Ranking Arsenal's Top 5 Players for 2015January 1, 2016
Ranking Arsenal's Top 5 Players for 2015
2015 was a good year for Arsenal. Not only did they win a second successive FA Cup, but they also finished the year on top of the Premier League.
Now that the year is over, it’s an appropriate time to assess the performances of Arsenal’s individual players over the past 12 months. In this piece, we list the five players who’ve delivered most between January and December.
The consistency of their contribution is taken into account. Therefore, a player like Petr Cech—superb so far in 2015/16—has not made the cut as he was still with Chelsea until late June.
Equally, players who’ve been absent for prolonged spells with injury will not be taken into account. These are the five men whose offered the team most over the course of 2015.
It’s not been easy to select this quality quintet, as Arsenal have been blessed with many players in good form across that period.
If you disagree with the choices, let us know in the comments below. For now, go to the next slide to begin the countdown.
5. Nacho Monreal
This was a difficult call to make, as there was only room for one defender in this list of five.
Laurent Koscielny has enjoyed another impressive year, continuing to cement his burgeoning reputation as one of the finest centre-halves in Europe. Alternatively, Hector Bellerin arguably deserves commendation after cementing his place in the first-team ahead of Mathieu Debuchy.
However, Nacho Monreal has not just been Arsenal’s most consistent defender, he is potentially their most consistent outfield player—full stop. The Spaniard simply doesn’t make mistakes.
Back in 2014, doubts persisted over his ability to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. In the end, a spell at centre-half that winter toughened him up and gave him the requisite reliance to make him a better full-back. Since then, it has been impossible for Kieran Gibbs to displace him.
Monreal’s success is a victory for Arsene Wenger’s squad-building strategy. He was brought in as a player who could provide cover and competition for Gibbs, and he ultimately superseded him in Wenger’s meritocratic system.
Now, Arsenal daren’t think of lining up without him. Monreal is the unsung hero of Arsenal’s 2015.
4. Santi Cazorla
2015 was a year of change for Santi Cazorla. In 2014, he was regarded almost exclusively as a wide playmaker, cutting in from the left flank to support the likes of Mesut Ozil in the centre.
In the course of 2015, he dramatically changed that position. An injury crisis at the end of 2014 saw him redeployed as a deep-lying midfielder. Initially, there were concerns about his ability to thrive in the maelstrom of the midfield. However, as soon as January rolled around, Cazorla began to dispel those fears.
Key to his development was the January win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. In that game, Cazorla was absolutely brilliant. He was making slide tackles, crucial interceptions, and dazzling dribbles up the pitch. It was a quintessential midfield display.
From that point on, he simply went from strength to strength. Cazorla’s lack of height was not a problem, thanks to his incredibly technical ability. His dextrous dribbling enabled him to create space in the most compact of environments, and his ability to distribute the ball was crucial to the counter-attacking approach that defined some of Arsenal’s most important wins of the year.
Unfortunately, injury ended Cazorla’s year a touch prematurely. No matter: He had already made an enormous impact on the side’s style of place. It will be fascinating to see how he is re-accommodated upon his return, with Aaron Ramsey currently performing well in his central-midfield berth.
3. Alexis Sanchez
It is difficult to conceive of a list of this nature not including Alexis Sanchez. The former Barcelona man is one of Arsenal’s undoubted stars, and he lived up to his billing in 2015.
What makes his achievements all the more remarkable is the sheer workload he undertook over the course of the year. While many players enjoyed a summer break, Alexis was back in his native Chile, leading his team to a historic Copa America triumph.
The subsequent fatigue has occasionally been evident in Alexis’ performances, but his quality has never faded entirely. There have been several standout moments, notably his stunning goal in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa.
He also played his part in some crucial Premier League wins, hammering home spectacular goals at the Emirates Stadium against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United.
Alexis’ work rate and ability make him a consistently effective weapon for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. They’ll be desperate to welcome him back into the side as soon as possible in 2016.
2. Francis Coquelin
Back in 2014, the idea that Francis Coquelin could have featured in this list would have been utterly laughable. However, over the course of that year, he established himself as an essential fixture in Arsene Wenger’s first team.
It was only in December of 2014 that Coquelin was recalled from a loan spell with Charlton Athletic to help assuage Arsenal’s midfield injury crisis. Most expected him to be a temporary stopgap. Instead, he became a linchpin of the side.
The secret of Coquelin’s success is simplicity. Unlike many who’ve held the defensive-midfield position at Arsenal in the past, he has no obvious aspirations to be a playmaker. He understands his role, and he executes it to the best of his ability. It’s not down to a lack of skill—Coquelin is actually surprisingly adept on the ball—but merely a dedication to what he sees as his duty.
Arsenal had been crying out for that sort of player for years. To the surprise of many, Coquelin provided the kind of internal solution Wenger loves, and he saved the Gunners millions in the transfer market in the process.
1. Mesut Ozil
A year or so ago, there were probably a few Arsenal fans who wondered if 2015 might be the year Mesut Ozil left Arsenal. He had a difficult 2014 at club level, often playing out of position on the flank, and finished the year on the sidelines after suffering a serious knee injury.
However, he returned in January as a different player. Ozil’s time on the sidelines had enabled him to strengthen both his body and his mind. The German international has subsequently enjoyed one of the best calendar years of his entire career.
He’s broken a Premier League record for assists, setting up 20 goals in the past 12 months. That moves him ahead of Thierry Henry, who created 19 goals for his team-mates in 2003 as Arsenal geared up for their famous Invincibles' campaign of 2003/04.
Ozil’s performances are about more than just statistics. There is beauty in his game, and it’s been a genuine pleasure for Arsenal fans to watch him flourish in 2015. Considering that he is still only 27, he could yet improve. That’s a tantalising prospect for a fanbase already enamoured with his skilful style.