3. Bacary Sagna
Right back is arguably the one area of the Arsenal defence that doesn’t need addressing. Bacary Sagna was named in the PFA team of the year as he was Mr Consistent again in 2010/11. He missed little of the season through injury, and his commitment to Arsenal can’t be doubted.
Unusually for Sagna, he received two red cards in the season. So often considered to be one of the calmest players in the squad, he retaliated to Pablo Zabaleta against Manchester City at home and got his marching orders. His other red card came in the Champions League as the last man against Partizan Belgrade. The dismissals were out of character for Sagna, but arguably showed his frustration at the club’s lack of success in the season.
Defensively, Sagna is excellent, although if one of his game was to be criticised, his crossing into the box could be improved. He regularly joins the attack and looks to go forward, however his final ball isn’t always top quality. However, he often doesn’t have players in the box to try and cross to.
This season Sagna even added a couple of goals to his tally for the club, with Everton and Leeds United on the end of two thunderous efforts.
Verdict: An excellent right back that is sorely missed when not playing: 8/10
5. Thomas Vermaelen
It’s difficult to judge Thomas Vermaelen this season considering he only appeared in five league games. He impressed in those five games, making his long term injury problems even more frustrating given the instability at the heart of our defence this season.
Clearly the Belgian is the best centre back at the club; all he needs is a partner that can match his determination, reading of the game and defensive ability. In his five games, Vermaelen still played with Koscielny, Squillaci and Djourou at least once. In every one of those games, all the defensive leadership came from the Belgian, highlighting how crucial he could have been during the season.
His best moment of the season would have to be the goal-line tackle at Fulham. Most defenders would have given up and accepted conceding a goal, however Vermaelen not only attempted the challenge, but he won it magnificently. Even without new signings, a full season out of Vermaelen next year will massively increase our trophy hopes.
Verdict: Has to have a lower mark for missing a lot of the season, however it was clear from the few games he did play that the defence needs to be built around him: 6/10
6. Laurent Koscielny
The problem for Laurent Koscielny is that fans’ over-riding memory of him this season will be of him on his knees at Wembley as Barry Ferguson ran past and slapped him in the back of the head. The majority of the blame for conceding that goal in the Carling Cup final lies with Koscielny instead of Wojciech Szczesny, as a simple punt into touch would have solved the problem.
In many ways, Koscielny has typified the whole squad this season. Flashes of brilliance, however there have been daft moments where it almost looks like he’s forgotten where he is.
Given his rapid rise from the second division in France, it would have been too much to realistically expect Koscielny to be sensational this season. He wasn’t helped by having a lot of responsibility thrust upon him when Thomas Vermaelen was injured. This meant he was at times leading a Premier League defence having only been playing in the French second division two seasons ago.
He’s a quick defender and generally good in the tackle, but as shown against Stoke and Birmingham, can be susceptible to the high ball. He needs more confidence to go and attack a header. When the ball was on the ground for the whole match against Barcelona at the Emirates, he was sensational.
He’s dangerous from corners, as goals against Ipswich and Everton showed, so there is no need to write Koscielny off as a poor purchase. If a new centre back is signed to partner Vermaelen, Koscielny will be an excellent back up player after a decent first season.
Verdict: Thrown in at the deep end this season and just about kept his head above water: 6/10.
18. Sebastien Squillaci
Signed to be an experienced head at the back, on paper Sebastien Squillaci should have done well at Arsenal. Proven in the Champions League and no language barrier with the majority of the back four, everything looked like Arsene Wenger had made a sensible purchase. Besides, he had to be better than Mikael Silvestre.
If anything, Squillaci got gradually worse as the season went on. Like Kosicelny, he didn’t look comfortable under the high ball and was often exposed for pace. His worst games came when paired with Koscielny, as he lacked the leadership to help his younger defensive partner during the game. During the post-Christmas period with Johan Djourou was playing so well, when Squillaci was alongside the Swiss international, he looked like a good player, however all too often he looked to lack the defensive know-how needed in England.
His partnership with Koscielny was summed up against Fulham when he managed to head butt his fellow Frenchman, allowing Fulham to score.
Squillaci hasn’t adapted well to English football, and should another centre back be brought in, then Squillaci would have to drop out of the squad in favour of Koscielny and Djourou. He could have been an inspired Wenger signing, but Squillaci has been more of a Stepanovs than a Campbell.
Verdict: Hasn’t adapted to English football, can’t be sure of a squad place next season: 4/10.
20. Johan Djourou
Anyone who saw England play Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday will know that Johan Djourou hasn’t finished the season well. It was the same at Fulham, all of his confidence and calmness from earlier in the campaign had gone.
