Arsenal FC: 10 Players That Need To Step Their Game Up in the 2011/12 Season
The 2010/11 season was a season to forget in Arsenal Football Club. A season that promised so much ended in shambles and the panic button was pressed so hard that it sprang out of the remote control.
The club won the 2011 Emirates Cup following a draw with seven-time Champions League winners AC Milan and a 3-2 victory over Celtic. At the start of the New Year, Arsenal was the only club that was still eligible to win every competition football as a port had to offer but disaster struck as the season progressed.
The Gunners had another clear shot of silverware on the 27th of February when they took on Birmingham in Wembley, but the game will be remembered for the error that won Birmingham the game after a mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal were shown the exit door in the Champions League by Barcelona and Manchester United drove the nail in the club’s FA Cup coffin despite starting the tie with seven recognized defenders.
The Premier League offered the Gunners a chance to end the six-year trophy drought as well as the seven-year Premier League drought.
The last Arsenal team that won the Premier League did it in grand style as they went to an entire season unbeaten, so Wenger’s class of 2011 had it all to do when they were told that victories in their last nine games would have been enough to put their names in history. The last nine games included: Blackburn (home), Blackpool (away), Liverpool (home), Tottenham (away), Bolton (away), Manchester United (home), Stoke Rugby FC (away), Aston Villa (home) and Fulham (away).
With Manchester United competing on three fronts (league, FA Cup and Champions League), Arsenal were expected to have the fresher legs and had the chance to rest because every game was played on Sunday. But it wasn’t still enough for the Gunners, as they decided to put up a dismal run of form that can be compared with the likes of Wigan, Sunderland and Wolves.
The run started with a bore draw at the Emirates against a Blackburn side that has a goalie that opens the floodgates anytime he plays against Arsenal. Mad Jens Lehmann came back from retirement to be the custodian between the sticks in the 3-1 win at Bloomfield Road against the relegated Blackpool so Arsenal was faced with the “week of destiny,” with games coming up against Liverpool, Tottenham and Bolton.
With Manchester United making steady progress at the summit of the table, there was no room for error but Farmer Emmanuel Eboue inspired an amazing comeback for Liverpool in the 101st minute after Arsenal had gone ahead in the 98th minute. The spoils were also shared in the North London Derby after an intense battle so Arsenal required a win against Bolton to stay in touch with the leaders.
After conceding a headed goal to loanee Danny Sturridge, Wojciech Szczesny spared Arsenal’s blushes by making a good penalty save before Robin van Persie brought Arsenal back into the game after a neat one-two with Cesc Fabregas. Nasri and Chamakh had the chances to kill the game off but it was Tamir Cohen’s header in the 90th minute that inflicted the final blow in Arsenal’s title aspirations.
The fact that Arsenal lost to a side that was pummeled 5-0 by Stoke Rugby FC wasn’t enough; the defeat also meant that Chelsea had usurped Arsenal to second place as the new challengers for the title and were really close but Manchester United’s character shone through when they needed it the most. I’m very certain if Manchester United or Chelsea were behind Arsenal by three points, the match would have ended in a draw or a win for Arsenal’s rivals because the squad’s mentality is very low.
The remaining fixtures were mere formalities, so no eyebrows were raised when Manchester City leapfrogged Arsenal to take the final Champions League automatic slot. At the end of the Premier League campaign, Arsenal scored 72 goals and conceded 43 with a final league position of fourth place after amassing 68 points.
Some players like Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna 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 10 Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up or face the axe.
Here’s my take on the infamous 10.
10. Manuel Almunia
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After doing so well to render mad Jens Lehmann out of business, Manuel Almunia became a shadow of the blond-haired player that took the Premier League by storm and saved a million-and-one penalties at the Emirates.
Anytime the name West Brom will be mentioned while he’s asleep, I’m pretty sure that he’ll scream and start having nightmares because West Brom was the club that sent Almunia’s Arsenal career into oblivion both home and away. Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone are clearly above the Spaniard and he has been heavily linked with a move to Spain or Turkey.
I just hope that Arsenal can do its best to get at least £1 million for the aging goalie.
9. Denilson Perreira Neves
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Even though he has been packaged in a box and has been sent across the Atlantic to his previous employers, Denilson was a false clone of the player that featured in over 50 games for Arsenal in the 2008/09 season.
It’s true that Wilshere’s emergence last season limited his appearances but Denilson was an absolute stinker in 90 percent of the games he played for Arsenal last season—so bad that he couldn’t even play well against the lowly sides Arsenal faced in the cup competitions. He was the first player to wave the white flag shortly after the Fulham game and I’m pretty sure that he won’t wear the red and white ever again.
8. Abou Vassiriki Diaby
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In the summer of the 2008/09 season, Abou Diaby was the reason Samir Nasri suffered a broken leg in Austria but he probably got himself acquainted with a female physio working at Arsenal because he spent more times on the treatment table than on the pitch. His appearances were so low that 21 players in the 25-man squad list had more minutes than him.
