Arsenal’s tumultuous season is slowly coming to an end and as the season draws to a close, the Gunners find themselves nine points behind Manchester United with a mere two games to go. At one point, the Gunners looked primed to clinch their first league title in seven years, but now all of a sudden they find themselves clinging onto third with Manchester City hot on their heels. City are just five points behind the Gunners with Arsenal having played one game more.
Last season it was Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen who were key in Arsenal’s title quest and this year there were several match-winners for the Gunners.
The squad has performed admirably this season and fell just short of winning the Carling Cup. Despite going close in the League, a late season collapse ended any hopes of the Gunners ending their trophy drought that now extends to six years.
But there have already been plenty of heroes so far in the season. We have witnessed the meteoric rise of Jack—from talented player to an indispensable cog in the Arsenal midfield.
Then there has been Arsenal’s Petit Prince, Samir Nasri who has been in scintillating form this season.
But there have been other heroes in the form of Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna just to name a few.
But which one of these Gunners was the real hero—who was Arsenal’s best player of the 2010-11 season?
Find out and do voice your opinion if you think I have left out any player. Here is a look at the top 10 players of Arsenal’s topsy-turvy season.
If there is one word that best describes Andrei Arshavin’s season then that word has to be inconsistent. The Russian is undoubtedly one of the most talented players at the Emirates but a mixture of lazy attitude, indifferent form and inconsistency has seen him fluctuate between unplayable and the unwatchable.
He possesses the talent to change the game with one stroke of his foot and more times than not that is exactly what happens when he is on the pitch.
At one point in the season he went through an extremely bad patch, as nothing seemed to go his way, and he fell behind the likes of Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott in the pecking order at Arsenal.
But in recent weeks there has been a remarkable renaissance in his form, as Wenger has slowly brought the best out of his most expensive signing. He has chipped in with some invaluable goals and continues to show statistical domination over all his teammates and possesses some of the best statistics throughout the league. His goals against Barcelona, Everton and West Brom were all extremely vital goals at that time and helped Arsenal come back from a deficit on all three occasions.
His statistics are the surprising aspect of his season, as they indicate that he has been on fire this season and should be one of Arsenal’s best players. With 10 goals and 17 assists he has the maximum assists by an Arsenal player this season. But for all his statistics his performances on the field have been inconsistent. Had it not been for his inconsistency, then he would have surely come close to topping the list.
One of the reasons for his impressive statistics is his uncanny ability to contribute when he is far from his best. The second leg against Ipswich in the Carling Cup semifinals is an indicator of this. While having another poor outing, the Russian still managed to chip in with two assists on the night. This ability to come out of nowhere and contribute something significant to the team is further testimony to his brilliance.
He has been often accused of not tracking back and protecting the left back and that is exactly what has happened at times this season but of late, he has started to track back and is helping out in the defensive duties.
It is a real pity that Arshavin lacks consistency because when it simply boils down to statistics and talent, there are few better than him in the league.
When Sven-Goran Eriksson selected Theo Walcott for the 2006 World Cup, great things were expected of the English winger. His hat trick against Croatia in Zagreb only heightened those expectations, but the sailing has not been exceptionally smooth for the youngster.
Throughout his career, Walcott has been a victim of constant injuries and inconsistency. The constant pressure of being in the limelight and criticism from all sides has never helped him fulfill his promise.
Walcott has had to live with people like Chris Waddle making claims that he doesn’t possess a footballing brain and the likes of Alan Hansen criticizing him, even after scoring a hat trick against Blackpool. The criticism of Walcott has always been harsh and each of his performances are dissected and ripped apart by experts on most occasions.
Until this year, Walcott has been frustratingly inconsistent and there have been several question marks over his decision making. In previous seasons Walcott was mainly used as a super sub with Wenger bringing him in late in games in an attempt to change the course of the matches but this season he has established himself as a regular starter for the Gunners and has had a profound impact when starting even against top quality teams like Barcelona, Chelsea and Tottenham.
But this season, we have been witness to a Walcott who has used his pace to great affect, a player who has worked on his game a lot and has added a whole new dimension to his game with his free kicks being the notable mention. Walcott has gained in confidence and is thriving alongside Fabregas and van Persie.
He has already scored 11 goals this season and has notched up 12 assists in all competitions. All these statistics become all the more interesting when you look at the amount of time he has actually spent on the pitch. He has been injured twice already this season, and both times he has missed quite a number of games.
