Grading All of Arsenal's Players for the 2012-13 Season
With fourth place within reach heading into the final week, there is still time for last-ditch heroics (or indeed blunders) in Arsenal's 2012-13 season, but for the most part, we already know how each of the players will be judged.
It has been an interesting season for Arsenal. There were spells when Champions League football next season seemed an implausible dream; then there were also glimpses of real potential to return to challenger status.
Based on both team and individual performances—i.e. results as well as factors like key passes, goals, assists, clearances and interceptions, for example— here are Arsenal's 2012-13 player grades.
Arsenal carried a number of senior players on their books who quite literally did not make the grade in 2012-13.
Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Johan Djourou all spent the entire season on loan as a presumed precursor to sale. They were joined by Andre Santos and Marouane Chamakh in January after ignominious spells with the first team.
Emmanuel Frimpong similarly appeared to be winding down his marginalised Arsenal career while on loan at Fulham—a move likely to be made permanent this summer—while Ryo Miyaichi and Ju-Young Park continued loan spells still hopeful of a future chance with Arsenal.
Some players remained in the Arsenal first team but, whether through injury or simple lack of opportunity, did not play enough to make a significant contribution.
The perennially unlucky Abou Diaby counts among these, along with Andrey Arshavin, Lukasz Fabianski, Sebastien Squillaci and Francis Coquelin.
Tomas Rosicky and Nacho Monreal both saw similarly limited playing time, but still made a significant impact on Arsenal's season, coming into the side and performing admirably in the team's crucial late-season surge of form.
Both scored decisive goals in the Premier League, provided key passes and assists, and Rosicky turned in two Man of the Match performances from just six Premier League starts.
Third-choice goalkeeper Vito Mannone, too, deserves an honourable mention for his deputy spell in the first half of the season, when he managed three clean sheets and made EA Sports' Player Performance Index Premier League Team of the Week once.
Questions remain over Arsenal's goalkeeping situation, as evidenced by the persistent rumours linking the club with summer transfer moves in the position.
Yet in 2012-13, Wojciech Szczesny established a decent claim that he deserves the No. 1 spot definitively.
With a save percentage that rivals that of the league's top keepers (at over 75 percent, lower than David De Gea but higher than Joe Hart, Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm), Szczesny has undoubtedly contributed to Arsenal's excellent defensive record.
On the other hand, he committed three individual errors that led to goals, a statistic illustrative of the occasional chaotic moments he can be prone to.
At 23, such moments are hardly unexpected, and Szczesny responded exceptionally well when Arsene Wenger dropped him for a few games following the Tottenham loss—a good sign that he is maturing ahead of schedule.
First-choice right-back Bacary Sagna had a mixed season, but serendipitously came into form (along with many of his teammates) towards the end of the season.
Returning in October from a leg fracture, Sagna displayed sometimes lacklustre, sometimes inexplicably erratic form that some conjectured was linked to a desire to leave the club this summer.
This speculation appeared embarrassingly wrong-headed when the Frenchman turned in an excellent performance as emergency deputy at centre-back away to Sunderland in February.
After another minor injury setback, Sagna has contributed well to Arsenal's successful run-in—despite the penalty conceded to Man United.
With Sagna out injured at the beginning of the season, and sporadically midseason, Carl Jenkinson was given the opportunity to prove his competence at right-back.
The young Englishman performed admirably, showing tremendous improvement from last season and cementing his bid as a potential future starter.
Statistically, Jenkinson's numbers were hurt by appearing in a disproportionate number of losses—arguably partly a product of featuring during spells of bad team form—and by collecting one of the side's few red cards this season.
His performances sometimes showed an understandable lack of polish, but Jenkinson ably exhibited a potential Wenger will be pleased with.
While the rest of the team enjoyed a marked upturn in fortunes in the last third of the season, club captain Thomas Vermaelen's stock shot in the opposite direction.
Statistically, it was an uncharacteristically weak season for the Belgian. Most damningly, Arsenal led the Premier League in goals conceded directly from individual errors, and Vermaelen was one of the main culprits.
His often unnervingly hesitant performances ultimately led to Wenger dropping him for a favoured partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
Vermaelen will have to prove himself dramatically to challenge that winning duo.
