Date: 14th May 2010 at 4:48pm
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12.Carlos VELA– One of the two Arsenal starlets that has stood still this season due to the counterfeit packaging of junior international tournaments as anything other than detrimental to young players. Much like Gilberto in 2007, Vela opted to play a South American tournament of little to no value and his entire season was harmed as a result. At his age that has manifested itself as a year`s crucial development lost. He started the season late and, as is often the case for players following international tournaments, blighted by niggling injuries. In the absence of van Persie and Bendtner he couldn`t step up to the plate and suggest that he could be trusted as a starter at this sage of his career. The moment that really sums up his season would have to be when he could not travel to Barcelona because he had mislaid his passport. One wonders if he`d have found it had it been Mexico calling him up for a crucial encounter. Vela is a player of supreme natural ability but from the outside looking in, he doesn`t appear to have made any demonstratable improvements to his game. We know from his two solitary goals this season that he can spoon the ball into the net very nicely when the pressure is off, we also know he`d sooner cut his right off with a spoon than kick a ball with it and we know that, at this stage, he does not have the intelligence to play as a central striker in the 4-3-3. Overall, a disappointing showing from someone who has the ability to do better. 5.5

14.Theo WALCOTT– See above. Played a useless junior international tournament and spent six months dealing with the resulting niggling injuries and struggle to establish a pattern of form. Ironically enough, bringing his participation in the full national side into doubt. And they whine about how little Arsenal do to develop English players?! It`s virtually impossible to come to any conclusive judgment on Walcott therefore as he has had so little playing time. He still has the knack of being able to find space in the final third, by playing on the shoulder of his full back and receiving the ball on the half turn. His final product still needs work though and he needs to be more considered about his final ball. When starting games he has a tendency to fade once opponents have worked him out, yet he frightened the bejesus out of Barcelona and contributed to all of our goals against them. Still it is difficult to see Walcott as anything other than an impact player and it`s difficult to spot tangible improvement on the raw player we had twelve months ago. 6.5

15.DENILSON Pereira de Neves– After a quietly excellent campaign in 2008-09, Denilson has under whelmed this season. A back injury saw him sidelined for a few months early in the season and it seemed to blight his form and his mobility. That he has spent a few shorter spells out with the same injury suggests it has been an ongoing problem, and physically he seems a lot more tentative than in the past. That he has lost his place variously to Ramsey and Diaby at different points in the season points to a season where his progress has been enervated. Maybe it would be worthwhile spending a summer trying to get his back straight as it were. An unimpressive season from a usually unfairly derided player. Next season will go further in telling us whether the back injury is instructive to his form. 6

16.Aaron RAMSEY– Ramsey began the season behind Denilson and Diaby in the pecking order. By late February, he had nudged himself ahead of them both. That fact alone will tell you that the plaudits he will receive in this review are not at all based on or informed by weepy eyed sentiment. After an initial season which showed bags of raw promise, Ramsey had begun to blossom into a first team player that looked comfortable in the hurly burly of a Premiership midfield, where he always seemed to have time and space on the ball- the hallmark of a truly great player. He is a teenager that doesn`t play like a teenager at all, he takes responsibility with the ball and his goal at Fratton Park seemed to be the culmination of the embellishments made to his game. I don`t want to discuss his injury or the revolting coverage it was given by the media, as that has been done to death. But I hope Rambo can come back and be the same fearless, accomplished and cultured midfielder he was blossoming into prior to the events at the Britannia. 8

17.Alexandre SONG Billong– Another of this season`s great success stories, he slowly nudged his way into contention with some fine performances in defensive midfield last season. This season he has become not only a bona fide first choice, but one of our most important players. For those who cared to watch him, Song has always had the knack of winning the ball back from the opposition ever since he was turning out as a pup in the Carling Cup games, but where Song has really built on his game is in his ability on the ball. It is not at all unusual to see Song skip daintily past three players in the centre circle before releasing to a colleague. There is still room for improvement though, in the games against Chelsea and United he tried too hard to push forwards, thus surrendering his position and costing us goals, he needs to be a little savvier there, but given the metronomic rate of his improvement in the last 12 months, there`s little reason to believe he won`t be even better next season. 8.5