His impact on the Arsenal side has been profound this season. His crossing has become much better and along with Fabregas and van Persie has formed a deadly partnership and is combining well with the other two. The goals against Blackpool and Wolves were a result of the three of them combining brilliantly. The three of them have formed a great understanding that gives Arsenal extra spark on the counter and with Walcott in the team we have started to see more quick breaks from the Gunners that are reminiscent of the Invincibles era.
He also performed admirably against Barcelona and was inspirational in Arsenal’s win over Chelsea scoring one and setting up another. During his absence, the Arsenal team do suffer from the lack of his pace and having him on the team goes a long way in pinning the opposition back in their half.
This season we have seen the opposition struggle due to the pace and threat of Walcott especially when he goes central and thus drawing the defenders out of position like he did with great effect for his goals against Tottenham and Newcastle. Having him on the team means that very often opposition defenders have to drop deep thus opening up acres of space for the likes of Nasri and Fabregas to exploit.
There has been massive improvement by the Englishman, right from his finishing to his crossing, and he is finally overcoming the pressure to soar the great heights he looked destined to soar.
During the summer, Arsenal lost William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre on free transfers. So Arsene Wenger signed Laurent Koscielny from Lorient and Sebastian Squillaci from Sevilla to plug the gap.
While Squillaci has proven to be poor and unimpressive, Koscielny has overcome a rocky start to become a really solid player.
He was sent off in his first match against Liverpool and endured poor games against Newcastle, Tottenham and West Brom.
But as the season progressed, he went from strength to strength and formed a formidable partnership with Johan Djourou. The duo together formed one of the league’s best defenses and performed well against the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea.
It is surprising to note that this is only Koscielny’s second season in the top flight of any league. He spent one season with Lorient before he moved to the Gunners and has slowly established himself as an integral part of the Arsenal team. As the season is coming to its close, Djourou has started to make a few mistakes but Koscielny has remained solid putting in impressive and assured shifts at the heart of the Arsenal defense.
For a man spending just his first season in the Premier League it is remarkable that his best performance in an Arsenal jersey came against the mighty Barcelona.
Two seasons ago he was playing in the obscurity of the French Ligue 2 but on that day he put in a magnificent shift against the likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Xavi. He has not struggled when matched up against teams like Chelsea and Manchester United and has proven to be up to the task to whatever has been thrown at him.
His biggest asset is his pace, something he uses very effectively. He is also blessed with a great header and relishes the physical aspect of the game. Koscielny has slowly adjusted to the pace of the league and has relished his battles against the likes of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi. While Koscielny might not have the most intimidating of figures, he more than makes it up with his strength and strong tackle. He has come across as an extremely dedicated person and is forging a good partnership with Djourou.
Koscielny’s pace and brilliant tackling ability mean that he can dispossess his opponents quickly and often starts counter attacks from the back. He enjoys going forward on certain occasions and being a good passer of the ball, helps to supplement the attack. And with pace being his strength he can get back into position quickly.
Koscielny has surprised many with the way he bounced back, and he has the attributes of a top draw defender. With the experienced Vermaelen returning next season Koscielny will only improve and he can become one of the league’s best defenders.
This season Bacary Sagna has proven to be one of the most consistent performers for the Gunners and his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year is an indication of this.
He has been rock solid at the back and has been dynamic in attack and has slowly established himself as an integral part of this Arsenal side and is now one of the best right backs in the league. Sagna, since coming to Arsenal from Auxerre, has gone from strength to strength and is now a real force both going forward as well as defensively.
Bombing down the right, Sagna has become a real force down the right flank and displays the commitment and desire to win. Sagna is one of the players at Arsenal who always shows an urge to win and remains extremely dedicated to the Arsenal cause. It is only due to his brilliance that Emmanuel Eboue has been relegated to the bench and has to contend with starts only when the mercurial Frenchman is out injured.
Sagna is supremely efficient and at times tends to go unnoticed at Arsenal. Sagna is a defender who thrives on his strength, speed and strong tackle and very often is a real force down the right. While Sagna enjoy bombing down the right flank but that does not mean he neglects his defensive duties and you can see him attacking one moment and then putting in a fantastic tackle the very next moment.
Sagna’s strength lies in his consistency. While there is bound to be the occasional slip up, he is largely error free and can be called upon when the going gets tough.