2012-13 was a year of tremendous development for Koscielny.
One of the most positive features of the season's run-in has been his successful central partnership with Mertesacker, which solidified Arsenal's back line in a manner not seen for some years.
Koscielny also chipped in with three goals, including the valuable equalizer at Manchester City in September and the tantalising second goal at Bayern Munich.
In his second season at Arsenal, the German international proved many doubters wrong with majestically assured performances and more clean sheets than any other defender.
Like Koscielny, Mertesacker also contributed at the other end of the pitch, scoring home and away against Spurs and netting the winner against Fulham in the run-in.
Left-back Kieran Gibbs had some familiar injury woes again this season, but missing fewer games than in the past, he strung together solid performances and established a reassuring presence in the defence as well as a reliable attacking option up the wing.
Now with able cover in Monreal, the pressure on Gibbs to rush back to fitness and perform has been lifted and may have contributed to an excellent second half.
Crucial to Arsenal for his consistency and composure, Mikel Arteta has been one of the team's best players in 2012-13.
With the highest pass-success rate in the side (just edging out Mertesacker), Arteta has pulled the strings in midfield to great effect, as well as scoring the decisive goals in three Premier League wins.
Arteta has also excelled in the captaincy in Vermaelen's absence, a role he might be favoured to retain next season.
It speaks volumes of Arteta's influence that there is real worry at the prospect he will miss out on the crucial final game at Newcastle.
Aaron Ramsey was chosen Player of the Month by Arsenal fans for April, and it should come as no surprise after a player many wrote off earlier this season tirelessly toiled his way into the heart of Wenger's midfield, where he has made the holding position next to Arteta his own.
Ramsey's talent and technique have perhaps been overshadowed by his unending work ethic, signified most this season by his repeated willingness to operate out of position, even occasionally at right-back.
It was appropriate that the Welshman capped off a solidly complete campaign against Wigan with his first goal of the season.
Jack Wilshere is undoubtedly an enormously important figure at Arsenal, but he will be disappointed with much of his season.
As with Jenkinson, it could perhaps be deemed unlucky that Wilshere was most active in the team during poorer runs of form, playing only a very limited role in the success of the run-in as he slowly returned from an injury we now learn will require minor surgery this summer.
His influence has also been hampered by the upturn in Rosicky's form, as well as the introduction of the superlative Santi Cazorla.
Cazorla has without a doubt been the standout performer in an Arsenal shirt this season and indeed among the best in the league.
A season of excellence as the team's main creative force was underlined in the Wigan win, in which he provided assists for all four goals.
It has been a disappointing term for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In a midfield crowded with attacking options, he has seen relatively scarce opportunity. Wenger has mostly used the pacy Englishman as a substitute, sometimes to good effect against tiring opponents, but generally Oxlade-Chamberlain has struggled to make the impact a player of his ability should produce.
Theo Walcott had a point to prove this season and has largely made it with his 21 goals—nearly double his previous record—making him top scorer for Arsenal in 2012-13.
His haul is all the more impressive considering he spent a lot of the early season coming off the bench as questions swirled over his Arsenal future.
While his form has sometimes seemed patchy, and there is still room for improvement in his consistency, dribbling, passing and positional sense, Walcott has stepped up his performances to become a truly key member of the first team.
Gervinho continues to confound.
The Ivorian started the season with a startlingly potent run of form that unfortunately vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.
The scoring form of Walcott and Lukas Podolski meant Gervinho struggled to get a start after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations in February.
Despite contributing goals against Swansea and Reading, he has remained largely a peripheral figure during the run-in.
Podolski has proved an extremely useful addition even with relatively limited playing time.
Like Walcott, he established himself as a reliable source of goals—an important factor as Arsenal faced questions over how they would manage to score without Van Persie.
As it turned out, just fine, in part thanks to the German international's 16 goals.
Like Podolski, Olivier Giroud was also a key contributor of goals in his debut season.
While his numbers are hurt by a significantly sub-par pass success rate, this can partially be attributed to the fact that as a lone striker he frequently finds himself flicking the ball on for...no one.
Giroud's 17 goals were supplemented by his hold-up play and also defensive value, with Arsenal often benefitting from his aerial prowess when faced with dreaded set pieces.