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Posted by Sam Limbert on 07/03/2012

Continuing the series of blog posts looking at the Arsenal squad, I’m going to rate, and in some cases slate, the Arsenal players for their performances over the last ten months. To say it’s been an eventful season for Arsenal would be a massive understatement, so I’m sure there will be plenty of disagreement with my ratings, so feel free to comment at the end of the blog. Moving up the pitch, it’s time to look at the midfielders.

2. Abou Diaby

The international man of mystery was only seen in fleeting glances during last season. His campaign was summed up by his cameo against Liverpool at Anfield. He came on in the second half, looked rusty in some of his runs forward but still showed he has some real talent on the ball, but then he tweaked a muscle and went off again. I can understand the argument for cutting our losses on Diaby and getting him off the wage bill because of his injury record, but we’ve seen with van Persie and Rosicky, that patience can eventually lead to a player flourishing at Arsenal. I think Diaby can still become an important part of our midfield, we just need him to stay fit for a prolonged period of time.

Season Rating: 1/10

7. Tomas Rosicky

I’m sure that when the sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri were completed, Arsene Wenger didn’t plan for Tomas Rosicky to be the long term successor in the attacking midfield role behind the striker. However after Ramsey’s excellent early season form tailed off, Tomas Rosicky came to the fore with a series of brilliant performances. He didn’t feature regularly in the first half of the season, with his second half cameo at Udinese being his only major contribution.

However as the season went on, Rosicky became influential to the team, with his attitude, as well as his footballing ability, making him stand out in the team. His performance in the home North London derby was sensational, and he continued that to the end of the season. He contributed a few important goals, and helped galvanise the team in his direct running, chasing back, tackling, and improved array of passes. He finally looked like the exciting attacking midfielder we signed in 2006. He’s not the long term answer to the attacking midfield position, but he deserved his new contract, and hopefully he will be a valuable player to have in the squad to help with the development of younger players, whilst being able to make an impact when on the pitch himself.

Season Rating: 7/10

8. Mikel Arteta

The fact we didn’t win a Premier League game without the Spaniard until the last day of the season, says a lot about how important Mikel Arteta was to Arsenal last season. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking we signed him to play behind Robin van Persie as a direct replacement for Cesc Fabregas, however he excelled in the deeper role alongside Alex Song. It enabled Song to be more attacking on occasions, and gave the team a solid base as he rarely misplaced a pass, and didn’t fall into the trap of the Denilson sideways pass in that position.

Arteta always looked forward, and was able to dictate the pace of match. Defensively, he did some invaluable work by sweeping up in front of the back four and using his experience to read the game well.

I’d like to see him score a few more goals, but he often sacrificed some of his attacking ability to do some of the hard yards for the team. He still contributed a decent number of goals for a central midfielder, with some of them being stunners from outside the area. The Manchester City strike was his obvious highlight, but I don’t think there was a better free kick in the Premier League last season than Arteta’s against Aston Villa.

He was the most important signing we made on deadline day, and has established himself as a vital part of the team. Everyone wants to see Jack Wilshere back in the team, but he’ll have to work seriously hard to displace the Spaniard. Whether he was a long term transfer target or not, Arsene Wenger made a great signing in Arteta.

Season Rating: 8/10

14. Theo Walcott

I think Theo Walcott still receives more criticism than most players from Arsenal fans, purely because of the expectations of him due to the fee we paid when he was a 16 year old. He was our second highest goal scorer last season, and contributed a good number of assists. I think the frustration with Theo comes in situations where we see him produce a fantastic cross or finish, but then he won’t do the same the next time he has a chance. He’s still inconsistent, and unfortunately I think some fans will still have a negative view of him until he eradicates that from his game.

He’s a player that is highly dependent on confidence, as we saw against Spurs. He was struggling in the first half, scored in the second, and then looked a different player. He didn’t have to think when scoring his second goal in that match because of the confidence he’d gained.

We should be encouraged that Walcott clearly still has a lot of room for improvement, and is still making a significant contribution to the team. It’s gained less publicity, but Theo is in the same situation as Robin van Persie, with his contract up at the end of next season. Personally, I hope he extends it as he is still improving.