This season we have witnessed an extremely consistent player and he has found the net twice along with three assists. While his crossing is a bit suspect at times, his link up play with Nasri and Walcott have been a treat to watch this season and if fit, you can expect him to start the match nine times out of ten, despite which ever competition it happens to be.
Arsenal require more efficient players like Sagna to win trophies.
At the start of the season the goalkeeping position was a bit question mark and after the first five matches it looked certain that Wenger’s stubbornness in not signing a top quality keeper would come back to cost his team dearly as Manuel Almunia, his No 1 at the start of the season was back to giving away cheap goals as he was largely to blame for Arsenal 3-2 loss to newly promoted, West Brom at the Emirates.
When he picked up a mysterious elbow injury it was the equally erratic and error prone, Lukasz Fabianski that stepped in and much to the amazement and pleasant surprise of Arsenal fans, he was solid at the back and the only small mistake he made was against Newcastle as he let Carroll out jump him. But save for that slight error, he was magnificent against teams like Wolves, Everton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Fulham as he saved the Gunners around five points with his solid and assured goalkeeping.
He was extremely solid at the back and his handling was much better. His anticipation and judgment on crosses, something that had come under heavy scrutiny was much improved as he was able to deal confidently against the aerial threat posed by teams like Birmingham, Wolves.
His surprise rise was something that truly shocked Arsenal fans especially considering his pathetic performances last season. This time we were finally witness to the Fabianski that Wenger saw in the dressing room. The sight of the cool and composed Fabianski was a pleasure for all Gunners’ fans.
But when he picked up an injury that forced young 20 year old Polish shot stopper, Wojciech Szczesny to take over the reins as the first choice keeper, there was a certain trepidation among Arsenal fans over the extremely promising youngster who previously had not played a single match in the league and his only game for the Gunners came in the Carling Cup.
But despite this he has been fantastic for the Gunners and while he has made a few mistakes this season most notably in the Carling Cup and against Tottenham, his performances have been convincing and he has displayed the confidence and maturity of someone well beyond his age.
The two Polish keepers have ended the crisis faced by the Gunners in this position and have given Wenger a headache that he won’t mind having- an option to choose between two top quality keepers.
Some may object to the inclusion of Arsenal’s summer signing pointing to his recent struggles, but he did perform for the Gunners at the start of the season. He was integral in sustaining Arsenal’s title bid in the absence of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. At one point, Chamakh was one of the front runners of the transfer of the season award but his fading away has resulted in him being faced with severe criticism who have questioned his finishing ability.
But while he has faded slightly, it is harsh to criticise him especially since he has just played 304 minutes since the return of van Persie with just the solitary start against Wigan back in December. Chamakh is not the kind of player who can make an instant impact but he needs time to adjust into the pace of the game and to find his feet.
Wenger’s decision to persist with the 4-2-3-1 with van Persie spear heading the attack means that Chamakh rarely gets a start and so he struggles to score. But when he has come on, he has benefited the Gunners as his presence adds a bit of unpredictability to Arsenal’s passing approach and gives the defenders an aerial presence to worry about. In the matches against Blackburn, Stoke and West Brom it was after the introduction of Chamakh that the team started creating something. Also the full backs tend to cross the ball more on the ground than aerially thus limiting the Chamakh’s aerial prowess. Right now Chamakh is merely short on confidence and when regains it, he can be deadly for the Gunners as demonstrated in 2010.
When Robin van Persie became injured in August, the goal-scoring duties fell on Chamakh and the burden was increased with the injury to Danish striker, Nicklas Bendtner.
But thankfully for Arsenal, Wenger’s decision to sign Chamakh on a free transfer drew instant success and he played brilliantly for the Gunners, scoring goals, getting assists. Opposition players received four red cards as a result of fouls on him and he earned his team four penalties this season.
He scored 10 goals in all competitions until November but since then has slotted in only a solitary goal against Leyton Orient in the 5-0 thrashing in the FA Cup. But despite that his early season form was crucial in Arsenal’s title challenge and it was largely due to his goal scoring exploits that Arsenal did not face a crisis like they did last year when Van Persie was injured.
His goal-scoring streak in the earlier part of the season was a run which included goals against Wolverhampton, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton Wanderers. He might have struggled ever since, but considering this was his first season in the Premier League, his performances were admirable.