It was a shame to see him finish the season in such a manner, because up until his dislocated shoulder at Manchester United, he was arguably the club’s best defender in the season. He was in and out of the side in the first half of the season as he tried to regain full fitness after missing virtually the whole of the previous campaign, until the match at home to Chelsea cemented his place in the starting XI. Didier Drogba had become notorious for scaring off Arsenal defenders, however Djourou stood up to him in that game and was fantastic. Drogba arguably never appeared from Djourou’s pocket for the rest of the season.
Until the Carling Cup final, Djourou looked to be turning into the commanding centre back we’d be crying out for with a string of excellent performances. Although there were other circumstances around the match, I don’t think it was a coincidence we drew 4-4 with Newcastle after Djourou had to go off injured when we were 4-0 up.
Not long after the Carling Cup final, Djourou dislocated his shoulder in the FA Cup at Manchester United. Despite returning quicker than expected, he never matched the heights of his excellent mid-season performances. He has the potential to form a good partnership with Thomas Vermaelen as the first choice centre backs, however I suspect most fans would rather a more experienced defender was bought, leaving Djourou to join Koscielny in waiting on the bench.
Verdict: After his end of season form, it’s easy to forget his excellent displays after the turn of the year: 7/10.
22. Gael Cilchy
Gael Clichy’s Arsenal career seems to have dipped further and further downhill since conceding that late penalty at Birmingham City in 2008. Mistakes and misjudgements have slowly crept into his game, the sorts of which he wasn’t making three years ago.
Like Sagna, his commitment and effort can’t be questioned. However, at times he is over reliant on his pace and can get caught out of position. Whereas Clichy’s name on the team sheet used to breed confidence, there is now a sense that he's become an accident waiting to happen.
I do though think it would be a shame to see him leave as I think he can improve and reach the excellent standard he was at pre-Birmingham. I don’t think Kieran Gibbs is quite ready to be our left-back week in week out, and it’ll be hard to sign anyone better than Clichy to replace him. Names like Leighton Baines will be suggested, however I personally believe the Frenchman still has a lot to offer Arsenal.
Verdict: Room for improvement, but can’t doubt effort even in losing causes: 6/10.
27. Emmanuel Eboue
Emmanuel Eboue is the comedy genius, who is also fluent in Korean. It’s just a shame his football ability this season didn’t match the moment of comedy gold he produced in the World Cup.
Given less of a look in this season due to Bacary Sagna’s consistency, Eboue seems to have reverted back to being a right back as he has also seen any midfield opportunities become limited. There are still the over exuberant dives from the Ivorian, along with some slightly dodgy positioning, but he does seem to have settled into his role as a squad player.
As a back-up right-back, Eboue is good enough. It’s easy to forget that he was playing when we beat Barcelona. Unless Bacary Sagna suffers a long term injury or major loss of form, I doubt Emmanuel Eboue will ever play for Arsenal in a number of consecutive games again.
He hasn’t been one of the main reasons for Arsenal’s failing this season (except for the stupid challenge in last minute against Liverpool), and selling him could he hugely detrimental to the side given his popularity in the dressing room.
Verdict: Good enough squad player, and a comedy genius who can speak Korean: 5/10.
28. Kieran Gibbs
Once again, the young Englishman has had a season that has been divided up by injuries. He has obvious talent, but unfortunately he’d got a bit of the glass syndrome that usually sees Robin van Persie miss large chunks of each season.
Used mainly in the cup games, Gibbs is definitely a good back-up at left back, however he could benefit with a regular run of matches to take himself to the next level, in the same way Jack Wilshere did at Bolton. Should he go on loan though, there would always the be the risk of another minor or long term injury affecting his development.
Given Gael Clichy’s steady decline, a few excellent performances from Gibbs could have seen him replace the Frenchman this season, however Gibbs has been more solid than spectacular. However, arguably there is nothing wrong with that.
Verdict: Will definitely replace Clichy at some point, just not this summer: 6/10.
48. Ignasi Miquel
Arsenal reserves captain Ignasi Miquel only made two first team appearances this season, but showed some potential that he could be an important squad member in a few seasons time.
Both of his appearances came in the FA Cup against Leyton Orient alongside Sebastien Squillaci. On both occasions, he matched, if not bettered, his more experienced partner. A loan move, as well as more first team experience, in the next couple of seasons could see Miquel develop into a useful centre back behind the likes of Vermaelen and Djourou.
Verdict: Showed potential in his two games: 5/10.
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