Date: 29th December 2008 at 8:34pm
Written by:

I was going to do a broad half term report for the whole side, but let’s face it, the team/ squad has been scrutinised to death as a collective unit and I don’t think it’s any secret where our hubrises lie as a team. Instead, I’ll do a player by player appraisal of the season so far with the campaign at the half way point. Some players have been too keenly criticised and become something of a cause celebre for our current decline. Others have largely been let off the hook by our supporters when they are clearly playing below themselves. When appraising a player’s performances, too many of us do so through the prism of media presenting their opinion as fact. Much has been said of the loss of Flamini whilst victim of the boo boys Hleb’s absence is rarely mentioned. Adebayor is admonished for being lazy, yet Diaby rarely is. Eboue is a despicable diver but van Persie ‘exaggerates contact.’ As it is, was and ever shall be I guess. We’re all guilty. Anyway, enough prattling.

1.Manuel ALMUNIA– Began the season in fine fettle, looking reasonably solid in front of a flaky backline. His performance in Turkey was something of a watershed. Eight days later, David Bentley lobbed him from forty yards and he hasn’t been the same since, a limp apology to the away support at Stoke revealed it played on his mind and his reticence in decision making and his unwillingness to leave his goal line reveal he has been chastened by the experience. Almunia is a good goalkeeper, but not a great one. 6/10

2.Vassiriki Abou DIABY– Much the same as last season for Demolition Diaby, the talent is undoubtably there. The single handed dismantling of Fenerbahce and his saunter through on goal at Villa Park prove that. However, his problems have been two fold. Firstly, he is still incredibly injury prone and when he does make it into the side we seem unsure how to use him, though the supporting striker role seems to cut itself to the cloth of his talents. His biggest problem is his application, which is fitful at best. This has been characterised by several listless, idel performances punctuated by the odd scintillating run at an opposition defence. His ball skills are peerless, his effort is all too often disappointing. Apply yourself more Abou, we will all benefit. 6

3.Bacary SAGNA– Suffered with niggling injuries early in the season but lately has looked to have dismissed the cries of second season syndrome. It is no surprise that the regaining of form has coincided with his return to a sustained spell of fitness and with the injury to Walcott. Sagna doesn’t know whether to sitck or twist with Walcott in front of him, released from that shackle, he has once again been one of our most reliable performers. 7

4.Cesc FABREGAS– Has not looked at his brilliant best this season, with Hleb sold and Rosicky sharing genetic material with the treatment table, more of the creative onus has been on Cesc. In an unbalanced midfield he has sometimes looked unsure of his role. However, we are talking underwhelming by the gargantuan standards of Fabregas, he still has 10 assists to his name in all competitions. The captain’s armband had barely been fastened to his arm when injury virtually curtailed his season. 6.5

5.Kolo TOURE– A summer bout of malaria could easily explain Kolo’s loss of form (not to mention his considerable weight gain), but in truth the decline has been more gradual than that. That he spent the last throws of last season at right back and that he now finds himself beneath Silvestre and Djourou in the pecking order tells its own story. Toure was never graceful under pressure, but often his electric pace dug him out of defensive mire. However, with the excess pounds and inhibited lung capacity have been unwelcome bedfellows of his virus. 5

8.Samir NASRI– A goal inside the first five minutes of your debut will buy you plenty of goodwill from supporters,as Freddie Ljungberg will attest. Having found the net six times thus far he appears to have acclimbatised quickly to the demands of the Premiership. He still suffers slightly away from home and has a worrying propensity towards niggling injuries, but all in all it’s been a pleasing adaption period. With Fabregas, Walcott and Rosicky injured, the onus on him will increase in the second half of the season. 7.5

10.William GALLAS– Where to start? An awful beginning to his season saw him woefully out of sorts and lacking motivation, as fatal goals shipped against Fulham and Hull attest. However, since Toure’s removal from the side Gallas appeared to be regaining form. The he decided to release an asinine autobiography and lose the captaincy in sensational circumstances. Since then, he has knuckled down and played extremely well, his abberation at Villa Park apart. It is nigh on impossible to rate Gallas’ season numerically, semantically it is a precarious enough assignment. 6

11.Robin van PERSIE– His early season form was characterised by moments of individual brilliance punctuated by spells of anonimity. His talent is undisputed, his mentality and ability to be a team player have been seriously examined. The match winning display at Stamford Bridge appears to have given him a launchpad and thereafter he has silenced the doubters, Myself included. Let’shope he keeps it up, checks his temper and, above all, stays fit. 7.5

12.Carlos VELA– Bled slowly into the side thus far, his Carling Cup performances against Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic had Gooners and neutrals alike purring with content. Vela is clearly a player of mercurial talent, but listless performances at Burnley and Porto have shown he isnot quite ready to be tossed into the frame just yet. But most of us have seen enough to know we have a hell of a prospect on our hands here. 7.5