Many of his goals were headers with Chamakh scoring against Bolton, Partizan, Blackpool, and Wolves with his presence giving Arsenal the option of going the direct route, something we don’t usually see from Arsenal. His arrival meant that Arsenal now had a physical threat in the box—someone who could win the headers.
Chamakh’s strength lies in his fantastic heading ability but he proved that he can play with his feet as well and linked up brilliantly with the midfielders and the likes of Arshavin and Nasri and did a good job of dropping deeper, albeit his style differing to what van Persie does.
Chamakh might be struggling to score but in recent weeks he has looked sharp and has had a good effect when coming on as a substitute, despite Wenger’s reluctance to start him and Arsenal fans must be thankful to the Moroccan who kept alive their title hopes with a string of vital goals.
Johan Djourou would have been higher in the rankings had it not been for his recent slip in form that has seen Koscielny eclipse him. He has seemed weary and has become error prone in recent times especially in set pieces as the games against Stoke City and Bolton demonstrated. But the faults are understandable this season considering it is his first full season after he missed the whole of last season in the sidelines with a knee injury. The injury to Vermaelen that saw him miss the entire season until now except for the first three matches has seen the work load increase tremendously on the Swiss defender.
Arsenal is a team normally accused of having a leaky defense, but this season with the impressive return of Djourou, the Gunners have formed one of the most solid defenses in the entire league up until the last few weeks.
Summer signings, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastian Squillaci struggled to form a good partnership with the duo leaking goals left, right and centre. But when they have partnered Djourou there has been a remarkable improvement in their form, with Koscielny and Djourou forming one of the league’s most solid defenses.
With the transfers of Mikael Silvestre, Sol Campbell and William Gallas and thanks to the injury to Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal were short on Premier League experience in the defensive department and needed a player to step up and Johan Djourou proved to be that man especially since both Koscielny and Squillaci lacked experience in the physical English Premier League. But he has risen to the occasion and has been a major positive for Arsenal and their manager, Wenger.
He added leadership and experience to the backline and with him in the defense, Arsenal performed admirably in defense against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona.
Djourou’s rise as has been surprising to say the least but as the season has progressed he has shaken off the rust from last season and with Vermaelen and reinforcements coming in next season, Djourou can continue to shine at the back for Arsenal.
Over the last few years, Robin van Persie has established himself as one of the most injury-prone players, not just on an injury ravaged Arsenal side, but also in the league.
Rarely does he play 30 games in a season and this means that Arsenal have to often play without their best striker for large parts of the season. But this season he has made a total of 31 appearances and this has been his best season in an Arsenal jersey.
This season too he has been injured but much to the delight of Arsenal fans, lesser than previous seasons. He has already played more matches than last season and has scored more as well. This season he has scored 20 goals and has scored in the last eight away games.
This season, despite spending close to three months with injury, he has already outscored the likes of Anelka, Drogba and Rooney with only Berbatov and Tevez having found the net more often. Van Persie also contributed eight assists this season in all competitions.
Arsenal boast one of the best attacking line-ups in the league and despite that, one can’t help but get the feeling that they desperately require van Persie in their starting line up to fire on all cylinders.
While Marouane Chamakh may be an able striker he is of a completely different mold of the Dutchman, van Persie. While Chamakh is mainly a target man, van Persie often drops into the wings or he drops deep which brings out the best in the likes of Walcott and Fabregas. His assist for Aaron Ramsey is an example of how he uses his movement and creativity to increase the productivity of the entire team. Very often van Persie’s dummy runs opens up pockets of spaces for Nasri and Walcott to exploit and tends to draw the defenders out of position.
Van Persie is the essential componenet that adds some bite and spark to the Gunners’ attack. While Chamakh did a great job in van Persie’s absence, he lacks the ruthlessness of the Dutchman who has improved his game tremendously over the past couple of years.
He is one of the league’s most effective strikers, if not the most effective striker. Van Persie averages a goal or an assist every 69 minutes in the league which is by far the best average in the league.
His movement and creativity increases Arsenal’s attacking prowess and immediately after his return, Arsenal’s form increased manifold as they beat the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona and began to comprehensively beat teams with van Persie at the heart of things, scoring his first hat-trick against Wigan and braces against Newcastle, West Ham and Wolves. Last season Arsenal played Chelsea, Barcelona and United each twice and in all six meeting they just managed one draw and five defeats scoring just five while this season they scored seven goals.
His influence on this team has been profound this season and with him Arsenal’s forward line lacks the penetration and lethalness that can kill off opponents.
