even times when the Gunners shoot themselves in the foot as they become plotters of their own downfall.

As expected, injuries, suspensions and decline of form took its toll on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard and Arsene Wenger managed to use almost all the defenders in the club’s payroll at some point in the season.

While the big guns featured regularly in the Premier League and the Champions League, the Capital One Cup served as a breeding ground for some young guns and fringe players, and the dead-rubber game against Olympiakos also saw deadwood like Sebastien Squillaci get a run-out as well.

While Per Mertesacker cemented his status as Arsene Wenger’s first choice defender, Thomas Vermaelen partnered the gentle giant by the mere fact that he was the skipper, because his form painted a different picture. When the manager realized how appalling his skipper had become, he made the bold move to axe the Belgian in place of a resurgent Laurent Koscielny.

While Wenger shuffled between his defensive trio of Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny, there was no room for Johan Djourou that was shipped out to Hannover 96 and the defender has reiterated his desire to remain in Germany. As for Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel, they are living on borrowed time.

In the fullback positions, Bacary Sagna’s second leg fracture last season paved the way for Carl Jenkinson to get some first-team action under his belt. On Sagna’s return, he was drafted into the team and failed to replicate that the form of the yesteryear. On the left, Kieran Gibbs was an automatic starter but his fitness was a thorn in his flesh allowing Andre Santos to put up his calamitous outings on a consistent basis.

With Andre Santos failing to impress and Gibbs suffering one of his trademark injuries, Wenger wasted no time in delving into the transfer window to acquire Nacho Monreal’s services.

This is the second installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already shared my views on the performances of the goalkeepers but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s defensive rearguard.

Feel free to share your comments.

Thomas Vermaelen – 39 Apps, One Goal

With club captain, Robin van Persie, departing to join Manchester United, Arsene Wenger was forced with a decision to make regarding the man that was going to lead his team in the 2012/13 campaign. I was looking forward to a new era under the reins of a captain that signed a new deal without thinking twice, stating his love for Arsenal was his primary reason.

He has the aggression of Nemanja Vidic, leaped off the ground easily like a kangaroo, has a gung-ho attitude, good technique on the ball and offered a threat in the opposition’s goal.

The Verm was part of the Arsenal side that kept three clean sheets on the trot but an illness prevented him from playing in his team’s crucial visit to the Etihad Stadium, and his able replacement, Laurent Koscielny, scored the goal that earned Arsenal a share of the spoils. Koscielny and Per Mertesacker played very well that day but Wenger inexplicably chose to bench the “slow” German against Chelsea, as he was probably scared of the pace of the Blues’ attack.

Playing Vermaelen and Koscielny together was like a time-bomb and the captain was culpable for two schoolboy errors that led to both goals scored by Chelsea. They struggled again as a pair when Olympiakos visited the Emirates and despite the fact that the Verm was the weaker link of the two, Koscielny was sacrificed for Mertesacker when the Gunners visited Upton Park to play West Ham.

When Arsenal visited Old Trafford in a game marred by the escapades of Robin van Persie, it took only three minutes for the Red Devils to take the lead when Vermaelen handed RVP a nice assist on a platter. Fast forward to the Capital One Cup quarterfinal clash with Bradford City and despite scoring Arsenal’s late equalizer, Vermaelen missed the penalty that saw his team crash out of the competition.

More appalling performances particularly against Liverpool (home) and Manchester City (home) followed but the last straw was undoubtedly his atrocious outing against Tottenham (away). Wenger axed him from the squad from that moment on and he could only manage a game against Norwich (home) because Mertesacker was suspended.

I must truly say that the Verminator has been a big disappointment in his first season as captain of Arsenal Football Club.

Rating – 4/10

Per Mertesacker – 44 Apps, Three Goals

After playing 27 games in his first season with Arsenal, Per Mertesacker’s season reached an abrupt end when Arsenal visited Sunderland in that pitch good enough to raise cattle. He recovered in time for Euro 2012 but he failed to make any appearance with Holger Badstuber and Matts Hummels playing every game for Germany in the tournament.

Mertesacker began the campaign alongside Thomas Vermaelen and they worked in tandem to get three clean sheets on the bounce at the start of the season. If you thought Mertesacker’s performance against Liverpool (away) was superb, his outing against Manchester City (away) was one of his best in Arsenal colors, as he made so many Per-fect Merte-ceptions in the course of the game.

He proved his worth to the squad when he wasn’t on the pitch as Arsenal struggled in his absence with Vermaelen and Koscielny failing to click with each other. When they played with each other, they lacked the calmness, coordination, composure and positional discipline the BFG had.

He also added goals to his game with three headers against Tottenham (twice) as well as the match winner in the crucial game against Fulham (away). This season, Mertesacker became a mainstay in the team and he has excelled admirably in his defensive duties.

