Arsenal's 2011-12 End-of-Season Awards
In yet another fruitless campaign by our standards, Arsenal secured a third-place finish in the English Premier League, but the Gunners didn’t fare too well in other competitions football had to offer in the 2011-12 season.
The Carling Cup adventure ended in the quarterfinals, they managed to reach the Fifth Round of the FA Cup and they bowed out of the Champions League in the first knockout stage.
At the end of each season, I'll will publish a list of personal awards for the Gunners in recognition of their output to the team's cause in that campaign.
There are awards for the good, the bad and the ugly.
The criteria include:
- Save of the Season
- Goalkeeping Blunder of the Season
- Goal of the Season
- Assist of the Season
- Match of the Season
- Worst Match of the Season
- Most Improved Player of the Season
- Most Disappointing Player of the Season
- Player of the Season
- Team of the Season
Each criterion will have a top three listing from the third to the first.
Bear in mind that these awards are from my own perspective. Feel free to share yours with your comments.
Save of the Season
Szczesny's incredible save against Wolves
Despite the fact that a goalie might have one of the most “boring” roles in football, his importance to the team is unrivaled. As one of the essential components that help form the backbone of any team, he can be the difference between three points and one point.
Here are my top three saves:
3. Wojciech Szczesny against Udinese (August 2011)
Antonio di Natale had a glorious chance from 12 yards out to hand Udinese an advantage in the Champions League playoff second leg. He smashed in a goal-bound shot that was saved emphatically by Wojciech Szczesny.
2. Wojciech Szczesny against Sunderland (September 2011)
Despite being on the back foot for a considerable chunk of the game, Sunderland launched a counter attack through Stephane Sessegnon. The Beninese forward lofted a cross that was nodded goalwards by Lee Cattermole. Up stepped Szczesny to show off the reflexes of a cat to keep the ball out.
1. Wojciech Szczesny against Wolves (April 2012)
Arsenal controlled the game against the Wolverhampton Wanderers, but a turning-point arrived when the Gunners where 2-0 up. Stephen Hunt dinked in a cross for an unmarked Kevin Doyle that headed the ball in Szczesny’s opposite direction. The goalie used every muscle left in him to stretch brilliantly before making a top drawer save.
Goalkeeping Blunder of the Season
Mannone howler against Olympiakos (via The Guardian)
In the yesteryear, Arsenal fans graced themselves to witness horrendous displays from their goalies that always ended up hurting the team. Mad Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski have had their great moments in goal but their howlers have achieved legendary status.
Here are the top three goalkeeping blunders this season:
3. Wojciech Szczesny against Tottenham (October 2011)
In recent meetings, Tottenham had been the alpha club in North London Derbies and the pendulum swung in their direction in their 2-1 victory in October. However, the match-winner came from a Kyle Walker shot that was horribly miscalculated by Wojciech Szczesny.
2. Wojciech Szczesny against Norwich (May 2012)
Arsenal relinquished their stranglehold on third place in their penultimate game of the season against Norwich courtesy of a disappointing 3-3 draw. The visitors leveled the contest at 1-1 when Wes Hoolahan fired a shot that was flapped by Szczesny into his goal.
1. Vito Mannone against Olympiakos (December 2011)
In a dead-rubber match against Olympiakos Piraeus, Vito Mannone replaced an injured Lukasz Fabianski in goal. Mannone assumed the role of a sweeper to head the ball to safety but David Fuster hit the ball towards the goal. However, Mannone stunned everyone when he chose to use his feet to attempt to clear the ball when he could have caught the ball easily.
Goal of the Season
RVP: Technique, precision, class
Goals are the very essence of football. The Premier League is rated as one of the best divisions in world football because of the high-octane football played, as well as the entertainment value it brings.
In football, one goal is enough to get you three points in a match, provided you are rock-solid at the back.
These are the three goals that stood out from the crowd in the 2011-12 season:
3. Mikel Arteta against Manchester City (April 2012)
Manchester City handed the Premier League title on a platter to their rivals, Manchester United, after succumbing to a 1-0 loss at the Emirates. It was a goal worthy of getting all three points, as Mikel Arteta won possession in midfield to fire a surface-to-goal missile past the impressive Joe Hart.
2. Robin van Persie against Tottenham (February 2012)
In a game that will be fondly remembered for all the right reasons, Arsenal showed great resilience, spirit and character to overturn a two-goal deficit into a five-goal thriller that handed them three points against the enemy, Tottenham Hotspurs. Robin van Persie scored Arsenal’s second goal with a magnificent curling effort that gave Brad Friedel no chance.
1. Robin van Persie against Everton (December 2011)
In a day filled up with celebration as Arsenal marked its 125th anniversary, Everton provided a stern test for the Gunners. Alex Song launched a perfectly-weighted projectile that was volleyed home by Robin van Persie. It was a goal that epitomized what he stood for this season; technique, precision and class.
Assist of the Season
Alex Song on his Lionel Messi-esque run against Dortmund
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
This season, there were three outstanding assists for the Gunners that cut opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter. Despite the fact that the end product created the euphoria, three passes were worth their weight in gold.
