Date: 21st May 2008 at 3:00pm
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I`m not going to bother reviewing May, there seems little point. Two entirely uninteresting games that finished 1-0 (where have I heard that before?). Though the fact that Alex Song was at the heart of a defence that kept two clean sheets and the winning goals were scored by Bendtner and Walcott respectively gives a positive indicator for the future. What I will do instead is a player by player season rating. By all means feel free to disagree, agree, smash your favourite coffee mug on your computer screen and call me a despicable ****. That`s why we have a comments section baby!

1.Jens LEHMANN- They say only boring people get bored and it`s been another eventful season for the Jens ‘Zen` Lehmann. Starting the campaign with two high profile clangers, the calm and collected German found himself out of the side. Most of his campaign was spent kicking his heels on the bench and weeing on Manuel Almunia`s half time orange. Despite some ill advised comments towards Almunia, Lehmann came back into the side for a short spell in February and performed marvellously. Personally, I think he should have retained his place at that point. Despite a disappointing season, Jens finished with a well earned ovation that recognised what a tremendous goalkeeper he has been for this club. Life won`t be the same without you Jens. 5

2.Abou DIABY- Demolition Diaby has endured another injury plagued year, when he has been fit he has been played largely on the left wing- a position he clearly does not enjoy. When he has played there he has been incredibly lazy and pretty ineffective in truth. Diaby is infinitely more talented than the application he demonstrates. I would like to think he would work harder and perform better in his favoured position, but the boy needs to work much, much harder. 5

3.Bacary SAGNA- Idleness is hardly an accusation you can level at Banger, an extraordinary maiden season from the French right back. I can remember possibly two games where he was below par, from game number 1 he fitted in instantly to both the Arsenal team and the demands of the Premiership. Our defence ultimately fell apart following his injury (had he been playing right back instead of Toure, would we have conceded that penalty at Anfield?) His defending, attacking and application have been of the highest order and the mental strength he showed in the wake of personal tragedy is only to be admired. He does however lose half a point for having shit hair. 8.5

4.Cesc FABREGAS- Fourteen goals and twenty four assists. An old Aberdeen manager once said, “Statistics are like mini skirts, they give you good ideas, but really they hide all the important stuff.” In this case that is absolutely correct because those numbers don`t even begin to do justice to how integral Fabregas is to our side. Everything goes through him, his mixture of tenacity, skill and vision simply make him one of planet Earth`s greatest footballers. But talent is merely a seed, and a seed sits idle in the ground without nurturing, Fabregas improves every season. Two years ago, he looked a little lightweight, so he gritted his teeth and bulked up. Last season, he didn`t score enough, so now he is taking more shots and making more forward runs. Many contend that his form dipped post Christmas but I think that is unfair, the standards he set early season were unsurpassed in my time watching Arsenal, it was not maintainable for anyone. After Christmas, he was still making our side tick with assurance and swagger, his set piece delivery was worth close to twenty points to us this season. What a season, what a player. 9.5

5.Kolo TOURE- Possibly Toure`s most underwhelming season in an Arsenal shirt. He started well enough, stepping into the breach of captain in early Autumn with Gallas injured, but he returned from Africa looking jaded, hardly surprising when you look at how few games he has missed for the last four years. In my eyes, Senderos and Lehmann should have kept their places post January. In the long term, I am not worried about Kolo at all, he was due a dip in form and fitness. A rested summer should see the Toure we all know and love return in August. 6

6.Philippe SENDEROS- Beloved scapegoat of most, it is worth repeating that Phil didn`t play in any of our domestic defeats this year. He was a virtual ever present in our barnstorming start to the season as well as our good form in January (missing only the 5-1 defeats away Tottenham and the 4-0 reverse at United in two months). Phil is a young defender that has made mistakes, but no more than Toure or Gallas have this season, Senderos was also at the heart of our win in the San Siro. However, his mistake at Anfield and subsequent difficulty surmounting it mentally raise questions about his future. 7

7.Tomas ROSICKY- Remember him? He of the Ryvita hamstrings was born to play for Arsenal, he perfectly fits our style of play, offers a great direct alternative to the orchestral play of Alex Hleb. However, he also spends large amounts of time conducting some kind of secret affair with Gary Lewin. When he has played, he has contributed goals, work ethic and some incisive play, economical with possession a willingness to shoot, but he simply cannot climb out of bed without snapping his leg in half. I would say it`s no coincidence that Hleb`s form tailed off once Rosicky played his final game of the season in January. Harsh rating because of circumstances seemingly beyond his control, but given his injury record it`s hard to look upon his campaign as anything other than a massive disappointment. Conversely, because he is such a good player. 6