He’s known for being a very clean defender but he got his hands dirty with his first red card in Arsenal colors. However, that game will be forever remembered for the innovative tackle he attempted with his back. It was a truly remarkable season for the big friendly giant and I hope he builds on it.

Rating – 9/10

Laurent Koscielny – 34 Apps, Four Goals

Laurent Koscielny was Arsenal’s best defender by a far mile last season and he had grown from strength to strength since that his horrendous error in Wembley against Birmingham City. After signing a long-term deal with the club, he didn’t begin the campaign well as an injury hindered his progress.

He marked his return to first-team action with a late equalizer against Manchester City (away), forging a formidable partnership with Mertesacker. His inspired performance at the Etihad coupled with Vermaelen’s return to the team saw the manager sacrifice Mertesacker in the home clash against Chelsea. Despite the fact that Vermaelen was at fault for the set pieces that led to the goals, Koscielny also had a hand in both goals as he failed to mark Fernando Torres probably for the first and the ball deflected off his shin into the net for the second.

This led to the Frenchman spending a lot of time in the dugout but he featured and scored a vital goal in that pulsating encounter against Reading (away) in the Capital One Cup. When he was recalled back into the first team following Vermaelen’s dip in form, he grabbed the bull by the horns and took his chance against Bayern Munich (away) with an outstanding performance capped by a headed goal late on.

Since then, Koscielny became an ever-present figure and he contributed immensely to Arsenal’s cause with that assist for his defensive partner, Per Mertesacker, against Fulham as well as a plethora of vital interceptions in defense. To crown a great season for the Frenchman, he scored the goal that secured Champions League football for his team for the season in a row.

Rating – 8/10

The goal that guaranteed Champions League football

Bacary Sagna – 30 Apps, No Goal

In recent times, Bacary Sagna has been marred by long-term injuries that has taken its toll on his career. Suffering two fractures on the same leg must have been a horrific experience but as we all know, football isn’t really a forgiving sport.

With Carl Jenkinson deputizing admirably in Sagna’s absence, many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. After a couple of Under-21 fixtures under his belt, Sagna made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), much to the delight of the Arsenal faithful.

Sagna’s continued run of games dented Jenkinson’s progress but unlike the young Englishman that swung crosses into the box with consummate ease, Sagna’s distribution was downright erratic with the ball ending up as a throw-in most times. Then came the torrid run of performances, as Sagna was consistently caught out against Chelsea (away), made Gabby Obertan look like Ronaldinho when Newcastle came to town and his poor clearance led to Gaston Ramirez’ goal when the Gunners visited St. Mary’s.

Amidst the horrible vein of form, Sagna got his moment of redemption when an injury to Koscielny forced Arsene Wenger to play him in an unorthodox center back role with Jenkinson drafted to the right. The fullback’s naivety played a role in him being sent off for two bookable offenses and with Aaron Ramsey becoming a make-shift right back, Sagna was a colossus in defense alongside Mertesacker.

As he continued to struggle with form, Sagna got on every Gooner’s bad books when he foolishly squandered possession to Robin van Persie before hacking him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot. This has been a season Sagna couldn’t wait to come to an end.

Rating – 4/10

Carl Jenkinson – 21 Apps, No Goal

Despite the fact that Carl Jenkinson hasn’t had as much game time as he would have wanted, this has certainly been one hell of a campaign for this young lad.

While Sagna nursed his leg injury, Jenkinson deputized in his stead, putting up committed performances that endeared him to the Arsenal faithful. His work rate was exemplary and he covered every blade of grass like his life depended on it.

His fairy tale campaign reached its zenith when he was called up by Wily Ol’ Woy Hodgson for his maiden international appearance and he featured in the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired performances in Sweden’s 4-2 win over England. I still can’t get over Ibrahimovic’s incredible 30-yard overhead bicycle kick goal, and it gets better with each passing replay.

Jenkinson also signed a long-term deal with the club but his performances against Swansea (home) and Sunderland (away) showed that even if youthful exuberance is the order of the day, there’s no substitute for experience.

What I can take from this season is that Arsene Wenger can rely on this young lad to put in a great shift when the need arises. With Jenko in our ranks, the future is very bright.

Rating – 7/10

Kieran Gibbs – 34 Apps, One Goal

For those that don’t know, this was the first season Kieran Gibbs had over 30 games for Arsenal in an entire campaign. He’s a player that has become synonymous with injuries and he showed that yet again this season, forcing his manager to delve into the transfer market when he nursed a thigh strain for six weeks.

Gibbs has been highly impressive this season and his output on the final third has drastically improved as well, with the Englishman having five assists to his name this season. For a considerable chunk of the campaign, Gibbs was a mainstay in the team but when he suffered a lengthy lay off, the manager signed an experienced Spanish left back, that has brought stiff competition between both players, which also brought about stellar performances from both players, for the good of the team.