Here are my top three:
3. Alex Song for Robin van Persie against Everton (December 2011)
Alex Song was a phenom in the concluded season and proved his mettle to his team in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Everton. Van Persie’s goal turned out to be the Goal of the Season but the assist was a delightfully chipped projectile from Alex Song.
2. Alex Song for Thierry Henry against Leeds (January 2012)
A fairytale moment turned out to be the solitary goal put Leeds United to the sword. Alex Song evaded a couple of defenders before slotting a brilliant pass to Henry. The rest they say is history.
1. Alex Song for Robin van Persie against Dortmund (November 2011)
Arsenal paired with the champions of Germany and Greece as well as a prestigious French outfit but they topped their group with consummate ease. In the second encounter against Dortmund, Alex Song made a Lionel Messi-esque run before feeding van Persie with an inch-perfect cross.
Match of the Season
An epic scoreline
Arsenal fans endured the ignominy of another fruitless campaign but there were some fixtures that made everyone concerned with the club proud to feel Red and White.
Here are the top three matches that will remain in Gooner hearts forever:
3. Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0 (March 2012)
The Gunners suffered a humiliating defeat in Italy, but the spirits were high ahead of the return leg at the Emirates. Laurent Koscielny nodded the ball home early on and this was followed by a placed Tomas Rosicky effort. Robin van Persie capped up a scintillating first half display with a converted penalty but the Gunners didn’t have enough gas in the tank to score the goal that would have taken the game to extra time.
2. Chelsea 3 Arsenal 5 (October 2011)
Arsenal faced a wounded lion in the form of Chelsea in a fixture were the brilliant attacking play and atrocious defending was the order of the day. Goals from Andre Santos, Theo Walcott and an outstanding hat-trick from Robin van Persie handed the Gunners their sweetest victory in Stamford Bridge in a long while.
1. Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2 (February 2012)
Tottenham were running away with the game when they gained a 2-0 lead but the resurgent Gunners capped up an enthralling display by scoring five goals that were worth their weights in gold. Bacary Sagna opened the scoring with a strong header, Robin van Persie slotted in a sweet curling effort, Tomas Rosicky dinked one in and a much-maligned Theo Walcott netted a brace.
Worst Match of the Season
I "8-2" be an Arsenal fan!
There were also some matches that were very unbearable to watch.
Here are my top three:
3. Sunderland 2, Arsenal 0
The Gunners ensured that their hunt for silverware will be extended by another year after a woeful performance against a Sunderland side finding their feet under Martin O’Neill. A Kieran Richardson shot and an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal sealed the Gunners’ fate.
2. AC Milan 4, Arsenal 0
This was one Italian job that was highly unsuccessful as the Gunners failed to turn up on a San Siro pitch that was fit enough o graze cattle. A stunning Kevin-Prince Boateng volley, Robinho brace and Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty more or less knocked the Gunners out of the Champions League.
1. Manchester United 8, Arsenal 2
How I 8-2 to be an Arsenal on a day like this. Wayne Rooney turned into the football version of Midas as everything he touched changed to gold…goals. Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Park Ji-Sung and Luis Nani also got in the act in my worst outing as an Arsenal fan till date.
Most Improved Player of the Season
Kos the Boss
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
This season, many Gunners impressed their manager, fellow teammates and most importantly, the fans with greatly improved displays on a consistent basis.
Here are my top three:
3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (26 games, four goals, three assists)
When Arsene Wenger burnt £12m on an unearthed talented youngster from Southampton critics pointed their fingers at the club, regarding his purchase as a poor piece of judgment. However, the Ox was introduced slowly into the squad and came of age in 2012, exhuming confidence in his displays that were also consistent.
2. Francis Coquelin (17 games, one assist)
Coquelin was handed a league debut in the 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford courtesy of Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong’s disciplinary issues. He also deputized in both fullback positions during the club’s mysterious injury crisis and he was largely impressive.
1. Laurent Koscielny (42 games, four goals, three assists)
Koscielny was an ever-present figure last season and he showed his great mental strength to recover from his Wembley disaster to put up stellar performances all season long. Despite the fact that he was paired with several defensive partners in the course of the year, Kos the Boss was evergreen and rightly earned a call up to the Les Bleus squad of Euro 2012.
Most Disappointing Player of the Season
What a shame
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Arsenal also had its fair share of players that failed to step their game up all season long, and they were often subjected to a barrage of insults and causes from the fans.
Here’s my take of the infamous three:
3. Aaron Ramsey (44 games, three goals, eight assists)
Aaron Ramsey endured a turbulent campaign that had its own share of drama to say the least. His three goals against Tottenham, Marseille and Sunderland came hand in hand with the demises of Steve Jobs, Muammar Gaddafi and Whitney Houston respectively. However, Ramsey made some inconsistent displays that made him unbearable to watch at times causing him to lose his starting berth to Tomas Rosicky.
2. Johan Djourou (27 games)
An Achilles tendon injury to Thomas Vermaelen and Sebastien Squillaci’s shaky performances paved the way for Djourou in his breakthrough 2010/11 campaign. He failed to replicate the same form last season, and he was torn open with he played as a right back.