Season Rating: 6/10

15. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

I don’t think the Ox was signed to make a huge impact in 2011/12, but such is the talent he has, he did anyway. I could see Oxlade-Chamberlain being used more in the centre in the next few years, but for the moment, he can become a regular on the wing. He’s got competition with Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Lukas Podolski, and possibly Andrey Arshavin, however he’s shown that nothing fazes him.

It was a shame that we didn’t see more of the Ox last season, however I can understand why Arsene Wenger was keen to protect him given the injury suffered by Jack Wilshere because of overworking him in the previous campaign. When Oxlade-Chamberlain did get a chance in the first team, he usually made a difference. He was superb in his first Premier League start against Manchester United, showed a clinical side against Blackburn, and was a warrior in central midfield against AC Milan.

After some good performances in Euro 2012, we need to make sure we don’t expect too much from Oxlade-Chamberlain as he’s still a teenager, and won’t be awesome in every game.

However he’s an exciting player, and hopefully we’ll see more of him next season.

Season Rating: 6/10

16. Aaron Ramsey

I got the feeling near the end of the season that Aaron Ramsey became a scapegoat amongst supporters for some poor performances from the team. It’s worth remembering that Ramsey was an important part of the team in the first half of the season, before gradually being replaced by Rosicky as fatigue set in.

His passing was good in the first half of the season, and he had some excellent games. Against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he was influential in helping us control that match. He also scored a few vital goals, such as the winner away at Marseille.

It was a shame that his form tailed off, but it’s worth remembering that it was his first full season because of the broken leg. Like Walcott, he needs confidence. Ramsey needs to quicken his decision making and improve his finishing, but he doesn’t hide when on the pitch. He always wants the ball and tries to make a difference. I think he will improve, and will be a lot better for having had a few struggles last season.

Season Rating: 5/10

17. Alex Song

I still can’t work out what Alex Song’s best position is, or what he thinks it is. I’ve always thought of him as defensive midfielder, however he pushed forward a lot more in 2011/12, and generally did quite well. He got some great assists, and is becoming a master of the chipped pass over the top of the defence. He was helped by the excellent movement of Robin van Persie, but still had to deliver the passes.

However he still has a tendency to over play certain situations. This can lead to him getting into trouble and then leaving us light in midfield with teams on the break. Song does need to take more responsibility within the team, but we’re noticeably weaker when he isn’t there. He’s got a strong defensive game, and has undoubtedly improved his attacking play.

If he can learn from the positioning of someone like Arteta, I still think Song can become a superb holding midfielder. He had a good season, and I’m surprised that the rumours about Yann M’Vila joining the club have persisted, because honestly, I’d rather have Alex Song.

Season Rating: 7/10

19. Jack Wilshere

Jack doesn’t get a rating as he didn’t play a minute of first team football during the season. We can only hope that the year out doesn’t majorly affect his development as a player. We shouldn’t expect miracles from him when he returns as he’ll need time to settle back into the team, but he can still become a superb player. It could also take him time to work his way back into the team because of the midfield players that are now ahead of him. Wilshere just has to get fit and then go from there.

Season Rating: n/a

23. Andrey Arshavin

I was surprised that Arshavin was allowed to go to Zenit St Petersberg on loan. He’d had a frustrating season and wasn’t getting a lot of first team action, but he often made a difference when he was on the pitch. We know he doesn’t like to track back, and as much as we can moan and shout at the Russian, I doubt there is much people can do to change that because he doesn’t seem to naturally have the fitness levels of other wingers. However with a ball at his feet, he proved on occasions that he can made the difference in tight situations.

He’s definitely a luxury player, as proven by Wenger not appearing to trust him in big matches, but he still got some important assists; none more so than his cross for Thierry Henry away at Sunderland. Like Walcott, Arshavin needs confidence if he’s going to perform. Hopefully he can have a good pre-season, and will challenge for a place in the starting line-up. I’m not sure if his best position is behind the striker because I don’t think he’s strong enough to play there in the Premier League, but without a definite answer as to who is going to play there, Arshavin might get a second chance to prove himself at Arsenal.

Season Rating: 5/10

26. Emmanuel Frimpong

After the sale of Emmanuel Eboue, Emmanuel Frimpong took on the cult hero mantle last season, with his committed performances, somewhat interesting tweets and for being DENCH. It was a shame that his loan move to Wolves was cut short with another bad knee injury, as Frimpong needs an extended spell of first team competitive football to mature as a player.