Gibbs also scored a screamer against Swansea in the FA Cup and it looked like a goal worth winning a football match but Arsenal’s lax defending brought Swansea back into the contest. With Monreal bracing himself for his first full season in England, Gibbs will be in for a challenge and I’m sure he’s relishing it.

Rating – 7/10

Nacho Monreal – 11 Apps, One Goal

January 30, 2013.

Arsenal host Liverpool in a Premier League encounter of huge significance to both sides. The visitors open the scoring with a deflected shot from Luiz Suarez then Kieran Gibbs suffers an injury forcing the manager to make a tactical change. With the only defensive options on the bench being Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos, many Gooners (me included) rightly believed that the Frenchman would be summoned, thereby making Vermaelen play the left back.

The fourth official raises his board up and Andre Santos comes into the pitch much to the fury of some fans that haven’t forgiving him for his antics in Old Trafford. Within moments of his introduction, Jordan Henderson skips past him with ease and instead of trying to win the ball back he doesn’t even make a decent challenge. With a stroke of luck, Liverpool is two up.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott save the day but Wenger has seen enough from the atrocious Brazilian and he delves into the transfer market to buy Nacho Monreal. Just two days after his arrival, he makes his debut in a baptism of fire against Stoke (home). He was part of that defense that held the fort against Sunderland (away) but he couldn’t play against Bayern (home) because he was cup-tied.

After making the match-winning assist against Aston Villa (home), he becomes part of that defense that struggled badly against Tottenham. Following Arsenal’s Champions League exit, Monreal scores the first goal against Swansea the first of many goals Arsenal scored in its surge for fourth place.

With Gibbs returning to fitness, he and Monreal battled for the right to become Arsenal’s No. 1 left back and this competition brought the best in both players. While Monreal offers a keen sense of security and stability at the back, I feel he should improve in his distribution on the final third. The battle with Gibbs continues next season.

Rating – 7/10

Andre Santos – 12 Apps, No Goal

To be honest, Andre Santos is one of the most lovable characters in Arsenal.

His lovely smile, his hilarious tweets and nice attitude off the pitch. I still have fresh memories of all three goals he scored last season – the match winner against Olympiakos (home), the vital equalizer in that RVP-inspired win over Chelsea (away) and the equalizer before half time against West Brom (away) on the final day.

This season, things have gone awry for the Brazilian and his performances on the pitch have been nothing short of appalling. His poor positional awareness and dismal defending has cost his team times without number with his performances in the games against Schalke (home), Manchester United (away), Liverpool (home) and Brighton (away) bringing him to the bad books of Arsenal fans.

His performance against Manchester United was so putrid yet he couldn’t even wait for the game to be over before requesting for RVP’s jersey, as that probably meant more to him than the game.

After another bad showing against Liverpool, the manager went to the transfer window when Gibbs suffered an injury, clearly indicating that he had no further plans in his team.

In his touching goodbye message to the club and the fans, Andre Santos thanked everyone for their support and hopes to come back soon. For the good of everyone concerned with Arsenal, I hope that Gremio signs him on a permanent basis.

Rating – 2/10

Sebastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou – Collective total of Six Apps

Ah! The deadwood.

Arsenal bought Sebastien Squillaci with the hope that would use his “experience” to guide the younger defenders in the team as well as putting up a good shift when the need arose. Squillaci was so poor that his only appearance this season coming up in a dead rubber fixture against Olympiakos. Thank Heavens his contract is expiring soon.

Rating – 0/10

Ignasi Miquel is a youngster tipped for great things but I still don’t know when he’s going to realize that potential. All he can boast of this season was a start against Coventry (home) in the Capital One Cup and a late substitute appearance against Sunderland (away) when the Gunners wanted to preserve their priceless 1-0 lead. Not good enough.

Rating – 2/10

Johan Djourou was Arsenal’s most consistent defender in the 2010/11 season. When he got injured in the tail end of that campaign, his team struggled which highlighted his importance to the side. Last season, he struggled in make-shift positions as a fullback and wasn’t even convincing enough when he played as a center back, earning an unwarranted red card against Fulham (away) that put his team under intense pressure.

This season, Djourou could only make two appearances in the Capital One Cup before he was shipped out to Germany. Shame.

Rating – 1/10

So there you have it, the second of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the midfield comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free tomake your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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Rating Arsenal’s Performances in the 2012/13 Season – The Goalkeepers

Wojciech Szczesny - Sunderland v Arsenal - Premier League

Save of the season?

This season, Arsenal conceded 37 goals in the Premier League, 10 goals in the Champions League, seven goals in the Capital One Cup and five goals in the FA Cup. Unlike last season where the Gunners opened the floodgates with consummate ease, a more cautious approach was taken after the defense struggled badly against Tottenham. In a run of ten games after that defeat against Tottenham, the Gunners conceded only five goals winning eight games and drawing two.

