This is the first part of AFCB’s 2010/2011 Season Review, focusing specifically on the players primarily used across the front three 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.
Robin van Persie (A)
The undoubted star of the second half of the season at a time when all else around him fell apart. Missed the opening half of the season through injury (no surprises there) but made up for it with a spectacular goalscoring record and unrivaled leadership. When the team lacked spark he was always on hand to pop up with a goal and his motivation and desire never wavered in the same way that others’ did in the final part of the season. He still appears awkward when leading the line in a 4-3-3 but the results are undeniable. Our most important forward and one that remains vital next season.
Marouane Chamakh (B-)
A strange season for the Moroccan: he adapted much quicker than expected before tailing off as the season progressed. Early-season injuries to van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner forced Chamakh into the side from the start, something that nobody expected, and he responded with sort of industrious, tireless performances that his reputation at Bordeaux was built on. But then, come the turn of the year, he did tire and the result was a remarkable downturn in form. He will expect to improve on a decent debut season and the hope is that our wide players, specifically our full-backs, exploit Chamakh’s primary attacking attribute — his remarkable aerial ability — more successfully next season.
Samir Nasri (B+)
If I did mid-season report cards Nasri’s score would have been an ‘A’. For the first half, perhaps two thirds of the season, he was remarkable. Playing in the front three, rather than in midfield, gave him a freedom to make the most of his brilliant dribbling skills and consistently move into dangerous areas. He finished with confidence, never lost the ball in possession and deservedly earned the reputation as the Premier League’s outstanding player. But just like the rest of his teammates (van Persie excluded, of course) the Frenchman faded into obscurity in the second half of the season, an awful miss at Bolton summing up his fall from grace. Nasri still remains a dangerous and effective player, particularly with Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings behind him, and rumours of an exit are troubling to say the least.
Andrey Arshavin (C-)
People who criticise Arshavin are quick to point out his apparent laziness and inconsistency to back up their arguments. Those who have a soft spot for him point to his rather impressive statistics and penchant for scoring goals at vital moments. We will always remember his game-winning goal against Barcelona but the truth is that for a player of his quality, Arshavin fell short of what is to be expected of him this season. After starting on the left wing he lost his place to a resurgent Theo Walcott and never showed enough to win it back. His directness and willingness to shoot is refreshing but much more should be expected if he stays on next season, even if he plays primarily from the bench.
Theo Walcott (B)
Had Walcott’s season not been peppered with injury we would be looking back on this as his breakout campaign. His low finishes across the goalkeeper have become as familiar as his searing pace and more often than not he was genuinely dangerous while moving forward in possession. He still appears to lack the “I’m better than you and I can prove it” attitude that a player like Nani had (long before it was true, too) but Walcott performed admirably when available this season, scoring far more regularly than he has been given credit for.
Nicklas Bendtner (C)
Two statistics and some generally poor management from Arsene Wenger sum up what is likely to be Bendtner’s last season at Arsenal. The first stat is the number of games started: just 3 in the Premier League. That is 10 less than the season previous and although a troublesome groin injury did not help matters, it is simply far too few for a player who should have been given more of a chance this season. When he was called upon Bendtner was used horribly by Wenger, thrown out onto the wing instead of being played centrally, among one of the most confusing tactical decisions the manager has ever made. It didn’t work either, although Bendtner still managed to register 9 goals in 14 starts in all competitions, a rather impressive record. If Bendtner’s desire to leave Arsenal sees a move forced, it will be a disappointing end to a career of a player that was used so disappointingly last season.
Carlos Vela (D+)
Vela had another season of minimal progress at Arsenal. A loan to West Brom helped him a little, with the Mexican grabbing a couple of vital goals, but it is getting harder to see whether he remains one for the future or should be written off as a lost cause. An extended run in the side would probably help matters but with the likes of Nasri and Walcott standing in his way this looks unlikely.
Have your say on the first part of AFCB’s 2010/2011 Season Review by leaving a comment.