He definitely helped improve the team spirit of the squad at a difficult time near the start of the season, and filled in for Song well on a few occasions during the campaign. Frimpong plays with passion, and a lot of players would do well to follow that example. He just needs to rein it in sometimes and be able to control his emotions on the field. His end of season rating does gain an extra mark for the way he wound up Samir Nasri in the Carling Cup match. I know that’s a bit petty but it was hilarious.

Season Rating: 4/10

27. Gervinho

The Ivorian had a solid, if unspectacular, first season. His form really suffered after the African Cup of Nations, but before that tournament, his pace on the wing was a major reason for us recovering from our dreadful start to the season. Along with Walcott, we were able to adjust our style of play by focusing on attacking the full backs, with Gervinho regularly running round the outside of them and setting up chances for van Persie.

When in a position to score himself, Gervinho’s finishing still needs a lot of improvement. We’ve had players join Arsenal from European leagues in the past and have a similar first season to Gervinho, and then have gone on to have an excellent second campaign. Hopefully the competition for places, and the year of adaption, will mean we see a better Gervinho next season.

Season Rating: 6/10

30. Yossi Benayoun

I’m disappointed that we won’t see more of Yossi Benayoun playing for Arsenal now his loan has ended. Initially, I thought bringing him in on deadline day was a strange move, especially as we didn’t really use him in the first half of the season. However he became increasingly important after Arshavin was loaned up, and became Wenger’s go-to man for the big games.

His attitude appeared to be great as he put in some superb shifts for the team. He might not have the pace of other wingers, but he made up for it by using the ball well and being willing to close players down and track back for the team. He was a real professional, and some of the younger players will have learnt a lot from having him around the club last season. Thanks Yossi.

Season Rating: 6/10

31. Ryo Miyaichi

Ryo didn’t get as many first team outings last season as I thought he would do. Going on loan to Bolton will have been beneficial, but he didn’t start as many games as I expected him to there either. He obviously has lightning quick pace, but when compared to someone like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he’s still a long way behind in his development.

I think Ryo needs a season on loan to gain regular experience, because at the moment, I think he’ll struggle to break into the first team.

Season Rating: 2/10

39. Francis Coquelin

At the start of the season, I didn’t see Francis Coquelin getting much first team action at all. It’s to his credit that when the chances came, he played really well. Frimpong was considered ahead of him in the pecking order at the start of the campaign, but Coquelin forced himself up the queue with some dynamic performances. He was also willing to fill in at both right back and left back when we were struggling for numbers.

He’s a good second choice holding midfielder, but with the return from injury of Jack Wilshere, I could see Coquelin being a promising player that doesn’t fulfil their potential with Arsenal because of those in front of him. He would have got a higher season rating he had been given more opportunities.

Season Rating: 5/10

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Posted by Clive on 07/03/2012

I disagree with giving Gervinho, the Ox and Walcott similar marks. Seriously, who was more important this season?
My answer is Walcott - he should have got a 7 out of 10...I think the scapegoat factor influenced you! The Ox has potential but he was no where near as important as Walcott this last season (same with Gervinho)

Posted by grumpy_gunner on 07/03/2012

What do you have to do to get a 10/10? Given that Mikel Arteta was asked to play the deep lying midfielder role and carry the ball from defense to attack, he was exceptional. He has the second highest number of completed passes in the league. 9.5/10 at least in my eyes.

Posted by Bob on 07/03/2012

Hi Sam

Disagree with your rating of Walcott. Fo Sho he was super inconsistent, but delivered some key moments, ex. cross for Vermaelen's winner in Newcastle game.

My question is whether you think that Wilshere is going to become Ramsey as he was successful in a season but then got injured for a year and isn't the same player that fans wanted. He'll never be the same. He may become slightly mediocre and it may take some time for the player to ever perform well consistently.

Well what do you think?

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. Walcott was definitely on the edge of a seven, only knocked him down because he still goes missing in some games. I hope Wilshere doesn't suffer after his injury, but we'll have to be patient with him as we've seen others take time to get back to the high level they were at before their injury.