Over the course of the season, Arsene Wenger used his available playing personnel in the goalkeeping department.

Wojciech Szczesny has been synonymous with first-team football but an ankle injury in Autumn, coupled with Lukasz Fabianski out of action as well, paved the way for Vito Mannone to strut his stuff but the Italian didn’t convince Wenger enough to command a first-team berth. A dip in form from Szczesny in Spring saw a fit-again Fabianski take his spot but another injury allowed the younger Pole to reclaim his spot.

This article is focused on rating Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. This is the first installment of four posts and today’s post is entirely focused on Arsenal’s custodians between the sticks.

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Wojciech Szczesny – 33 Apps, 13 Clean Sheets

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected of the young Pole working his way up the food chain. He began the campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a howler against Southampton.

Even after his errors coupled with fairly average performances from his deputy, Vito Mannone, Wenger returned Szczesny into the team and even used him in domestic cup fixtures, clearly showing that he had little or no faith in the deputy Italian. This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.

He got a wake up call when Wenger dropped him to the bench against Bayern Munich (away) and the fact that his father blasted the boss for his poor form didn’t help his cause. A rib injury to Fabianski allowed the younger Pole to return to first-team action and this saw a change in his fortunes as Szczesny kept clean sheets against Everton (home), Fulham (away), Queens Park Rangers (away) and Newcastle (away).

While he may want to forget his antics against Southampton (home) and Aston Villa (home), he can look back with pride when he reflects on his performance against Sunderland (away) as well those vital saves he made against Queens Park Rangers (away) and Wigan (home).

Szczesny is not a finished article but there’s certainly some room for improvement.

Rating – 6/10

Lukasz Fabianski – Five Apps, Two Clean Sheets

Lukasz Fabianski has been a back up goalie for as long as he can remember.

Since his arrival in 2007 despite being the best goalie in the Polish Ekstraklasa for two consecutive seasons in his time with Legia Warsaw, Fabianski has played second fiddle to Manuel Almunia and currently, his compatriot, Wojciech Szczesny. Like Abou Diaby, injuries have become part and parcel of Fabianski’s career with the Gunners and the meager five appearances he managed in the entire campaign is a testament of that.

Notwithstanding, the Pole has been a breath of fresh air in his somewhat brief return to the squad. When I saw Fabianski step into the Allianz Arena with his teammates, I feared for the worst but the goalie was in imperious form, saving efforts from Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben despite being out of the game for over a year.

How’s that for your first performance in a year?

This was followed with another clean sheet against Swansea (away) and if Nacho Monreal had tracked Hal Robson-Kanu well in the thumping of already-relegated Reading, Fabianski would have had three clean sheets in a row. He went on to concede from a penalty against West Brom (away) and was rooted to the spot when Norwich’s Michael Turner headed the ball past him. He still went on to make a vital save in that game to keep Norwich at bay.

With his current contract expiring this summer, Fabianski will have to review his future with the club. His cameo performances have shown that he can be a dependable goalkeeper but he needs to back it up with consistency and at least, staying fit to be available for selection.

Rating – 7/10

Vito Mannone – 13 Apps, Two Clean Sheets

Since arriving at Arsenal as far back as 2006, Vito Mannone has still failed to convince anybody that he has what it takes to be the custodian between the sticks for a top side like Arsenal. This season, injuries to Szczesny and Fabianski paved the way for the big Italian to stake his claim for a first-team berth and clean sheets against Stoke (away) and Liverpool (away) must have done wonders to his confidence.

He was wrongly benched for Szczesny against Southampton (home) and conceded from a penalty on his return to the first team when the Gunners played Montpellier (away). When he was tested against bigger opposition, he failed to impress as he was caught in No Man’s Land when he came to claim a cross against Manchester City (away), allowing Joleon Lescott to score an unguarded net.

His performance against Chelsea (home) didn’t inspire confidence in his back line and despite the fact that Thomas Vermaelen clumsiness played a role in both fouls that led to Chelsea’s goals, Mannone should have done better in both set pieces, as he failed to dominate his area in Fernando Torres’ goal and was caught out as Juan Mata’s free kick from Planet Jupiter crept into his net.

While he could be blameless for all goals conceded against Schalke 04 in both legs, he gave his manager a cause for concern when he failed to deal with a cross against West Ham (away), allowing Andy Carroll to head the ball narrowly wide.

In my honest opinion, Mannone is a decent goalkeeper but I don’t feel that he has a long-term future with the club, and it would do him some good if he seeks a move elsewhere, where he doesn’t have to be under the radar all the time.

Rating – 6/10

So there you have it, the first of four posts focused on different playing positions in the team. My take on the defense comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.

Sayonara.

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