Diaby is a man that plays with a loose nut in his brain and he can be very frustrating to watch at times, so frustrating that a Gooner threw his footwear at the television in a public viewing centre in my days at Owerri—a television that did not belong to him.
If Diaby continues in this mold, his Arsenal days will definitely be numbered and he has already started the season with a 10-week layoff thanks to the demons of injury.
7. Tomas Rosicky
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“Little Mozart,” as he is fondly called in some parts of the world, suffered an injury that was more than enough to make him announce his retirement from the beautiful game but he has done really well to fight his "enemies" to stay fit.
However, his injury has taken its toll on his football and Rosicky was a fringe player that offered nothing to the club last season. He was afraid to go into any tackle and the goal he missed against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinal was more than enough to shatter someone’s confidence.
TR7 has been okay from the preseason games I’ve watched so far, so he’ll have to step his game up because the attacking midfield position is suddenly up for grabs again with the imminent departure of Fabregas and Nasri.
6. Farmer Emmanuel Eboue
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Farmer Emmanuel Eboue has had his moments at Arsenal football club—starting from when he usurped Lauren to become Arsenal’s No. 1 right-back to when he scored his first Arsenal goal against Hamburg in the 2006/07 season. He scored that belter in the same season against Reading in the Carling Cup and was promoted to the position of a right winger after the acquisition of Bacary Sagna.
There were times where he turned into a diving specialist to win set pieces for Arsenal; there was also a game where he turned into a pantomime villain against Wigan and he was substituted despite coming on as a sub.
Last season, Farmer Eboue was a major disappointment and he dug his own Arsenal grave when the Gunners hosted Liverpool on the 16th of April, 2011 after conceding that penalty thanks to a push on Lucas Leiva. Farmer Eboue looks to have completed a move to Galatasaray.
5. Sebastien Squillaci
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The Squisha (as I prefer to call him) arrived at the shores of London with an amazing trophy haul from his days in France and Spain and the “experienced” tag on his head that was supposed to be a very valuable in teaching the younger ones like Djourou and Koscielny. But he turned out to be the right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre.
He even lived up to the legendary No. 18 own-goal billing by heading the ball into his own net when Arsenal played Wigan in the last game of 2010. Pascal Cygan (No. 18) did it in his time and Silvestre (No. 18) was the quickest of them all with an own goal on his debut. To be frank, I don’t even want Squillaci to step up his game; I want him to enter the nearest train through the English Channel to play for any French outfit available.
Seeing that guy wear the red and white sends chills down my spine most times because you can never predict the next calamity he’s about to make.
4. Kieran Gibbs
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Kieran Gibbs spent a long while out injured two seasons ago when he damaged his metatarsal in the Champions League match against Standard Liege.
He wasn’t too impressive when he deputized for Clichy last season, with his most glaring mistakes present in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinal. His positioning was questionable and he offered no threat going forward, but Clichy’s exit has given him the chance to shine this upcoming season, so I hope that he’ll do well to grab the bull by the horns.
3. Nicklas Bendtner
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Bendtner scored nine goals for Arsenal last season but the bulk of his goals were scored against lowly sides in the cup competitions because of his limited chances. He banged in a hat trick against Leyton Orient and he scored a peach of a goal when Arsenal played Ipswich in the Carling Cup semis but Bendtner has decided to call it quits in his fledgling Arsenal career because he feels that he’s good enough to start every game in an Arsenal side that has a Robin van Persie.
Many clubs have placed their radars on Bendtner but he still remains an Arsenal player, so he’ll have to step his game up if no team decides to buy him again because he has a contract to fulfill.
2. Marouane Chamakh
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Last season, Arsenal’s new boy deputized for the injured rVp and B52 and he was in a hot streak with 10 goals in his first 21 appearances, but the goals dried up faster than the wells in the Sahara, Kalahari and the Atacama deserts put together with one goal in his remaining matches for Arsenal.
He hasn’t impressed yet this preseason but I truly hope that he’ll step his game up because we can’t bank on van Persie to stay fit for an entire season.
1. Andrei Arshavin
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With 10 goals and 17 assists to his name last season, people will still ask,
“What on Earth is Arshavin’s name doing in the same list with Manuel Almunia?”
But the truth is that Arshavin was quite disappointing even if he delivered. He was so disappointing that he lost his place in the starting lineup to Theo Walcott and he didn’t win it back till the season ended. With Nasri going out the way very soon, Arshavin will only have the threat of Gervinho to contend with even though Carlos Vela, Ryo Miyaichi and the Chambered Ox are somewhere in the mix.
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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.
Going trophy-less again after selling key players like Fabregas and Nasri will definitely backfire on Wenger.