18.Mikael SILVESTRE– Another of the supporters` favourite whipping boys. Silvestre hasn`t played nearly enough to justify a tenth of the ire he invites, yet the evidence is still plaintive that his manager doesn`t trust him- considering him behind Campbell in the pecking order at a time when Campbell hadn`t played a competitive fixture for four months. Largely Silvestre is a steady pair of hands at the back and no more. The way some fans carry on you`d think he was routinely shanking the ball into his own net on a weekly basis. Where he has been guilty on the occasions he has played it has been of not maintaining the defensive line and playing opponents onside. One could point to his sporadic playing time contributing to a lack of understanding, but his experience should stand him in better stead than that. Following his “hoof a minute” display in the Carling Cup at Eastlands the manager has obviously had a word as his distribution has improved immeasurably. His departure won`t make any great waves, but he did his job as a 4th/5th choice. 6

21.Lukasz FABIANSKI– Fabianski is a talented goalkeeper, we`ve seen signs of it in his three years at the club. He has made some gravity defying stops and been a positive keeper that takes responsibility- it`s not hard to see what Wenger saw in him to take him to the club. He also began the season with a knee injury, at the same time that Almunia took compassionate leave, leaving Vito Mannone to man the posts. He came back into the side for the Champions League dead rubber with Olympiacos and produced a top quality performance, full of assured decision making and a few decent saves too. However, since then costly errors have become all too apparent a feature in his game. Once the errors began in his spell in the side in late spring, his confidence was shot to pieces and they recurred. That Arsene stuck with him to finish the season suggests his Arsenal career is not a total write off in the manager`s eyes, but it is clear he is not ready to take over from Almunia as Arsenal`s number 1, so Arsenal need to prioritise purchasing a new goalie- perhaps an experienced one at the peak of his game who can do a job for a few years until we can see how Szczesny develops and if Fabianski recovers. I hope he does, but he needs to become more aggressive and more confident to cut out the errors that blight his game. 5

22.Gael CLICHY– Initially seemed to take time to adapt to the new formation. One of the principle flaws of the 4-3-3 was the lack of protection to full backs, coupled with the fact that Clichy was playing behind Arshavin, it`s not hard to see how he got exposed at the beginning of the campaign. Then of course, being an Arsenal player, he got the obligatory injury followed by long lay off. After a three month absence, he came back into a run of games against Villa, United, Chelsea and Liverpool and the word on the street was that he was a busted flush after some suspect performances. But Clichy, ever the quiet and industrious one, kept his mouth shut and acclimatised to the formation and his fitness visibly improved as he continued his lung bursting runs down the left touchline. Whenever Arsenal are losing, it is likely that Clichy, along with Fabregas, is working harder than anyone to rectify the situation. Arsenal needs characters like that. 7.5

23.Andrey ARSHAVIN– Frankly, I`m stumped. Has his season been good, bad or indifferent? You could make strong arguments for all three. Nobody of sane disposition would argue with Arshavin`s mercurial talent and 12 goals and 9 assists from 41 appearances is a good enough indication of a player that has the ability to change games. Arshavin is often chastised as lazy and it`s not difficult to see why, but what is interesting is that of Arshavin`s 12 goals this season, eight of them have completed the scoring in a given game and ten of them were scored in the second half. Arshavin is also Arsenal`s highest scoring substitute with three from the bench, this suggests Arshavin has the intelligence to read a game, either from the bench or when on the pitch, and knows when to make his move. In that sense, he is our snake in the grass. However, you get the impression that Arshavin is capable of so much more. It`s true that he spent a sizeable chunk of the season as a central striker which is not his preferred position, but at 29, Arshavin`s sporadic moments of genius will need to become more regular next season. He is still the luxury we can afford and one of Arsenal`s holy trinity with Cesc and van Persie, but we`d all like him to be as consistent as the aforementioned. 7

24.Vito MANNONE– Came into the side in the early autumn after injury to Fabianski and a personal trauma for Almunia, he was ushered straight into a Champions League group game and played eight times. Interestingly, Manchester City were allowed to sign an emergency goalkeeper despite having Gunnar Nielsen who has 15 senior appearances. Mannone had three when he was asked to keep goal for Arsenal. Largely, Mannone looked very much what he is. A rookie not yet ready for the rigours of Premiership football on a weekly basis. He did hit one purple patch at Craven Cottage with a series of good saves, though the root cause of having to make most of the saves was a steadfast refusal to leave his goal line. The defence looked gripped with nerves with Mannone in the nets and the mistakes at Upton Park were on the horizon. One for the future maybe, but certainly not right at this moment. Will probably need to go out on loan next season to secure some experience. 6