8.Lassana DIARRA- The man with a huge head, but lacking much in the way of cognitive faculties to fill it with. Diarra was of course sold in January at his own behest, whingeing like a bitch on his way out. But aside from his terrible attitude and dolphin shaped head, Diarra put in a string of impressive displays in the first half of the season. He certainly suggested that he could challenge and displace Flamini, sadly Diarra did not have the patience or cranial properties to see the bigger picture. Tony Adams now alleges that Diarra left for reasons other than his lack of first team opportunities, “you have to think outside the box” he said. What could it have been? Adebayor`s massive elephant knob scared him? Emmanuel Eboue`s shit dancing? Hleb and Flamini`s constant lovers tiffs? If you ask a mind as twisted as mine to think OUTSIDE of the box, you get what you deserve! 5.5

9.EDUARDO- Ah, the ill fated Adonis, Eddie took a while to acclimatise to the rough and tumble of English football, but unlike Henry and Bergkamp before him, Eddie picked up the handy trait of scoring a bag full of goals whilst underperforming. Once he did acclimatise at around Christmas time, we saw there was more to him than the ice cool “I could hit Paris Hilton with a dart from the top of a mountain” style finishing. We saw a player of skill and movement, equally as adept beating players on the left wing as he was nutmegging goalkeepers. Then Martin Taylor intervened and Arsenal lost the title. Were it not for Tiny`s ‘clumsiness` I am certain Eduardo would have made the difference in at least one of those infuriating March draws. 7.5

10.William GALLAS- Billy G was not exactly the peoples` choice for skipper, but he soon won everybody over with some stern defensive displays, sound organisational skills and a fair few important goals. Then came the incident at Birmingham that threatened to induce the apocalypse as the press rained faecal matter down upon him, blaming him for everything from Arsenal losing the title, to the reason that Steve McLaren`s hairline looks like a consequence of nuclear fallout. That was of course all tish and fipsy, but Gallas did lose form more than authority towards the end of the season. Being Arsenal`s sole bastion of experience began to take its toll with Lehmann and Gilberto out of the side. He will need a few more players of age to help him next season. 7.5

11.Robin van PERSIE- Yet another injury ravaged season from a player that promises so much until a cracked toenail cuts him down for months on end. He took star billing last summer, tipped to be the one to step out of Henry`s shadow, RvP scored three consecutive winning goals before a nasty tackle on international duty cut him down. His over eagerness to return saw him injure himself again, by the time he returned he was reduced to a hobbling wreck as the Gunners season was in freefall. One of the very few players who might actually benefit from an international tournament this summer. Until he gets injured again. 6

13.Aliaksandr HLEB- Spent much of the season playing in the hole behind a lone striker, Alex revelled in the early part of the campaign. His trickery and ability to open up defences had even his most earnest doubters purring with plaudits. He even chipped in with a few goals early season. But once Rosicky is out of the side, Hleb`s play looks ponderous and frustrating, without the direct van Persie and Rosicky to crash the shots in and provide end product. His decision to swan off for a midnight ice cream with Inter representatives smacked of disrespect and it looks like he could follow his lover, I mean friend, friend, Flamini to the quiet fishing village of Milano to escape the noise. 7

15.DENILSON- Hasn`t been able to build on the immense promise he demonstrated last season, largely due to the impenetrable Flam-Fab partnership. Has suffered a few injuries too, but when he came into the side late season, looked as comfortable and impressive as ever. Not the season we expected perhaps, but plenty more to come from this young Brazilian. 5.5

16.Mathieu FLAMINI- Now departed for the bright lights and UEFA Cup football of Italy (NOT the money though), Flamini suggested he was to buy out the last year of his contract last summer. But he had a last minute change of heart and stayed to fight for his place. With Gilberto still chilling with his homies in Brazil and Diaby injured, the Flamster came into the side and never looked back. The headless chicken incarnation of seasons past was gone forever and we had a focussed, determined and steely partner for Cesc, winning the ball back with terrier like tenacity, before distributing it to more artisan team mates, the Flanimal became the battery of the side, his infectious energy setting the tempo for the side. He never lost his place and performed one of the great turnarounds I have ever seen from an Arsenal player. It`s a shame he has eschewed the chance to build on it. 9

