This is the third part of AFCB’s 2010/2011 Season Review, focusing specifically on the players primarily used across the back four last season.
Each player has been giving a report card-style rating (ranging from A+ to E-) as well as the justification for their rating based on their progress and overall performance over the course of the season.
Laurent Koscielny (B)
Thomas Vermaelen’s achilles injury meant that Koscielny started more games than any other central defender in the squad, a testament to his adaptability and physical robustness in his first season at the club. Despite giving away too many penalties and making a handful of errors, including the last-moment brain fade that threw away the Carling Cup, Koscielny impressed with his anticipation and impeccable tackling abilities. Given his capacity to learn quickly, as evidenced by his rise from Ligue 2 to the Premier League in just two seasons, I have high hopes for Koscielny next season.
Gaël Clichy (C)
A tough season for a player that laid bare his strengths and weaknesses as a player. Going forward Clichy was tremendously effective at times — except in circumstances where a final ball was required — and once again showed all of the energy and never-say-die positive attitude that we have come to love from the Frenchman. But at a time in his career where experience should bring calmness he looks more panicked on the ball than ever and prone to unnecessarily conceding possession at dangerous moments. It is this weakness that makes his place in the team (and indeed the squad) far from certain next season and it will be intriguing to see how things pan out.
Bacary Sagna (A)
A model of quality and consistency on the right and my personal Player of the Season. Possesses all of the positive attributes of Clichy with none of the weaknesses: even his crossing improved significantly this season and scoring two goals. Deservedly named in the Premier League Team of the Season and if there’s a better right-back in England then I have not seen him. Shame about the hair, though.
Kieran Gibbs (C)
I had high hopes that Gibbs would make the step up and displace Clichy at left-back this season however, a spate of injuries and a run of fairly timid form made this impossible. His lack of availability makes judgment of his season difficult but amazingly, Clichy’s likely exit could nevertheless see the Englishman start the season as a starter.
Johan Djourou (B+)
One of the breakthrough players of the season, Djourou took a while to get going after spending the entirety of the previous season out injured, before finding his stride. The Swiss man’s greatest attribute is his calmness at the back and for a period during the middle of season he fostered an excellent partnership with Koscielny that conceded very few goals. His highlight of the season was a superb man-marking job on Didier Drogba at The Emirates and despite losing some form after dislocating his shoulder late on in the season, Djourou has done enough to suggest he will be a key defender for Arsenal going forward.
Sebastien Squillaci (C-)
Squillaci’s first season at Arsenal was hardly as terrible as many supporters have claimed however he hardly set the league on fire either. A lack of pace was exposed at times and there was no coincidence that Arsenal conceded more goals when he, rather than Koscielny or Djourou, was playing at the back. Did about as well as you could reasonably expect from a fourth-choice central defender, the real problem was that injuries mean he was called upon all too often.
Thomas Vermaelen (D)
‘D’ for ‘disappointing’. Not disappointing because the Belgian played poorly but because he hardly played at all. Vermaelen’s absence from this season, a result of a never-ending, Rosicky-esque achilles strain, was THE disappointment of the season. The silver lining is that Djourou was fast-tracked and Koscielny was forced to adapt quicker than perhaps he would have liked, putting his development six months ahead of schedule, but the positives were far outweighed by the negatives. We desperately missed Vermaelen’s leadership and toughness at vital moments this season and it will be brilliant to have him back again.
Emmanuel Eboué (D+)
Having redefined himself as a utility man over the past two seasons — playing everywhere from his prefered position at right-back, to left-back, to right-wing to central midfield — Eboué’s contribution was minimal this season. Will (unfairly) be remembered for the late penalty concession against Liverpool but he continues to infuriate more than he delights at Arsenal. Continues to be a welcome presence in the changerooms with his humour and positive attitude, but simply does not do enough on the pitch when given the opportunity. Perhaps symptomatic of all the bad things about the current Arsenal squad.
Have your say on the third part of AFCB’s 2010/2011 Season Review by leaving a comment.