Posted by gwyndaf on 07/03/2012

Walcott and ox shudve been a point higher

Posted by Joe on 07/04/2012

Shokingly reasonable article! As an arsenal fan I'm used to constant hyperbole and knee jerking. I agree for the most part, although I would have given Arteta (swoon) slightly higher marks. I think the Coq will (or at least could) replace Song in the next few seasons. While I'm not a Song hater by any means, I think he needs to be told to play his bloody position. One of the major reasons we leak goals is the lack of protection afforded to the back 4, and that is his primary job. While the lofted assists may look pretty, I could 100% do without them if it meant him sitting back and helping out the defense. Coquelin seems much more disciplined and enjoy the graft. He's made for the position.

Posted by Canberra Gooner on 07/04/2012

Disagree with your scores rather than your comments and would have expected a greater spread of points across the group. My biggest whinge is that you gave the Ox 6 in a season where his minutes played were quite low and previously you knocked players down a lot for small time on pitch (esp our young defenders). Not sure you've been fair and consistent in this aspect.

For me, based upon impact for the season, with consideration of total minutes played and how they performed when they played:

8 - Arteta and Rosicky
7 - No-one
6 - Walcott, Gervinho, Song, Ramsey
5 - AA
4 - Ox, Yossi (reflects minutes played not the way they played, both were very good in their few performances)

The rest no score but most acquitted themselves well in the few games the featured.

I think some players have obvious weaknesses but overall it was a very disrupted season and most did what they could in a new set up.

Posted by Patrick Ssekatawa on 07/04/2012

You're right on all but one! There's no way Coquelin would be phased out due to the return of Wilshere. In fact even the 5/10 you gave him was too unfair. At only 21 and with only a handful of games under his belt, Coquelin is already a superstar. In the 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford, Coquelin was the only dazzling light. Then he was man-of-the-match in the 2-1 reverse at Spurs. His displays at right/left-back positions never went unnoticed, and his defensive nous last season was up there with the very best in the league despite having few appearances.

However, Wenger showed to us that he really understands Coquelin's defensive architecture when he picked him in arguably Arsenal's most important game of the season-The Westbrom game at the Hawthorns, getting picked ahead of Aaron Ramsey and playing the whole game. That was a sign of good times to come for the young Frenchman as a regular in midfield. Surely, in games that will need steel in midfield, Coquelin will be picked ahead of many

Posted by Joblow on 07/04/2012

Don't see how Coquelin can be given a 5 when he consistently played well and based on what you have written doesn't seem he did much wrong.
And i really don't get it when it comes to Song. If he doesn't push forward and get the assist Arsenal will end up losing the match and definitely not be in 3rd place. He has to protect the defense as well as be offensive and was head and shoulders above all other midfielders at arsenal. just ask Henry who else could give him such a well weighted pass!!

Posted by Raza on 07/04/2012

I agree with one of the comments about Arteta; he was superb and should getting a 9, if not a 10. He was phenomenal, mostly fit, excellent attitude, great defensively, exciting offensively. We'll need him fit along with the likes of Kos and RVP for the entire season if we're going to push for a title challenge next year.

And yes, I'm surprised ppl are not worried about Theo's contract; with interest from the likes of Spurs and Chelsea, we could be losing him, which would be a shame after all our patience and persistence with him.

Posted by john tebigwayo on 07/04/2012

thanks very much, but my view is that apart from diaby,the injury prunned midfielder, and ramsey, the rest can improve in the midfield. if possible diaby can be given up to January, ramsey too, if they fail they can be sent to loans/sold since we have wilshere and if mvilla can be bought.
otherwise thanks for all.

Posted by zebra on 07/04/2012

hi Sam!

i agree with the comments, walcott was better than we're making him out to be. he played so many games! and not to mention he didn't have sagna behind him for half of the season. his goals and assists alone earn him a 7 for me.

Gervinho was struggling too often in front of goal all season long. he could have been much more productive and he was useless in the second half of the season.

I think Yossi is the opposite of Arshavin in that he actually tries and sacrifices! and since we need more of that mentality in the team, we'll miss him. i also applaud Song filling in as a center back on occasion.

do you think Rosicky will get more chances starting this next season or Ramsey? any formation changes to accomodate wilshere when he's more healthy?

Ox as a 6 is perfect. he didn't have too much to do each game, but his consistency in changing the tone of games is something special.

I'd venture to give Song, Arteta and Rosicky each a point more.