Arsenal’s Petit Prince, considered by many to be the next Zidane has been on song this season and was easily Arsenal’s best player in the first half of the season.
The only reason he is not first is because he has not been able maintain the same level of form; but that does not mean he has been poor in any sense of the word. His form has just dipped a bit and he still remains crucial and vital to Arsenal. One reason for his form to go down a bit maybe due to his switching to the left flank in order to accommodate, Theo Walcott in the right flank.
When Nasri has moved to the left, he has to play more carefully and has to track back more than he did on the right since down the left he has to protect, Gael Clichy while Sagna in the right is more assured and defensively more stable.
Despite not scoring many goals recently he still remains Arsenal’s best player and is just a goal or two away from getting back to top gear. Right now he is easily the best dribbler of the ball in the Arsenal team and is brilliant skills often creates chances for his teammates and his goals against Fulham were testimony to this.
In his previous two seasons he only showed glimpses of his immense potential but it has been this season that he has performed at the top level scoring an impressive 15 goals in all competitions including a brace against Fulham, a match in which he single-handedly won the match for Arsenal. This is highest tally of goals in his three seasons at Emirates. This has been the season in which he has finally risen to stake his claim as the heir to Zidane, arguably the greatest midfielder of our generation.
Matching Zidane would be mission impossible but if Nasri can continue performing at the top level consistently, then he reach a certain distance in becoming the next Zizou.
His dribbling skills are unmatched in the Arsenal side and his quick feet and impressive footwork has seen him score many a brilliant goals this season. He scored goals against the likes of Tottenham, Aston Villa, and Leeds United but most notably he scored two fantastic solo goals against Fulham that propelled the Gunners to the top of the table, if only briefly.
In that match he showed great balance, poise and dribbling ability to score two goals for Arsenal and get them all three points.
When Cesc Fabregas and van Persie were absent, he rose to the occasion and scored important goals to keep alive Arsenal’s title hopes. During the months of October and November it was largely Nasri alongside Chamakh and a few others who carried the Arsenal team as Arsenal remained in the thick of the title race despite injuries to key players in van Persie, Fabregas and Walcott.
At the start of the season no one would have expected Jack Wilshere to be Arsenal’s best and most consistent performer during the 2010-11 season. His rise has surprised many and delighted Arsenal fans who have seen one of their most promising talents take the first huge step in fulfilling his vast potential.
He tops the list for two main reasons.
First, he has been Arsenal’s most consistent player and has performed at the top level in almost all matches and this season there has hardly been a game in which he has seemed out of sorts. Whether it be against the mighty Barcelona or against Ipswich, there has hardly been a drop in his standards as he continues to perform at the highest level for the Gunners.
Second, his attitude has been top class and has displayed the fighting characteristics that we, the fans, have longed to see in this Arsenal side. The game against Barcelona at the Camp Nou showed that while his teammates have a tendency to give up and quit, he never stops trying and always gives his best shot. His perseverance and determination almost got Arsenal the goal they needed but they fell just short.
No wonder everyone has been quick in naming him the next England and Arsenal skipper and on the basis of his performances this season, that assumption could not be more accurate.
It is not common to see a teenager became an integral part of the team, especially at a club like Arsenal where giving opportunities to youngsters takes utmost importance, but Wilshere has established himself the midfield dynamo that is essential to pull the strings in Arsenal’s side.
Following his impressive loan spell at Bolton Wanderers, many expected him to have a breakthrough season this year—but surely not to this extent. His spell under Owen Coyle did him a world of good as it seems to have made him tougher both physically and mentally.
Wilshere has stamped his authority in the Arsenal midfield and without his drive in midfield, Arsenal would definitely not have gone this far this season.
Fabregas’ claim as Arsenal’s best midfielder has come in doubt thanks to the brilliant performances from the Englishman. What he lacks in experience he makes up with enthusiasm and his brilliant work rate. While Fabregas maybe better than the Englishman at the moment, Arsenal fans would see Fabregas rather than Wilshere injured and miss matches.
This season, he has already managed to make 47 appearances in all competitions, with only Andrei Arshavin having made more
This season he clinched the PFA Player of the Year award, in just his first season as an Arsenal first team regular and was even named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside, Nasri and Sagna.
Wilshere has scored two goals and has nine assists to his name. The statistics hardly depict how important and effective he has been for the Gunners.