Ranking Arsenal's Top 5 Players for February 2016

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2016

Ranking Arsenal's Top 5 Players for February 2016

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    February was not a good month for Arsenal. In the Premier League, they failed to beat Southampton and lost to Manchester United. Their defence of the FA Cup stalled with a 0-0 draw at home to Hull City, and they were all but eliminated from the Champions League by a 2-0 defeat at home to Barcelona. 

    It hasn’t even been good to watch. Arsenal have had a reputation as one of the Premier League’s most entertaining sides, but of late they’ve been decidedly dull. Morale around the club seems to be sinking by the game.

    Nevertheless, amid the disappointment there were some good individual performances. In this piece, we identify Arsenal’s five best performers over the month.

    Read on to discover who managed to emerge from this miserable month with some measure of credit.

5. Aaron Ramsey

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    Aaron Ramsey has performed well in difficult circumstances in the month of February. He’s doubtless been helped by the return of Francis Coquelin, who is a more natural partner for him at the base of midfield than Mathieu Flamini.

    Replacing the injured Santi Cazorla is no easy task, and the Wales international is a very different type of player. He doesn’t share the Spaniard’s methodical approach, instead preferring to force the play, constantly looking to create havoc in the opponents’ half.

    However, that direct approach can be very effective. What’s more, it’s impossible to question Ramsey’s commitment—in every game, he covers an enormous amount of ground.

    February didn’t see Ramsey produce his most spectacular form, but equally he never allowed his performances to dip below a commendable level.

4. Danny Welbeck

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    It might seem a little strange to include a man who has only figured sporadically in the month after recovering from a long-term injury.

    However, Danny Welbeck’s impact has been significant. He made his comeback as a substitute in the vital game against Leicester City, producing a memorable moment when his stoppage-time header diverted Mesut Ozil’s free-kick beyond the despairing Kasper Schmeichel.

    The Emirates Stadium erupted in joy, partly at what was a huge goal for Arsenal, but also to celebrate Welbeck’s welcome return. After 10 month on the sidelines, the England international had provided an instant reminder of what he’s capable of.

    He followed up with a lively performance against Hull in the FA Cup, as well as en energetic cameo in the Champions League defeat to Barcelona. He returned to the starting line-up in the Premier League at Old Trafford, and he was one of the few to escape the 3-2 defeat without significant blame. Welbeck headed home another Ozil cross to record another goal against his former club.

    Having fought his way back into the side, Welbeck will not give up his place without a fight. On this kind of form, he certainly deserves a place in the team above the likes of Theo Walcott.

3. Petr Cech

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    February wasn’t a great month for Arsenal. If it wasn’t for Petr Cech, it could well have been worse.

    Take the Barcelona game. A 2-0 defeat at home was a sobering scoreline, but had Cech been less vigilant the gap between the sides could easily have doubled. 

    Watching Arsenal this month, it’s tempting to suggest that Cech deserves better. The Gunners have been let down by sloppy defending, and it must be infuriating for a goalkeeper who has barely put a glove wrong since the opening day of the Premier League season.

    The former Chelsea man did manage to keep clean sheets against Bournemouth and Southampton, taking his Premier League tally for the season to 12.

    Cech is the sort of player Arsenal should be looking to recruit ahead of next season. His experience and class brings with it a guarantee of a certain level of performance. His signing made sense because he felt like a sure thing, and he has not disappointed.

    What’s more, his leadership qualities have immediately made him a key figure in the dressing room. With Mikel Arteta’s contract due to expire in the summer, Cech must already be a serious contender for the captaincy.

2. Nacho Monreal

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    Barely a month goes by without Nacho Monreal featuring in these top-five lists. That’s the secret of his success: consistency. Arsenal have plenty of more eye-catching players, but few more reliable than the Spanish full-back.

    In February, his performance against Barcelona stood out. Booked early on for a foul on Ivan Rakitic, he then faced the nightmare task of trying to contain Lionel Messi while on a yellow card.

    Although Messi and Barcelona’s quality told in the end, for the majority of the game Monreal shackled him effectively. He’s not as quick as the Argentinian, but his positional intelligence and sheer determination allowed him to keep up until Arsenal’s shape disintegrated in the game’s latter stages.

    He was also one of the better performers in the 3-2 defeat to Manchester United, constantly helping to instigate attacks with his accurate passing from the back. 

    Monreal signed a new contract earlier this year, and fortunately he does not seem content to rest on his laurels. Kieran Gibbs’ long wait for a run in the first team is set to go on.

1. Mesut Ozil

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    Mesut Ozil has been Arsenal’s best player throughout most of the season, and February was no different in that respect.

    What will have pleased Arsene Wenger most is that the German appears to have rediscovered his goalscoring touch.

    Ozil has never been a natural finisher, but playing as a No. 10 does afford him the opportunity to score. He added two goals to his tally in February, netting with volleys against both Bournemouth and Manchester United. The former was a cleaner strike, but the former Real Madrid man won’t be fussy.

    Of course, the German is more well-known for his ability to create goals, and he did that to great effect in February too. His set-piece delivery has been outstanding this season, and twice he delivered dangerous balls to the head of Danny Welbeck.

    The England striker took much of the credit for the late winner against Leicester, but he wouldn’t have been able to score it without Ozil’s outstanding cross. His ability from dead-ball situations has added a new string to Arsenal’s bow.

    Arguably the one disappointment for Ozil will be that he wasn’t really able to showcase his talent in the game against Barcelona. If picked for the second leg, he’ll be eager to make an impression on the grand stage of the Camp Nou.