14.Theo WALCOTT– What to do with Theo Walcott? Electric in attack when given space, hopeless in defence, Walcott has come to, through little fault of his own, embody the flakiness of the current Arsenal set up. A potential match winner when given space or a complete liability when closed down quickly, Walcott personnifies our attacking set up. He is learning very quickly and the hat trick in Croatia for his country tell us all we need to know about his talent. However, I would like to see him develop another dimension to his game other than being able to run very fast. Looks more effective from the bench right now, but therein lies the learning curve. The injury could not have come at a worse time for him. 7

15.DENILSON Pereira de Neves– One of the season’s few success stories in my eyes. Inconsistent until the end of September, he has learned his new role very quickly and rarely gives you anything below a 7 out of 10 performance. He has economised his game and 5 assists and 3 goals has been a sound contribution. Along with the fact that he is usually our most persistent/ successful tackler. 7.5

16.Aaron RAMSEY– Looks a much better player than he did in August, always comfortable with the ball and looking for possession. He still has a lot to learn in keeping his distribution simple and not hanging onto the ball for too long, but looks an enticing prospect all the same considering he turned 18 on Boxing Day. 7

17.Alexandre SONG Billong– Has been awarded a more prominent role this season and largely hasn’t looked out of place. His positional sense is excellent though his distribution still needs work. There have been momentary lapses of concentration and he requires more urgency with the ball, but the job he did of keeping Steven Gerrard quiet last week show he is capable of these small improvements. 7

18.Mikel SILVESTRE– Hasn’t really done it for me, the only games I think he has been sound in are the ones in which Arsenal have found themselves seldom under pressure- which is not a ringing endorsement for a defender. When put under more constant scrutiny away from home, his lack of legs and panicky demeanour have betrayed him. His performances against Fenerbahce and Burnley were close to laughable. 5

19.Jack WILSHERE– His nascent career has looked incredibly promising to date, the Carling Cup performances and his sporadic cameos have revealed a player who looks exciting and relaxed with the ball, as well as defying his small frame with a muscular aptitude with the ball. Though it is curious that they hype is so resounding based on a handful of appearances, let’s allow him to develop at his own pace. 7.5

20.Johan DJOUROU– Another of the few success stories of the season, has always had an eerie calm with the ball and seldom lapses in defence have seen him dislodge Silvestre and Toure at centre half. His 6’4” frame has helped plug one of our obvious gaps, but his composed temperament have neatly elucidated the comparitive flapping of Toure and Silvestre under pressure. Arsenal had kept ten consecutive clean sheets under Djourou’s stewardship up until the game at Stamford Bridge tells its own story. Of course he interrupted that run by scoring an own goal! His reaction to his misfortune in that game was an increment towards his accelerating reputation. 8

21.Lukasz FABIANSKI– Showed grace under fire when thrown into the bear pit against United, whilst his Carling Cup performances have been cruelly overlooked in the shadow of Ramsey, Vela and Wilshere. His save against Wigan was the kind of breath taking stop associated with the best custodians in the game. I have high hopes for this lad. 8

22.Gael CLICHY– Other than a brainless error in the ill fated Spurs match, it’s been more of the same from Gael. High octane, high energy, high quality. Has risen from the shadows to become an automatic choice and a constant feature in Player of the Month conversations. Has gone from strength to strength to the point that he was seriously considered for the captaincy. For all the pining for the Invincibles, how often do you hear somebody say, ‘we really miss Ashley Cole you know’? 8

25.Emmanuel ADEBAYOR– Understandably much maligned following his antics in the summer, but 11 goals and 6 assists is a very decent contribution indeed. The United home match apart, Arsenal do not look the same side with Adebayor as its focal point. His hold up play and ability to take defenders away are unrivalled in Europe with the exception of a fit and firing Drogba and he is a lot more clinical this year. His development since we bought himhas been outstanding. You still sense there’s more to come from him though. 7.5

26.Nicklas BENDTNER– Earned his shot after an impressive innings last season, but he lacks the attributes and the maturity to lead the line. The idea is often right with Nicklas but the execution is not. Has been unfairly chastised but its fair to say he has not grabbed his opportunity sufficiently. I feel his Arsenal career is slipping away from him and it is up to him to rescue it in the second half of the season. Has looked more threatening when manning the flank in an attacking formation, but that reveals his goal threat is not currently good enough and I recall Aliadiere assuming a similar role shortly before he was sold. 5.5

27.Emmanuel EBOUE– Hard to remember just how well he started this season, playing left, right and centre with equal applomb and looking a likely candidate to be this season’s ‘Flamini.’ However, the malaise appeared to set back in in the Autumn before his injury. The barracking he received in the Wigan match will be remembered, his solid teamwork in some games won’t. But the truth is, as a midfielder, he is simply not a brilliant footballer and one that wouldn’t have had a look in in the side of 2003-04. 6.5

N.B. Please resist the urge to compare player ratings, they are purely individual. I do not think Fabianski has been a more valuable player than van Persie this season, but each players season has been evaluated entirely 100% individually and each player obviously has different circumstances. Cheers.LD.