17.Alexandre SONG Billong- Largely constricted to Carling Cup appearances, but has again shone in the competition (had more Arsenal fans seem the numerous away ties we draw in this tournament, I doubt he would have been written off so roundly). Has reinvented himself as a centre half and a fine one at that, quick, powerful and strong in the air, blessed with composure, Song came of age in January`s African Nations, forcing his way into runners up Cameroon`s starting line up, he was named Young Player of the Tournament. Sadly limped out of the Final injured, most of his countrymen attest that, had he played the whole 90 minutes in the Final, Cameroon might be kings of their Continent again. Played all of our last six games at centre half which suggests the manager has a more prominent role in mind for him next season. 7

19.GILBERTO Silva- Last year`s Player of the Year has endured a frustrating time this season, returning from the Copa America to find Flamini cavorting in his marital bed in the defensive midfield role, ‘Bert has spent most of the season on the subs bench. When he has come in, he has looked rusty and off the pace. Though a run in the side at the back end of the campaign suggests he still has a lot to offer Arsenal, even at the age of 32. We have missed his aerial presence as the Gunners appeared to suffer on the long ball this season. His professionalism is only to be admired in an age of tell all autobiographies and Italian ice cream as he did not once criticise his manager or team mates to serve his own interests. 5.5

21.Lukasz FABIANSKI- Again, featured only in Carling Cup games where he has demonstrated the potential to be an excellent keeper. An agile and fearless shot stopper, he shows a willingness to come and claim the ball too. However, he elects to punch a little too much. The 5-1 mauling at the Lane aside, has performed impressively and has potential. 7

22.Gael CLICHY- Has featured in every single one of our Premiership games, clocking up more minutes than any other player. Has played with a voracity and temperament that have made him a firm fan favourite. Putting aside Cashley`s utter twatishness, he was a tremendous left back, but he has not been missed. Clichy has stepped into the breach with a series of ultra consistent performances. He did make a hugely costly error at St. Andrews, but such lapses in concentration are so uncharacteristic as to stick in one`s mind. The model of professionalism and consistency, he has also greatly improved his delivery from out wide to set up a number of goals this year. A superb season and a genuine candidate for player of the year. 9

24.Manuel ALMUNIA- Stepped into the first team early in the season and never let go of his place. Has shown an excellent temperament and desire to ward off the challenge and arrows of Jens Lehmann. Appeared to visibly grow in stature as the season went on, culminating in a match winning penalty stop in the home win against Tottenham. However, mistakes in games against Chelsea and United raise questions against his big game acumen and I have my inherent doubts as to whether he has the aura and presence of an Arsenal number 1. His new long term contract suggests we will find out next season. 7

25.Emmanuel ADEBAYOR- Thirty goals from somebody who is not even a main striker is an impressive amount. His goals came close to bringing Arsenal the title as he carried the burden of lone front man with style and application. His enormous frame and insatiable work rate make him such a nuisance for defenders and he is the focal point for all of our attacks. I would caution not to expect Ade to hit 30 next year, as he is not a goalhanger in the Torres or Owen mould, however, he contributes so much to our game that it is difficult to imagine Arsenal without him. His immense goalscoring run either side of the New Year threatened to carry us to the title, while a quick glance at his goals to shots ratio compared to Cristiano Ronaldo`s shows that he is not as wasteful as his critics would have you believe. 9

26.Nicklas BENDTNER- A useful season for the Young Dane, he has largely kept his trap shut, buckled down and improved no end, scoring important goals from the bench along the way. Nine goals is a decent return given his fleeting appearances, but despite still needing to work on his touch and his general awareness, he has the gift of always making something happen when he`s on the pitch. Concerns remain though as to whether any of his team mates actually like him. Then words “piss”, “fire” and “wouldn`t on him” spring to mind. 7

27.Emmanuel EBOUE- Possibly the least popular player in our history has seemingly done little to endear himself to his fans this season. Played largely on the right wing, Eboue`s defensive work has been fine, but his contribution of two assists and zero goals really bears reflection. While he can offer balance to an attacking team, I really do not think the right wing experiment has worked for him, I would like to see him pushed back to Sagna`s understudy at right back next season. Another Ivorian who has underwhelmed this year. 5

32.Theo WALCOTT- The media glare on the kid is always gratuitous and over the top, criticised in the early part of the campaign for not fulfilling his potential despite still being only 18 drove the sane amongst us nuts. There were flashes of enormous brilliance early in the season, notably against Sunderland and Slavia Prague, but as the season wore on, his influence became more consistent. Came of age with a two goal cameo at Birmingham, before his mammoth seventy yard run at Anfield looked to have put us in the Champions League Semi Final. Still understandably rough around the edges at 19, he has blossomed into a stunning impact player. The next step for him is the ninety minute shift. But has suggested more than ever that he has the ingredients to be a great at this club. 7.5