27.Emmanuel EBOUE– Through a curious mixture of guilt and irony, Eboue has become a cult figure in N5. Since his sending off at White Hart Lane last February, Eboue seems to have cleansed himself of the poor attitude that often marked his game. He has proved to be the uber utility man, his driving runs at defenders from either full back or wide midfield lend the team a quality and a penetration few other Arsenal players can match. His crossing and his finishing have improved and that`s testament to a man that analysed his game and saw that his career at Arsenal had started to derail after an encouraging start. He has found himself strongly challenging Sagna for the right back berth to the point that he is selected for home matches where the impetus is clearly on Arsenal to attack. But it`s not just irony, guilt and a catchy song that have made Eboue a cult figure, supporters have seen a lot of hard graft on the pitch to supplement the soul searching he has undergone off it. 7

28.Kieran GIBBS– His development looked to have continued through the summer months as he continued to look comfortable when called upon in the left back slot. He deserves immense credit for not letting his slip against Manchester United bother him in any way- if it has it certainly hasn`t illuminated itself in his performances. It`s easy to forget that Gibbs was being widely touted for World Cup contention back in November prior to breaking a foot against Standard Liege and seeing his season finish early. His development will have been aided furthermore had he stayed fit and continued to fill in for Clichy until late January. Behind Ramsey and van Persie, his is probably the season`s third tragedy. Definitely one for the future and an exciting 2010-11 campaign awaits him. 7.5

30.Armand TRAORE– Given an unlikely run in the side with simultaneous afflictions to Clichy and Gibbs. The truth is, he looks short of the quality required to be a regular Arsenal performer as he was often the weak link in the defence when he did play. The Blackburn game in May looked to have been one final audition stage from the manager to prove his worth and he didn`t look interested in taking it at all. Almost certain to leave this summer and not many will rush to keep him from the door. 5.5

31.Sol CAMPBELL– I don`t think any of us dreamed back in hazy mists of August that Sol Campbell`s name would feature on any season review. So when it was announced in January that he was to line up in a reserve fixture at Upton Park, I think most of us reacted with a mixture of curiosity and astonishment. But given that Sol had been training with us for three months prior to his official signing, Arsene had obviously seen that Campbell`s experience could add something to a squad of young pretenders. His influence on the tea has stretched beyond the times he has played in central defence- which I think has happened more often than he or the manager expected. But Campbell has the aura of a winner with the experience of winning to back it up. He is playing like a player making up for lost time, aware that this is his last hurrah in the big time. Whenever Arsenal score, Campbell is first on the scene, pre match, Campbell is the one shaking fists and pumping hands, his face a picture of zeal and desire. His performance at White Hart Lane might well go down as his last great game. Given the way he knits the team together and the performances he has put in which have rolled back the years, I rather hope he gets another year in an Arsenal shirt to try and match it. 8.5

52.Nicklas BENDTNER– There is mixed opinion as to whether some Arsenal players have stepped up to the plate this season and whether others haven`t. I don`t think there can any doubt as to whether Bendtner has. He began the season on the right hand side of the front three, a duty he performed ably even though he admits it`s not his preferred position. A hernia injury saw him sit out three months at the same time van Persie was sidelined. As a result of those concurrent injuries, the calls were for Wenger to buy a striker. The manager held firm and attested that he had faith in his young Dane. That put a lot of pressure on Bendtner`s shoulders once he returned to action, but rather than wilt under the pressure he flourished with the responsibility. He finished the season with 9 goals and 5 assists in 13 games. There were last minute winners against Hull and Wolves as well as a crucial equaliser wit a header at Stoke City. Despite having what is commonly described as “one of those days” in front of goal at Burnley, he did not let the criticism haunt him and roared back with a hat trick against Porto. For someone so often wrongly accused of arrogance, his post match assertion showed a spot on attitude, “I`ll enjoy the hat trick tonight, but tomorrow it`s all forgotten.” Bendtner backed up his suggestion that he aspired to be Arsenal`s central striker with the goals and performances to match, he essentially carved himself a niche as Arsenal`s first genuine penalty box striker since Ian Wright, with scrappy rebounds and bullet headers. He has become the player Eduardo was supposed to be. 8