5 Players that Need to Step their Game Up in the 2013/14 season
I certainly cannot look back at the entire 2012/13 season with pride because it turned out to be another classic case of what might have been…a familiar story with anyone concerned with Arsenal Football Club.
In the last 10 Premier League games, Arsenal recorded an impressive eight wins and two draws, which would be regarded as a title-chasing form but unfortunately, it was just enough to usurp fierce rivals, Tottenham, to fourth place. Manchester United with a certain Robin van Persie in its ranks ran away with the Premier League title while Manchester City and Chelsea chased the leading pack with European football guaranteed.
While Manchester City fans faced the unfathomable heartbreak of losing to Wigan in a cup final (…been there, done that), Chelsea ended their campaign as well as Rafa Benitez’s tumultuous stay with the Europa League title, which ensured that they picked up some silverware, a term not associated with the red half of North London in recent seasons.
The Gunners didn’t fare any better in the domestic cup competitions as well, with embarrassing losses to Bradford City in the Capital One Cup and Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. In the Champions League, the Gunners matched a putrid home performance with a spirited away encounter against the eventual winners, Bayern Munich.
At the end of the 2012/13 campaign, the new signings proved their worth in gold as Santi Cazorla emerged to be one of the buys of the season, endearing himself into Arsenal hearts with his outstanding displays all season long. Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski also proved to be great additions to the team as their goals and assists helped Arsenal’s cause as the season progressed.
The performances of Theo Walcott didn’t go unnoticed and he signed a new deal to keep him in the club, as well as the young British core that contributed in more ways than one. It would take a watchful Arsenal fan to know that unsung heroes like Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny worked their skins off for the team over the course of the season.
Other notable highlights of the campaign included the goalkeeping shuffles, the intense battle between Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, the deadwood loaned out and of course, the unfortunate injury to the glass-boned Abou Diaby.
Some players like Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on five Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up for the forthcoming season or face the axe.
Here’s my take on the infamous five.
With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected the big Pole. Despite his young age and inexperience, Arsene Wenger was more than willing to stick to his young Pole, because he had shown his glimpses of quality in the past and he could only get better with raw experience on the field.
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 gaffe against Southampton. He swiftly returned to action after his injuries and even featured in cup matches, as Wenger certainly wasn’t convinced about Vito Mannone.
This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.
Wenger acted swiftly by dropping him for a returning Lukasz Fabianski but an unfortunate rib injury to the elder Pole handed Szczesny another chance in the team. He put up more decent performances in his return but Szczesny has to remember that there will be no room for error in the 2013/14 campaign.
Arsenal has been heavily linked with a move for Brazilian shot stopper, Julio Cesar, but nothing concrete has come to fruition. Szczesny needs to step up this season to convince everyone that he’s still the right man for the job, because Arsenal can afford able replacements.
In one word, last season was an aberration for Thomas Vermaelen.
With Robin van Persie departing for greener pastures, the mantle of the captaincy was handed over to the Belgian Verminator and it probably turned out to be a burden as his performances proved.
The Verm always wanted to get “involved” to aid his team, only to end up shooting everyone on the foot with a rifle. His clumsiness was a major highlight last season as he kept on committing needless fouls as well as a penalty against Montpellier that ended up inflicting damage to his team.
Then there was the inch-perfect assist to van Persie in Old Trafford as well as that penalty miss that doomed Arsenal to defeat against Bradford.
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.
In Vermaelen’s absence, Arsenal conceded only five goals in 10 Premier League games and two were conceded from open play. The Verm has to step up if he’s to break the impregnable Mertecielny combination.
A true model of consistency in the yesteryear, replaced by a sloppy player after returning from two horrific leg injuries. Despite the affinity Arsenal fans have towards Bacary Sagna, his performances on his return from injury weren’t good enough, especially coming from a player that has maintained such high standards in previous campaigns.
Young Carl Jenkinson deputized admirably in Sagna’s absence,but many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. He was a colossus in Arsenal’s away victory over Sunderland when he deputized as a make-shift center back but his outing against Newcastle (home), Chelsea (away) and Southampton (away) were terribly appalling.
Just when we thought we had seen it all, Sagna self destructed at home to Manchester United by gifting a wayward pass to van Persie before scything him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot.
This summer he has been linked with a move back to his native France but if he decides to stay with Arsenal, he needs to step his game up, because Arsenal has been linked with moves for Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek and Freiburg’s Sebastian Jung. Let’s not forget that there’s a certain Carl Jenkinson waiting to get take advantage too.
It’s fair to say that the Ox suffered the well-renowned “second season syndrome” as he clearly failed to live up to the hype surrounding him in his first campaign in the Premier League.
Last season, the Ox failed to assert himself and his chances diminished with Theo Walcott’s growing importance to the team. There was even a point when he was further down the pecking order behind Gervinho.
Despite his shortcomings, the Ox showed some glimpses of his undoubted quality and his wonder strike against Coventry City was a friendly reminder of what he was made of. He also scored a goal in that 7-3 thumping of Newcastle and his most important contribution last season was his neat cutback to Giroud the 3-1 win over Norwich.
Arsenal’s reliance on Theo Walcott on the right may become a burden and there may be times when the Ox will be called upon to deliver. He has to show that he has what it takes.
Anytime I think of Gervinho’s horrendous miss against Bradford, I tend to wonder where it went all wrong.
If Arsenal had managed to win the lowly League Two outfit, a semifinal berth against a struggling Aston Villa would have beckoned and if they had secured a win against the Villans, the Gunners would have been in Wembley against Chelsea or Swansea.
If and only if…classic Arsenal cliche.
But here we are with Gervais Yao Kouassi, the fleet-footed and scintillating dribbling that offers nothing on the final third, except you’re a Southampton (home), Montpellier (away), Chelsea (home), Olympiakos (home), Swansea (away) and Reading (home). Despite his numerous shortcomings as a player, Gervinho still managed seven goals and supplied five assists last season.
He’s certainly got going to be a regular unless injuries to first team players or other factors come into play, but Gervinho has to really step up his game when he comes up as an impact sub.
This is a player that scored 36 goals in two seasons with LOSC Lille Metropole, that’s the Gervinho we all need.
I just hope that these Gunners will do well to kill their personal demons and play very well in the upcoming season because Arsene Wenger’s future might just be in their hands.
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Posted on July 17, 2013, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League and tagged Arsenal, Bacary Sagna, Football, Gervinho, Premier League, The Ox, Thomas Vermaelen, Wojciech Szczesny. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.