Sam Limbert: Thanks for your comment. If Ramsey does well in the Olympics, then he might get a regular starting place, but I can see Rosicky being given a chance because of the way he ended the season. Wilshere when fit will challenge for the attacking midfield position.

Posted by Philipo on 07/04/2012

Sam, I must confess that I have to totally disagree with you over the rating of Arshavin. He's done nothing all season to even deserve a mention and you still give him a 5? To me, he deserves nothing more than a 3 for all his annoying misplaced passes and lack of passion. I'm sure I won't be the only Arsenal fan that will be VERY HAPPY to see him go.

Posted by Femi on 07/04/2012

Hi Sam. Fair rating all in all but some comments here: Ramsey should have scored 2/10. Little imagination, lots of errors and caused us many defeats. If Song did not veer forward, how would those goals have come? Remember Arsenal is an attacking side. Arteta and the back four just need to invent a defensive strategy to cover that gap that would open once in a while. Great write, Sam

Posted by mustafa on 07/04/2012

A great injustice for Arteta. On my opinion, the guy deserves 9.5/10, and if you consider the fact that he plays 90 minutes of football and hair still intact, the guy deserves 10/10. Arshavin, Ramsey and Diaby need to go, no more patience on the trio.

Posted by Gerard on 07/04/2012

Ramsey was awful this season. The part that really makes me wonder why you like him is 'It’s worth remembering that Ramsey was an important part of the team in the first half of the season...'

You mean the same first half when fans wouldn't hear the end of '8-2' jokes? The same half in which he scored one goal an one own-goal in the league? I don't hate the lad or anything, in fact I would love to watch him improve. But let's make honesty a policy here.
What the team needs is someone who regularly chips in with goals. If Ramsey doubles his 3 goals tally few people will complain.

Posted by Robert on 07/05/2012

When's the blog about Van Persie forthcoming? Can't wait to hear your thoughts, knowing how much of a Wenger optimist you are.

Posted by gunner138098 on 07/05/2012

Off-topic but i am heartbroken that RVP is leaving :(.he made us wait forever only to reveal his desire to leave just when we were bu�lding a team around him!that's how he repays the manager that kept his faith in him even he was injured/off form for most seasons!he has one good season & he kicks at the club that worships him!and he says he's a true gunner at heart!My questions are:
1)why are we the only club destined to lose our best player every season?there was a similar case with rooney but man u didn't end up losing him!do you think it'll be Theo & TV next?
2)do you think Giroud & Podolski are enough to take us to the level where RVP took us,if not beyond cos wenger is unlikely to re-invest the money to buy a player of RVP's class!

Posted by Francis on 07/05/2012

Agree with most of the ratings. However, I will take a point off Arshavin and give an extra point for Walcott. Although Walcott is still a tag inconsistent, the lack of passion from Arshavin is more frustrating.

Given that RVP is not renewing his contract and may even leave before the start of the season, who do you think is a good replacement as captain? Should we buy another forward or a midfielder?

Posted by TassieGunner on 07/05/2012

I'm stunned. It's the same every year

Posted by Tyler on 07/05/2012

Song should get an 8/10. He was stellar this season. His pushing forward was what saved us on many occasion. You can't fault him because he isn't a holding midfielder like so many people mislabel him. He's playing with a partner, and when that partner was Arteta or Coquelin it worked out well. When that partner was Ramsey, well, you know.

Speaking of Ramsey, the guy needs to be the #10 for us. He's out of his league any deeper in the formation. He's best games are when he's the main creator. He should be a good rotation with Rosicky next season at the spot.

Jack/Song/Coquelin/Frimpong/Arteta/Diaby are good enough to rotate the deep roles and give us a solid midfield.

As for the wings, Walcott/OX are a good rotation as well as Gervinho/Podolski. Although, none are really game changers (Ox will be, but isn't yet), but all can play at a high level.

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David Young Sam Limbert: My retirement as a football player came at the age of 14 due to being rubbish, it's fair to say I was more Kaba Diawara than Thierry Henry, so I turned my focus to writing about the game. I'm a lifelong Arsenal fan and have been lucky enough to watch the team across England and Europe. My favourite Gunner of all time is Dennis Bergkamp, and the 2004 Invincibles is the greatest side I've ever seen in English football. I try to be positive about the Arsenal as it's the hope that keeps us going! Follow me on twitter @SamsMatchReport.

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