1. Andrei Arshavin (26 games, two goals, four assists)
Arshavin has been an enigma in his time at Arsenal. Despite having staggering stats in terms of goals scored and assists created, his displays on the pitch were lethargic and below par, enraging the fans on several occasions. He was shipped to Zenit to rediscover his form as well as to get some valuable playing time, as his place in his national team was under threat.
Player of the Season
An award truly deserved
Arsenal fans were given the opportunity to place votes of several polls created on the club’s website and the results were announced a few days ago. However, the prestigious award of the player of the season will be given the Gunners that really deserved it in my opinion.
3. Alex Song (46 games, one goal, 14 assists)
Alex Song imposed himself as Arsenal’s deep-lying playmaker this season, despite being a holding midfielder by default. The Cameroonian gem had some freaky hairstyles as the season progressed, but his outputs on the pitch were breathtaking to say the least.
2. Laurent Koscielny (42 games, four goals, three assists)
Koscielny overshadowed his peers in the heart of Arsenal’s defense with consistent displays that saw him humble a host of Premier League forwards as the season progressed. Despite all the plaudits, he had two perfectly-struck own goals to his name.
1. Robin van Persie (47 games, 37 goals, 15 assists)
Robin van Persie is the club’s best player as well as the captain, all-spark, talisman, Flying Dutchman, perpetual goal scoring machine and the football standard for measuring technique. His scintillating and amazing performances on the pitch epitomized everything he stood for this season; precision, technique and class.
Team of the Season
A tactical setup of the XI of the Season (via This11.com)
This is the final award in this year’s edition. It goes to 11 players that gave Arsenal everything even if they ended in another trophy-less campaign. The Gooner Daily XI award will be given on account of Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
GOALIE: Wojciech Szczesny (48 games, 18 clean sheets)
Szczesny usurped Lukasz Fabianksi to become Arsenal’s custodian between the sticks and he commanded his area superbly, dealing with crosses as well as orchestrating his defense. He also made top drawer saves in the course of the season and he had 18 clean sheets to show for it.
LEFT BACK: Kieran Gibbs (22 games, two goals)
Gibbs had a history for his injury problems but he managed to get his highest amount of games in Arsenal colors last season. He also fought a good fight with Andre Santos, giving his manager selection headaches and he put up decent displays all season long. He’ll be forever remembered for his excellent tackle in the final game against West Brom.
RIGHT BACK: Bacary Sagna (28 games, one goal, four assists)
Sagna was one of Arsenal’s consistent performers in the campaign but he suffered two leg fractures that halted his progress. However, he provided wit to Arsenal’s play and he also put in a lion’s share of good crosses.
CENTER BACK: Thomas Vermaelen (40 games, six goals, two assists)
The Verminator showed his attacking prowess this season as he ended the season in third place in Arsenal’s goalscoring charts with Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun with six goals. He also put up commanding defensive displays but there were some games where he was found wanting as his forays forward cost his team at the back.
CENTER BACK: Laurent Koscielny (42 games, four goals, three assists)
Koscielny’s performances this season were mind-blowing to say the least and he can also take pride in scoring the goal that guaranteed Arsenal’s Champions League status next season. Kos was truly the Boss.
HOLDING MIDFIELDER: Alex Song (46 games, one goal, 14 assists)
Song was the creative lynchpin of Arsenal’s midfield in his pseudo playmaking role despite being the chief enforcer of the team. He was an ever-present player that oozed confidence in his ability as well as his play in general.
HOLDING MIDFIELDER: Mikel Arteta (38 games, six goals, three assists)
Arteta arrived on the transfer deadline day and integrated perfectly into Arsenal’s midfield, endearing himself to the fans with his balanced, composed and mature style of play that brought stability to Arsenal’s midfield.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Tomas Rosicky (38 games, two goals, six assists)
Little Mozart was left for dead as Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey dropped him down the pecking order in Arsenal’s midfield. In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Fabregas and Nasri departed for greener pastures, Wilshere suffered a long-term injury and Ramsey suffered a poor run of form. This paved the way for Rosicky that received a new lease of life to put up brilliant displays in his favored position.
RIGHT WINGER: Theo Walcott (46 games, 11 goals, 13 assists)
Walcott had his fair share of inconsistency last season but his output to the team was unrivaled. He grew in confidence with subsequent games provided a lion’s share of assists for his telepathic partner, Robin van Persie.
LEFT WINGER: Gervinho (34 games, four goals, eight assists)
Gervinho hit the ground running with some splendid performances in the start of his Arsenal career but his form waned after the 2012 African Cup of Nations. At some point, he lost his place to the Ox and Yossi Benayoun but in my opinion, he still deserves a place in my XI of the Season.
CENTER FORWARD: Robin van Persie (47 games, 37 goals, 15 assists)
If Arsenal is likened to the Earth, van Persie must be Atlas, as he single-handedly carried Arsenal to a third place finish in the Premier League with 30 goals registered to his name. When the chips were down on several occasions, the general stepped up the plate to rally his troops with more commanding displays.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.
As we say the end of every season, let’s that hope that next season will be our season.